King of the Monsters
Arcade / XBox Live
Today, we're taking a trip to the fringes of the pro wrestling genre but first, just take a second and imagine that you're at the pitch meeting for this game:
"Okay, boss. I've got a great idea for a new game. You get to play as a giant monster destroying various cities in Japan, Godzilla style, while simultaneously wrestling other giant monsters for the right to declare yourself 'King Of The Monsters!'"
Sounds pretty epic, right? Well, let's take a closer look and find out.
King Of The Monsters was one of many classic arcade titles released by SNK, now known as SNK Playmore. It was one of the early titles released on SNK's NEO-GEO arcade hardware in 1991. The NEO GEO MVS (Multi Video System) allowed for up to six different arcade games to be plugged up into a single arcade cabinent thus saving a lot of space for arcade owners that didn't have an abundance of space. It was a really great idea and SNK released nothing but quality hits for it, developed by themselves and other companies. Seriously, I don't think that there's any such thing as a bad NEO GEO game. Among the best, though, are the ones that SNK developed themselves like this game, the Samurai Shodown series, the Metal Slug series... so many classics.
Anyway, back on topic. I used to love playing this game back in the day at the local roller skating rink, Skatetown USA. I also remember that it was extremely popular on my favorite Nickelodeon game show at the time, Nick Arcade. It was a regularly featured game and the contestants would always seem to play it first whenever it was available.
Recently, the Japanese video game developers known as Hamster (not to be confused with XHamster. Seriously, you DO NOT want to confuse those companies.. two very different products) started releasing classic NEO GEO games in their Arcade Archive series which are available in the online stores of current generation consoles. I had already bought a couple games in the Arcade Archives series and had been checking in every week to see what the new releases were. When this game showed up one day, a few weeks ago, I had to get it!
It had been a long time since I last played this and until I first fired it up; I had forgotten that it's basically a pro wrestling game. Not just any pro wrestling game, though. It's one of the best arcade wrestling games ever! You start by choosing which giant monster you want to play as. You can choose from six - which doesn't sound like a lot but this is an arcade game from 1991. The different monsters are all well designed and unique, at least. There's the standard Godzilla knock-off, Geon. Then there's a King Kong knock-off named Woo (obviously a Ric Flair fan). There's a rock monster that looks somewhat like a thinner version of The Thing from The Fantastic Four who's named Rocky. A giant beetle named Beetle Mania. A giant human character that's sort of reminiscent of Ultraman whose name is Astro Guy. Lastly, there's my go-to monster; Poison Ghost. Poison Ghost is a really cool name but he looks more like a slime covered mummy or something. Either way, he's the one that I can do the most damage with. Once you pick which titanic terror you want to cause havok with; you begin your first "match" in your quest to be number one.
Each match is contested in various cities around Japan. One of the first things that you notice is that there are "ring ropes" that confine you in each city and you can rebound off of them and perform moves just like you would in a regular pro wrestling match. These "ropes" are strands of electrical current strung between huge power stations, though, so they might also remind you of something you'd see on an old FMW tape. The current damages you a little each time you come into contact with it but it mostly just rebounds you back into the action.
The cities really seem to come alive as you're playing. SNK and NEO-GEO games always look top-notch. There are fighter jets constantly buzzing by your head, trying to take you down. Tanks and battleships also try their hand putting you in the dirt. You can even watch (and squash) innocent citizens who are fleeing the city by trains and cars. All of this WHILE you're trying to out grapple your opponent and advance in the tournament. Speaking of grapplng, as I said, all of the monsters in this particular game must have studied hours of professional wrestling footage because they mimic the moves perfectly. Either that or there's a giant "Judo" Gene LeBell running around somewhere, teaching these schmucks how to wrestle.
Each monster has it's own personality and most of it's own unique moves. The only move that's really shared between the various brutes is a body slam. Rocky likes to clothesline opponents and he can pull off a beautiful choke slam. Ric Flair's larger-than-life lackey, Woo, enjoys german suplexes and elbow drops. My man, Poison Ghost, does a nice judo style shoulder throw and a devestating jumping pile driver. These are just some of the many moves available. What makes this game the most fun is being able to cause city wide destruction while you're throwing your opponents around Japan. You can walk right over the smaller buildings throughout the cities and there are bigger buildings and structures that you can hit for big bonus points. Among the destructable structures are skyscrapers, ferris wheels, towers, bridges and stadiums. You can also jump into the air and snatch down a jet plane or two to throw at your opponent or knock over a train and then knock your opponent out with it, so to speak.
I must be a horrible person because, for some reason, I really enjoyed stomping on the cars of the citizens trying to escape their doom. I was just doing my job as a giant slime-covered mummy named Poison Ghost, I guess. You win each match by putting your opponent down for a three count and then you're awarded bonus points on things like "Destraction" (I assume they meant destruction) and "Casualties" (all those poor cars full of people that I smashed).
I have noticed that some people complain about the controls in this game. I'll admit, when the control set-up is first explained to you, it does sound complicated. It'll even take you a few minutes and a few tries to get a feel for the game. It's just an old button mashing arcade game, though. No more complicated than that. While I played, I figured out how to press the buttons a certain way and certain things happen.. 95 percent of the time. I might not always get my intended result but it usually happens and I have the basics down pat like, most importantly, how to pin. That's the way "button mashers" go; you play it enough to "get a feel for it".
I've spent some time with this game over the last couple of weeks (maybe 8-10 hours), trying to perfect my monster grappling skills. I've actually gotten fairly decent at it. Last time I checked (a few days ago, as of this writing), I'm ranked number six, worldwide, on the Xbox live leaderboard. Not too shabby but apparently there's at least five guys out there who could really kick my ass at this. Anyway, I would suggest anyone who owns a current gen console to check for this game in your online store. On Xbox, it'll only cost you $7.99; a very fair price for a very fun game. It's also much easier to purchase a digital copy like this as opposed to tracking down a Neo-Geo arcade cabinent (with King Of The Monsters installed, no less) out there in the wild, somewhere. Thanks to Hamster for keeping classic arcade titles like this alive and available to be played.
Until next time.. keep mashing those buttons!