The Ill Communication


Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Tengen
N.A. Release: 1991

Box Quote: "Digitized graphics of live action for super realistic hand-to-hand combat!"

An odd duck in its genre of fighting games, Pit-Fighter was released in 1990 to arcades, just a year before the golden age of fighting games began with the launch of Street Fighter II. Because of this, it doesn’t have that familiar template most games of the genre had post SFII. This can be seen as a good thing because it includes some unique gameplay elements not seen in most fighting games, but bad in that it may me too far out there and unfamiliar to fans of the genre to care about.

A year later it was ported to many systems, including the Sega Genesis. Losing some of the arcade version’s flair like how the camera would zoom in-and-out of the action, it was converted into what seems like a more enjoyable game when it was ported to home consoles. Sure, the graphics may have been watered down, but it would keep many of the digitized graphics and sounds found in the arcade that gives it its identifiable characteristics.

The story of Pit-Fighter is one that follows a new sport that was created in the seedy underbelly of the streets where anything goes! Kind of like a cross between an underground UFC and a bar fight, it includes a colorful mix of opponents where some are expert fighters in their field of martial arts, but most just appear to be lowlife brawlers using the tournament as an excuse to punch other dudes in the face.

The player can pick between three characters with varying levels of attack and speed. Buzz, a former pro wrestler that can deliver a mean knuckle sandwich; Ty, a champion kickboxer who’ll send you flying across a room with his kicks of fury; and Kato, a Karate expert who is quick on his feet with a decent balance between punching and kicking. Each character includes a special move that will not only deliver a power attack to their opponent, but will also knock them to the ground, allowing for you to lay a few punches or kicks until they stand back up.

There are no points to earn in this game. Instead, it’s a cash system. Every kick, punch, and anything else you can do to your hurt your foe is an extra bit of cash that you can earn. At the end of each match, the money you have earned during the fight will be tallied up. It will include your fight purse, a KO bonus, and a brutality bonus. What makes this great is this is all shown as a visual where your character is standing on a pallet that is on a forklift while wads of cash are piling up under you. There’s something really satisfying about watching a pile of money accumulate under your character while having a forklift raise you upward.

The graphics use the style of digitized graphics similar to the early Mortal Kombat games. All the fighters, plus the crowds are all of this style, so everything has a realistic, gritty look. The backgrounds for the most part are all drawn, but have high details in them and are digitized a bit with a filter to make them match the way the characters do. Some of the locations the matches take place at include scummy areas like a bar, a warehouse, parking structure, and a skyscraper currently under construction.

The controls are simplistic and include only include three buttons: punch, kick, and jump. Pressing two of them will perform certain attacks like a jump kick or lifting your opponent over your head to throw them. Pressing all three at the same time will execute your character’s special move. There’s no meter or penalty for using your special move, so you can use it as many times as you wish. When it comes to controlling your character, you can walk around in in both an X and Z axis, so you can move to dodge an attack or maneuver around your opponent.

What sets Pit-Fighter apart from most fighting games is that it includes weapons you can use to attack with. You can pick up and throw things like barrels or bar stools and watch them break over your opponent’s head. Sometimes there’s a hidden power up called a “power pill” that you can use to temporarily increase your fighter’s attacks and take less damage when hit. Geez, I wonder if the arcade version included the “Winners Don't Use Drugs” slide during the attraction screen.

Comparing to the arcade version, the home console port is less claustrophobic as the camera’s field of vision nearly shows the entire fighting ring. This allows the player to easily see all of the weapons and where the audience is at so they don’t try to push you back into the ring or shank you if you get too close to them.

The biggest plus for Pit-Fighter is how it gives off a vibe of electricity by how excited the crowd is for the sport. It really does a good job of pulling you in to its gritty world by seeing so much animation occurring one the screen at any given time. The fighting pits are surrounded by crowds of drunken fools looking for someone to splatter blood across the floor. Each person in the crowd is animated and some will even stab you if get too close. Of course you can attack them and take their knife to use against your opponent. You’ll hear constant chants like “get him!” or “kick him!”

Neither too difficult nor not too easy, the game can be completed rather quickly. It does help that the AI of the enemies don’t bother to learn your fighting patterns, so you can use the same cheap moves over and over without fear of them being useless in later matches. Loved by only a small number of players, it’s satisfying when you get the reference of when someone else who’s played the game will cross their arms and say in a scratchy voice, “just wait.” You’ll squeal with excitement that you know what game they’re referring to.

Image credits: IGN

Posted on: May 11, 2016