Battle Monsters: Sega Saturn (バトルモンスターズ)

Battle Monsters: Sega Saturn
Battle Monsters: Sega Saturn

Insert Disk collects Battle Monsters for the Sega Saturn (バトルモンスターズ).

Battle Monsters has a cult following with Sega Saturn collectors. Love it or hate it, this fighting game gives us lots to talk about in this retro game review.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s episode. Today I’m taking a look back at a game from the Sega Saturn’s library that has divided opinion since its release back in 1995. Is Battle Monsters as bad as the reviews would have us believe or a hidden gem of the system? It’s time to find out. So, it’s fair to say that in the mid-90’s many systems had their fair share of games of dubious quality. Fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct had paved the way for not only a new taste for on screen blood and gore but also for the trend in digitised sprites.
Battle Monsters followed in this trend to create something of mixed bag. The game allows you to play as one of 12 characters with the aim of fighting your way through the roster of other monsters to claim the Dark Throne in order to become the ruler of the Dark Domain.

From the outset you will notice the wide variety of playable characters. The twelve all have interesting designs and really revel in the fact that this game is a little bit different to previous fighting games presented in a similar style. For this play through I’ve chosen the twins as the have a cheap exploit to defeat the end game bosses. As soon as you begin fighting you will immediately notice a few issues. Some enemies are much more difficult than others and there’s a tendency to want to button mash to get through the rounds. At times it can also be difficult to identify exactly where the enemy hit boxes are to land an attack.

A regular criticism commented on is that the graphics of this game are quite ugly. Personally I’m not sure that they look much worse than other games with a similar style. It’s true that there are frame rate issues and the sprites can be a little jaggy around the edges. However, the action is generally fast enough for you not to notice as a player. There are a lot of good elements in the gameplay though, multi-level platforms, animated backgrounds, destructible scenery, special moves, combos and a pit move reminiscent of Mortal Kombat. The game also makes a nod to Samurai Shodowns presentation by zooming out as your characters move further apart. All of the elements of a classic are here, so why so much negativity towards this game.

The negativity seems to come from the general view of the presentation but more importantly the shallow gameplay. Personally I find the graphics argument a bit of a non-starter, sure it’s a bit messy but it’s really not as bad as some critics make out. The gameplay issue however is an issue when it comes to depth. No matter how you look at this one, the game does almost always turn in to a button mashing exercise. Typically you can learn a couple of moves and breeze through the game in no time.

For my two cents though I have to say that the button-mashing nature of the game didn’t really put me off this game either. For a short bust of monster bashing action the game is perfectly serviceable. If you’re looking for a King of Fighters style tactical fighting game though you will have to look elsewhere. Battle Monsters also has mixed views when it comes to the physical presentation. Here in the UK we received this cover and the US received the same artwork. Overall nothing to complain about. I’m playing the original Japanese release though and here’s the front cover.

I’m really not sure how to describe this cover, at best it just looks a little bit armature, especially as the rear of the case has far better artwork. The game comes in a standard CD jewel case with manual. Other than the front cover the artwork inside the manual is excellent and gives clear and simple move sets for each character. The regional release is essentially the same. The differences are the box art, in game language and also a few of the character names have been changed from the original Japanese release. As I mentioned earlier the game is not particularly challenging as you fight your way to the final boss. Or I should say final bosses. Salamande, Leviathan, Jinee and Behemoth. On defeating the bosses you finally take the Dark Throne in this bizarre end game scene. Every time I see this I can’t help but think this looks like a crazy Japanese gothic advert for McDonalds.

So, you’re probably thinking why am I showing you this game today? Well it’s the collecting price of the game that makes it so attractive for collectors. You can pick up the Japanese version of this game for just 300 Yen, that’s around £2 in the UK and near $3 in the US. Other regional releases of the game vary up to £15 or $20 so there’s no real reason not to go for the original Japanese release unless you really have an objection to the cover artwork.

My overall feeling of this game is that it’s a game that some people have jumped on unfairly in terms of the criticism. Is it a classic fighting game? No. Is it a fun oddity that you can play with friends for some quick arcade action? Most definitely. At the time Battle Monsters was well enough received to warrant a sequel on the PS1 called “Killing Zone”. I won’t be visiting Killing Zone today but I can confirm that it truly is an awful game.

For the super low entry price I’m pleased to have Battle Monsters in my collection. It’s best summed up by slightly mindless violence with a Monster theme. This game is definitely one of my guilty pleasures. I think that Battle Monsters will continue to divide opinion amongst gamers. What do you think though? Is Battle Monsters a hidden gem or a forgotten failure? Let me know in the comments.

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