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King of the Monsters – Genesis

King of the MonstersPlatform:  Sega Genesis

Release Date (JP):  July 1st, 1991

Developer:  SNK

Genre:  Fighting

Rating:  2 out of 10

Does anyone remember King of the Monsters from “Nick Arcade” back in the early 1990’s?  If you do, you may have noticed that most of games available to play for the “Video Game Challenge” segments were generally unknown at the time, at least when it came to the age group who watched the show, who usually had some combination of an NES, Super NES, and/or Genesis.  As it turns out, SNK was the developer responsible for most of these games.  SNK was a prominent arcade game developer, and during this period the company ported most of their games to their home console, the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System.  SNK was dedicated to releasing arcade-perfect ports during a time when home systems couldn’t handle such large games and thus little of the population knows of them.  (The AES, mentioned above, uses large, library book sized cartridges which are identical to what was loaded into their arcade machines.)  King of the Monsters was evidently popular enough to carry over into the more well-known systems of the day, and thus we begin the review proper.

However fun this game looked on TV was misleading.  The biggest flaw lies with the imprecision of the controls, accented by secondary and tertiary objectives whose purpose is unclear.  Missing from the Genesis version (as well as the SNES port I believe) are 2 of the 6 characters, one being a King Kong-style creature and the other some sort of toxic waste mutant.  That leaves 4:  the Godzilla inspired monster, a giant made of rock, a more or less “human” based on Ultraman, and the gargantuan anthropomorphic beetle.  At its core King of the Monsters is a fighting game before the immense popularity of the genre.  Due to the infancy of fighting games, a lot of the conventions we’ve come to expect are absent.  Only one round is fought per opponent, players are not provided with a full bar of health after matches, if time runs out the human player automatically loses regardless of health level, monsters must perform a sort of “pin” move for a full count of three (as in wrestling), powerups float around, and there is a lot of collateral damage done in the form of “damage” and “contamination” that determines how much health the player receives at the end of the match.  Lastly, when a continue is used, the player begins the battle exactly as it was left, with the opponent’s health meter at whatever level it was when the match ended.

The “powerups,” “damage,” and “contamination” are unexplained concepts in this title.  Powerups come in the form of floating red balls marked with “P,” usually dispensed when a large building or other structure is destroyed.  After catching an inordinately large number of these throughout the matches, the character changes color.  The player can repeat this process and change colors a second time, but further collected powerups do not result in more transformations; in fact, the game does not even track them.  What this change in color does is a mystery.  There was no noticeable difference is the monster’s offense or defense.  Damage and contamination are measured as a percentage after the completion of each match.  Immediately afterwards at least a third of lost health is granted back to the player but I have yet to determine what if any bearing the damage and contamination statistics have on this factor.  Additionally I cannot at all figure out what contamination is, how it is done, or whether or not its even preferable or not.  I’ve assumed that destruction refers to what portion of the city is destroyed as the monsters trample and fight but there have been numerous situations where I’ve deliberately destroyed buildings and, I kid you not, received a 0% destruction score.  As with contamination I have no idea what role it holds in the context of the game or whether getting a higher or lower percentage is conducive (or not) to “winning.”

King of the MonstersWhen the fights start, the computer opponent is almost sure to get in 5 hits for every 2 scored by the human player, even on the “easy” setting.  Several parts of combat devolve into brute force button mashing, literally jamming the same button over and over as fast as possible in order to do things such as get off the ground, escape from being pinned, and performing holds and throws on the opponent.  The computer is likely to win such “contests” more than half of the time.  Damaging the opponent can also prove problematic at times.  It is not at all made clear what does and does not injure a monster.  There is a sort of electrical field surrounding the portion of the city designated for fighting, and as for all the spectacle made in running into or being slammed into this barrier it doesn’t appear to diminish the player’s (or the opponent’s) health meter.  Conversely, several times a throw by the opponent has resulted in a huge loss of life, up to and perhaps slightly beyond 50%.  Moreover monsters in the later stages seem to have some sort of virtual armor on as the first few dozen hits seem to do nothing to the AI player except for change the entire health meter from one color to another until finally becoming yellow and slowly filling up with red.  There were times when I lost my entire health bar and the computer player remained seemingly unscathed despite the contact that my blows appeared to have had.

King of the Monsters is, in a way, 3D.  The monsters can walk around in 2-dimensional space as well as jump doing the awkward pressing of both “up” and “A.”  There’s no way to attack in the air, but learning to jump is crucial as one must learn to jump onto the downed opponent to initiate the count.  This happens a number of times, even after the opponent’s health is emptied, and must be done successfully in order to prevail over the match and progress to the next combatant.  It’s not easy as some jumps seem to propel the monster a quarter of the way across the screen while other jumps fail to move the character at all.  Besides jumping, other button combinations can be used for “special moves” but doing so is nearly pointless because they moves are never executed or the AI character launches a devastating counter-attack.  Movements are extremely slow and at times seem choppy and even unresponsive, pushing evasions and parries into the realm of futility.  God forbid anyone plays this with a joystick, because they’ll break it from pushing it so hard in some misdirected hope that their character may actually move where needed.

The graphics of King of the Monsters immediately give me the warm feeling of 16-color palettes but the effect is nearly negligable due to the insane frustration one encounters.  The monsters are detailed well but the sprites are so small it’s difficult to fully appreciate this quality.  The cityscapes are done well enough considering the capabilities of the time (but with little variation across the different “Japanese” cities), though some shapes such as airplanes and boats are particularly alien looking.  Trains and tanks are nicely done, however.

King of the MonstersPlay progresses by fighting through each of the 4 monsters 3 times each including a palette-swapped version of one’s chosen character at the end of each set of 4.  The lowest time limit that can be set per match is 3:00 but this plodding, constipated affair will seem like an eternity by the time the clock is down to 1:59.  I did finally manage to defeat all 12 challengers.  It took me somewhere less than 12 continues, playing on easy.  There’s no pay off, not even some corny, nonsensically translated blurbs about how this event changed the monster/creature/person’s life forever.  No bosses, no secret characters, no hidden arenas, not even a slightly spectacular locale for the final fight.  Game over, right back to the title screen.  I was so happy to finally find this last week, and now my “Nick Arcade” fantasies are crushed, burned, and buried.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything:

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