Of All The Street Fighter Clones, This Was The Best

When Street Fighter II hit the big time in the early 1990s, it led to countless clones, copies and competitors. Some of these emerged as beloved fighting game series in their own rights, and would live on for years.

Others couldn't quite escape the crush of the bandwagon, and these days are barely remembered. World Heroes was one such series.

Developed by Japanese studio Alpha Denshi and published by SNK for its Neo Geo arcades (and console), World Heroes was released in 1992, at the height of Street Fighter-mania.

And boy did it show. The game's primary mode involved selecting one of eight players (the same number as Street Fighter) and then beating them all on the way to a boss battle. The game's "star" was a Japanese martial arts expert. Who had a twin character that dressed in identical robes, only they were red. Just like Ken. There was an American wrestler instead of a boxer. There was a guy with extendable limbs. Just like Dhalsim. There was a character with a dragon kick. Even some of the game's graphics looked eerily similar, especially the effects used when somebody caught fire.

In the West at least, this helped the game - along with the relative rarity and cost of Neo Geo units - remain, at least outside the hardcore Neo Geo/fighting game communities, an obscurity. Which is a shame! Because World Heroes would go on to spawn a few sequels, and there's a very good reason for this: the game was a lot better than most people gave it credit for.

Once you got past the stuff that was so similar to Street Fighter - and after a ton of coins at a local video store that's exactly what I managed - you realised that there was a lot of stuff that was different. New. And awesome.

Like the game's DEATH MATCH mode, which instead of being a traditional fighting game stage was a gauntlet, where you not only had to worry about the other player but also various traps and hazards littered across the stage, as well as the fact that if pushed (or thrown) to the edge of the screen you'd take damage from fire or electric shock. If it sounds bananas, that's because it was bananas.

It also had a feature the original Street Fighter included but not its sequel: pressure-sensitive buttons. Because the Neo Geo arcade cabinet only had four buttons, Alpha Denshi decided to use just three, one for punch, one for kick, one for throw. Sounded minimal in a world of six-button Street Fighter II cabinets, but because the buttons reacted to how hard you hit them, you only needed one for each action. As a part-time button-masher who takes his frustration out on buttons, I appreciate little things like this.

What I loved most about the game, though, was its batshit character roster. Look past the similarities to Street Fighter and there were some great fighters in there, like Rasputin the mad Russian monk, Jane (or Janne), a French lady-at-arms who is like a proto-Soul Calibur character, and my favourite, Brocken.

Brocken was Dhalsim. Only instead of being a spiritually-enlightened Indian, he was a Nazi. A cyborg Nazi. Who could shoot artillery shells out of his hands, and whose stage was an underground Nazi lair that scrolled past you as you fought on an elevator, complete with rows of Tiger tanks and fighter craft. You just don't get fighting game characters like that any more.

What's more, the series even snuck a few innovations into the fighting game genre, like shooting in mid-air and being able to jump on top of a jump for a multi-jump.

There would be a further three World Heroes games released after the first, each a year after its predecessor, giving it one of the fastest turnaround times in the genre. The last of these hit shelves in 1995, and that would be the last we'd see of the franchise, as developers Alpha Denshi first moved onto other games and then went bust in 2003.

It wouldn't be the last time we'd see the games themselves, though, as they'd turn up as re-released on everything from the Super Nintendo to the PS2. Indeed, if you feel like giving the series a try both the original and 1995's World Heroes Perfect are available on Nintendo's Virtual Console for the Wii.


Comments

    I played this a lot in arcades in Auckland, when the older kids were hogging Streets.

    Is that Jesus in the bottom right corner?

      haha no thats RASUPUTIN!

      I always loved Fighters History more than this as an SF Clone though

    "A cyborg Nazi. Who could shoot artillery shells out of his hands, and whose stage was an underground Nazi lair that scrolled past you as you fought on an elevator, complete with rows of Tiger tanks and fighter craft. You just don’t get fighting game characters like that any more."

    That's actually awesome :P

    I ended up with the SNES version of this when I bought a whole bunch of SNES games off a guy several years back. In the bunch was Street Fighter II as well, so the comparisons came thick and fast :P Couldn't quite get the hang of it though, the single button thing confused me. And I couldn't seem to get dragon punches to work.

    I remember being so pumped when they started porting Neo Geo titles to the SNES.
    Played the hell outa this back in the day.

    Great to see one of my faves getting some K-Au lovin.

    I remember when SFII came out - I thought "6 buttons, bugger that, I don't go to arcades for a memory test!" so I gave World Heroes a go instead. And loved playing as Brocken. Great fun.

    Alas later episodes of the game added all sorts of extra complexities, and really sucked.

    But Luke, "maaaaaate...."
    I gotta pull you up on this...
    "Because the Neo Geo arcade cabinet only had four buttons, Alpha Denshi decided to use just three, one for punch, one for kick, one for throw. Sounded minimal in a world of six-button Street Fighter II cabinets, but because the buttons reacted to how hard you hit them, you only needed one for each action."

    Sorry, it didn't.

    I happen to own my own Neo Geo arcade cabinet (photo here) and I can absolutely assure you the buttons are just regular 'on/off' microswitches.

    The thing you've got confused with Luke, is that World Heroes detects "the length of your button press" (in milliseconds) and that causes a 'small' or 'big' kick or punch. It's all about the time - not the strength. :-)

    id prefer fatal fury that was much better than world heroes

    Love this game, have World heroes Perfect on my Neo Geo AES. Love it.

    This game was the shit! Its not about which was better - its the fact that there were so many GOOD fighting games all at once. SF2, Fatal Fury, World Heroes, and lets not forget Samurai Showdown!

    We take for granted these days the fact that games are typically broken as hell and need patching - none of that in this golden age! Bless you Kotaku for remembering the greats for us old bastards :P

    "fighters history" was wicked

    It's success in Australia I would measure by it was costing me several hundred each at the time for the Samurai Shodown games as MVS carts (while they were still operating in arcades, and before Samurai Showdown IV was released)

    I bought two World Heroes games in the same order for $10 as a pair. It was an okay game, but at the coin-bucket, I don't think it did that well.

    It looks as though Dragon and Rasputin were the prototypes for later Street Fighters, Fei Long and Rose respectively...

    Wow, I always thought this was total dross. SNK's one-on-one fighters didn't hit their stride until Samurai Shodown for me. The Art of Fightings/World Heroes/etc were all very shoddy games. I had a Neo Geo back then too and aside from King Of The Monsters I was in no way impressed with any of the format's fighters of this style. Luckily Neo Geo had oodles of other amazing games that kept me entertained - and poor.

    I loved world heroes, it was the first game that got a parry for projectiles.

    When the first KoF was being developed, it was promised it would include Samurai showdown and world heroes characters, seem like midway development they decided to include a more deep background story and so all characters from other epoch were not used and original ones were created, at least we got neogeo battle coliseum later.

    I used to overstay my welcome at Games Wizards in Auburn playing this on the Neo Geo. Soooo wanted the AES, but could never afford it.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now