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CTTG #6: Battle Royale

It took me a little time to bounce back from the devastating events of J.J. and Jeff, but I’m back in the saddle with a return to a favorite game of mine, Battle Royale.

I’ll start off by saying that Battle Royale is not a good game by any stretch of the imagination. Fundamentally a wrestling game, it has a lot of problems. A lot:

  • It’s not so much wrestling as it is a street brawler that involves only punches and kicks. No holds whatsoever.
  • The vitality system is horrendous and you can lose all your health in a matter of just a few seconds…
  • …then you can magically get all your health back if you’re on the ground for a few seconds more.
  • Character selection requires you to wait for a painfully slow 5-second countdown followed by a (very unique) mad dash to choose your wrestler. The process takes way too long.
  • The game depends much too heavily on using the Select button which is very inconveniently located with respect to the D-pad and regular buttons.
  • Moves that require the Select button render impossible the ability to move while they’re happening.
  • In 5-player matches, it can be almost impossible to move your character around leading to quick defeats.
  • Spitfire Spike is much too fast and the only character I can beat the game with. :-)

There. I got it out of my system right up front. Let me take a step back, though, and explain the game.

Battle Royale is a wrestling game modeled on the WWE’s Royal Rumble. Up to 5 characters start in the ring and try to throw each other out over the top rope. The last wrestler remaining wins. In order to throw opponents out, wrestler use punches and kicks to weaken and knock the enemy to the ground. Then, they lift them up in the air and quickly throw them out of the ring before they can wiggle free.

Matches generally don’t last long with the right string of attacks literally making it possible to send an opponent out of the ring in mere seconds. 2-player matches can end in just 7 seconds if you size up the computer player right.

Still, Battle Royale generates its fun with these fast, frenetic fights where, if you get 4 friends with you in a room, can be an absolute riot to play! I remember laughing myself to tears playing this game which I mostly did with my best friend as a kid.

The game hasn’t aged well, though.

I had my kids give it a try to see if it would generate the same kind of fun for them. They seemed confused by the controls and lost as to what was happening. This is brought about by the highly unusual use of the Select button for several moves (which I still can’t explain why) and the weird controls for picking up and throwing an opponent. (Holding buttons I and II while pressing up and then left/right towards the outside of the ring.) You definitely need to read the manual before playing this game.

There’s exhibition matches and tournaments with tournaments being the real “story mode” of the game. In it, you fight through 2-, 3-, 4-, and finally 5-player matches. Around 20 in all. After winning the first 5-player match, you are awarded with riches…and then asked to fight in the Championship Match, another 5-player match where the opponents seem to be a bit faster and tougher.

These 5-player matches tend to require some luck of the draw to win. I’m a pretty reliable fighter using Spitfire Spike and his quick leg sweep, but in a 5-player match it’s easy to get squeezed and rendered immobile which will almost always lead to a double team that gets you eliminated.

Eventually, I just managed to keep myself wiggled free long enough to win!

(Apologies for the lack of sound, Twitch has screwed me for maybe the last time.)

I’ll give Battle Royale credit for one thing…the night before when I made my first attempt to beat the game, I got to the Championship Match and lost twice due to the squeezing problem. I was devastated as I knew I’d have to play through the whole game again. (If you lose the same match twice, it’s all over. No continues.) However, I still had enough fun playing that I gave it another shot today…and when I lost the final match again…I played again!

It’s hard to really quantify what makes this game so fun, but it’s certainly not the game itself. It’s the experience. There’s just something silly and sudden that makes this game real fun to play.

Up next, I’m very excited to play a game that I never had as a kid but is very much associated with the TurboGrafx-16: Vigilante!

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About John Blanco

John Blanco is an avid game collector and loves to write about his hobby as much as he participates in it. He run the Denver Retro Gamers Facebook group in Denver, Colorado, and coordinates swap-style meetups with dozens of other collectors every couple of months.

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