I think people go into certain endeavors without considering how saturated the market may or may not already be. Once something gets popular, you say “well, there’s bound to be room for another.” It was why you ended up with so many gourmet cupcake shops in big cities, or why there were a hundred different places to blog for free back in the 2000s, because, surely, you could have another and it would also be popular. And they all were, for a while, until people grew bored of the huge number of slightly different clones. Then only the original or the best survived and died, because, even though the clones were good, there just wasn’t enough to keep them around.
Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors is a relic from 1995 that proves you can be good, you can even be great, but, unless you’re amazing, you may just disappear altogether once the hype is gone. What we have here is a beautiful, well executed and pretty fluid fighter that was right on the cusp of the transition from 2D to 3D, so you have some of the best graphics of the time, and a pretty decent cast of original characters. There’s the evil space lizard, the robot come to life, the cat girl, the prince of a dying planet, a dude trying to avenge his father’s death…it really has everything. And Galaxy Fight wouldn’t disappear completely, as the mini boss would end up re-appearing in the cult classic Waku Waku 7 some time later. There is a plotline here, but you don’t need to really follow it too closely. Someone is threatening all these people on these planets, each person has their own reason to want to become the very best, and face punching commences.
As a 2D fighter, Galaxy Fight is pretty vanilla, if polished. You have three rounds total to use kicks, punches and various combination attacks (projectiles, dashes, etc) to put the hurt on your equally colorful opponent. If you’ve played literally any fighting game on the NEO GEO prior to this, you know what you’re doing. It’s intuitive enough to figure out some of the special attacks, and, for what it’s worth, it’s certainly entertaining enough to see and perform several of them. I’m not a fighting game person by trade, but I see the appeal and realize that this does have a place both in fighting history and as a favorite of people who grew up with the game.
The graphical aspect of Galaxy Fight is truly impressive, even by today’s standards. The character sprites are all pretty detailed, each one showing a range of different facial features, costume design and body types. The artwork would be enough, but the models are then given quite a bit of articulation and animation in their moves. Roomi, the cat girl, is naturally fidgety and bouncy on her feet, which fits in with her game description of being the youngest in the tournament. G. Done, the mysterious street tough, is cocky but controlled, seemingly fluctuating between overcompensation and reservation. The more I look at it, the more I enjoy and kind of scratch my head as to why the game got several revivals through ports (Playstation Network being the most recent) but no real sequel.
I will say, however, that the game is HARD. NEO GEO games, coming from the arcades, are notorious for having a punishing single player mode, so the Switch ports all have the ability to adjust the difficulty prior to starting the game. My very first fight, I left it at a natural four, and I got, and this is not an exaggeration, stomped into a puddle. Gunter, the lizard dude, was absolutely brutal as he bounded across the screen, smashing and suplexing me without a second thought. It may have just been a coincidence, but it did feel like the game was mocking me for daring to come in and think I could become a champion without proper initiation. So I went back, knocked the difficulty down to one, and tried again. I got exactly one fight won before Alvan (our prince of ruined space) beat the evil out of me. This is a fighting game that exists exclusively to be enjoyed in two player mode unless you are a fight fanatic. I’m still in shock.
This is also a point where I wish SNK had the ability or ambition to add some extra flair to their games. Again, since the two player mode is the best, I feel like Galaxy Fight, having a wide spread but not consistent fan base, would really benefit from online matchmaking. I am fully aware that it would be a monumental task, and some might argue that you can’t tell the difference between playing against AI and playing against a faceless person on the internet. But there is the principle. There’s the caravan mode already that shows how well the fighters around the world are doing, why not just take it a step further? It’s a tough spot where you don’t want to be ungrateful for what you already have, but you still wish there was just a bit more.
Still, if ever there was a good game that exemplified the historic importance of the NEO GEO ports, Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors is it. The last port anyone saw was a Nintendo Wii, Japan only release in 2010, and people in the West had to have the PSN active back in the same era to have tried it. There are amazing graphics, fluid action and some pretty memorable characters abound, and maybe not making a sequel is what kept the bar for Galaxy Fight static and able to be immortalized as it is and not as it could have been. If you are a fan of the 2D fighter and looking for a new old experience, Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors is your jam. If you’re hoping to finally try these “fighting games” the kids are all talking about, I might recommend a more familiar title, as this one could easily break your spirit and your JoyCon.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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