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Up from (Super) Obscurity

Like the scene in Spinal Tap where their album "Shark Sandwich" gets a two-word review (those words being "Shit Sandwich"), it's tempting to make my review of Pit Fighter, the SNES still-photo-flipbook-em-up, equally brief.
However, I want to delve more thoroughly into the handful of obvious flaws which move this game through the ranks of really bad Street Fighter II knockoffs and into its own level of hell: this is a tiny piece of software which spits at the very concept of 'game', and hates you and everything you hold dear.
So...Pit-Fighter, you say?
Above you, you see the entire loading screen of this game. Unlike most SNES games (who disguise the game's load-time over several screens of credits and video game company logos), Pit Fighter just gives you that picture. The upside? We know what the letters "THQ" stands for. The downside? What "THQ" really stands behind is the principle of making a quick buck at your expense!
So, what Mighty Gladiators has THQ HeadQuarterly Toyed for us?
You have your choice of 4 different options in the Pit Fighter Select Screen: each time you press "select", it moves from one character to the next. Then when you press "Start" (or maybe one of the buttons or something), you've picked your in-game pit fighting fighter! They express their glee/displeasure/dyspepsia with the idea of fighting in a pit by breaking out the cool "active" frame, which I've animated them with below:
Unfortunately, no matter who you pick, you're going to lose soon. This is fortunate because it shows off the game's greatest feature: a quick load-time between the GAME OVER screen and the Title screen!
"But surely," you must be thinking, "they don't just show you the "Game Over" screen the moment you pick your character?"
Well, you're right there, but they might as well. In actuality, when you pick your character, stuff like this happens:
After you get over the horrible-digitized pictures, and the photocopy-quality crowd of drunken misfits in the background, there are several important things to note in the image above:
  1. The FIRST ENEMY IN THE GAME starts with 220 hitpoints to your 160 hitpoints. Yes, your INITIAL OPPONENT has 137.5% of your health.
  2. He aggressively mauls you. A lot. Despite the really poor hit-detection in the game.
  3. In fact, because only 2 of your 4 SNES pad buttons are attacks, you're going to get your clock cleaned while you figure out which ones "Punch" and "Kick" are, while learning to avoid the useless "Block" and "Jump" buttons. There's no time for Blocking and Jumping when "Exec." is punching you repeatedly in the face, pausing only long enough to attempt to snap your neck with a pile driver!
  4. Oh, and you're fighting some beer-bellied dude in red pants and a executioner's hood. That's never a good thing.
But that's not the end of the fun! Pressing "Up", "Down" and "Away" on the control pad doesn't make you jump, duck or block...instead it makes you stroll away from your opponent!
Yes, you're free to stroll around the giant square "pit" (or more accurately, "floor") of the fighting arena. This gives you the added benefit of being able to be on a slightly different plane from your opponent, so you miss your attacks. Fortunately, your opponent will be glad to charge after you and repeatedly punch you until you both die AND lose all of your body's precious color:
And that's it: one loss = GAME OVER. That's how they roll in the tough no-holds-held world of PIT FIGHTING. If you want nice, you'd be better off...uh...PIT NICING. And that doesn't exist! So, you'll have to take your pit-lumps and pit-like it!
Practice Makes Pit-Fight-ic!
After wayyyy more time than it was worth, I managed to figure out some winning strategies using the giant wall of muscle known as Buzz. It mainly involved holding the "UP" button while repeatedly pressing "Punch," hoping to connect with a big throw, which seems to do 15 or 20 points of damage (compared to 5 or 10 for your normal punch or kick. THEIR punches or kicks do more damage, of course, but anyway...)
Every few attempts, you have to walk down slightly (as you've moved off the same plane as your opponent). This is a good opportunity for him to punch you several times, which is all part of a good afternoon's pit fight!
But what fabled rewards can you expect after beating Exec. at his own pit-fighter-ly game? Why, THE PROMISE OF RICHES -- and a ride on the world's worst carnival attraction: the "Lift A Beefy Guy Half a Foot Off the Ground Using a Forklift" ride!
Alright! ROUND 2 AHOY!
I made it past EXEC. alive (17th time's the charm!) I only had 74 health left, but I'm ready for my next challenge. And in keeping with the qwality we've come to expect from THQ, we get a mostly blank "ROUND 2" screen, and then I'm immediately thrown into combat with an even more bland PIT FIGHTER named "C.C."
Yeah, now I can apply my broken-game attack-spamming battle technique to another pudgy, mostly-shirtless digital clip-art antagonist. This fellow's wearing a black vest and what is either a almost-skin-tone bandanna, a bad bald-wig, or maybe C.C. just spilled some oatmeal into his hair for good luck. Let's get ready to rumbl...
Wait a minute...
...there's something slightly disturbing about this screen...what could it be? Here's a hint:
Did you notice the problem?
I STILL HAVE 74 HEALTH!
IT DIDN'T REPLENISH MY HEALTH BETWEEN ROUNDS!!
Yes, Pit Fighter earns the Broken Game Stain of Distinction by giving you ONE HEALTH BAR to last what might be the ENTIRE GAME.
Let's revel in the implications of this:
  1. A little (very little) research on the web implies that the game may drag on for 15 fights.
  2. I can tell you from personal experience (as in, I got really lucky spamming the "throw" attack) that you get NO HEALTH RETURNED before you have to tackle at LEAST your first four (pit) opponents*
  3. *: well, the first four FIGHTS, which consist of only 3 different opponents: you fight EXEC. and C.C., then a "Fight Yourself"-style Star Trek-em-up existential reflection of a pit-fight (is a ME who wears red pants instead of blue truly ME? Who knows; and more importantly, who cares, there's PITS to be FIGHTING in!!), then a 3rd opponent, a lady named "Angel".
  4. Remember also that Buzz starts with 165 health (some of the scrawnier guys may start with LESS health than Buzz, but, for sake of my mental health, I can't be bothered to load up the game again to check). Let's do a little math, though:
  5. 165 / 15 = 11.
  6. This means you must lose an average of LESS THAN 11 HEALTH PER FIGHT, OR YOU WILL DIE BEFORE THE END OF THE GAME.
  7. A good punch or kick takes off around 10 health.
  8. Thus, if you get punched MORE THAN ONCE PER FIGHT, might as well hit the ol' RESET button!
Fortunately, Pit Fighter is WAYYYY ahead of you: when you lose once, it's GAME OVER.
No need to, say, let you try again on the enemy you had reached...perhaps even with full health this time. Nope, one loss = start again.
GAME OVER TERRIBLE
Leaving aside the horrible, broken battle mechanics, which combine the confusing hit detection of Karate Champ with an even larger vertical scrolling space than the tallest of beat-em-ups...even though you're only fighting ONE GUY!
Yes, leaving that aside, could you imagine if any fighting game tried these arcade quarter-stealing shenanigans? "One token = one health bar. You must beat every opponent in the game with ONE health bar. And if you lose once, you must start over."
Take the best, most well-balanced fighting game you can think of. Then imagine the only game play setting involves ONE HEALTH BAR that must last you the entire game (then weep quietly to yourself).
So, with all due respect to George Jetson's Orwell's 1984
If you want to picture the future of Pit Fighter-ing...
...just imagine a beefy executioner repeatedly pile-driver-ing your character into the warehouse floor for all eternity!
...
Oh, and remember back in paragraph 6? DON'T CALL ME SHIRLEY!
— carlmarksguy, 2012-05-11
1
They can't print...er, make that!
2
They could totally build a mini-Stonehenge on that forklift!
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