Street Fighter IV. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Popular, modern titles with established communities. But what of the lesser-knowns, the hidden gems, the fighttng games with great ideas that never found a foothold in the West, or at all? This article series aims to find those games, talk to the players who love them, and figure out what makes them worth playing competitively, even today.
If there’s a game you want to see featured or have in-depth knowledge on a game that you’d like to share for future installments, let us know on twitter at @mosesplan (Jason Moses) and @GarciaINCIDENT (Luis H. Garcia).
You’d be forgiven for not realizing how groundbreaking ADK’s World Heroes Perfect was. Released in May 1995 alongside a glut of similar-looking Neo Geo fighting games and against better marketed Capcom titles like Street Fighter Alpha, it was inevitable that WHP would get lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s, when Capcom had all but stopped developing new fighting games, that WHP was unearthed by players desperate for something new. What they discovered was a game shockingly ahead of its time: fast, with varied character designs, one-off mechanics, and an anything-goes attitude that somehow just worked.
I spoke to three of the game’s biggest fans in both America and Japan to find out just what makes World Heroes Perfect live up to its namesake.
Expert Bio: Josh “Funkdoc” Ballard is a long-time fighting game player and member of the speedrunning community. He’s done speedruns for games like Batman, Castlevania, and the infamous Holy Diver at charity events like Summer Games Done Quick 2013. You can follow him on twitter at @SRKfunkdoc.
Jason Moses: I’d always thought of World Heroes as being a series of C-grade Street Fighter clones, until around 2007 when word started to go around that World Heroes Perfect was this amazing, under-appreciated hidden gem. Is that a fair assessment of the series? What did they change with WHP to make it such a fan favorite?
Joshua Ballard: The original World Heroes was a rather bad and blatant SF clone, yes. I always felt like that game should’ve been Capcom’s legal target instead of Fighter’s History! That said, it had one neat idea – the deathmatch mode, where you fight on stages with various environmental hazards like spiked walls and landmines.
World Heroes 2 seemed like more of the same superficially but added a few nice, subtle touches – chain combos performed by tapping A multiple times, using a “tug-of-war” style lifebar for deathmatch mode, reflecting projectiles by blocking right as they connect, and a unique variation on throw teching (reversing your opponent’s throw into your own). That’s quite a bit of originality for 1993!
However, it’s still not much of a competitive game, as there are a couple easy infinites and much of the cast is still limited and simple to play. World Heroes 2 Jet is actually my least favorite in the series in some ways, as it removed the deathmatch mode and its only new idea was the ability to customize your character’s stats — speed, power, etc. The two new characters in Jet — Ryofu and Jack — were overpowered and brain-dead to play, and the general simplicity of the previous games still remained.
So overall, I would say that the World Heroes series was not as bad as its reputation but nothing special before Perfect came along. Actually, if you think about it, ADK led a pretty odd life for a game developer – nothing but mediocrity for years, then they come out of nowhere in the mid-90s with a series of great games (Crossed Swords 2, WHP, Twinkle Star Sprites), and then nothing except for the Twinkle Star Sprites remake after that.
JM: When and why did you start playing WHP? Did you have any prior history with the series?
JB: I played my fair share of the first two World Heroes games when they came out in the arcade, and I enjoyed the deathmatch modes as well as the wackier character designs in 2. I was all about Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct back then, though, so I only played them every once in a while.
I had never seen Perfect in arcades before, and didn’t play it until 2007. I had just recently met my old friend Keits again – he got me started with tournaments but we had both been out of the scene for a few years. We inspired each other to learn Super Street Fighter II Turbo as well as this game. I believe he first brought Perfect to my attention, and the ability to play online drew my interest. It just snowballed from there, as we spent much of 2007-08 posting info on the Shoryuken forums and encouraging others to pick up the game.
During this pre-Street Fighter IV period, more people were willing to try older and/or lesser-known games, and we consistently drew more people for WHP tournaments than, say, BlazBlue at Season’s Beatings in the not-too-distant past. Still not big at all, even by the standards of that era, but we were happy we could run an actual bracket with all the people who liked the game!
JM: What’s the best way to play World Heroes Perfect now, in 2014? Any good resources to read up? Wikis, etc.?
JB: Nowadays, you can play WHP via the World Heroes Anthology on PlayStation 2, and via netplay with Supercade. It hasn’t had much action outside of Japan since the pre-SF4 days, but I definitely encourage you to give this a try with your buddies sometime! This is an easy game to get into and offers a lot of fun stuff right off the bat, and there’s rewarding stuff the further you get into it as well.
JM: What are some of the mechanical quirks in WHP that players coming from other 2D fighting games should be aware of?
JB: Oh my goodness, where do I begin? Even moreso than the other World Heroes games, Perfect looks like more of the same on the surface. The game itself gives no indication to the contrary when you first play it, and it doesn’t even have any new characters aside from a hidden one, Son Gokuu, who requires a code to select. What makes Perfect stand out so much from the rest of the series is a ton of subtle mechanics that you won’t notice until you play it for at least a little while.
As a matter of fact, the more I play it, the more convinced I become that future Arc System Works people worked on the game. A number of the staple elements of Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, et al. can be seen in this game: invincible backdashes, guard crushes, autoguard, jump cancels, unique and powerful character-specific abilities, and even Roman/Rapid Cancels in the form of Hanzou’s special ability, which I’ll get into in a bit.
None of these existed in the earlier World Heroes games, and aside from jump cancels, which appeared earlier in X-Men: Children of the Atom, I’m pretty sure WHP is the first fighting game to use these ideas. The game also has EX moves and air blocking, but Darkstalkers did the former first and Street Fighter Alpha may or may not have been the first to use the latter (both Alpha and WHP came out in 1995).
What else…WHP has the strongest backdashes of any fighting game I know of; they aren’t vulnerable until the last couple frames or so, and they cover a lot of ground. That means offense revolves more around frame traps and clever baits than simple tick throws or high/low mixups, and also makes screen position more important than in most fighters since backdashes lose a lot of their luster in the corner.
This official World Heroes Perfect VHS strategy video from the 90s (with ridiculous voice actors playing the various characters) shows off autoguard normals, projectile cancelling/catching, and some of the game’s other unique mechanics.
Guard crushes work differently from any other fighter I know of, as there is no guard meter. Instead, each character has a specific normal move that always causes a guard crush on block, and you can shake out of it by moving the stick back and forth, like a dizzy in Street Fighter.
Autoguard is the main aspect of WHP I still don’t completely understand. Each character has at least one normal move with autoguard frames on it, and often multiple such normals. However, these generally seem to have just a couple frames where it works, and there may also be an “autoguard hitbox” that the opponent’s attack has to touch in order to trigger it (not sure, just an educated guess based on experience). Altogether, though an intriguing concept, autoguard normals are almost never a factor in competitive play – the concept would have to wait until Anji in Guilty Gear came along to get a second chance in the spotlight.
As for jump cancels, this one is simple: Brocken can jump cancel a few of his normals on hit or block, and J.Max can jump cancel his QCF+LK on hit and juggle with an immediate j.HK for a ton of damage. Oh, another cool detail I forgot to mention above is that each character also has a specific move — usually a normal — that destroys projectiles.
Finally, there are moves performed by pressing A+B+C, which are just called ABC moves. I think these are the single most important addition to the game, as they bring so much fun and depth to many characters who previously felt incomplete. These are what I meant earlier by “unique and powerful character-specific abilities.” They’re basically equivalent to BlazBlue’s Drive button and Injustice’s Traits.
Jack’s ABC allows him to burrow underground a la Rocket Raccoon, and that’s one of the weaker ones! Brocken’s ABC is a Psycho Crusher that requires no charge, can be done in the air, can be steered upward or downward, can be canceled at any time to remain safe, and allows him to drop missiles during it for potential crossups!
Sho-ta’s Ryofu uses strong pokes and his unique ceiling-cling to keep out Toki no Tobira’s incredibly aggressive Mudman in this match from Tachikawa’s 5th WHP tournament.
Ryofu’s air ABC ranks alongside Brocken’s as one of my single favorite moves in a fighting game: he clings to the ceiling with his spear, and you can stay there or drop downward in any direction (straight, left, or right) and attack on the way down. Not only can this set up strong wakeup games that will punish a backdash, it also creates a unique air footsie game that singlehandedly changes Ryofu from a boring god-tier in World Heroes 2 Jet to a still strong but infinitely more fun character in Perfect. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
JM: How does the Hero meter system work in this game? How important is meter management in general?
JB: The Hero meter is pretty simple. You build meter when your attacks connect or are blocked, and when it’s full you gain access to Hero attacks. These are simply EX moves, except they automatically replace the normal versions of these moves when you have meter. Each character has one special move with a Hero version (except Shura, who has two), and every super has a Hero version as well. A Hero move uses the entire meter, leaving you to start from scratch afterward. All Hero moves are invincible until they land, giving safe reversals to some characters who otherwise have none (e.g. Ryofu and Rasputin). Some Hero moves just add damage while others gain new properties (e.g. Kidd’s shark freezes the opponent for followup combos).
Supers are generally pretty weak, and there’s not much use for meter otherwise, so meter management usually isn’t much of a factor. It’s mainly important for the characters who need a reversal, and these tend to be moves that aren’t used much without meter anyway.
JM: What are a few examples of the general weakness of supers? Any exceptions?
Every World Heroes Perfect super in one video.
JB: A good number of supers in this game tend to be horrifically slow in terms of startup and/or recovery, which was pretty common with Neo-Geo games of that time. Hanzou, Fuuma, Ryofu, Jack, Gokuu… just give any of theirs a try sometime.
Some of them also have long and cumbersome motions (another old Neo-Geo trademark) which can make them impractical in a real match. Muscle Power’s super is an example – it’s a command grab, which would be nice except that the command (qcf, b, db, d + HP) takes forever. Ryoko has amazing dash attack pressure that gives her a chance to buffer her super, while Kidd’s grab super has a simple reverse DP motion. Muscle lacks these so his falls by the wayside.
In this tournament match from Tachikawa’s 5th WHP tournament, Jinren uses Brocken’s unblockable German Explosion super to score a huge comeback off a normal throw.
That said, there are a few really strong supers, like Janne and Shura’s. The other main notable ones are Mudman and Brocken, who have unblockable supers and can land them guaranteed after knockdowns. Brocken’s is only unblockable at close range, so he needs full meter to make it invincible and the corner to prevent backdashing. Mudman’s is far more practical since it’s a ground pillar (think Dormammu) and he can prevent backdashing by doing it when the opponent is at the opposite end of the screen. Some of the other supers are good for chip-damage kills (e.g. Carn’s), but those are the most important ones.
JM: Who are some of the strongest characters, and why?
JB: I think the top 4 in this game (not counting the two obviously broken bosses) are Hanzou, Captain Kidd, Ryoko, and J.Carn.
I’d say Hanzou belongs in the S tier by himself. He has solid shoto specials and is one of only 2 characters in the game with a double jump, which causes a ton of matchup problems all by itself. What really puts him over the top is his ABC move – it’s this little pose that can be canceled into an attack or dash at any time. It’s basically the Roman/Rapid Cancel from Arcsys games, except there’s no meter cost. Thus, he has a near-infinite with repeated dashing HPs or HKs canceled into ABC, like a much scarier version of El Fuerte’s combo from Street Fighter IV. He takes a lot of execution, but Hanzou is unquestionably the most complete character in the game.
Captain Kidd is a charge character with a solid reversal and two different projectiles (one non-charge), as well as some similarities to Hanzou with his ABC. Instead of a cancel, he has a faster version of Blanka’s hop from Super Turbo. Though it can’t pass through opponents like Blanka’s can, he can pressure and combo with it for days. Looping neutral HK -> ABC is a guaranteed dizzy combo on standing opponents, and crouching HP -> hop does the same on crouching opponents; you aren’t knocked as far backward when hit crouching, while neutral HK whiffs on most crouching characters.
Adding to this craziness is his EX shark projectile, which steadily drains the opponent’s health while keeping them stunned – you can combo into it, wait a while, then jump in to start a new combo that resets the damage scaling! Kidd also has a command grab super that fits very well with his hop pressure, which is nice in a game with so many useless supers. The need to use different loops depending on how the opponent was hit, his lackluster normals, and his lack of anything on par with a double jump in the neutral game are what keep him from reaching Hanzou’s level. He’s still a monster, though, no doubt!
Ryoko is a very fast grappler with a small hitbox and normals that have both fast startup and enormous frame advantage, which is always nice. She has the most autoguard normals of any character, though again, autoguard isn’t the most useful thing in the game. Her medium dragon punch move allows her to attack on the way down, making it pretty safe against characters without their own DP. She also has an interesting normal move (d/f+HP) where she performs a roll into a low-hitting palm strike. The interesting part is she can cancel the roll into a command grab! Since her super is also a command grab, this is always something you have to respect near the end of a round.
In this match from Tachikawa’s 5th WHP tournament, Sekido uses the absurd hit and blockstun off Ryoko’s crouching medium punch to completely lock down Shibucchi’s Kidd, eventually landing her infinite in the corner to win the first round. In the second round, he manages a huge comeback by pushing Kidd down into the corner with repeated cr. MPs. With Shibucchi’s escape options cut off, Sekido lets up the pressure just long enough to land Ryoko’s command grab super, leading to a dizzy and another infinite. Beautiful.
What makes her top 3 in addition to all this is the best infinite in the game: repeated dashing crouch MPs! The timing isn’t the easiest, and Keits and I thought it wasn’t practical when we were actively playing, but the Japanese have shown it is indeed possible in real matches. Crouch MP hits low, making it a much more effective combo starter than Hanzou or Kidd’s normals, and the infinite also makes for great pressure on block since you can easily catch backdashes by delaying it a tad. Overall, while Ryoko can pressure and 1-hit kill like the above two characters, I think she offers more fun things to do with her pressure and neutral game. Her weakness compared to Hanzou and Kidd lies in her difficulty against strong ranged poking, like that of the next character…
Carn vs. Kidd from Tachikawa’s 4th WHP tournament. Kidd gets safe pressure off his ABC hop and can switch seamlessly between zoning and pressure to suit the situation. Also note Carn’s strong normals and hopkick abuse, and Kidd neutral jumping to beat his headbutt specials.
J.Carn combines some of the best qualities of CVS2 Sagat and ST Honda, with stronger corner pressure to boot! He deals huge damage per hit in general, and standing HK is one of the best pokes in the game and leads to a knockdown on hit. His other best normals include safe slides and a high-priority hopkick which can either move forward or stay in place. His specials are similarly strong, as he has a Honda-esque headbutt that’s much safer and nigh-unbeatable (no mashing jabs here) as well as as a flash kick equivalent that’s completely safe on block.
Put it all together and you have a wall of defense who can also put together enough offense (e.g. slide into throw or flashkick) to push you into the corner. And watch out when you’re stuck there – with the proper spacing, Carn can pressure with repeated neutral hopkicks and leave you with only a frame or two to attempt an escape. Carn has slight issues against characters who can pester him with projectiles and consistently stay away from him, and he’s not a 1-hit kill threat like the rest of the top 4, but he’s the perfect Ryoko counter and can at least hang with anyone.
JM: And the weakest?
JB: I think Janne and Shura are pretty clearly the bottom of the barrel. Shura is a slow mess of mediocre pokes and Balrog-style rush punches that lack the SF2 frame advantage; his strongest tool is a DP that allows him to move left or right on the way down, keeping him safe. Janne is another quick poking/pressure character a la Ryoko and Dragon except that her pokes are worse, she deals terrible damage, and has far worse reversal options. I highly doubt either of these characters have any even-ish matchups besides each other.
Kamiyama Mangetsu’s Janne gets a ton of mileage out of both her supers in these matches against Yamada’s Jack, and even uses the invincible Hero version of her arrow super to escape from the corner in the second round. Also note Jack’s pressure off repeated dash HKs.
Despite all of this, Janne still has a fighting chance thanks entirely to her supers. She’s the only character besides Fuuma with two of them, and both are among the best in the game. For one of them she jumps in the air and fires a bunch of arrows, which delivers a nice chunk of safe chip damage from anywhere on the screen – think Ibuki’s air kunai super except you can do it any time. For the other one she turns into a phoenix and jumps toward the opponent – this is also very safe with good chip and lots of invincibility. Thanks to this game giving unlimited supers when below 50% health, you can’t take Janne too lightly even with all her other problems.
Also, I had long thought Shura was clearly the worst character, but I was missing out on his guard crush! Seeing Japanese tournament players use it made me realize what a threat he can be once he gets in. Most characters’ guard-crush normals are heavy attacks with slow recovery, but Shura’s is his crouching MP. This has very similar startup/recovery to the classic shoto cr.MP, so it’s extremely difficult to shake out of on reaction before he lands another hit. His super has nearly instant startup, too, and I’ve never seen anyone shake out of guard crush into super. He can also link the super from his dash straight, so you have to respect him at mid-range as well. He’s still one of the weaker characters thanks to his poor normals and struggles getting in, but he’s not hopeless either.
There’s also the non-banned hidden character, Son Gokuu. This game was not too kind to the Monkey King, leaving him with a bad set of normals and one decent special move to poke with He does have his signature cloud to ride in the sky, which opens up some things I’ll mention in a bit, but he generally does low damage aside from one special move, an air attack where he turns into a rock and drops straight down (think Kirby!). This is an overhead that does about 25% by itself and is also completely invincible until he lands, allowing you to beat wakeup reversals with it, but it’s horribly unsafe. The rock can be used for high/low (jump in with HP and cancel to rock or land and go for a low combo) or ambiguous crossup games when riding on his cloud (jump off the cloud and do the rock drop when offscreen).
There are also certain matchups I think Gokuu wins entirely by running away on the cloud (e.g. Rasputin) – the timer counts down much more quickly in WHP than in most fighting games. I used to place him 3rd worst in the game, behind Janne and Shura, but after my recent reassessment of those two I have to say he’s clearly the worst character.
JM: One of the other WHP players I’m interviewing is Tuskdon, who maintains the main Japanese blog for the game. His tier list seems to match the one on the SRK wiki pretty closely, but I’m curious to know what you think.
JB: That’s an interesting list and I like the majority of it! Probably a lot of our main differences stem from the fact that I like to use A+, A-, etc. in my rankings while this doesn’t.
Though a little different from our rankings on SRK, I’d agree with where they have Brocken and Jack now. Jack is a one-trick pony (standing/dashing HK), and that trick shuts down the air game but doesn’t have the most range on the ground. He has none of the things that give the above group problems, so he’s not going to scare too many others either. The very definition of low-mid tier.
The top tier is basically the same as mine though I’ve already outlined why I think J.Carn belongs up there as well. Bottom tier also mostly matches my thoughts – we had ranked Mudman higher because we thought he had a potential infinite combo + blockstring with repeated jumping knee dives, but it’s much harder than the Hanzou/Ryoko stuff and clearly not practical. He’s still a bit better than I used to think though, forgot how safe he was and how easily he could land guaranteed unblockable supers. I’d put him on par with Jack.
Not sold on Rasputin being that far down – some of the best pokes and by far the best projectile game, can pressure well thanks to those things, also better anti-air than a lot of people realize and tons of chip damage on his EX move. He dies to strong runaway, sure, but only a couple characters can pull that off. Comparing him to Erick, a character with a somewhat similar style, the only advantage I see for Erick is damage.
Fuuma at the bottom is the biggest shocker for me, as I have him at #5. His damage potential is Janne-level, but I just think the double jump is one of the strongest abilities in the game and he’s the only character besides Hanzou who can do it. It allows him to approach many characters from above with no risk as well as execute a hit-and-run/runaway gameplan. I think he has a stronger than 6-4 advantage over Ryofu/Muscle Power/Erick/Rasputin at least, goes about even with Carn (one of those “whoever lands the first hit should win” matchups), and only really loses to the top 3 in the Japanese list. Maybe the Japanese community for this game doesn’t like to play “lame”, considering that’s how he shines…
This Muscle Power vs. Rasputin matchup showcases some of the general issues Muscle has dealing with zoning, and the strengths of Rasputin’s basic pressure and keepaway game.
I had mentioned Erick a bit earlier, but I really don’t like how high he, Muscle Power, and J.Max are ranked. These are all high-damage characters with other major strengths (Erick’s pokes and keepaway, Muscle’s pokes and grappling, J.Max’s safe DP and high/low game), but all of them get completely shut down by a good portion of the cast. Erick and Muscle have no answer to double-jumping ninjas or good runaway, Muscle and J.Max get zoned out, Erick dies to strong pressure, and all of them struggle with characters who can outpoke them. They’re good at what they do, but many characters don’t let them do that at all.
As for Brocken, we didn’t like his low damage or the fact that his normals don’t cover the air very well. I think we underestimated how strong his ground game is, considering he has a very solid matchup against Ryofu, and also forgot about his ground ABC move (no damage but a consistent anti-air that knocks down). Most importantly, we weren’t aware that he has 3rd Strike-style unblockables, which certainly addresses the lack of mixups we thought he had. That leaves dealing with pressure as his only big problem, so he’s not far off from top 5.
JM: You mentioned how powerful double-jumping is, but it might be hard for people who haven’t played the game before to visualize exactly why that is. Do you have any concrete examples from tournaments or personal experience that highlights exactly why the mechanic is so strong in WHP?
JB: So first, let me explain how airblocking works in this game. Airblocking is pretty similar to Street Fighter Alpha; you can’t airblock ground normals, and you can’t block Dragon Punch-type moves when they’re considered on the ground, but almost anything else else is fair game (including DPs in their “airborne” frames). Since there are no airdashes or super jumps, double-jumping is unique in its ability to cover distance through the air and attack opponents at angles where they have no answer.
In the first round of this match from Tachikawa’s 4th WHP tournament, Hanzou comes back from a huge life deficit by dragon punching out of Brocken’s pressure, buying him the opportunity to land an empty jump into low, combo into repeated dash HPs via his unique ABC cancel, get a dizzy, and repeat. Also note that Brocken is one fo the few characters that can anti-air Hanzou’s double-jump pressure, as seen at 7:05.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, many characters in this game have anti-airs that are effective for the space in front of them but not the space directly above their head, and the height on a double jump makes it easy to reach that crucial space. Since Hanzou and Fuuma are the only characters who can double jump, they can win a number of matchups entirely on this unique advantage. This is one of the key reasons I rank Carn a tier above Ryofu, for instance – Ryofu can’t anti-air double jumps and even has a hard time pre-emptively shutting them down, while Carn has both an anti-air normal that hits directly above him *and* an invincible move with a Flash Kick motion. Without strong options your best idea is probably dashing underneath a double jump to re-establish space, but good opponents can read this and double-jump backwards or straight up.
JM: Who were some of the top players during the brief period when WHP enjoyed tournament play in the United States?
JB: Back when we were playing the game a lot, the best US tournament players I can recall were myself, Keits, and Steve H (yes, that Steve H… dude plays everything!). Steve played Hanzou since he always has a thing for “main characters,” and he could pressure and combo you with his ABC like I talked about. Keits and I played most of the cast, but Ryofu and Kidd were my go-to characters in tournament while he tended toward Carn, Mudman, Jack, and Dragon. I also won a tournament using Son Gokuu the whole way, but that was when we just started playing him and nobody knew his gimmicks yet.
JM: What’s your least favorite matchup?
JB: Definitely Ryofu vs. either of the ninjas (Hanzou or Fuuma)! He just has nothing when they’re double-jumping over all his normals and getting in for free. When people first pick up the game they often think Ryofu is godly, but this is the main reason he’s not!
JM: Are there any glitches or other weirdness in WHP?
JB: The game’s most annoying bug, by far, is the fact that you can actually block Son Gokuu’s throw! When he grabs you, just hold down forward and you’ll block his attack. You may be able to punish him on block too, though I forget if he gets another action in the air. This is obviously a killer for him, which is a shame since he’s probably the worst character even without this.
Though not a glitch, there is one obscure feature of this game that I still don’t entirely understand yet. It seems like when your lifebar is flashing (i.e. low health, the point when you can use supers), all of your moves suddenly do a lot more stun. I discovered this while messing with Brocken way back when – at low health, he can combo 2 dashing HPs into a crouching HP, and this will dizzy the opponent each time. It never comes close to doing this normally, but at flashing health it essentially becomes an infinite!
SF4 came out and I started school not too long after that, so I never went back to look into this with other characters. I do know that it’s not just number of hits in a combo that triggers this… perhaps a combo with 5 “heavy” hits? We need to figure this out!
JM: What’s the deal with those super slo-mo supers that take 20 seconds to play out?
JB: Ah yes, the legendary “j.max likes 2 take it slow” (thanks Dandy J)! This is pretty simple: once you win the round, the game remains in slow motion until you finish your attack and adds in extra hitstop for each hit. Finish them off early in J.Max, Muscle, or Rasputin’s super and you’ll get that effect. It also happens to a lesser extent with non-supers that deliver a high number of hits (e.g. Ryofu’s forward throw).
JM: What do you like most about WHP? The least?
JB: One of the things I like least about WHP, as mentioned before, is how stupidly precise the window is for autoguard moves. It might as well not even exist most of the time! Similarly, a lot of the supers are just worthless and there for flavor more than anything else.
There’s also some iffy character balance on the lower end and the bottom tier is really boring to play, but that’s true of a lot of games. I obviously wish the infinites didn’t exist, though the moves that lead to those infinites are fun and I wouldn’t want them completely nerfed. The dizzy thing at low health is kinda dumb, though it doesn’t seem to work in a lot of the situations I was scared it would. I also really wish you couldn’t air-block DPs in this game – besides the general silliness of it, it’s another thing that makes double-jumping so powerful. If you’re only going to give 2 characters a double jump, you really need better anti-air normals across the board.
I’ve already talked a lot about why I love this game, so I’ll just leave it at this: World Heroes Perfect, perhaps even more so than Vampire Savior, is the bridge between Super Turbo and Guilty Gear. It doesn’t have the crazy air games or mixups of VS, but it combines a ton of the staple Arcsys mechanics with a SF2-esque engine and manages to make it all work together more often than not. In that sense it embodies the spirit of many of my favorite games and other creative works: being willing to give every wacky idea a shot and see how they all come together. Though a lot of its concepts have since been refined and improved upon, there still isn’t another fighting game today that plays quite like World Heroes Perfect, and it holds up far better today than anyone could have expected in 1995!
JM: Thank you for your time.
JB: Thanks for having me!
Expert Bio: Adam “Keits” Heart is the former editor-in-chief of the Shoryuken front page, as well as the director of the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament series and a designer/producer at Iron Galaxy Studios. He’s been involved in ports of classic Capcom fighting games such as Marvel vs. Capcom Origins and Darkstalkers Resurrection, and is the lead designer of Divekick and Killer Instinct’s upcoming second season. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheKeits.
Jason Moses: When did you first discover World Heroes Perfect? Did you play it when it came out? Josh said he had never even seen the game in the wild and hadn’t really played it until you introduced him to it circa 2007.
Adam Heart: When I first started traveling to events again in 2007, Dark Geese was running tons of SNK side tournaments at every event. I used to like to enter every game available at an event just for fun/experience, and that’s how I discovered that WHP was too fun.
I didn’t understand why such a weird looking, dated game felt so fresh and modern, and I really wanted to know more about it. I was positive that as we dug into it, it would fall apart and become a lopsided, unbalanced mess. I was gleefully wrong.
JM: Are there any mechanics, characters or other quirks in WHP that you like in particular and want to talk about?
AH: It’s important to note that WHP has almost nothing in common with World Heroes, 2, or Jet, at least engine-wise. It has the same graphics, but they re-built the game seemingly from scratch to get closer to the popular Capcom fighting games of the day. Even using the Neo Geo’s 4 buttons, the game is still a 6 button fighter (LP+MP for HP, and LK+MK for HK).
I loved how fast the movement was for a traditional Street Fighter-style game, and I loved the character variety and how each character’s special trait moves really made them stand out. And, most of all, I found the offensive variety really pleasing. It’s a very high pressure game, and even though backdashes are staggeringly invincible, if you read that the opponent is going to do one you can keep your pressure going.
JM: Is there anything in WHP, design-wise, that you wish you saw more of in other games?
AH: Variety. It’s great to see so many different playstyles that actually work in the engine. A lot of recent games have insanely great variety, but some of them don’t have the right feel for me. For instance, I think BlazBlue is a really cool game that I just don’t enjoy playing for some reason. Meanwhile, Persona 4 Arena is super fun for me and has similar levels of variety in playstyles. If the character’s gameplay designs are outside the box, I’m interested.
JM: Is there any World Heroes Perfect in Divekick? Not direct references, per se, but did you ever think back to WHP when trying to make decisions during design or balancing?
AH: I’ll again have to go with variety. Sure, every game needs its few vanilla characters (a Ryu, a Ken, a Zangief, etc.). Beyond that, though, the aim in Divekick was to think outside the box and provide really diverse playstyles within the very restrictive parameters of the game. I’m proud of what we were able to show you in Divekick, but I’m even more proud of the variety on paper for the other 30 or so characters I’ve designed. I hope to get to make them someday. If you like variety, I think you’d be impressed.
JM: Oh, interesting. Did any of the ideas you had on paper for other characters make it into Addition Edition in one form or another? Like, say, Stream’s updated Kickfactor?
AH: Stream’s mini-missiles were supposed to be in the original game but got cut due to time constraints. I’m saving the rest of the ideas for the future, I’m still hopeful that I’ll get to do that stuff someday.
JM: Can you talk a little about the game’s competitive tournament history in the US? Were you involved in organizing any of that?
AH: Dark Geese was running a lot of the tournaments back then. I saw someone do something once with Rasputin at EVO 2007 that looked powerful to me, so I took it to the next level and won the tournament with it. After that, Josh and I really dug into the game, and though I could keep up with him almost all the time, I’m not sure I ever beat him in tournament again. I did run WHP at a few of my own smaller events before MWC2010 and UFGT7, and I introduced a ton of players to the game. Most of them enjoyed it a lot. I think the scene would have grown considerably had the fighting game dark ages of the mid-2000s not ended. We really wanted new games, and we got them. If we hadn’t, WHP felt like a new game to everyone that was fresh and fun, so we took to it pretty hard.
JM: What characters did you play?
AH: I specialized in a ton of characters. Josh and I kind of split the cast in half as we explored the game and ran long 100+ game sets as we learned. I specialized in Carn, Erick, J. Max, Dragon, Jack, Fuuma, Rasputin, Mudman, and shitty Shura.
JM: Were those your favorite characters, or just the ones you ended up playing as a result of splitting the cast in half? Who’s your favorite character and why?
AH: I actually enjoy all of the characters except Shura and Janne. My favorites to play were definitely Carn and Mudman because of their excellent offensive pressure. I was very fond of Fuuma toward the end as well thanks to his extremely interesting air-to-ground throw, which works kind of like a demon flip throw from Akuma, but you can do it from any regular jump. Scary stuff, but hard to input.
JM: Are there any characters whose design is particularly impressive to you? Ahead of its time, completely unique archetype?
AH: The designs were pretty normal by today’s standards, but they probably seemed a lot more crazy and outside the box when the game was released. Ryofu’s ability to stick to the ceiling was particularly cool. The personal abilities really made a lot of the characters stand out, even if their move set was not that unique. J.Max could catch and return projectiles, Dragon (an already easy character) had one button counters, and Hanzou had completely cost-free roman cancels.
JM: You’ve been running tournaments under the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament name since 2011, and you’ve announced this year’s going to be the last one. Are you planning to do anything special with WHP at the tournament to commemorate the occasion?
AH: Nope. We have a lot of ‘special’ planned, but nothing with WHP.
JM: You were heavily involved with Marvel vs. Capcom Origins and Darkstalkers Resurrection, both very well-received ports of classic Capcom fighting game properties with a lot of features that clearly came from long-time fans. If in some kind of dream scenario you were put in charge of doing a similar port of World Heroes Perfect (or the series as a whole) with unlimited time and resources, is there anything you’d want to include feature-wise that would be unique to WHP, or which you wanted to do with previous ports but couldn’t for whatever reason?
AH: Probably not. The PS2 port of WHP is pretty solid already, and even if it had online and great netcode, I think the game’s time has passed. One could argue its time never actually came. (tears)
Expert Bio: Tuskdon (たすくどん) is a long-time fighting game player and the person behind the internet’s only World Heroes Perfect-exclusive blog: “The Blog of a Guy Who Thinks World Heroes Perfect is the Best” (Japanese language). When I asked Japanese fighting game Twitter who to talk to about the game, his was the first name that bubbled up to the top.
Jason Moses: Can you talk about your history with fighting games a little bit? Are you a tournament player? Did you play any of the World Heroes games besides Perfect?
Tuskdon: The very first fighting game I really got into was Street Fighter II on the SNES. From there I got totally sucked in to fighters, and I have many fond memories of playing Virtua Fighter 2 and Fatal Fury Special at the arcade. Really, whenever any new fighting game came out, I did my best to get around to playing it.
As far as tournaments go, I started trying to enter competitively around when Samurai Showdown V came out. For Samurai Showdown VI I actually made it past the prelims at SBO and made it onstage, but lost in the 2nd round. Nowadays I don’t make it out to the arcades too often anymore, but I still enjoy playing Street Fighter IV and Vampire Resurrection online via 360/PS3.
Oh, and yeah, I make sure to play WHP if I ever spot it in an arcade. I played the other World Heroes games, too, but I don’t remember ever really getting that into them. The only one I really played was the World Heroes 2 Jet Game Boy game, which was pretty well made in its own special way compared to the other portable fighters available at the time (you could do 50% damage + dizzy off one combo though, so balance-wise it was a little crazy).
JM: Was WHP popular in Japan? In recent years YouTube’s made it easy to see recent tournaments, but can you comment at all about the game’s tournament lifespan beyond that?
T: Fighting games were in the middle of a boom period back when WHP was first released in arcades, so I think it was pretty popular. I don’t think there was enough excitement about the game to get people psyched up and wanting to run tournaments for it at the time, though.
It also got home ports to the Sega Saturn and PS2, and while the latter had online versus, the lag was so terrible I ended up just using it for training mode. I still remember going online the day it came out and only seeing 5 people show up on the online matchmaking search.
There’ve been a number of tournaments in recent years, though, enough to make you think the game’s going through a small resurgence of sorts. Besides Mikado, Game Oslo in Tachikawa’s run a number of tournaments that have been really high level and worth watching, and there’s an arcade in the Kansai area called Ko-Hatsu that ran a tournament once, too.
JM: What made you decide to start blogging about the game?
T: The blog as it exists right now was created right around when World Heroes Anthology for the PS2 came out, and when I heard Ko-Hatsu was going to be running a tournament I ended up deleting and rewriting almost everything from the ground up. I’d been working on a WHP strategy site called “whp-blood” up until about 10 years ago, but I was using my ISP’s webspace for hosting and accidentally lost the whole thing when I changed providers. So from there, I started my current blog as a place to keep my personal thoughts and opinions on the game, and then yeah, I rewrote everything before the Ko-Hatsu tournament. I’m not updating it right now, but if the opportunity presents itself I’d definitely like to start up again. (laughs)
JM: What characters do you use, and why?
T: I use everyone, but my favorite’s Brocken. Like, I might even go so far as to say he’s the most fun character in any game I’ve played! His footsies and anti-air game is a lot like Dhalsim’s, but he also has huge comeback potential from his unblockable German Explosion super, he has unseeable high-low/side-to-side wakeup mixups off of his air German Bomb that he can loop over and over, and really, he’s just too fun not to play. Even just playing against the computer with him is fun!
Haramori uses Brocken’s huge number of tools and movement options to mix up and overwhelm Kurosu’s Ryoko in a match from Mikado’s first WHP tournament.
I also like Janne a lot. She’s not a very strong character, but there’s something kind of oddly unfinished about her that I really like. There are lots of things you can do with her, but none of them are that strong. Still, if you put lab time in with her you can definitely make her work.
And of course, we can’t talk about characters in this game without mentioning NEO-DIO, can we? The sheer mayhem this character causes is addictive. I might even go so far as to say his being in the game is what makes World Heroes Perfect what it is.
JM: What’s your favorite thing about WHP?
T: My favorite thing is how deep the game is while still being accessible. If you have a certain degree of experience with other fighting games, you can have good matches right off the bat, and the big characters like J. Max, Carn, and Ryofu in particular are really easy to use and win with. But then are characters like Brocken who have a lot of options and depth to explore, too. It’s still a fairly unexplored game, so I’d really love to see everyone try it out and come up with new strategies and combos.
JM: Anything you’re not a fan of?
T: Something I don’t like…after picking characters, there’s this weird hidden mode that makes both of them tiny, like they’ve been hit by Rasputin’s Love Torture super. Normally there’s a specific, complicated command you have to enter to activate it (Down, Down, A, B, Down, Down, C, D, A, B, C) but it’s lenient enough that if you wiggle the joystick and mash buttons there’s a chance you might get it by accident. Whenever it happens at the arcade it’s just the most depressing thing.
Also, this isn’t a problem with the game itself, but it’s a real shame that they never added WHP to the Neo Geo Station service on PlayStation 3. I really wanted to be able to play the game on modern hardware!
JM: What do you think of the game’s overall balance? Anything you’re unsatisfied with?
T: I don’t think the balance is very good at all. (laughs) But in my opinion that’s exactly what makes the game so great. I really love the game on such a basic level. It really is my favorite.
If I had to complain about anything, it’d probably just be weird stuff like how you can block Son Gokuu’s throw.
JM: Finally, anything you’d like to say to foreign players who haven’t played WHP before?
T: Even though there’s not really any easy way to play the game on modern hardware with something like World Heroes Anthology on PS2 (did that get released outside of Japan?), definitely give the game a shot if you have a chance! I mentioned this earlier, but if you have prior experience with FGs, it’s an incredibly easy game to get into and start having fun with.
From casual matches for fun to deep strategizing and trying to shrink every character in the game with Rasputin’s Love Torture super, there’s just so many ways to enjoy WHP. And, of course, if more people started playing and ended up discovering new combos and tech for characters, that would make me unbelievably happy. (laughs)[hr]
Be sure to let us know what you think of the World Heroes series in the comments below.