Tuesday, June 05, 2007

K-1 Fighting Illusion

K-1 is a Japanese fighting sport, bringing together different martial arts styles to see who is the strongest. It's a fairly new sport, founded in 1993, but it has since then spread across the world. The "K" refers to all the sports that begin with K, like "karate" and "kick boxing" and "kung-fu." It's also a reference to the Japanese term for fighting sports, "kakutogi."

See? You learn something new every day. If it wasn't for this Saturn game, I wouldn't be scouring Google for websites that tell me about K-1 leagues. See, videogames actually can be good for you.

Anyway, K-1 Fighting Illusion is another excellent fighter for Saturn. It probably should be thought of as a boxing game, since the play mechanics follow that style far more closely than the standard fighting games. I'd say Savaki is pretty close in the realism department, but K-1 is far more fleshed out in those ideas.

The game features a dozen fighters, all based on real competitors, all incorporating their own fighting styles. Because it's a more realistic game, there's bound to be more overlap in the different styles, instead of the cliche of making each player do something different. Here, a little homogeny is a good thing.

There is a slight nod to fighting games with the use of some combos, usually of the jab-jab-hook or punch-punch-kick variety. That's always been my problem with boxing simulations - the action is too slow. It makes sense that, by 1997, someone would have taken the hint and sped things up.

Here is another impressive graphics showcase for Saturn, and I'm frankly surprised this wasn't released on these shores. Everything is rendered in 3D polygons, including the fighters and the arenas. Typically with the Saturn, the backgrounds are faked with 2D backgrounds (Last Bronx elevated this sleight-of-hand to an art form), but this title goes all the way. And it looks great. No problems or glitches anywhere. I'm really impressed.

Each fighter has a solid array of techniques, and you can move sideways when you want, allowing you to take advantage of the ring. Moves, as I've said, are quick and responsive, and thankfully the designers didn't make the mistake of making hits too powerful. You're in the ring for several rounds, and you need to use the clock strategically. Unless your opponent is just out of it, there won't be any knockouts in the first round.

All the usual gameplay modes are present, including tournament and team battle modes. There's also an AI Setup mode which I haven't tried out yet. Sounds like a good chance to practice up between bouts.

I don't know why this game was never released in America. I can understand the difficulty with porting some of the other anime fighters, especially when those anime characters were complete unknowns. But K-1 could have been ported with only text translations, and for a 1997 game I think it still could have had an impact on the American Saturn, if only a little. The poor fans were desperate for anything that was good, and here's another quality title, just sitting on the shelf in Tokyo, waiting for the boat.

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