King of the Monsters: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

King of the Monsters: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis
King of the Monsters: Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis

Insert Disk collects King of the Monsters for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.

Today’s retro game review is King of the Monsters for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is a true overlooked game, at least here in the UK. Based on traditional Japanese Kaiju movies, the game is a fighting / wrestling mash up in style with just four playable characters. It’s clear that the game isn’t a fully licenced Godzilla game but it’s a game that certainly evokes Japanese monster movie nostalgia.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. If there was ever an over looked genre in gaming its kaiju. You’ve never hear of it? Well, join me today as I look back at a classic example in today’s episode featuring King of the Monsters. Here in the West we really don’t have an exact translation of the word kaiju. For us the nearest direct translation would be “monster”. In this case though the context is typically a “monster movie”. For the Japanese, Godzilla would be a prime example of this. Really the genre opens up to any monster movie where a typically oversized monster is causing chaos. By this definition you could also throw movies such as King Kong in to the mix. These destructive monster movies actually make great source material for video game. There’s all the elements of chaos, destruction and oversized monsters. It’s prime material for a beat’em up/wrestling mash up.

That’s exactly what you get with King of the Monsters. Here you’re looking at the Sega Mega Drive edition of the game although the game did originate from the Neo Geo hardware. Outside of Japan though the licenses for other consoles broadened the reach of the game. First off it’s worth saying that the game is limited to just 4 playable characters. There’s a Godzilla rip-off, a stone colossus, insect overlord and an atomic aquaman type monster to choose from. It’s a small cast of characters but each one is clearly distinct. The developers were clearly going for that 70’s style Japanese feel and if you’ve seen a few Godzilla movies in your time, you’ll be well versed in the characters that they are trying to imitate. The action plays out in a variety of urban locations. You’ll be fighting down at the docks, on the edge of town and of course in the metropolis itself.

The stages are surprisingly interactive. Expect to see jets cross your path, vehicles get in your way and buildings smashed to pieces. At one point the military will even roll out anti-monster machinery. The fights are enclosed within an electrified arena so there is an added element of strategy in either staying away from the fences or trying to throw your opponent in to them for added damage. In terms of a fighting system King of the Monsters is a bit of a mixed bag. You’ll have access to punches and kicks but the real damage will come from the grapples and throws. Grabbing on to your opponent and frantically mashing the pad will see you throw your opponent to the ground. It’s at this point you’ll want to move in and kick them while they’re down to wear down their health bar.

Certain throws will produce a power up collectable. If you can manage to fill your power bar with these you will transform in to a more powerful version of your character. Sadly, visually it’s just a pallet swap but the extra damage is welcome. Each round will continue until a monster can pin the other and is unable to continue. There’s a lot of button mashing involved but it is satisfying to celebrate over your fallen foe.

So is the game any good. Firstly the disappointing aspects, with only 4 playable characters and a very limited set of background the game does feel very limited. Certainly the end-to end experience feels a bit padded out as you fight the same monster more than once. Secondly I can imagine that the combat system may not stand up so well if you’ve been playing more modern games recently. The control system is functional but it’s nowhere near as fluid as a traditional fighting game. This does play in to the notion of using more strategy though so it’s not all bad. The true test of the game though is whether it’s still fun to play. For a game that’s a little limited in scope overall I have a good time with King of the Monsters. It’s a game you can pick up, play a few round and then go back to life at the office. It’s a game best delivered in short bursts of game play so that the limited scope doesn’t outstay its welcome.

As a collectable King of the Monsters isn’t particularly well known here in the UK. A PAL Sega Mega Drive copy complete in box will cost around the £15 mark. For a North American Sega Genesis version look to pay around the $10-$15 mark. It’s worth noting that King of the Monsters did have a sequel. King of the Monsters 2. Some versions of the game had only 3 selectable characters and the game took more of a side scroller beat’em up approach rather than the 1 on 1 cage match of the original. It’s also very much worth your time investigating if you enjoy the original.

I’d like to tell you that King of the Monsters is a hidden gem and in many ways it is. Certainly here in the UK it’s a game that still flies very much under the radar. It does pay tribute to Japanese culture and it’s certainly a fun experience in small bouts of play. Had the series been based on licenced characters, expanded the character roster and added further combat elements such as a combo system, King of the Monsters may have been a game that would have received decent longevity. Instead the game does feel quite dated and it is understandable why it feels a bit stuck in the past.

For game collectors it’s a great title to own, its small simple and fun for what it is. For newer games discovering this one for the first time you’re going to have to but your retro gaming hat on to understand the appeal. Certainly there have been far more relevant beat’em ups that have followed since. For this reasonably low collectors price King of the Monsters is a game worthy of being in your collection if you have a passion for old school monster madness.

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