Cool sports fighter by Human. Very minimalist on the surface–to win, you either knock the opponent down five times, K.O. them, or score more points by the end of the 2-minute time limit (1 point for body blow, 2 for head, 3 for aerials, 5 for ringout/knockdown/warning). Every character is essentially a head/pallette swap of the same sprite, but it’s compensated by fluid animation, varied statlines, and a large cast for 1994 (22, counting the hidden bosses).
Where it gets complicated is in the details. Every character has one of two stances, you can lane-switch not unlike Fatal Fury, and certain attacks make you switch footing–and certain attacks hit on different lanes. It’s almost like a 3D fighter in this way. It’s pretty involved, so I’m going to split this into two dissertations: one on the game system, and the other on the characters themselves.
First off: the button scheme in this game defies typical conventions, so for ease of use I’m going to use stock SNES notation instead of ABCD or whatever.
There are roughly 15 far normals, 9 close normals, and 6 aerials, all in a shared pool. Each fighter is given some combination of these attacks to form their movelist, so similar attacks are found regularly between characters.
Every character follows a rough outline for their moveset, some more loosely than others:
-Y is an autocombo. The attack sequence is character-specific, but is never an actual “combo”. The upshot is that you can cancel it at any time, making the first attack in the sequence viable as an extra normal. The first attack in the sequence changes when you’re close or far.
-X is typically a high strike.
-B is generally a power attack, often involving a jump.
-A is commonly a mid strike.
-L makes you perform your character’s stance.
Attacks each deal varying damage and such under the hood, alongside a ‘stagger’ value, which I’ll get to. Attacks are either high or low (per TKD rules, ‘low’ means ‘body’), and are blocked by pressing 4/2, respectively. Alongside all these, there are also 4 universal attacks for each character:
-236B: a high anti-air kick. Very fast, with a high stagger rating. This can lead to true combos on hit. The downside: it’s blockable at either elevation, and has shit range.
-cl.6B: a high hook kick. Slow, but unblockable, and the only attack with a guaranteed stagger. Doesn’t grant much advantage, but characters with punches can link them after this. Tracks to your back.
-guard-cancel 6A. Looks like a sidekick, but has a different stagger chance and knockback on hit. Practically guaranteed to punish anything in close range.
-2364B: ranbu. Only works when in critical condition, but awards something ridiculous like 25 points and deals a shitload of damage. Easy to interrupt and linear, but it’s possible to combo into this from a stagger.
Jump attacks follow a similar premise. Uniquely, one air ‘normal’ is an air block. Aerials score well and are some of the only plus-on-block attacks, but carry risks of their own, which I’ll also get to.
Finally, Counter-Hits are in this game, but require stricter timing than usual (I think you need to hit just before, or during, their attack’s first active frame?).
There are two stances: Flamingo, and Taunt (in reality a ‘punch’ stance). Each stance has three attacks (high/mid/power). Flamingo is arguably inferior–the startup is way longer at far range, making it only really useful for its feint step. Taunt is better for two reasons: one, it’s fast enough to link after 6B, which makes it more flexible. Two, it imitates the animation for your next level of fatigue while in use, allowing for baits.
Every character has some arrangement of six stats, in addition to their movelist. Here’s what they do (based on my research):
AT: Attack. Determines how much HP you drain when you hit the enemy. Arguably unimportant, since scoring is probably faster than winning by K.O.
DF: Defense. Acts as HP. Every character reaches the first level of fatigue at roughly the same damage, so this doesn’t stave off exhaustion as much as it gives you more time to bounce back.
SP: Speed. Indicates attack, move, and sidestep speed. When characters share attacks, the higher-SP character’s version is in fact faster.
ST: Stamina. Appears to be a DF regeneration value. Attacking and taking damage lowers your HP, so high ST lets you attack more regularly and bounce back from big dammy sooner.
BL: Balance. A very important stat; backdashing, landing from the air, and certain attacks will cause you to stagger and leave you vulnerable (or sometimes simply knock you down). Higher BL reduces the odds of a stagger. This value decays as your HP drains, so characters with low BL are unreliable and easier to combo or KD.
TC: Technique. Attacks have a chance to register as a Critical Hit, which knocks down. This stat increases that chance. A very useful stat for characters interested in maximizing pokes and winning by KDs.
As you attack and take damage, your character goes through two phases. The first is just ‘tired’–they lower their guard, head down. The second is hands-on-knees, bent over, totally exhausted. When you’re this far, you’re either inches from a K.O. or ready to turn the tables with 2364B. As you get tired, your SP and BL lower in tandem, and worsens when critical–high ST is a must to avoid snowballing into constant staggers and KDs. Taunt stance imitates the appearance of fatigue, including the change in speed.
Pressing R makes you swap footing. While held, you can freely sidewalk and change lanes, but can’t block. You can also press it like 8+R to swap lanes instantly, without changing footing. High SP makes this even more valuable, as you can weave around attacks and play lame more easily. Only a select set of normals can track towards a separate lane (whether your back or stomach), so having access to these is a big upside in deterring opponents from relying on this too heavily.[/details]
This includes the bosses. They’re easy to unlock (hold up+L+R during the opening text crawl before starting), so why not.
Nimble and hard to catch. Has a fast set of close normals, so for players who like frame traps he works well for that. Suffers from weak tracking options, and Flamingo isn’t terribly useful.
Forcibly a very honest character–miserable TC means he can’t rely on Critical Hit pokes. Otherwise very solid, and good for scoring strats.
A bit lacking in tracking, but has a strong, reliable statline. Another character good for scoring, and has better TC than Yerong.
Brick shithouse. Has a movelist and statline built to secure a lead and sit on it. Low-end BL leaves him vulnerable in some scenarios.
Decent enough. Flamingo stinks, but he has a punch on Y, so he’s not hurting for combo and counterpoke options. Nice and fast like Kyoji.
Top-shelf TC and a versatile movelist makes this character ideal for one-off poking and KD strats. Lower SP and BL make in-close heavy-hitters troublesome.
Powerful, with okay tracking. A very “swingy” character–his low DF and horrid BL leaves him demolishing you flat or suffering from constant KDs and staggers.
Awful, awful statline. His great TC is offset by his mixed-bag movelist. Slow and pithy, easily overwhelmed by high damage or fast aggression.
Despite the claims, his defense is rather lousy. Mediocre statline, nearly-nonexistent tracking, and slow enough to gain ground on easily. Low damage, to boot.
Excellent statline for camping–high DF/SP–but his movelist is unfocused and lacks enough tracking for him to establish notable offense or defense.
Very even-handed statline, but his speed his shitty and he lacks any tracking beyond cl.6B. If not for his Taunt stance he’d be largely outclassed by Lee.
The game’s resident lightning bruiser. Good speed, high damage, and solid defense gives him excellent strategic flexibility. Sadly, his tracking is ass.
Outclassed statline and a slow, linear moveset. Yet another character with poor defensive options–I suspect he’d struggle against high-SP characters.
Where Edge deals in offense, Yagami does defense. Unparalleled tracking and high TC makes him hard to get in on, and a Critical Hit resets the situation.
Good statline, decent as a low-end heavy hitter. Flamingo and very slim tracking holds him back.
Beastly damage, and very slow. Decent defensive stats, but mediocre tracking. If he can get in he’s very strong for a K.O. strategy.
Killer statline, but bar-none worst ST. Pick your fights carefully and his decent tracking and overall movelist can go much farther, otherwise he loses fast.
Tracking options are limited by range–he has to stay at far range. He’s otherwise unremarkable, to be frank.
Not a very good pick. Fragile, no tracking, and an awkward jump-heavy moveset makes him slower than you’d think. His high BL is better done elsewhere.
The final boss. Great stats, but has middling BL and poor tracking. High SP/AT character can wear him down easily enough, despite his strength on paper.
Boss. If not for his damage he’d be godlike. Great stats and killer tracking up-close, so he can rush you down well (for whatever it’s worth in this game).
Boss. Strong and tough, but like Yuh, he suffers from lightweight tracking and average BL. He’s also very slow, so wearing him down pays dearly.[/details]
Without further ado, my tierlist for the time being. Characters are listed in no particular order:
S - Luey, Shun, Yagami, Arbeght
A - Edge, Yerong, Renny, Wong
B - Kyoji, Yuh, Ray, Blade
C - Mike, Flay, Kai, Lee, Ichijyo
D - Sho, Kart, Duyile, Yuhjing, Babbelle