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A lot of fighting games claimed to be “something different” from the hard-set Street Fighter II mold of the early 90s. Some were more bloody and brutal, some had weapons, some involved time travel. But only one of them was Aggressors of Dark Kombat—one of the most distinct fighters of its time—released by ADK in 1994. 

Selecting one of eight characters, you take on all comers through a variety of stages with health bars, a time limit, and special move commands. That’s pretty much where the similarities between this and other fighting games end. The biggest change most players will notice is the ability to walk around the fighting arenas, moving not just left and right but up and down. There is no ducking or low blocking in the game, and jumping is accomplished through the push of a button. This gives the game a very beat-em-up feel to its combat at times.

Another thing that enhances the beat-em-up aspect is how health is handled in the game. Matches are one round, with a four-stage health bar that transitions from blue to green to yellow to red to empty as you sustain damage. Laying a beat-down on opponents recovers a small portion of your own health meter in the process. I actually greatly prefer this method of victory. When you get down to it, the notion of getting up for another go after you’ve been completely knocked out by an opponent doesn’t make much sense. You lost, there is no round two. There are all sorts of minor to moderate changes, such as a grapple/throw system that includes reversals, weapons that get thrown into the ring to be picked up and used, and the ability to stun opponents on the ground and beat them when they’re down or even slap damaging holds on them.

But innovation doesn’t automatically mean greatness. For all its novelties, Aggressors of Dark Kombat is a pretty average game. The fighting engine can be spastic and a little difficult to pick up, a skilled opponent (and the computer) will easily work around the slow attack times of most weapons (rendering them more novel than useful), and there’s no gameplay beyond beating your eight basic opponents—no bonus stages, no climactic boss confrontations. Speaking of the opponents, they’re an odd selection that don’t gel as well together as you would hope. In your eight characters, you have the expected street toughs/wrestler/martial artists, but also a ninja from the 16th century, a schoolgirl and a 13-year-old boy. Yes, Aggressors of Dark Kombat lets you beat up a child. (Now, I’m one of those people who believes that all the children in open-world games like Elder Scrolls and Fallout should be subject to murder like any other characters, but a brawl between a professional wrestler and a middle school boy feels unnatural.) These things kept the game from being as popular as it could have been, and prevented a sequel from occurring, but they shouldn’t stop you from giving it a try.

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Obscure Fighting Game of The Week:  Aggressors of Dark Kombat/ GanGan (Arcade 1994, ADK)

Aggressors of Dark Kombat, strangely enough also called GanGan (which is Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of a large bell or a scolding voice)  is one odd fighting game. Made by ADK, the Alpha Denshi Corporation (yes, its spelled with “C” even though ADK has a “K”), is an 2D fighter with…well I’ll let Wikipedia explain better:

"The game’s major innovation is the ability to walk into the background, in a similar manner to some 1980s arcade fighting games like Taito's Violence Fight, SNK’s Street Smart and Atari's Pit-Fighter. Because of this, unlike many other 2D fighting games, the game uses one action button to jump, and does not use the “D” button, unlike many SNK fighting games. Only two action buttons are used for attacking (punch and kick); instead, grappling and grabbing opponents is the focus of the gameplay: opponents can counter being grabbed and break free as well. Also featured is weapon play (another mechanic akin to beat ‘em ups). Weapons can be picked up and thrown, or used in special and standard attacks. Weapons are thrown into the ring by spectators in the background. Another (unusual) innovation of the game is that characters begin to sweat profusely after fighting for a while.

Characters have unusually high health for the genre with a health bar that has several layers of colors to indicate the health. There is also a “Crazy Meter” at the bottom of the screen. It is built up as characters attack; this gives the character a special – and often very bizarre – attack that will kill the opponent outright. It is called the “Gan Gan Attack” in Japan, and “Crazy Attack” internationally.

Beyond just that, GanGan also features a cast that a check list of fighting game stereotypes for characters. Let’s see we have…

Japanese rude school boys:Check.

English School Girl Who Fights Typically Girly Like:Check.

Karateka Dude: Check

 Western Fighter Guys: Check

Painful Reminder of How Bad Black Fighting Game Characters Were Designed in the 90’s Because HE FIGHTS WITH A BASKETBALL:Check.

Time Traveling Ninja from World Heroes: Chec..what?

As much as I do harp on GanGan’s character choices, at least there really isn’t a giant boss character that really breaks the flow too much. That in itself is worthy of mentioning. What is also noteworthy is the legacy of a few of the characters. The ninja guy above, named Fumma, is actually from ADK’s more popular/infamous games, World Heroes. He along side a few other characters from World Heroes and even the English school girl from GanGan, Kisarah Westfield, would later be apart of the line up for NeoGeo Battle Colosseum. This was due to the fact that ADK merged with SNK in 2003, thus all of its IPs are now used by SNK. The game is very readily available including for download on the Wii’s Virtual Console. 

Sources used:

Wikipedia: Agressors of Dark Kombat

Wikipedia: ADK

Image Sources

Fight-A-Base: Agressors of Dark Kombat

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