Burning Fight
Release year - USA:1991
Company: SNK
System: Neo Geo
Genre: Beat 'em up
Players: 1-2

Review by: PrimeOp

Within that window of time between the success of Final Fight in very late 1989 and the 1991 emergence of Street Fighter II, street beat 'em ups seemed to be everywhere. The Neo Geo arcade and home system made its debut in that era and needed such a game, and so Burning Fight was born.

Burning Fight's controls are mostly typical for beat-em-ups of the time period with an attack button and a jump button, but also has a Middle (stronger) attack button. Rapidly tap Attack for combos, press Attack after pressing Jump for a mid-air attack and press Attack and Jump simultaneously for a life-draining super-attack. While it sounds like standard street brawling technology, the way the some moves are carried out hurt the gameplay. For example, Duke's life-drain super attack is a corkscrew uppercut (or Dragon Punch) with a range that's too short to work proper crowd-control. Another thing working against you is what may be the shortest jumpkick animation in beat 'em up history. The attack frame of the move is on for such a brief time that you must perfectly time all jumpkicks you'll be vulnerable in mid-air. Your enemies don't suffer from this and can hold their air attack poses until they hit the ground.
The background may look cool here, the gameplay isn't. While the enemies can walk anywhere, you're stuck on the lift. Some of the enemies will use this to their advantage.

Ryu Saeba's hijacking of Guy's gimmick even includes copping his jumpkick pose.
The sprite work is good for this era, but most of the designs are either boring or are too similar those in other games. Duke is the classic shirt & jeans-wearing hero with evened-out stats though the black tank top is a nice change. Ryu Saeba mimics Final Fight's Guy right down to some of his animations. Even Casterora plays the role of a tuxedo-wearing crime lord for the final boss, though his main crime is running one of the blandest side-scroller gangs ever. The variety is sorely lacking and is one of the things that make the game seem to drag on forever. The few standouts include some Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior hybrids, a few Japanese swordsmen, Kunoichi and Marshall: the shirtless master of martial arts and turning red before hitting people. One unexpected highlight is the slick background art with more objects to break than most games. There are even a few doors scattered through the game that lead to small rooms where you can break up obstacles to get power-ups. There are also examples of enemies lurking farther in the background and making their way onto the playfield with a little bit of N-G zooming magic.

The main problem that I have with this game is the cheapness of many enemy patterns. Opponents like the big-bellied guys and the wrestlers can set themselves up in a loop so that each attack hits you the moment that you get up until you die. There's no time to counter or dodge their move and break this chain. In other words, you can be knocked down once and never have a chance to recover. Yet another odd feature is how the heroes will eventually drop their weapons after a while for no reason than to make the game more difficult. These and many other flaws make this just another quarter (or continue) muncher. You'll see a few great moments like the section where you fight on one scrolling escalator while bombers on the background's escalator toss bombs at you. Unfortunately, there are too many negative control issues to enjoy the good parts of this game. SNK has done MUCH better than this before and after Burning Fight.
What's worse than fighting one large, cheap enemy? Fighting four large, sweaty, overalls-clad drones going cheaphouse on you.

This game has some cool ideas here and there, but faults in the basic gameplay stifle most of the joy that could've been found here. Using characters that look so much like the competition accidentally highlights how much this title pales in comparison. Worth a look if you want to see where “that t-shirt guy striker from King of Fighters” came from.

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