I'm going on a flight to Japan over the weekend, and as a result I'll be needing something to occupy me should the in-air entertainment be a bore. Fortunately, there's been one game happily residing on my laptop ever since I purchased it, and that one game is what I'm paying tribute to.
This story originally appeared in August 2015.
It's criminal that One Must Fall: 2097 didn't get a sequel with the same level of polish and craftsmanship of the original. Even today, while certainly not perfect by any means, OMF 2097 remains one of the most interesting fighting games ever produced.
It's even more impressive when you compare OMF 2097 to the quality of other fighters released on the PC around the same time. I remember having fun with Sango Fighter — a bit of a diamond in the rough — but others, such as FX Fighter, Savage Warriors, Rise of the Robots, Battle Beast, even the PC ports of Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat (controversial, I know), just weren't as fulfilling.
One Must Fall: 2097 was published by Epic in 1994 and was the creation of Diversions Entertainment, who only ever published OMF 2097 and One Must Fall: Battlegrounds, a 3D follow-up in 2003.
The entire premise revolves around robots and the pilots that control them, with each pilot having different power, agility and endurance values impacting on the capacity of the robot. It's the tournament mode where the game really shines though, since you can earn money to upgrade your personal stats, as well as the individual attributes of the robot (like leg power, punch speed, stun resistance, armour, etc).
You've probably also figured it out, but the OMF 2097 theme song is killer. It's one of the best theme songs for a game still, although my preference for electronica is undoubtedly playing a part there.
There are 11 robots and 10 pilots, although you'll encounter a far wider range of enemy pilots in the tournament mode. Modders have also created their own custom tournaments, allowing for a much more thorough challenge than the four the game originally shipped with.
OMF 2097 was a single-player only affair at launch, but it was later patched to include multiplayer. The multiplayer isn't playable in the browser version available on the Internet Archive and it's fiddly to get working today (although I suppose you could make something happen with Hamachi or a similar service).
I personally always liked Jaguar, although that's largely because I could remember its Scrap and Destruction moves (the equivalent of fatalities, although in tournament mode your score translated into cash you could use for upgrades). I found Nova and Pyros to be boring affairs — although destroying everyone with repeated low punches never gets old with the metallic "dong" sound that follows — although I know Electra and Chronos are pretty versatile.
The game has been marked as freeware since 1999 and you can read this immense FAQ with every scrap of information you could ever want to know.
Fans have also been working on an open source remake with improved networking and better support for controllers (although you can get DS4 and Xbox One controllers to work in DOSBox). The last unofficial release was in early July and you can download the Windows and Linux versions from the website.
There's even a MUGEN remake of OMF 2097, although for my money you really can't go past the original.
What are your memories of OMF 2097 — and what were some of your favourite fighting games on PC around?