Big men, big punches, big violence; it's Taito's 1989 arcade fighter, Violence Fight!
Let's just take a moment to take in that name: Violence Fight. The developers clearly sat down to decide on a name and said "well, the game's about fighting. Violent fighting, not that pussy-ass non-violent kind. We need a name that reflects both the fighting and violence aspects of this title. I know, how about Violence Fight?". Rejected titles include Face Puncher, Large Guy Battle and SlamCrunch: The Legend of Slam Crunchington. The more I think about the title, the more I am awed by its almost transcendent simplicity. Violence. Fight. Violence Fight. It's like a zen koan for emotionally subnormal people. I am enlightened.
So, a game about men fighting violently. But, I hear you scream, why do they fight? Is there a reason, a prime motivator? Well, of course there is, brought to us via the medium of some scrolling text in the attract mode. I'll quote it in its entirety, because it is a thing of beauty.
"In the early part of the 1950's in the USA, a game called "Violence Fight" was in vogue among mafia, reckless drivers and general businessmen. The "Violence Fight" was the game to struggle for "No. 1 Quareller" with fighters who were gathered from all parts of the USA speaking boastingly of their strength. And of course a lot of winning money as well as the honor were given to the "winner". Here in a downtown in L.A., a young fighter "Bat" and his manager "Blinks" seek for the winning money eagerly. As a matter of fact, can Bad take the no. 1 place of the USA?"
Wow. Now that is a good-sized chunk of Engrish right there, and some of my favourite ever found in a videogame. The audience of the Violence Fight must be a pretty mixed bunch. The Mafia I can understand being there; an underground fighting tournament sounds like a pretty Mafia thing to do. Then there's the reckless drivers. People who drive without due care and attention are well-know for their desire to watch brutal bloodsports. Perhaps reckless driving is a far more serious offence in Japan, you know, on the same level as organised crime. Oh, and then there's the general businessmen. Salarymen need violence too, and if anyone looks forward to seeing men speak boastingly of their strength, it's middle-management types. But who are the contenders in this battle to become the no. 1 quareller? Let's have a look at the fighters!
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There's Bat Blue, the obligatory all-rounder with a nice line in lemon-yellow jeans. I'm telling you, yellow jeans are going to be the next hot fashion trend. You laugh now, but you'll all be wearing them. Other than his trousers, Bat is painfully generic. Then there's Lee Chen, kung-fu master with the deadly ken(hands) that he learned in his child age. He's good a jumping and kicking, but you already knew that because he's a kung-fu master. Lee Chen is painfully generic. On the bottom right is Ben Smith, an ex-marine boxer. As a boxer you'd think he'd be good at punching, but no; speed's his bag. Ben Smith is painfully generic. Wait, did I already say that? Finally we have Lick Joe. Yes, Lick Joe. I know it's only a small mistranslation between the L and the R, but goddamn if it didn't make me giggle like a fucking idiot. He's a pro-wrestler, or rather a former pro-wrestler, having been kicked out for killing 13 of his opponents. 13! The governing body that oversaw wrestling in to '50s needs to get its act together. It took 13 deaths for them to ban Lick Joe? Okay, one death is a tragic accident, two is a macabre coincidence, but three? Three should have been the point when they sat him down and said "look, Lick, we're sorry, but you're A MASS MURDERER and therefore we must regretfully revoke your wrestling licence. Turn in your leotard and hair-grease". I like the fact that his description says he killed them "during playing," like he's a fucking bear or something and he accidently mauled them to death. Well, due in no small part to his many murders, as well as his hilarious name, I shall be playing as Lick.
That actual gameplay is fairly standard: it's just PitFighter with enormous sprites. Really, they are some very big sprites, which might explain the rather small roster of opponents. There's a punch buton, a kick button and a jump button, and pressing P or K with jump executes a special punch or kick. And, uh, that's it. You just have to beat up the other guy, best of three rounds. Violence Fight is painfu... never mind. The immedate problem with Lick is that, despite being a professional wrestler, there are no grapple moves. Ah. I mean sure, he's beefy, but beef alone cannot win this... VIOLENCE FIGHT!! Um, sorry about that. Anyway, he's got a drop kick, and the drop kick is always the most effective move, so I'll stick with that. Me and Lick, baby, going all the way to the top. With repeated mashing of the drop kick buttons, the first fight is soon passed. Between fights, you get a nice shot of your chosen fighter with their manager:
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Jesus Christ, it turns out that Lick transforms into Pat Butcher between fights. That is a scary prospect. Bat's manager appears to have taken time off from tying damsels to train-tracks to do a bit of managing on the side, and Lee Chen's manager has really nailed the "stereotypical Chinaman" look there. At least Ben gets a woman manager, even if her hair is made of spaghetti. And before anyone asks, I have no idea what "Sammy You!" means. Send your suggestions to the usual address.
So the fighting continues, until the message "BONUS STAGE!" appears. Oh goody, a bonus stage! What'll it be today? Smashing a car, punching fish out of waterfall? Oh, I see, I'll be fighting a tiger. Aww crap.
I endangered his species, ha. Sadly, the tiger is not an unlockable playable character.
Eventually some non-playable bosses appear. First up is Ron Max, a bald redneck who likes to headbutt you in the gut. Drop kicks settled his hash, I can tell you. Once he's defeated, it's time for the final boss, and I pity the fool who has to go up against...
...Mr. T! Yes, in one of the most blatant examples of this kind of thing I've ever seen, the last boss is
The ending is rather downbeat, in that it essentially say "Congratulations, champ! Now prepare for a life of greater struggle for diminishing returns as young upstarts dedicate themselves to kicking your ass and taking your crown!" (I may have paraphrased, but not much.)
In the end, Violence Fight is generic. Real generic. The characters are generic (or Mr. T), the stages are generic, the music is so generic I'm not even sure I remember hearing any and the gameplay is wildly innovative. No, I'm kidding, it's really generic. Do yourself a favour and give Violence Fight a miss, unless, like me, you find the name Lick Joe hilarious. Because, you see, it sounds like a command! Lick Joe!