You’ll be wanting Sukapon for Smash after this Famicom Friday
In 1991, Street Fighter II radically altered the video game landscape. It opened a portal through which all sorts of pretenders started flowing out. Some of them were good! Most of them were bad. The one I present to you this Famicom Friday has mostly been forgotten.
That’s right, Famicom. And not Super Famicom, either. This one was entirely 8-Bit and was a pretty incredible effort to replicate the 1v1 experience on the aging console. By 1993, most arcade kids were arguing about whether Mortal Kombat’s blood and fatalities were better than Street Fighter II’s actually good gameplay, but on the Famicom, you were hard-pressed to find anything close.
JOY MECHA FIGHT
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
Released: May 1993
Also Available On: Nintendo Switch Online
Nineteen ninety-three was incredibly late in the Famicom’s lifespan, but some great titles were still coming out. Joy Mecha Fight (I know that fan translations refer to it as Joy Mech Fight, but the literal reading of its title is Joi Meka Faito, so try and stop me) is exactly how I described it; a Street Fighter II style 1v1 fighter.
What’s incredible is that the Famicom isn’t built for that sort of action. There was technically a bootleg port of Street Fighter II, but, while impressive in its own right, it obviously isn’t the best way to play the game. There are some pretty extreme limitations in the Famicom’s sprite rendering capabilities which meant that big characters weren’t possible, and if you crammed too much on-screen at one time, you’d wind up with a flickery mess.
Nintendo’s solution to this was breaking those characters up into floating components. Think Ballz 3D and then stop thinking about it. I’m sorry. The characters are essentially comprised of a floating torso, head, two feet, and two hands, plus whatever other weapons are given to them. That may sound like it would be difficult to keep track of the action, but I never had any serious issues.
The storyline is frighteningly reminiscent of Mega Man: Dr. Little Emon and Dr. Ivan Walnuts created a bunch of robots for the good of mankind, but Dr. Walnuts goes, er, nuts and decides he wants to conquer the world, making off with 7 of the robots. Dr. Emon then reprograms a comedian robot to go and fight Walnut’s twisted machines.
One of the more interesting lunch meats that Joy Mecha Fight brings to the fighting game table is its progression. While most fighting game story modes at the time had you fight a linear, sometimes randomized assortment of fighters until you get to the incredibly cheap boss battle, Joy Mecha Fight takes you through a series of four worlds where you select who you’re going to fight next, Mega Man-style. On top of that, you only start off with boring old Sukapon to choose from, but as you defeat bosses, they get added to your stable of fighters. How many in total? A hefty 36, but, honestly, it can be hard to tell the difference between some of them.
Considering this is a two-button fighting game, the moves are pretty simplified. Most fighters have 4 special moves, and their combinations are extremely easy to pull off. Most just involve holding a direction and hitting a button. Others just require you to press A+B at the same time. It makes it easy to switch to a new fighter but does nothing in helping them feel distinct.
The game’s animation style allows combat to feel rather fluid. Even as a two-button fighter, the battles feel dynamic. The movelist may be small, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way when playing it. It’s probably a lot easier to master than something like Street Fighter II, where high-level play means assembling combos. But that doesn’t mean there’s no strategy to be found here. It probably won’t satisfy the hardcore crowd, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun while it lasts.
There are multiple difficulty modes to unlock, which are needed to get the boss robots into your stable. For a 1v1 fighting game, it has legs beyond its competitive aspect.
Joy Mecha Fight probably isn’t going to get any fighting fan’s thighs grinding, but it’s a charming and colourful little experience in its own right. I feel it was smart to put so much effort into the single-player aspect of the game, as it would be difficult to squeeze a lot of competitive depth out of a two-button fighting set-up. With things set up as they are, you can focus on unlocking dudes or teach your buddy to play in an afternoon.
Having been released in 1993, it was a pretty late game for the Famicom. But while North America would continue seeing Nintendo titles on their console until late 1994, Joy Mecha Fight wasn’t among them. Recently, it was added to Japan’s Nintendo Switch Online service, which is nice since the only acknowledgement Nintendo has given the game otherwise has been cameos in titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Surprisingly, there’s quite a lot of text in Joy Mecha Fight, and it may be difficult for someone who doesn’t know the language to figure out the menus. Fortunately, fans have translated the game for those unable to interpret those Japanese scribbles. Given that Nintendo has gone to the effort of localizing some of their old Famicom classics, an official Western release isn’t completely out of the question, but I’d certainly be surprised at this point.