As much as I love the Nintendo 64, it is not known for having a great selection of fighting games, even if several on that list are worth looking at. An exclusive for the system would pop up though and manage to do some things that no other entry in the genre was trying at the time. Developed by Genki—a team I don’t expect anyone to know off the top of their head, for good reason—their project should have been a memorable success, but Fighters Destiny lives on only in small circles of passionate fans, which is why we are talking about it here.
So this game starts off with an odd opening video that flashes words excitedly and focuses more on the giant block the fighters use as a ring than the competitors. The character select screen is set up in a normal fashion, though when each fighter is selected, they all follow the same weird pose form as their profile comes up. Once this is selected, an informative image of all the different possible ways one might obtain points is shown, and this is where things get interesting.
This unique scoring system is the main way of achieving victory. Although fighters have a health bar, depleting it only puts the opponent in a temporary stunned state, but throwing them, performing a successful special attack, or knocking them out of the ring are just a few of the many ways to score a varying number of points. Think of it more like an Olympic wrestling match rather than a WWE slobber knocker. The first to seven points/stars wins the match.
A replay after each match will show players how awesome they are, but anyone wanting to look cool in this game will be forced to earn it. This is a difficult one, at first at least, and nothing is given for free. It took me an entire evening of play to even feel comfortable enough with the combat to where I could beat most of the first few fighters on a regular basis, but as the matches go on, the computer gets more challenging and extremely technical. This will require strategy, and may be one of the few titles in the genre that cannot be button-mashed to win.
There is no fireball spam here, and even cheap tricks can be hard to pull off. The controls aren’t necessarily difficult to learn at first, as there are only two attack buttons, but so many combinations with the direction pad to do effective moves. Although the controls are tight for the most part, some things don’t feel as responsive, and the grab mechanic is a bit awkward to counter correctly.
The game has several different options and modes to help with replay value. Not only can the number of points to win be changed, but how many points each successful maneuver is worth, and even the size of the ring to make things interesting. There is the main mode, Multiplayer that can be fun, Record Attack for a challenge and a chance to unlock more characters, and Master Challenge. That last one is tough but allows players to learn new commands/maneuvers that can be saved to the controller pak and used in other modes after that.
It’s sad really, other than it being difficult and probably scaring off a lot of newcomers, Fighters Destiny is one of the good ones that did something different. I think the game needed more though to make it truly memorable. These are some unoriginal generic characters with maybe one memorable one in the roster for that Joker outfit. They aren’t obvious stereotypes, like so many other games, I just couldn’t find anything interesting. Perhaps it’s because there is no story to work with, not even after beating the game, and no way to build any real personality or conflict.
There are nine regular characters and five that can be unlocked. The plus here is that most of them feel different enough with the various fighting styles, but they certainly are not balanced. The presentation overall is just bland with a lack of good stages and no flare, even for the time. The music is serviceable, but the only bit that sticks out is the jingle when a match is won.
Fighters Destiny was originally called Struggle Hard while it was in development and was shown off as early as forty percent into the project, but like many games the screenshots from magazines made it look better. It was called Fighters Cup in Japan, and the only difference about the European version was a really bad cover. The game did not sell well upon its initial launch, probably because of a delay pushing it back from the holiday release schedule, and coming out instead in January of 1998. It didn’t do better until the publisher cut the price by twenty dollars to help push it, enticing the curious who wanted more fighting games on the system. The first installment apparently did well enough to bring about a sequel called Fighter Destiny 2 just two years later. I’m guessing they dropped the ‘s’ due to the grammar headache it gave me.
That installment changed out several of the fighters but did not do too much else in the line of change or improvements. None of this means that both games are not worth playing. Anyone up for a bit of a challenge and something different for a fighting game should pick them up, especially since the original cart is still well under ten bucks. Just, know some practice will be required.