I bet you all thought you'd seen the back of combat games and badly bruised joystick hands, but creeping up on you from behind to deliver the latest deadly oriental blow is yet another one. It's a familiar story of two players viewed side on and in 2D, trying to beat the hell out of each other.
The game set up and moves are extremely reminiscent of Way Of The Exploding Fist, the major difference being in the use of colour, animation and variety of backgrounds. The two protagonists are armed with more than just their fists, each clutching a deadly pole, and certainly aren't interested in shaking hands before or after a fight.
There are ten basic attacking moves using the pole and the feet and a further six moves for avoiding attacks or just getting around. The use of them is almost exactly the same as for Fist, so that players of that game should have no trouble settling down with this one. What is different are the number and sequence of opponents that you face.
There are 16 levels to get through, eight belts from white to black and then eight Dans from one to eight. On each level you have to knock down three opponents before moving onto the next level where the fighters are more skilled. You start each game with six lives, but after achieving a certain standard you can restart at that point with only three lives.
During the fights a hit is indicated with a noise and a graphic symbol, each strike reducing the fighter's energy. This is indicated by the colouring on a dragon's head and the fighter will go down when this runs out. Some moves are more effective than others the energy level drops accordingly, as does the score awarded. Fighters will also react and fall differently in response to moves but the important thing is that they go down and not you.
There's a two player mode for those who enjoy clubbing a friend. The computer will provide stiff opposition for quite some time but like all combat games he is ultimately predictable and once you've got his pattern worked out he's a goner.
On balance it's a better game than Fist, but it's also a year after that daddy of combat games. The changing backgrounds, improved animation, sound and colour are all nice to have but can't disguise the almost identical gameplay to Fist. If you're new to combat games then take a look but otherwise forget it.
P. Nice animation and detail on the fighters.
P. Sixteen levels of difficulty.
P. Changing backgrounds, making a nice view.
N. Very old, unoriginal gameplay.
N. Only worth getting if you haven't got Fist, Way Of The Tiger etc.
These games are all the same - work out one set of moves, and it will get you through practically the whole way. That's a shame because this one's well-animated, colourful, and very good of its kind. Just not a very good kind.