Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 04/14/08

With the strength to carry on...

Professor Brown is one sad, strange man. After devoting his life’s work to inventing a time machine, his efforts finally paid off. But by the time his plans came to fruition, the doctor was more of a madman than a genius. Rather than using his creation to benefit mankind, he decided to sponsor a fighting game tournament spanning across the centuries. Never mind the fact that such a contest could alter history beyond the scope of human comprehension. The problem is that Brown wasn’t satisfied with potentially screwing over mankind. After watching several legendary warriors beat each other to a bloody pulp and sending them back to their own times, he deemed the findings ‘inconclusive’. While that may sound like the opinion of an experienced scientist, it really means the professor is just getting bored again. Thus the tournament to determine the world’s greatest fight begins anew.

There have been a few changes to the time-transcending slugfest, however. While all of the veteran warriors have returned, several more characters have shown up to boost the roster. Though femme fatale Jeanne is still the prominent female lead, she’ll have to share the spotlight with a tiny (though incredibly fierce) Judo queen. While Rasputin may have been one of the most absurdly badass characters in the first game, he’s got some serious competition in the form of Captain Kidd, whose ability to summon shark-shaped projectiles and a flesh-eating buzzard makes him the most feared pirate of all. He’ll have to grapple with newcomer Erick the Red, whose massive gut knows no bounds. But if you prefer something a little more traditional, then Shura’s Muay Thai techniques (which he apparently stole from Fatal Fury’s Joe Higashi) ought to keep you satisfied. Sports fans, however, will likely rely on J. Max, whose demonic eyes and devastating football maneuvers mark him as a Joe Montana wannabe.

So. A pirate, a Viking, two generic martial artists, and a demented benchwarmer for the San Francisco 49ers. Not quite as awe-inspiring as you might expect of history’s greatest warriors, but at least they can still kick ass. They utilize the identical combat mechanics found in the first game; performing light and strong attacks involves tapping or firmly pressing the appropriate buttons, and unique attacks are reserved for directional pad inputs. Every character comes with a handful of special attacks, be it fiery footballs, battle-axe projectiles, or summoning little Tiki statue ghosts to do your bidding. Despite the simplistic control scheme, however, the movesets have been slightly altered to allow for varying ranges, priority, and all that other subtle stuff you might not catch on the first playthrough. Unfortunately, there are still lingering problems from the original game; both the sluggish controls and terrible pacing are back and more annoying than ever. That’s aside from all the overpowered attacks and easily exploitable combos, all of which kills the game’s already abysmal entertainment value.

Despite such shortcomings, World Heroes 2 introduces a few new gameplay aspects that attempt (unsuccessfully) to balance out the gameplay. In the first game, you could grab your opponent from a fairly long distance and administer some of the most overpowered moves available. This time, the throws can be countered and reversed by mashing the correct button; by mastering the reversal technique, you’ll be able to avoid getting thrashed by most of the health bar-shattering maneuvers. Your opponents, however, can counter your reversals with their own. Thus the usually guaranteed throws for either character devolve into who can press the buttons the most. Given the slightly unresponsive controls, you’ll likely end up losing such a struggle. The same could be said for the projectile countering feature. Blocking a fireball/flaming sword/demonic football at just the right time will send it back to the person who slung it. Assuming that you can adjust for the controls, you’ll be able to block some nasty assaults with ease. But sicne your foes can do the same, you’re going to end up on the receiving end of the punishment more often than not.

The most drastic change, however, lies with the Death Match mode. Before, you could merely toss your foe into a wall of fire or electrical wires until he or she died. Participating in the Death Match in World Heroes 2 is far more involved; there are plenty of more hazards and opportunities to maim your opponents. Shoving someone into a spinning saw can be rewarding, especially if the body bounces in the right direction and racks up additional hits. While there may not be much in the ay of blood or gore, crushing someone into a spiky wall or into the stream of laser gunfire is morbidly entertaining. You won’t be able to win on hazards alone, though. Rather than using traditional health bars, the game forces you to deal damage based on a single meter marked halfway across. If you deal more damage than your side of the meter, you’ll win once the timer runs out. But since your opponents can revive themselves, you’ll have to dish out just enough damage to keep them alive. Such a balancing act make the Death Match mode much more strategic than the original.

Too bad the characters didn’t get the same kind of treatment. The returning cast has been given little in terms of design or animation quality. It’s not like they’re horrible, of course; Hanzo and Fuuma can still pull off fiery Shoryuken knockoffs in their traditional ninja garb, Brocken looks like a bastard lovechild of M. Bison and Dhalsim, and Jeanne’s flowing blond hair and irritating laugh are present and accounted for. The attack and movement animations aren’t quite as slow or wooden as before, but veterans of the first game likely won’t notice the difference. A handful of the special moves have been altered with new animations (Rasputin’s aura throws and Dragon’s hand slaps come to mind), but little has been changed. At least the newer characters look relatively good. Devastating someone with J. Max’s tackle maneuvers or Captain Kidd’s fishy uppercuts is a gratifying experience. It’s a shame that more attention wasn’t given to the backgrounds; aside from the dancing hobos, prancing monks, and drunken Vikings, the stages are hardly eye-catching.

Well, at least it’s an improvement. Just barely better than the original, but still. The updated roster adds plenty of new flavor into the mix. While Captain Kidd and J. Max are easily the new badasses of the series, the rest of the goofy-looking newcomers are endearing as well. Unfortunately, the simplistic gameplay mechanics and control schemes are substandard for what you’d expect from a 2D fighter. The sluggish handling and poor pacing won’t help things, either. At least the game tried to fix a few things by balancing the throwing maneuvers and projectile counters, but the inherent flaws hinder more than they help. But hey, at least the Death Match mode is worth playing now. You’ll want to, especially once the game goes stale after half an hour of gameplay. While World Heroes 2 is definitely a step in the right direction, there are still far too many problems to make it a worthwhile fighting game. A shame. One can only hope that SNK has better things in store for a series with so much potential.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: World Heroes 2 (US, 06/04/93)

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