5 minutes before starting Pit-Fighter, I thought to myself “you know, self, you really haven’t been playing a lot of bad games lately.” I had a point. It’s easy to gush over the merits of a well-designed low-budget passion project or a landmark AAA title, but for the sake of variety, I do think it’s important to metaphorically stick your finger in the fan once and a while. In the interest of science, I decided to embark on a journey with the Super NES version, which I recall was particularly terrible.
30 seconds after starting Pit-Fighter … and I’m dead.
It’s funny to look back now at an era when “arcade perfect” was this dangling carrot for the industry as a whole, where the technical limitations of hardware forced us to play often vastly compromised versions of the most popular games of the time. Pit-Fighter is unique in that it’s an inferior version of what was already an atrocious game.
I decided to enter the virtual fight club with Kato, whose style is only described as “Black Belt”, hearkening back to the time when martial arts were this mystical thing that had us convinced that fights in the real world could be decided with spin kicks. The problem with Kato, aside from his cringe-worthy name, is the fact that he’s the only playable character that starts every fight with a respectful bow for some reason, during which the enemy will swiftly walk over and create a nice boot imprint on the side of his face. Even without this issue, the game is much much harder than I remember, probably because the Genesis version that I played in my youth had weapons and was much easier to exploit. Here, it’s just a relentless beating taking place over a soundscape that can best be described as two men trying to move a couch up a flight of stairs whilst a third party attempts to play the Seinfeld theme on a bass guitar underwater.
Though I certainly prefer to champion the merits of older games and try not to look back reductively on something that was never intended to be judged to the standards of quality set 20 years later, Pit-Fighter was never good in the first place. The best thing I could ever say about it as a game is that the combat mostly resembles the Bart and Lisa windmilling limbs fight from a 1994 Simpsons episode. I had no desire to continue this journey past that initial few attempts, no need to hone my skills and become a master of the deep mechanics. I would imagine that leads one down a dark path, anyway. Being the best Pit-Fighter player in the world would likely feel similar to being the world’s tallest hobbit.
Pit-Fighter is a silly place. Let’s never go there again.