One of my co-workers was telling me that over the weekend, she got her SNES out of the closet and running again. Out of all the games she has, the one she made sure to plug in and start playing again was World Heroes. When anyone talks about this franchise these days, my ears perk up and I get excited to discuss one of the best franchises to come out of the golden era of fighters ushered in by Street Fighter 2. There was a time back in the early to mid-90’s when consoles and arcades were filled with clones of Street Fighter 2. World Heroes, with its cast taken from actual historical figures, was one of the best.
Sure, the gameplay was simplistic with two buttons for punches, two for kicks and the shoulders used for throws but the graphics were, for the time, perfectly average. The “story” involved an alien gathering some of the greatest warriors of history into one large tournament to determine the strongest being from planet Earth. When a game’s roster includes Genghis Khan, Bruce Lee, Hulk Hogan, Joan of Arc and Rasputin it can’t help but be amazing. Thankfully the first game performed well enough, both in the arcade and the various home versions that a sequel, the creatively titled World Heroes 2 was released.
Why anyone would pay $200 for one game is beyond me, but the Neo-Geo lasted many years as a home console. I never saw one out in the wild and only ever read about it in the pages of GamePro, which in retrospect, was a horrendously bad gaming magazine. I’ll never forget the “review” they gave of Phantasy Star IV which talked about the best part being the “interactive” backgrounds. That’s a story for another day (most likely a Thursday), as I digress. Let’s talk about how awesomely giddy it was to pit Muscle Power (the Hulk Hogan character) against J. Maximum (the Joe Montana character), or Captain Kidd (the Captain Kidd character) against Rasputin (the um, Rasputin character).
How I long for the days when having a colorful, characterful roster was the best part of a fighting game instead of which character belongs where on a tier list. Brocken, the Nazi cyborg from the future, may have been a horrible character but it was fun to play as him and mercilessly taunt your friend in an atrocious German accent. There is no way any of the World Heroes titles would hold up today, not even World Heroes 2 Jet which is in my opinion the best of the series and a good Ps1 port of the arcade original.
My favorite characters in fighting games, even to this day, are almost never the “top-tier” combatants. I play Raphael in Soul Calibur, Cammy in Street Fighter, Hitomi in Dead or Alive, Kim in King of Fighters and Litchi Faye-Ling in Blazblue. World Heroes will always be remembered by me for allowing this former History teacher to smack fools around using Rasputin’s giant glowing hands. For that reason alone, World Heroes will always be a loved, forgotten franchise.