It's time to test our lack of Japanese again, as we take a look at Nichibutsu's Fighting Run, released for the PC Engine in 1991. Nichibutsu is best known in the States for the 1980's arcade classic Crazy Climber, but the company published a number of videogames for home consoles back in the day.
The action concerns a futuristic race between two robots zooming along an obstacle-filled track. Each player must move as quickly as possible, avoiding obstacles and/or doing damage to the other player -- victory can be had by fairly winning the race, or by destroying one's opponent. The game plays a bit like a vertically-scrolling Road Rash, with the robots running alongside each other, throwing punches all the way to the finish line.
It's not a great game, or even a very good one, but it is a classical example of Japanese sci-fi action videogaming circa the early 1990's. In brief review...
Cover art with giant robot mechs. Check!
Dingy, post-apocalyptic title screen with sampled orchestra hits to jazz up the intro tune. Check!
CG-rendered stills and misspelled English dressing up the RPG-like attribute setting prior to the race. Check!
Countdown to the start of the race. Check!
Fighting and explosions. Check!
Game Over... or is it? Check!
Fighting Run is such a simple and straightforward game there isn't really much more I can say about it. The game can easily be played with minimal knowledge of Japanese, though a tolerance for frustrating and repetitive action is valuable.
The biggest problem with the game itself is that the track scrolls at a fixed rate --so the computer opponent, who can "see" the obstacles ahead, tends to hover around the top of the screen, staying well ahead of the player and guaranteeing victory. Even with two human players, it's easy to move TOO fast for the screen, or to run into each other unintentionally, taking automatic damage in either case. The available robots are also not well-balanced -- some can take or deal out a lot more abuse than others, making races inherently unfair.
But Fighting Run delivers what it promises -- a fighting run, or a running fight for that matter. That's about all there is to it!
I'm not recommending this game, really I'm not; but if you're curious or collecting, you may find it in stock for purchase here.