World Heroes. When I was a teenager, one of my favorite games was World Heroes 2 for the Super Nintendo. I remember it distinctly because it was one of the last games I bought brand new for the SNES. I played the game for hours, then days and even into many assorted weeks trying to exploit all the characters from my favorites like Rasputin, Muscle Power, & Kim Dragon to even lesser characters like Johnny Maximum or Erick the Viking. With the exception of Mudman, (I never played Mudman and I’m still annoyed when fighting him to this very day) I beat the game with each and every character. This is one of my prouder achievements when it comes to fighting games, and with the exception of the Tekken series or compilations, the last fighting game I’ve really played for such a long stretch. One would then imagine my joy when I heard about World Heroes Anthology when it came out for the Playstation 2. I had also played the first World Heroes in my time, but the idea that I would get my favorite World Heroes 2, coupled with the original and 2 games I’ve never even played before; my mind suddenly became agaze with the possibilities.
True to form, the four games that make up the Anthology are not enhanced or brought up to Playstation 2 standards (whatever that might be). Remember the titles as they appeared on the Neo-Geo or their MVS Standups? That is how they look here. Straight to form with all of the cheesiness of their characters. From Muscle Power’s No #1 Pose to the lush jungle backgrounds of the Mudman, it’s all here. It holds up fairly well in today’s hi-def environment and is certainly far from boring with vibrant color and fairly good detail throughout. Naturally, World Heroes Perfect looks the best of the group but no title suffers too much from the graphical outlying of the day they were created in.
As expected, sound is in the same vain as the graphics mentioned above. It’s the same sounds we have come to enjoy in the arcade. However, unlike graphics this isn’t very wanted. I understand that might sound contradictory with one hand saying “Keep the original graphics” and the other saying “Upgrade the sound to true stereo or 5.1 Dolby Digital output” but I hate to say it, I’m getting old. So any attempt to clarify or enrich the sound is deeply appreciated. Instead here, it sounds like my old Super Nintendo cartridge; borderline mono/stereo sound and all. The problem is my SNES sits on an old 25″ television with A/V inputs. My PS2 is on my 42″ plasma. You do the math. It’s adequate, but it feels like it could be so much more.
Each World Heroes game basically follows the same plot. The scientist, Dr. Brown has created this time machine. He takes this time machine and brings back various characters from history to fight in a tournament to determine the greatest fighter of all.
World Heroes 1 consisted of eight main characters. Hanzo (think Ryu SF2 clone), Kotaro (think Ken SF2 clone), Rasputin (the Mad Monk), Janne D’Arc (Joan of Arc), Julius Carn (Genghis Khan), Brocken (M. Bison SF2 clone/generic Nazi), Kim Dragon (Bruce Lee), and Muscle Power (Hulk Hogan). The main boss was Geegus (think T-1000 from T2) who also seemed to dabble in American politics.
World Heroes 2 added six more main characters with the likes of Captain Kidd (William Kidd), Erick (Erik the Red / generic viking), Johnny Maximum (football player and a poor man’s Muscle Power), Mudman (generic islander and the worst character ever), Ryoko (based on real-life Judo queen Ryoko Tamura and the best throws of any character), & Shaura (Joe Higashi Muay-Thai boxer clone). Geegus was changed to a sub boss and the new main boss was Dio. I never did figure what kind of occupation was “Ultimate Thing” for Dio.
World Heroes 2 Jet was more of the same from World Heroes 2 but adding smoother graphics and a couple of new characters as well as a new boss. Ryofu (based on Lu Bu of the Three Kingdoms era) and Jack (cross between Freddy Krueger & some skater dude) were added as the playable characters and the new boss was Zeus, an alien warrior who had taken on the human form of the greek god.
The final game in the series, World Heroes Perfect was something of a re-imagining with the best graphics to date and inclusion of all of the previous characters. The bosses were structured a bit differently with Dio returning as Neo-Dio and Zeus still being the main boss. Gokuu was a bonus and hidden character based off of Sun Wukong or the monkey king. The most variety could be found here but by this time the series was on its last (and unfortunate) leg.
World Heroes gameplay for all 4 iterations is basically the same using three buttons, one for punching, one for kicking and one for throws. The punch and kick buttons could be held down longer for stronger output. This would change slightly for 2 Jet where you could make sure that a strong punch or strong kick was on a different button rather than regular punch or regular kick. World Heroes Perfect went even farther with combination moves and super hero attacks.
Anthology recreates these moves easily and with accuracy. Simplicity in gameplay is what makes the World Heroes series stand out from others. Most threw it out because of the cheesy characters but those who stuck with the games in the series found it to be a fun button masher. The difficulty was often variable in each game from very easy (most playable characters in WH1 or WH2) to very hard (World Heroes 2 Jet is an excellent example of this). However, with being variable it was also adjustable with each series having a range of difficulty levels. Most fighter aficionados could find a setting in each title that held the best combination of fun and rewarding difficulty.
Most fighting games have a fatal flaw when it comes to Replay. Once you are done with single player, there is really little reason to try it again unless you have an obsession to beat it with every character (like I did in WH2). The VS mode where most of these games have their appeal is limited to actually having another person who regularly wants to play the game along side of you. Truth is, if you ask your average friend or group of buddies; they have barely heard of World Heroes and probably would much rather dabble in Soul Caliber, Tekken, or the Dead or Alive games (for the detailed gameplay *caugh*). So, what are you left with? single player mode which won’t leave you very far unless you are a diehard (and I come close).
There are however a few things that one might find interesting in the 4 games that make up the series. World Heroes 1 & 2 both have a deathmatch mode, where you could lure characters into traps and obstacles while fighting for your life. Extremely fun and I honestly never understood why it was left out of Jet or Perfect. World Heroes 2 Jet has a Super Hero tournament mode where you fought three different opponents and had to beat 2 of them in order to move onto the next “day”.
Finally, World Heroes Perfect supported an odd Minimum mode where if you entered a certain command, you could become really tiny. The advantage of this? You get a 10x victory bonus and the thought that your characters is really really cute when it’s tiny. (or something like that). The only thing that was really added to this Anthology was the character edit mode (similar to the one found in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum). This mode let you edit any character from any of the titles and give it a new color palette. Unfortunately, unless you spent a lot of time with this one, the colors would not give the appearance of a true and different fighter.
In reviews like this, I often come off as an apologist. I absolutely love World Heroes. I grew up with the series and found it to be a wonderful alternative to the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat universes most of us were accustomed to. World Heroes Anthology is music to my ears in concept and I bought it rather quickly upon release. Once I spent some time with it however, some of the gloss of my yesteryear gaming was lost. Did I adore playing the game? Sure. Will I spend every waking moment for the next half a dozen weeks trying to beat it with every character? Probably not. My belief is that everybody who enjoys fighting games should play World Heroes. But, it might be difficult to make it through this title due to the disappointing sound and replay value. My recommendation is this, diehards of Neo-Geo fighting or just World Heroes should get this game, no questions asked. However, if you just need a Neo-Geo fix, get SNK Arcade Classics Vol 1, get ten medals and there you go: World Heroes, the original. For everybody else, its touch and go, approach with some caution. But I hope you find reward to those who do.
P.s. Can somebody explain to me one thing though? Why is it that every time I play World Heroes (not including the 1st one), I have to face off against Mudman first? I love 95% of the characters in the game but can not stand him to save my life. Just an observation and personal beef.
- Ign.com: “If you and a friend are really into the World Heroes series, you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of this collection than most. Otherwise, I’d pass on this one.”
- PsxExtreme.com: “Further hampering the package is the fact that only Jet and Perfect are worth a significant amount of playtime, which greatly limits the scope and range of this compilation.”