Insert Disk collects Blazing Tornado for the Sega Saturn.
Today’s retro game review is Blazing Tornado for the Sega Saturn. This retro gaming classic is a rather forgotten wrestling game exclusive to the Japanese Sega Saturn. Human Entertainment were responsible for the arcade conversion and delivered a near prefect result sure to please fans of arcade style wrestling games.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. I’ve been rummaging around my Sega Saturn collection this week for some long forgotten games.
Recently you may have watched the previous episode covering All Japan Pro Wrestling. A Sega Saturn exclusive that turned out to be somewhat of a hidden gem. Can lightning strike twice as today we take a look at another obscure wrestling game, yet again exclusive to the Japanese Sega Saturn.
Time to dust off the training mats and get your face masks ready as we take a look at Blazing Tornado for the Sega Saturn.
Well, where to start with this one. First of all it’s worth qualifying that although this is a Japanese Sega Saturn exclusive it did get its debut in the arcade back in 1994. I have to say that this didn’t seem to be a major release. I’ve certainly never seen this JAMMA board over here in the UK. Even on eBay I couldn’t track down the original hardware to test.
This may be perhaps because it was published by Human. Yes, the folks the same Human that made Clock Tower. Human did operate an arcade division at the time called Human Arcade although with a very small library from what I understand. Anyway, by 1995 the game had hit the Japanese Sega Saturn. This time released by the Human Entertainment division.
The game gives you a decent set of options, I highly recommend starting on the easy setting if you’re new to the game as I was. Otherwise a swift beating will be coming your way. The game features 3 main modes. Power Battle in which you try to defeat as many opponents as possible in the quickest time. Forget about this for beginners as you’re unlikely to progress past the third round without putting in some practice upfront. The Elimination mode sees you pick teams to go up against each other although the matches themselves are still one on one. Then there is Circuit Mode which is very much the bread and butter of any arcade fighter as you fight your way through the roster. A good place to start. It is in fact quite a decent roster of 8 wrestlers. Each hand drawn without any sprite swaps. Yes, I’m looking at you Ken and Ryu.
The game has a very handcrafted feel to it. The characters are certainly distinct and chunky. This feels like a game that should be played on the Neo Geo rather than the Sega Saturn due to its graphical style. You’ll get a decent introduction with fluid animations and good voice sampling. In terms of 2D wrestling games there’s a lot to be impressed with here. There feels like there’s a lot going on. In terms of the game play, this is the point that may cause a bit of friction with gamers. The basic control system involves, light attacks, strong attacks and holds. Whilst in hold mode you must frantically bash the button and then use the direction stick to execute a throw. This is fairly standard fare for wrestling games, ever since the good old days. Here though I found the computer opponent incredibly aggressive in the throws. Even with the trusty Sega HSS 104 control stick I found that I resorted to the turbo button option after a while as my hands aren’t what they used to be. Similarly if you find yourself pinned you’ll need a fast left-right motion to free yourself. This is just the nature of wrestling games though. I may have found this game a little challenging but I dare say that a lot of regulars to the genre will feel right at home here. You’ll be able to throw your opponent in to the ropes and even launch your opponent out of the ring for good measure. What’s here is good fun and definitely a spectacle.
The range of character designs means you’ll be able to face a fat man with steel iron balls on his wrists against a Cuban masked fighter. Each character has their own specific strength and weakness in terms of speed and power so expect to have to figure out your strategy a little. There’s also some bonus features such as grabbing weapons from the crowd to deliver your beatings. Yes, it’s all very pleasing. What’s more it seems to live up to the quality of the arcade edition. This is most likely due to both releases being handled in-house.
Side by side there are a few differences. The arcade ops for introductions inside the ring whilst the Saturn goes for the more story based approach. Quite acceptable in my opinion as you probably don’t want to stand around in the arcade watching cut scenes. The main action though is spot on. The arcade may just have the edge in terms of graphics but in terms of game play it’s clear that most of the programming was just lifted and shifted in a port style rather than being rebuilt from scratch. Of course with the Sega Saturn home release you’ll get the all-important CD case with some fairly decent artwork. Again, I can’t quite put my finger on it but this has the feel of Neo Geo all over the character design. The game manual is also rather well polished. Enough to get you started even if your Japanese is a bit rusty. Those that regularly play Japanese fighters will be straight in there with the combat system.
Now, you may be thinking. This all seems very familiar and you would be right. Human Entertainment actually published a raft of wrestling games in what became known as the “Fire Pro Wrestling” series. I’ll leave the wrestling game enthusiasts to pour over this one. However, it’s safe to say that the series had dozens of entries on the PC Engine, PlayStation, Super Famicom, Game Boy Advance and even the WonderSwan. Ah, the WonderSwan. Blazing Tornado seems to be a bit of a black sheep being a Sega Saturn exclusive and dropping the “Fire Pro” tag from its title. Although the full kanji named release of the game is “Fai-Puro Gaiden Blazing Tornado” which translates as “Fire Pro Another Story: Blazing Tornado”. ブレイジングトルネード.
Still, it’s a catchier title than their next release in the series. “Wrestling Universe: Fire Pro Women: Dome Super Female Big Battle: All Japan Women VS J.W.P.” for the PC engine. Still, the game looks good though. Anyway, back to the safety of the Sega Saturn. It’s fair to say that I did enjoy my play through of the game. The initial difficulty curve did thrown me a bit but like all games of depth you have to put in the time upfront to really understand what you’re dealing with. Graphically speaking the game reflects the bold imagery of the arcade and even includes the sprite scaling when power moves are performed. It’s a nice touch.
The sound department also hold up quite well. All the slaps, thuds and audience participation are here. It does feel like a sporting event. This doesn’t necessarily flow through in to the music. Each wrestler has their own background music. This works well most of the time except for the lighter tunes. I personally prefer a more beefy rock sound for this type of game. The actual music though is faultless, there was clearly some talent employed over at Human Entertainment back in the 90’s.
So, summing up and I’m a little surprised myself. We’ve managed to find two wrestling game hidden gems exclusive to the Japanese Sega Saturn in two weeks. I still prefer All Japan Pro Wrestling but Blading Tornado really puts in the effort for a 2D contender. The only real criticism I have if any is the difficulty level. Again, that’s really a problem of the gamer rather than the game though.
Blazing Tornado is readily available on the online auction houses and from import sellers at an affordable price. Well worth your time if you happen to be looking for a Sega Saturn fighter that’s perhaps gone under the radar for too long. Until next time, happy gaming.