Kinnikuman Muscle Fight
Platform(s): PC (Freeware)
Release Date: Unknown
Find out more info and download for yourself here.
If you grew up in the 80s you likely remember M.U.S.C.L.E. (Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere), the peculiar set of small, flesh-toned alien wrestlers that came in trash can-shaped packaging. Perhaps you even played the tie-in NES game of the same name, which in the past has been described as one of the worst games released for the system in North America.
It would likely come as a surprise to many to find out that the M.U.S.C.L.E. series protagonist ‘Muscleman’ is in fact Kinnikuman, a Japanese Chojin (superman) who battles superhuman opponents in the wrestling ring to defend his country and the planet from evil. In Japan, Kinnikuman has been something of a phenomenon, with two lengthy anime series and a manga that is still on-going to this day, its memorable characters such as Robin Mask, Ramenman and Buffaloman have become cultural icons that have appeared on every bit of merchandise you could possibly imagine, from apparel to life-sized statues that line the streets of some of Japan’s cities.
Kinnikuman is such a phenomenon, in fact, that every Friday 29th is ‘Kinnikuman Day’ (due to its pronunciation ‘Kin Niku’ in Japanese). Perhaps the most peculiar part of this ‘Kinniku Fever’, however, is that the series never properly made it to the west, in part due to it featuring many gags that played off of exclusively Japanese tropes and comedy, as well as due to the appearance of some controversial characters including several celebrity lookalikes and even a Nazi character who would later go on to be portrayed as a hero.
The original anime series was dubbed into Catalan, but beyond this, Kinnikuman would not make a proper appearance outside of Japan until its sequel, Kinnikuman Nisei, was released by 4Kids under the guise of Ultimate Muscle in 2002. Notable for its hilarious yet unfaithful name and script changes, as well as some questionable choices of voice actor, the series aired in America until 2004, despite being relatively unpopular in its country of origin. Perhaps this is all starting to sound a little more familiar now?
Kinnikuman Muscle Fight is a little different to some of the other games I’ll be covering in this feature, in that its entirely fan made. Several licensed Kinnikuman fighting games have been produced, primarily by AKI Corporation (now known as Syn Sophia, creators of the Style Boutique/Girls Mode/Style Savvy series), but Muscle Fight is undoubtedly the best one available, serving not only as a true love letter to any Kinnikuman fan, but standing out as what is possibly one of the craziest fighting games ever made, especially to the uninformed onlooker.
The first thing anyone will notice about Muscle Fight is the roster; there’s a huge cast of bonkers characters to choose from, with no two alike in fighting style. Characters are beautifully sprited and their attacks are a true spectacle to behold; whilst not displaying the most fluid or groundbreaking animation, it’s a great feeling pulling off some of the more complicated attacks and being rewarded with fantastical and overdramatic set pieces. Character voices are taken straight from the anime to preserve the accuracy of some of the series’ most memorable moments and certain character match-ups even offer character-specific dialogues and in some cases even special attacks.
The game controls like any 2D-fighter, probably coming closest to Street Fighter in terms of inputs and movement style. Whilst the majority of special moves are grapple-based, this transfers remarkably well into the 2D fighting game style, often requiring fights to get up close and personal, which makes them all the more exciting. Combos are in there, but are by no means perfectly executed; plenty of infinites exist and whilst this game is in no way viable to be played competitively (and likely wasn’t developed that way), it’s excusable when you consider both the game’s origins and the massive range of moves that are available to you for an unofficial game.
One remarkable aspect of Muscle Fight‘s gameplay is that it manages to accurately convey fights taking place in a wrestling ring without forging traditional 2D fighter mechanics. Whilst most of these instances are purely aesthetic, it once again demonstrates incredible faith to the source material. Certain attacks even have special variations when performed near the edge of the ring (such as the one pictured above) that, as well as adding to the game’s authenticity, just look damn cool.
In a brilliant way of capturing the series most heart-rending and memorable moments, various attacks and special states are accessed based on your position in battle, be it the amount of health you have left or through the use of special taunts and entrance poses that can be activated by holding specific directions when the battle begins. Several attacks exist that can only be activated in what is essentially your ‘final breath’, such as when you have less than 10% of your health left and are knocked to the ground; these attacks are often accompanied by recreations of various parts of the Kinnikuman story and are often the most exciting to watch, with some even lasting up to a minute long. This sounds like it would be a bad thing for a fighting game, but amidst the over-the-top and campy stylings of Kinnikuman, I’m sure once you pull off one of said moves, you’ll be more than comfortable with listening to some dialogue about ‘friendship power’ and ‘burning inner strength’.
The game is by no means perfect. There are only two modes available, Arcade and Versus; the former using some incredibly fiendish boss AI that’ll likely take more than a little bit of practice/spamming to get past. Other flaws are more technical and will likely only affect certain players; the game’s roster is huge, but certain characters, including a selection of novelty and variation characters produced after the game’s release, are only available for use by swapping around the game’s files, meaning that to add one character, you’ll lose another. Some additions have even been released based on Nisei, the sequel series, but these were released exclusively to only small numbers of people, so your chances of tracking them down are questionable.
It’s clear that the small team of fans who worked on this game were intent on creating the most authentic Kinnikuman experience possible, and even to someone who isn’t a fan of the series, this is clearly visible in the dynamic and compelling action that unfolds on-screen every time you go in for one of your killing moves. With so many attacks and variations available from each character, as well as the inclusion of such a large and diverse roster, it’s possible you’ll never see it all, but what you do see playing Kinnikuman Muscle Fight will almost always be a sight to behold.