Ring of Destruction: Saturday Night Slam Masters II
I think it's about time we took another trip to one of my favorite hangouts - the arcade. Some of you long-time readers (I'm assuming there is such a thing when it comes to my work) may remember one of my early reviews of Saturday Night Slam Masters for the Super Nintendo. That game is definitely one of my favorites. Well, unbeknownst to some folks out there... there's a sequel!
Ring Of Destruction: Slam Masters II (known in Japan as Muscle Bomber II: The International Blowout) was released to the general masses by Capcom, via arcades in 1994. Unlike its predecessor, this game didn't receive any home console ports, not even in its birthplace of Japan. This one is strict "arcade action."
I should take a minute to set-up the storyline for this (sadly short) series of games. A man named Victor Ortega (in case you've ever wondered who that wrestler from the title screen of Saturday Night Slam Masters was that you never got to play as; this would be him) was the Muscle Bomber champion for the CWA (Capcom Wrestling Association) but he mysteriously disappeared. The tournament throughout the first Slam Masters game was supposed to determine the new Muscle Bomber champion. Those of us who have completed the first game know that after you win your last title defense, Ortega attacks you in the ring to reveal that he "disappeared" because he couldn't find any worthy opponents but now he's back! This is where the story to Ring Of Destruction picks up.
Now, Ortega is back and looking for a challenge -- yes, you actually get to wrestle him this time around -- but this time, members of the BWA (Blood Wrestling Association) join the fight. All 10 legendary characters from the previous game return along with four all-new characters:
Victor Ortega - The aforementioned, former Muscle Bomber champion who disappeared and vacated his title. Now he's back to reclaim it!
The Wraith - An "undead" wrestler hailing from New Dehli. This guy is my favorite new character that's introduced. I love that his walking animation shows his head just loosely rolling on his shoulders as if his neck is broken. He wears a hood but, judging by some of the moves he pulls off in his matches, his head appears to be a giant snakehead and.or multiple snakeheads.
Rip Saber - A Canadian soldier that also appears to be a parody of Japanese deathmatch wrestlers. He's always using weapons and explosives and his stage features steel chains for ring ropes. Black
Widow - An androgynous, masked wrestler who's identity is only revealed by playing through their story and getting their proper ending.
Okay, now we get to the one big change made between this game and the previous Slam Masters game. Saturday Night Slam Masters played like a traditional pro wrestling game, albeit a little on the fast-paced side. Ring Of Destruction, on the other hand, is a straight up 2-D fighting game like Capcom's more famous Street Fighter series.
Don't get me wrong, there's still a wrestling influence to the game. The fights still take place in wrestling rings with ropes you can rebound off of and there are grappling moves available. It sort of reminds me of another old review of mine; Onita Atsushi: FMW. FMW is also a wrestling/2-D fighting game hybrid and one of my favorites. The only major difference being that Onita's game had a slower, more pro wrestling like pace to it whereas this game moves really fast like most 2-D fighters.
The controls are pretty intuitive. No complaints there. It's similar to how Street Fighter II is set up but instead of having three punch and three kick buttons; there are two punch buttons, two kick buttons, and a grapple button to pull off your grappling moves. The AI feels pretty standard compared to most fighting games at the time which means it's a little hard for me but more hardcore fans of fighting games should have no trouble.
Being a Capcom game; Ring Of Destruction looks and sounds great. I don't think Capcom ever made an "ugly" game, even to this day. All of the different themes for the various stages are catchy and well done. The stages themselves are also varied and well designed. Each has its own theme like Rip Saber's "deathmatch stage" or Gunloc's colorful arena in LA. The various crowds are well detailed and even feature some cameo appearances of Street Fighter II fighters checking out the wrestling action. Balrog enjoys the matches in Las Vegas while Zangief checks out the action in Moscow, for example. Graphics wise, you couldn't ask for much more than what this game provides.
All in all, I really liked this one. I didn't really play it much back in the day being a little disappointed at it not being a straightforward wrestling game like its predecessor but, once you accept that fact, it's a pretty awesome game in and of itself. Not a bad sequel to a classic wrestling game; just not quite what you'd expect.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!