We seem to have been wobbling on about Oriental Games for absolutely ages - it's one of a few games that've been hanging round at MicroProse doing nothing very much ever since the Firebird/Rainbird purchase. But now (at last!) it's here, and very pleased about I am too - not because it's a particularly brilliant game or anything (though in fact it's not too bad) but because it's a) oriental (so it fits neatly into the theme of the issue) and b) a beat-'em-up, just right for this beat-'em-ups guide thingie.
In fact, playing it is like stepping back a few years to the days when straight beat-'em-ups were really big news. It's very much a traditional fighting game, not at all like the scrolling arcade things we've become used to, like Dragon Ninja and Renegade. There are no girlies to be rescued, no big end-of-level baddies to face or anything - all the action takes place on a static screen with only a single opponent at any one time, much like golden oldies Exploding Fist amd System 3's International Karate. It's all structured like a real tournament, with the player taking on one computer-controlled character for a bout, then seeing how the other fights go before moving forward into the next round. Since all the computer-controlled characters all look and fight exactly the same as each other this doesn't really amount to very much (except atmosphere) unless you're playing in two, three or four player mode, in which case you'll come up against the other player(s) sooner or later.
So far so dull, you may be thinking, and, yeah, I'd agree sort of, except that all the sprites are very slickly animated, with a satisfyingly (but confusingly) generous supply of combat moves (meaning, as beat-'em-ups go it actually quite challenging). And, what's more, there's the bones that Oriental Games simulates some Far Eastern fighting styles not normally seen on the Speccy.
Okay, so in each tournament you've got to do some kung fu (pretty much what you'd expect) and freestyle (another version of kung fu but with some different fighting moves, like backflips), but the other two sports are far more interesting. For a start there's kendo (you wear bamboo armour and fight with big sticks) - this is nicely presented but often over in a flash, with the computer player's attack hacking away at your energy level in no time. Ho hum, my kendo skills need a a bit of polishing up, I fear.
The highlight of the game though is the Japanese spook sport of sumo - even on the Speccy it has much the same bizarre fascination that the Channel 4 series held on TV. Not only are the two wrestlers very nicely animated (just look at the screenshots) but the fighting moves and tactics are very different from most beat-'em-ups, which adds a lot of much needed variety to what is otherwise a very 'seen it all before' sort of game. Briefly, you (as one mountainous fellow) have to try and push the other giant out of the ring with a series of slaps, shoves and trips. Alternatively, you can have a go at simply picking him up and carrying him out! Weird! I'm still terribly crap at it, but it's fun trying to learn.
Finally (and this is the important bit) how does it all rate in the YS 'Danceability' stakes (ie can you make the two little guys dance on screen if you get bored with the fighting.)? Well, here it does pretty well actually - the 'freestyle' guys with their rubbery leaping-about do a good impression of the London Boys, while the sumos are truly a sight to be seen. Hours of fun!
All in all then, it's not going to set the world alight or anything, but having said that Oriental Games really isn't bad at all.
A rather old-fashioned fighting game, but well put-together and featuring a variety of unusual sports. Quite fun for a while.
Here's the 'freestyle' kung fu bit, with that great all-rounder John Noakes representing Britain - looks more like some sort of Eastern European dancing display, doesn't it?
Highlight of the game has to be this, the sumo section - the idea is to shove, trip or carry (!) your opponent right out of the ring, but it's a lot easier said than done!
In most events you can rebuild your energy level by avoiding contact with your opponent for a bit, but not so with kendo - most bouts are over in seconds!