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Before the days of Street Fighter 2, when I used to go round to my cousin’s house we used to play Pit-Fighter! It’s certainly not considered a classic by today’s standards, but it was fairly popular in it’s day. I now own my cousins copy of the game which despite missing a manual, is a still a treasured part of my collection.
Pit-Fighter was developed by Atari and released in the arcades in 1990. The game was then ported to just about every other console available, with the Mega Drive and Sega Genesis version being arguably the best of all the home conversions.
Digitised sprites of live actors were used to give the game it’s more realistic look; a technique that was later used by the legendary Mortal Kombat series. It may have even been what inspired them to go down that route. This wasn’t the first game to use digitised sprites, but it’s certainly one of the more popular early examples. Unfortunately the Mega Drive version doesn’t include those, nor the subtle sprite-scaling technology, but it still looks and feels quite faithful to the arcade original.
The basic premise of Pit-Fighter is to defeat all your opponents and earn loads of money. So much in fact, that you have to get a forklift truck to hold you over it. There’s three characters to choose from, who are Buzz, Ty and Kato, each with their own unique fighting styles, and with Ty being my personal favourite.
With regards to enemies there’s essentially eight to beat over eleven rounds, so a couple of them are recycled. There’s also a few grudge match bonus rounds where you must defeat a clone of yourself. These mix up the traditional matches a bit as they implement a three-strike system where you earn a point each time knock your opponent down. It sounds simple and straightforward, but it can get pretty tough!
In terms of controls I found them to be quite basic, with each character having a standard jump, punch and kick or a special move for pressing A, B and C at the same time. Movement is fluid enough but the game does suffer a bit from collision detection issues when landing your hits. It feels a bit unfair at times and can be very frustrating in the grudge matches.
One of the things I really enjoy with Pit-Fighter is the ability to throw objects such as barrels, knives and even motorcycles against each other. If you get knocked into the crowd, the throw you back out, exposing you to an easy hit and some even come out to stab you. It can be quite brutal, but very fun when you have the advantage. On some stages there’s even a hidden power pill that makes you super strong! Just be careful and ensure you get to it before your opponent does.
Graphically, the game does a good job for such an early title. There’s a few recycled enemies and quite a lot of palette swapping to give the impression of more stage backgrounds, but it’s not too noticeable. It just feels like there’s not a lot of variety, but the gameplay is quite simplistic and repetitive anyway.
On the subject of sound, I really like the background music of the first round. Not all of the soundtrack is great, but there is some digitized speech which is impressive for such an old game. The crowd are very clear and it really adds to the atmosphere. Sometimes the end boss (The Masked Warrior) taunts you in between stages as well, but I found that very muffled and hard to understand what he was saying.
Pit-Fighter on the Mega Drive also offers a two player co-operative mode which is what me and my cousin used to play all the time. This adds more enemies to fight within each round to balance the difficulty, plus it provides a competitive element of who can earn the most prize money after each fight.