Posted on April 1, 2017
Super Nintendo Time Capsule: Weaponlord
This post is the first of a series that takes a look at games that didn’t get the attention they deserved.
Do you recall the last fighting game you played? More than likely it was one of two major franchises, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Both of these franchises have lasted throughout each generation of consoles and their trials and tribulations. Other games haven’t been so lucky. One such game was Weaponlord, which was originally released for the SNES in 1995, but later released for the Sega Genesis. Though Weaponlord received generally positive reviews and created mechanics that are still used in fighting games today, it was quickly forgotten. For this reason I will dust off this gem and see just why it got shelved.
At its core, the game was a 2D fighting game, but compared to the titles being released then, Weaponlord was far ahead of its time. While most clones of fighting games lacked the intricacies of character controls that the originals had, Weaponlord was the exact opposite. The combat featured complexities that had yet to be seen before, such as “thrust blocking,” which almost certainly inspired Street Fighter III’s parry system. The many changes to combat made exploiting unfair tactics in fights much more difficult, so no more pinning someone in a corner where they would be unable to attack. The changes also forced people to be able to react to potential blocks and counter attacks, rather than just attempting to chain long combos. The combat has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it the game transforms to an engaging duel between two skilled combatants. The developers took a major risk by incorporating so many new mechanics and concepts, and valuing innovation over an established formula, but in the end it worked out well.
For the most part, the game was aesthetically pleasing. Its theme seemed pulled directly from the world of Conan The Barbarian. The direction taken with the art style gave the game a unique world that distinctly belonged to Weaponlord, rather than pulling from the success of other games and copying their formula for world and character design, which yet again highlights the developers need for innovation. On the other hand, the sound design wasn’t memorable, and the narrator couldn’t hold a candle to Mortal Kombat’s sinister voice over.
The main area that Weaponlord struggled in was its dreadful performance. Even for the SNES the animations were choppy. They were bad enough that they drove away many potential players, and make the game less visually captivating as it otherwise could have been. It is my belief that poor animation quality is where the game fails to appeal to the masses. The idea of a sequel, or a remake, have been thrown around, and I can honestly say that as a fan of fighting games, the idea alone makes me excited. If the game were to be remade using entirely modern technology, it could easily be one of my favorite games of all time. Though a little over two decades has passed since the release of the game, it still hosts an incredibly complex fighting system that is unique to this day.
Though this game was undoubtedly innovative and groundbreaking, it struggles in one of the key departments that games need to succeed. This isn’t to say that the game is bad, because it certainly is not. In fact, I would recommend that anyone who has an SNES or Genesis play the game immediately. It offers a unique experience that has yet to be replicated in the 20-some years the game has been on the market. Like many of the games in my Super Nintendo Time Capsule series, Weaponlord is a phenomenal game with a single fatal flaw that acted as the nail in the coffin.
Did you play Weaponlord? What character was your favorite? Comment below.