• Doujin Fighters

    Fight! Fight! Fight! The crowd’s synchronised chanting resounded in my ears. I clenched my fists as we squared off from opposite sides of the circle that had formed around us. The lunchtime sunshine was so hot it was making the tar of Naylands Junior’s schoolyard melt – the acrid odour hanging in the air like the smell of impending battle.

    My eyes locked with my opponent’s and it was a fight or flight moment. My heart skipped a beat at the empty hatred in his eyes, the clear determination to pummel my face into the ground. In that split second, I realised there was no going back now. There was no escape. Everything rested on the next few moments.

    My pride.

    My reputation.

    My life.

    I could feel the tension in my muscles, that aching knot in the pit of my stomach. I was shaking, but hoped that neither the crowd nor my opponent could see it.

    How had it come to this? What was I doing here? I didn’t want to get beaten to a pulp! Maybe if I tried to reason with hi… too late!

    The Mexican standoff was broken as he advanced towards me, his fist clenched and ready. This was going to happen whether I was ready or not. The chanting of the crowd intensified to fever pitch in anticipation of what was to come…

    With frightening speed he was within range. He swung at me, and instinct took over. I moved sideways, the blow skirting past my face! The adrenaline rush surged through my body, and automatically my own fists started to swing.

    “Aim for the face!!!!!” my primal instincts screamed. “Teach him a lesson he’ll never forget!!”

    Through my chemical-fuelled bravado I hadn’t seen his second punch coming. Catching me straight in the middle of my stomach, the knot of tension exploded into a ball of fiery pain as the wind was knocked out of me. I doubled over and in that old clichéd way, everything slowed down.

    The chanting faded out. My own laboured breathing filled my ears. I could see every minute crease in his knuckles as his first retracted from my stomach.

    In this time bubble, spattered with pain, it crossed my mind that I could simply just keel over here and now with the hope that it would bring an end to it all.

    Ignoble? Certainly, but the pain would surely stop and I would be alive to drag myself home, even if it was with my tail between my legs.

    While that was a possibility, there was also the chance that he would simply continue to kick the crap out of me while on the floor, leaving me totally defenceless.

    My adversary opted to make the decision for me. Still doubled up, he swung at me again, catching me square in the face and knocking me off balance. The pain erupted once more as the ground come up to meet me in slow motion. As the bits of warm schoolyard gravel embedded themselves into my cheek, I lost all concept of pain and time. It made the kicks in the stomach he dished out a bit easier to swallow…

    I stumbled through the back door of my house and into the kitchen. My mother almost dropped the plates she was carrying when she saw my black eye and gravel-pitted cheek.

    “What on Earth happened?” she demanded to know, catching hold of me in that way mothers do when they want to take a closer look at you.

    “I got in a fight at school,” I mumbled, the pain in my split lip spreading again from the effort of talking.

    “Shame on you, fighting in the yard like a common animal” she scolded, followed by a motherly, reassuring hug. “Look at the state of you!”

    I plonked myself down on the kitchen stool, feeling sorry for myself and totally crestfallen. She re-emerged with a wet flannel and proceeded to wipe away the dried blood. I braced myself for the inevitable lecture.

    “How many times have I told you that violence never solves anything? And I would have thought you would know better at your age...”

    I knew she was right of course. Twenty-six was far too old to be getting into fights with school kids anymore.

    The Doujin Dojo: A brief introduction to the art of fighting Fighters.
    We love them.

    There’s nothing more enjoyable than hammering your way through opponents in a blaze of Hundred Hand Slaps, Spinning Bird Kicks or Burning Knuckles. The thrill of gladiatorial combat, those split-second, life or death decisions, clawing your way back to victory when on the ropes. Thankfully it’s a lot safer than real world fighting which usually results in bruises, bleeding and maybe even an outing to the local Emergency Ward or the Old Bill’s gaff for at least one of the parties involved.

    Video games have made it possible for us to scrap away with relative impunity, suffering nothing worse than some nasty hand cramps and bouts of seething frustration when we get K.O.’d once again by the frustrating, firebolt-wielding end-of-game boss *cough* Jinpachi Mishima *cough* cough*.

    Not only that but Fighters have allowed us to pull off spectacular moves that would usually only be possible after a lifetime of studying the ancient martial arts or having our young bones broken and reset by an overenthusiastic Russian Olympic Gymnastics coach.

    To fight one another is embedded in our very nature. Thankfully modern convention usually wins over our deep-seated primal urges, but in essence that’s why it feels so damn good when you carry out some serious rearranging of Vega’s pretty boy face.

    Fighters - the Japanese love them too. Anyone who’s seen the videos of Virtua Fighter experts doing their thing (or even been lucky to experience it first hand) can’t help but be amazed at how seriously the Japanese take their fighting games. Like Shmups, Fighters hold a special place in their hearts and they are prepared to spend hours putting in practice to take on all comers.

    Rightly so; there is always a special place in any fighter fan’s pugilistic heart for the 2D fighter. It is from these roots that games such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter were born. 2D Fighters remain globally popular even today, with the universal appeal of Street Fighter, The King Of Fighters and Last Blade (to name but a few) ensuring they receive ports to the current generation of hardware, much to the delight of old and new fans alike.

    While revered by many, there is no denying that new and decent versions of 2D Fighters are few and far between; the genre is seen as being more of a niche market for the dedicated hardcore fight fans. It is unsurprising then that numerous homebrew Doujin fighting games have sprung up to try and satiate this lust for the 2D fighter.

    These Eastern titles have emerged thanks to the global dominance of the PC, and with it a generation of people who were raised with the complexities of its programming. The fact that development for PC titles is largely free from monetary constraints (unlike developing for the key console stakeholders) has also played its part in the labours of love that have churned out some titles that are certainly as memorable and on a technical par with the more widespread commercial releases. Not only this but Enterbrain’s Fighter Maker, which powers many a fan-based fighter, also gave Doujin groups more accessible tools to do the job (although sadly Fighter Maker was never released for the Western PC market and instead given a very low-key PS1 and PS2 port only).

    Doujin Fighters are (as their name suggests) the works of rabid and often obsessive fans, who like nothing more than combining their passion for Fighters with their passion for wide-eyed, breasty young girls in school outfits. While not always the case, sometimes the average fan can get a bit 'overenthusiastic' about their infatuation with a particular character (something that is in equal prevalence in the West with works of Fan Fiction). Doujin Fighters can have more of a seedy underside than the Shmup genre, more often than not consisting of young Hentai school girls with a murderous intent to bash the brains out of all and sundry. Thankfully we’ll be staying well away from those kinds of undesirable things. We’ll especially be distancing ourselves away from those particular ones where they’ve got their intimate bits out. Or tentacles.

    As Doujin games are fan works it’s not uncommon to see characters cropping up from one game to another – although this doesn’t necessarily mean they play the same way and will be tailored to fit the game, not the other way around.

    Unlike Doujin Shmups, these games don’t tend to be available as freeware and a charge is payable to either download or purchase them (usually around the £25 mark). Though this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some free titles to be found (a few of which can be found further on in this feature). More often than not, Doujin Fighters will also release demo versions of their games so you can try before you part with your money – a must if you want to make sure you avoid being lumbered with something which amounts to little more than an unpleasant Hentai bitchfest.

    Below you can find some of the Doujin games that are competing to occupy your valuable playing time.

    Eternal Fighter Zero
    Schoolgirls... ok, so I lied about staying away from the schoolgirl thing but I stand my ground on the nudity…Eternal Fighter Zero has loads of ‘em. In fact, if you play the latest update in the series then there are 19 of them to choose from straight off the bat.

    Produced by the Doujin group Twilight Frontier, Eternal Fighter Zero combines characters from a number of popular ren'ai or dating sim games (part of the course for Doujin titles) such as Moon, Air and Kanon. Here though, the girls are less interested in wining and dining and more interested in thrashing their opponents to within an inch of their lives. Such is the title’s popularity in the East that the game has gone through three revisions so far in a bid to tweak and update it. Characters are well animated, the backgrounds detailed, and with the overall result being a highly polished game that wouldn’t look out of place in an arcade cab somewhere in Akihabara.

    The game doesn’t worry about things such as plot, for in this instance there is no need. To this end there is a simple Arcade mode and the standard Practice and Versus modes. Thankfully menus are in English and those that aren’t are laid out in the standard fashion making the round timer and difficulty level etc. instantly recognisable.

    Everything feels fluid and smooth with a fighting system that would put some commercial games to shame. While generally only three buttons are used for attacks (with only some characters having access to special moves assigned to the fourth), a range of punches, kicks, throws, ranged attacks and even attacks with briefcases, scarves or table stools (depending on the character) are all present. Air dashes, chained attacks and even juggles (including a handy meter than appears when a character is knocked into the air to indicate their jugglability) are also thrown in and are extremely well implemented with the controls having a loose but speedy response.

    Each character feels different to play, but at the same time fits neatly into the game; an incredible feat given the large amount of source material and characters the game draws its inspiration from. In instances such as this the problem of balancing usually rears its head, and while there may be some discrepancies in ability this is nothing more than can be expected from any other title.

    Those familiar with Fighters will also find the Capcom style meter instantly recognisable. Alongside this is the Reinforce meter, used for special moves, which adds that additional level of depth.

    Verdict: Highly recommended. A huge roster of characters and a flexible fighting system make it a must-play for any fighting game fan who owns a PC.

    Import Friendliness: In English for the most part so there’s no excuse not to get stuck in.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 3 - some short skirts but no knickers or naughty bits to be seen.

    Glove On Fight
    Not so much your traditional style of fighting game, Watanabe Seisakujo’s Glove On Fighter stands out from the crowd for two reasons.

    Firstly it’s a boxing game so that means no there’ll be very limited fancy flickflacking and no extreme roundhouse kicks.

    Secondly, its graphical style is truly immense. The wonderful Chibi style sprites are solid and extremely well animated, with a fluid style that quite literally gives each jab a visual punch. These animations even incorporate The Rumble Fish-style animations for each limb, long before vibrating piscines were a glint in Dimps’ eye.

    Visually, everything about this title oozes a captivating charm, combined with excellent music that features a range of catchy rap and funky J-Pop tunes, drawing you in from the time it starts.

    Ultimately Glove On Fighter’s failings rest with its combat system. It’s determination to set itself apart from the crowd as a boxing game is ultimately its downfall, with only a limited number of moves and special move combinations to be mastered for each combatant. That said, some of the moves included are totally over the top and highly memorable – how many boxing games see you washed away in a swathe of pastel coloured penguins, or smacked in the face by a giant robot fist? The fighting system is a little simplistic (with only a light punch, heavy punch and dodge button), but like most games based on the noble Gentlemen’s Art, it’s all about learning to time your attacks and dodging – jab and weave, jab and weave etc. This wouldn’t be so bad, but there are only 8 characters to be found in the game, meaning that longevity very much depends on your determination to master each character to the max.

    Additionally, the fight areas do feel a little constrictive, with no horizontal scrolling, although this is not unexpected as the stages are meant to feel like unconventional Boxing rings.

    Negatives aside, Glove On Fighter was Watanabe Production’s attempt at something different to the norm, trying and succeeding in rising above most Doujin games even if it doesn’t have the depth to make it a longer lasting experience. It’s truly a shame that the developers of the title haven’t revised and updated it to make it a must-play Doujin experience.

    Verdict: Recommended. It’s charming and lovable for all the right reasons. Chances are if you don’t fall for it from the second you start it up, you’re never going to like it.

    Import Friendliness: Menus are in English so there’s no real language barrier.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 1 - sensible use of skirt length and all the characters are all Chibi based. So if you get the hots for them you are dirty. And evil. And your hairy-palmed hands will surely drop off.

    Super Cosplay War Ultra

    Whether you see them as dedicated fans or just weird nutty types that love to dress up and cram themselves into convention halls with no air con, there’s no denying Cosplay’s popularity. Oddly enough, a lot of Cosplayers like to dress up as characters from their favourite Fighters and, in a calculated twist, developers Team F.K. have turned this on its head. In this game, the fighters actually dress up as their favourite characters. Clever, no?

    Super Cosplay War Ultra (SCWU) also bucks the trend of Doujin Fighters in that it’s free to download. So there’s no absolutely no excuse for you not to check it out.

    Looking a bit rough around the edges visually, none of this will matter once you start playing. The latest (and final?) revision gives you 33 players (plus some unlockable characters) to get to grips with, ranging from fat, sweaty Otaku fanboys, too-cool-for-school Anime fans (complete with ridiculously over-gelled, spiky haircuts) and even those attractive (but seemingly unhinged) women you always get attending Cosplay conventions. Irregardless of which fighter you choose, technically you won't be sticking to one particular character anyway, as during attacks fighters will quickly get changed in and out of costume for each of their favourite characters. SCWU really does play like a spot the character competition at times, with players morphing into interpretations of characters from Power Rangers, Shaman King, Digimon, Trigun and Astroboy to name a brief few. Couple this with the Cosplay characters that are liberally applied to the level backgrounds and the game is a delight for anyone wanting to test their Anime character database. Fans of '90s musical sensations Reel to Real (featuring the Mad Stuntman) and Felix will also love the remixed character select music.

    SCWU offers two modes of play: the standard Arcade mode is accompanied by Battle Royale mode, a veritable tour-de-force that should be de riguere for fighter games by now. Essentially a free-for-all, Battle Royale allows you to pick your fighter and then throws opponent after opponent into the level. Presumably the idea behind this is that somebody dissed someone else's costume (that was being held together with duct tape, no doubt) and it all kicked off. Hectic and frenetic, this mode is guaranteed to keep you occupied.

    Extremely quirky and easy to get to grips with (the fighting system and moves list are quite rudimentary), whether you take Fighters seriously or not SCWU is a good way to kill a few spare hours and have a fun time doing it.

    Verdict: There’s no excuse for you not to play this one. It’s free.

    Import Friendliness: Very little Japanese text. All the key bits needed to play are in English.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 1 (these Cosplayers consist mostly of the unsexy kind that you really wouldn’t want to get close to in real life).

    Another Doujin series that has proven immeasurably popular is Type-Moon and Watanabe Productions’ collaboration of Melty Blood. Sounding like something you get from leaving Dracula’s freezer unplugged, Melty Blood is actually based on the virtual novel Tsukihime, which features a dark and complex, interwoven storyline. Befitting this, the fighter interpretation is also crowned with a dark and gothic tone which feels an entire world away from the saccharine sweetness of wide-eyed girls in short skirts and kitten ears on their heads. Melty Blood’s assembled fighters are a motley crew of unhinged individuals that range from vampiric Acueid Brunestud, pugilistic chambermaids Hisui and Kohaku, to angry Harry Potter look-alike (and main protagonist) Shiki Tohno and Sion Eltnam Atlasia, a Holy Girl Guide with some serious issues. In short, each character feels unique and has their own place in the grand scheme of things, which is certainly not surprising given the wealth of back-story provided by Tsukihime. Unfortunately it is a real shame that while English patches of the game do exist, the translation only applies to the game’s menus rather than its actual story mode meaning those lacking a thorough knowledge of Japanese will miss most of what is going on. Thankfully for those who just want to get on with the fighting Arcade, VS and Practice modes are also present. Special mention should also be made of the Option screen which adds some nice player stats which, although brief, are a welcome (but not overburdening) addition.

    Like Eternal Fighter Zero, the popularity of the game in the East has seen it undergo a number of revisions (the latest version Cadenza being a port to the Arcades using the NAOMI system, and with rumours abound of an eventual port to the PlayStation 2). With these the roster of characters has also increased to an ample 16 fighters to choose from.

    Just like Twilight Frontier’s effort, Melty Blood features an incredibly detailed fighting system which players are expected to put to full use. Recovers, chains and air dashes are all readily achievable. However this system is very unforgiving at times and doesn’t take lightly to misdirected timings when trying to pull off moves or combos. Nevertheless, everything on screen is wonderfully drawn and animated with a smoothness that beggars belief. Backgrounds, while varied, are predominately dark in tone to fit in with the game’s nocturnal styling. Similarly the music feels gothic and foreboding, fitting comfortably with the proceedings. There’s very little that has been overlooked in this title, such is its polish and overall presentation, meaning that the punishing fighting system is one that you will definitely want to learn as you spend more and more time with the title.

    Verdict: A must-play. If you own a PC and are in any way serious about playing fighting games, you owe it to yourself to get this title. It’s simply that bloody (groan) good.

    Import Friendliness: Unfortunately no translation for the story mode or menus for the latest version. However everything is fairly straightforward and follows the standard layout for Fighters.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 4 (French Maid/Vampire fetishists and sulky Goths will have an absolute field day. More adjusted people may find the Pervy factor a bit lower on the scale).

    Touhou Suimusou: Immaterial and Missing Power
    A lot of you should by now be familiar with Shanghai Alice (the creators of Doujin Shmups Perfect Cherry Blossom and Immeasurable Night). If you aren’t you should go here to read about one of the finest Shmups that money isn’t needed to buy.

    Shanghai Alice’s Shmups are held in high regard in both the East and West. So it isn’t much of a surprise that at some stage those dedicated fans came together to turn it into a Doujin Fighter. But with Fighters and Shmups being two very different genres, the big question is do the games’ characters and designs lend themselves to smacking each other around on screen?

    In simplistic terms the answer is both yes and no.

    Immaterial and Missing Power (IMP) is as bright and bubbly as the shooters on which it has based itself upon, with the characters and settings immediately recognisable to those who have played them. The presentation is certainly on a par with the exemplary deigns of Shanghai Alice’s Shmups, right down to menu graphics and the Music Room that allows you to listen to tracks from the game. Neon stars, pentagrams and card attacks are all a joy to behold, with the sounds effects and music that accompanies the on-screen action feeling like a direct extension of the shooters themselves. This translation and similarity, which captures the essence of the scrolling shooters, is even more captivating when you consider that Doujin group Twilight Frontier developed the game and not the original Shanghai Alice team.

    At the start of each game when choosing their fighter, players are given the option of different spell card combinations to help them win. Once sparring has commenced, players then have control over a number of short and long range attacks. By filling power gauges, special Spell attacks can then be executed. These count down on a timer and once this expires players must wait until their spell gauge has refilled. A handy moves list is also present on the character selection screen to save you trawling the Internet in search of information.

    Anyone who’s played either Perfect Cherry Blossom or Immeasurable Night will know that under the cute exterior beats a decidedly hardcore heart. For this reason as soon as you start up IMP you begin to get the same feeling. However once you scratch below the surface all is not what it seems.

    The ease of pulling off ranged attacks is clearly a tribute to the game’s origins, however this can make fights frustrating. Especially when your computer-controlled opponent takes advantage of the situation to pummel you with the same long-range attacks over and over as if stuck in a horrible AI loop. While generally well-executed, it does seem that the long-range attacks are severely unbalanced for some characters. One such example is Alice Margabraid and her bullet-firing fairy (please bear in mind I’ve already said I’m not reviewing those types of game) and while these attacks can be blocked, the veritable barrage on screen at times can prove overwhelming. Fine for a shooter perhaps but not so great for a fighter. The overall result here is a shooter / fighter hybrid that plays like neither one nor the other and it may frustrate the player until they become accustomed to this strange mixture.

    Verdict: A bit hit and miss. Presentation-wise it’s of outstanding quality but can be very frustrating (something ironed out a little in recent patches). Hardened fans of Shanghai Alice’s shooter titles or those who are up for a challenge will find plenty of enjoyment once they adjust to the game’s unforgiving system.

    Import Friendliness: Not much English to be found except for the menus. However, once again everything is laid out quite intuitively and it’s easy to find your way around.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 3 (It’s on a par with Twilight Frontier’s Eternal Fighter Zero for short, frilly skirts and a bit of leg).

    Destruction Desire
    Never underestimate the appeal of the Guilty Gear series. Often seen as somewhat of a fringe title, caught between the Street Fighter and The King of Fighters series, in this instance it seems to have been the direct inspiration for Destruction Desire.

    On the face of it, Destruction Desire looks like Guilty Gear-Lite and to a certain extent it is. With only a small selection of characters to choose from (seven in total if you include the secret unlockable characters) and only two play modes (either against the computer or a second player) you would expect the game to be crushed under the mighty boots of Melty Blood and Eternal Fighter Zero. This would certainly be the case if for the fact that a) it’s totally free and b) it plays like an absolute charm.

    Yes, that’s right Freebie fans, this is another game that should have you all of a tizz as it's strictly a Freeware title.

    From the moment things start, it’s clear that parts of Destruction Desire are quality over quantity. Each character’s animation looks flawless and they really do look like abandoned concepts from a version of Sammy’s series. However this is jointly a good and bad thing in that they look wonderful in motion but the designs do feel a little bit odd and disjointed when placed together – a sort of a cross between Guilty Gear and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow of Mystara. Their names are as equally dodgy with monikers such as Barns, Misty and the comically-titled Wif. The backgrounds, while competent, do feel a little bland, but in this game the on-screen characters blend in nicely, unlike some of the other games listed here where the character sprites tend to stick out. Besides, the simple backgrounds also feel somewhat refreshing in this age of eye candy and technological muscle-flexing, devoid of things which usually only distract the player anyway.

    Long- and short-range attacks are all present, along with combos and super attacks when the charge meter is filled. All characters feel fast and responsive and also feature a nice collection of moves. There’s also a fair drop of the red stuff being thrown around ala Guilty Gear, and fights are usually a bright and colourful spectacle. There’s plenty to keep combo-masters occupied and, while the difficulty level is challenging enough to mean that it’s no walk in the park, it must be said that there doesn’t actually feel like there’s much difference between the characters.

    Then again, being hard on Destruction Desire is more than a little bit unfair – almost like hitting a cheery sales person in the face as they’re offering you a free trial sample of a product. Given that the game is freeware, and a relatively small download size (less than 30Mb), a lot of substance has been packed in, making it easy to overlook the game’s faults and concentrate on the hidden gem underneath.

    Verdict: Free and ridiculous fun to boot. What else could you want?

    Import Friendliness: There’s not much text contained within the game, and that which is present is all in English.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 3 (Misty is the only thing remotely sexy in this game… and she carries a broom…and chain smokes).

    The Queens of Heart 2001: Party’s Breaker
    Yet another game by Watanabe Productions (he knows how to keep himself busy), The Queens of Heart 2001: Party’s Breaker is certainly a titular mouthful (hence it being more affectionately know as Party’s Breaker). Originally designed as a parody of The King of Fighters series starting with KOF ’98, Party’s Breaker original release was expanded on by the similarly vocabulary-busting follow up 'The Queen of Heart 99: Dream Match Never Ends' and then Party’s Breaker.

    Taking characters from a game entitled 'Comic Party' by Leaf, as with other Doujin Fighters The Queen’s of Heart series dispenses with any plot and character wrangling to leave the player free to enjoy the combat. The combatants consist of around thirteen females (most of which are unlockable) who seem to have been directly influenced by various other well-known fighters such as Terry Bogart, Rose from Street Fighter Alpha and even some of the Darkstalkers clan. While not direct rips in regards to appearance or moves, there is an overall comfort zone provided by being on familiar ground.

    As with other Watanabe games the fighting system is top-notch, hidden on the surface by the game's bubbly, colourful charm. The levels and music are all rich and entertaining, even if the main characters themselves do suffer quite badly with pixellated sprites (more a result of the game’s age than anything else).

    Each character has a range of unique moves which, although intuitive, do feel a little bit limited. However the inclusion of the Certain Kill Techniques and Super Certain Kill Techniques (essentially grand names for super special moves specific to each character) means there is plenty of chance for players to learn and for their skills to grow as they progress. The characters are quite well balanced too and this, coupled with the limited number of moves for each character, means that victory is often due to skill with the chosen fighter and not just down to who can mash the buttons the quickest. It should also be mentioned that the game features a Guard Power bar so that Guard Crushes and Guard Cancels are all possible, along with an Initiative bar that, when fully charged, can be used to speed up attacks for a limited time.

    Options for Party's Breaker are a little more varied than some titles including a choice of player colours and even manual or automatic blocking. While not immediately appealing to those who are not fans of Leaf’s Comic Party, anyone who gives it a chance is sure to find a solid fighter which will most certainly grow on them.

    Verdict: A nice fighter whose outward appearance and origins shouldn’t detract from the fact that it is a thoroughly enjoyable title once given an opportunity.

    Import Friendliness: Menus are accompanied by English text making navigation easy.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 3 (At first glance there’s not much wrong but there feels like there’s an unwholesome undercurrent to it…).

    Arm Joe
    There aren’t many games that have been inspired by the great literary works of our times. Even if there were, there’s a strong chance that many of them wouldn’t have been turned into Fighters. But that’s exactly where Arm Joe draws its inspiration.

    Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables has to be one of the most unlikely concepts ever created for a game. Selectable fighters actually include Jean Valjean, Les Miserables main character, and others such as Inspector Javert, Cosette, Eponine and even a 19th Century Police Officer. Like an animated (and rather brutal) English Literature lesson, Arm Joe would make an excellent accompaniment to anyone reading the book. Or maybe not, as although it’s been a while since I read the book in school, I don’t remember 19th-century policemen being able to throw fireballs. I’m also certain that there was absolutely no mention of Ponpon. the game's oversized rabbity-mouse thingy who (naturally) drives a Mini. Even never having seen the musical it’s a fair assumption that he’s not in that either and it’s part of what designers might call 'artistic license'.

    More than a little rough around the edges, Arm Joe holds aloft a sign bearing the magical word 'Freeware', thus staving off a fair bit of criticism that could be levelled against it. Yes, the backgrounds are washed out and the game’s design is a little bit limp in parts (for example the limited game options and some of the fighters’ movements feeling a bit floaty) but overall Arm Joe uses Enterbrain's Fighter Maker to its fullest and is guaranteed to provide some quirky, light relief. Like the inclusion of Ponpon, the characters’ moves are not entirely serious and you get the feeling that Arm Joe is a light-hearted exercise in providing something a little bit different.

    Personally I can’t wait to start rucking with the cast of Phantom of The Opera, Pride and Prejudice and even Starlight Express.

    Verdict: No, it’s not just a computer game. It’s Edutainment. Now what’s the move to drop all that junk on my opponent again?

    Import Friendliness: It doesn’t contain much English, but Arm Joe’s limited options mean this isn’t really a problem.

    Nudity/Perviness Factor: 1 (It’ll either remind you of your boring English lessons, or that 19th-century France really was a smelly and horrid place. Neither of which have any sex appeal at all).

    The Tools of the Doujin Trade: Techno-bobbery and Jiggery-pokery
    So those are just some of the popular, but understated, Doujin games that are just waiting to be discovered. But before you check them out there should be one final word of warning.

    Doujin Fighters aren’t really developed with the international market in mind and as such there are often problems getting them to run. More often than not these problems can be resolved by switching your systems settings to Japanese, although sometimes the joy of PC gaming can take hold and system specs are the deciding factor of how well a game will play. This is where downloading demos of the games will help you in deciding which games will work (as well as if the game is for you). It should be said that all the games above worked flawlessly after a little bit of tweaking and sometimes patching. Speaking of patching, that old PC stablemate, it is also necessary in some cases in order to balance out or tweak the game. Given that the games themselves are hard to track down, the patches can be just as elusive.

    It should also be said that while these demos are available, finding them is often a bit of a struggle. More often than not the developers never expected them to be of interest to anyone not of their native shores, so there are hardly any English language-based sites which host them. In this instance a decent search engine/perseverance (and in some cases a kiss from Lady Luck) will usually work a treat.

    On another note, older games will not necessarily support joypad or controller input. While it is possible to play the games on a keyboard, anyone who wants to get full enjoyment from of them (and retain the full use of their fingers) will require a joypad or joystick of some kind. For these games freeware programmes like JoyToKey are available to map key presses to the joypad and are highly recommended.

    Peace and Love: An End to Fighting?

    At some point in the future all mankind will realise that there’s nothing to be gained from fighting and will turn its back on its barbaric ways. We can all sit around campfires, sing songs, hold hands and tickle each other’s chins by holding daisies under them. Until that day, there’s always the thrill of smashing your opponent into the ground at the end of brutal and bloody three-round bout.

    The ingenuity of the games mentioned show the influence that 2D Fighting games have had on those that enjoy them and continue their development with such tenacity. This dedication is written over each animated sprite and pixel-based background, whether for profit or not. Due to their predominance in the Eastern market only, these games can still be thought of as one of the last great PC gaming secrets, an underground genre that some are still convinced that the PC simply can’t do. The greatest secret of all is that it can, and with some serious aplomb.

    Now you know this secret, I’d remind you that they are best enjoyed when you share them with someone else. No matter what they tell you in school, it’s good to fight.

    A big thank you goes to Stephen East for his help in sourcing the games for this feature.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. eastyy's Avatar
      eastyy -
      i still have a lot of doujin fighters and got some more since then though one of the more recent ones (not in the article) is actually out on japanese xbox 360 called Ougon Musou Kyoku X (demo is on japan live )

      here is a vid
    1. speedlolita's Avatar
      speedlolita -
      Awesome round up. No mention of Vanguard Princess though!
    1. charlesr's Avatar
      charlesr -
      It's an older article republished. Please add your own thoughts / screenshots / vids of Vanguard Princess or any others here!
    1. speedlolita's Avatar
      speedlolita -
      Vanguard Princess is one of the most visually attractive fighters I've played. I think it was created by one of the guys that worked on Third Strike, although that may be false.

      Tournament vid giving some gameplay. I'm not the biggest fan in that I'm not very strong in controlling the secondary character which is pretty much needed to do decent combos.