World Heroes is pretty much the bastards child of SNK’s fighting game series.
There are worse one-shots and little-known side games (Aggressors of Dark Kombat, for example), but the four games comprising the World Heroes Universe stand out as being beneath SNK’s notice for the most part. The first game came out in 1992, hot on the tails of the success of Street Fighter II, and shows it. The game’s fairly derivative on many levels, though it maintains a unique control system at first (you press the buttons harder to get more damaging attacks- something dropped from some sequels).
The main heroes Hanzo & Fuuma are obvious Ryu/Ken Clones, right down to the Head-Swapping, Shotoclone Movesets, and rival natures, most guys fit the standard archetypes already established by Capcom, and the engine is pretty familiar.
But the game kinda stands out for it’s goofy, insane roster. This kind of Comedy game is more popular in Japan for the most part, but it kinda prevents anyone from taking the game too seriously. I mean, that’s the POINT, but Fighting Game fans can be a particular bunch. I know very few gamers who like it when TOO many characters in the Fighting Game are silly. And this one is just NUTTY- a South Islander Witch Doctor, a Flamingly Bisexual Mad Monk of Russia, Joan of Arc and HULK HOGAN? When you add the series’ goofiness with the power of Fatal Fury, or KING OF FIGHTERS, which came out in 1994 (when the “WH” sequels were being released), it just falls short.
The games aren’t really considered BAD, though. Some gamers have gone back and found them to be a fairly well-done engine with quality gaming. My major issue is that they’re just silly and stupid, with some terrible designs. The main heroes are a perfect example: Hanzo & Fuuma are ninjas, but look MUCH worse than Samurai Shodown’s Hanzo (same basis as WH’s) or Galford.
The graphics are big and pretty for the era (beyond SNES graphical power, even), but they’re so dull and cartoonishly-colored that they come across a bit flat (sorta like Art of Fighting does versus Fatal Fury). Erick the Red and Julius Carn just look like generic Soldiers from any other series- not elite Generals. Janne D’Arc is a horribly-boring design compared to Shodown’s Charlotte, who uses the same design type (hot blonde chick in armor with a sword). Ryoko is as generic as can be, as is Shura (back when dime-a-dozen Muay Thai fighters were less common, but he’s still Just Some Guy in Muay Thai Gear). And in a Fighting Game, Character Design is possibly the MOST important aspect after the overall Gaming System.
The most damning thing I can think of to say about the character designs in the series is this: Even the best ones pretty much look like a generic Mook Design for the run-of-the-mill henchman you regularly beat the crap out of in Beat ‘Em Ups or Action Games.
Seriously, these guys should normally be seen with fifteen other dudes who look just like them, working for a different-colored dude who HIMSELF works for another, much better-designed fellow who leads the whole group. THAT is how dull these designs are! And keep in mind this game is based around taking the most awesome people throughout history and making them fight. Truly disappointing.
As such, the “World Heroes” legacy is a minor one. It shares a link with Samurai Shodown in that it was an ongoing SNK series outside of the main continuity of “King of Fighters”, but it lacks the latter’s fame or respect. The graphics would be done a thousand times better even a couple years later, the boring designs held it back, and it’s goofiness left SNK forgetting it for years, as Shodown got a ton of sequels, and even some appearances in Capcom (vs) SNK games. Hell, LAST BLADE got into some of those, and it’s a much-later game series! World Heroes didn’t get any cred until SNK Fighting Coliseum came out in the 2000s, featuring re-done sprites of Hanzo, Fuuma, Mudman and Neo-Dio. It’s legacy is minor, but it’s still looking like some inventive fun.
“World Heroes” consists of four main games, with an Anthology collection being released in 2008 for the PS2. It went, in order: World Heroes (1992), World Heroes 2 (1993), World Heroes 2 Jet (1994), World Heroes Perfect (1995).
World Heroes 2 added EIGHT new characters to the cast of nine, while “Jet” (basically an additional upgrade to “2”) added two new characters and a boss. “Perfect” was the final, presumptuously-named, sequel (gamers in modern times would joke that it should be renamed “World Heroes Adequate”), adding a Boss and a Secret Character (back when those were all the rage).
So why am I talking about these semi-losers?
Well, I was gonna get to SNK as a whole, but these guys are just so much fun to make fun of that I couldn’t help myself. They’re just too silly to match the Ryus & Chun-Lis of the world.
The Cast (with historical basis):
Hanzo Hattori (Hanzo Hattori)
Fuuma Kotaro (Fuuma Kotaro)
Muscle Power (Hulk Hogan)
Janne D’Arc (Jeanne d’Arc)
Kim Dragon (Bruce Lee)
Rasputin (Grigori Rasputin)
Julius Carn (Genghis Khan)
World Heroes 2:
Erick (Erik the Red)
Ryoko Izumo (Ryoko Tamura)
Johnny Maximum (Joe Montana)
Captain Kidd (William Kidd)
World Heroes 2 Jet:
Ryofu (Lu Bu)
Jack (Jack the Ripper, Spring-Heeled Jack)
World Heroes Perfect:
Son Gokuu (Son Gokuu)