Single Status Update
Time for an AVGN-like review from THIS angry gamer!!! ARGGGGH!!!
So, during my MS-DOS games I had stumbled upon the PC conversion of what was considered the "best Amiga beat-em up" game of all times, Body Blows.
It was NOT the best fighting game on the PC by any means, but at least
it was decent: it was fast paced, had smooth scrolling, colorful graphics, and whereas the Amiga had a typical all-digitized soundtrack and sound effects, the PC version had been blessed with an original AdLib soundtrack, which IMHO is one of the best of its kind. The man behind that PC conversion, Gary Simmons, also created an innovative audio system that managed to create full, rich sound from the humble OPL2 FM chip, including full speech synthesis and sound effects without the use of digitized samples. Granted, some voices sounded robotic or too artificial, but it just added to the uniqueness.
The controls were unlike those of any fighter game to date: single button attacks, and every attack or special move was in the form of "hold fire + a direction" so that gave you a total of 8 possible moves while on the ground (there were some very hard ones you could pull when airborne). My guess was that they chose this unusual control scheme to accomodate for the large -then- Amiga userbase, which mostly used single-button joysticks. It was workable, but felt somewhat stiff.
A real bummer was that "super specials" such as fireballs were CHARGE moves, so you had to keep down the fire button for a full 3 seconds, while the CPU was a cheating bastard and could pull such moves instantly. Still, the game was very easy if you didn't have mercy mode on (to avoid cheap rehits on a fallen opponent) up to the last boss, who never fell down and had zero pain reactions. Still, it could be challenging if you chose "weak" characters and avoided cheap rehits.
Anyway, by reading Amiga Report back in the day I was informed of a sequel named "Body Blows Galactic" on the Amiga, of which there was never a PC conversion, and which was pretty much the same game engine but with different characters.
However, soon after Team 17 released a blob called "Ultimate Body Blows", which was a sort of mishmash between Body Blows and Body Blows Galactic, and which was also ported to the PC.
It seemed interesting...after all you got like 24 or so characters to choose from, and hey, it probably used the same kick-ass game engine and sound system from the original, right? However I never really played it until now, when I decided to give it a try in DOSBOX...
And boy, what a miserable piece that was.
For one, Gary Simmons (the guy that ported the original game) wasn't involved in the production of this one. That's a bad sign right there. Gone was his kick-ass sound system, his configuration system, his smooth game engine, and even his custom in-game data compression (the original Body Blows was barely 1.6 MB on disk, Ultimate Body Blows skyrocketed to 5.76 MB, so it SHOULD be better, at more than thrice the size, right?
Well...instead of an FM sound system, they used a modtracker-like system, but let me assure you, this ain't no Epic Megagames or One Must Fall. You only got a cryptic choice of "SBLASTER" and "ULTRASND" when running the exe (no autodetection, and the game doesn't even save configuration), and a shitty slideshow where you see the characters' bio sheets, which however has been reduced in resolution and blurred so much that they're unreadable. WTF.
On to the game, you get some scratchy, mono, 8-bit mixed "music" that has nothing to do with the Amiga, and the whole game sports a "whooping" 6 tracks, including the "intro". How the FUCK could they fuck this up so badly? It really blows my mind....I can't compare it readily to the Amiga/CD32 version but it just might be that the PC Body Blows had a better soundtrack anyway, so I'm bit biased here. But still....
Then, the controls: there are no reconfigurable keys as in the original, and no visible options for joysticks, so I suppose they work by autodetection, which I'm sure will suck ass because of buggy autocalibration. A fighting game that doesn't let you reconfigure the
base controls (or even hint at which they are). Great.
In any case, the controls are hardcoded to an awkwards ESDC skewed "diamond" pattern (yes, I'm not making this up) and the sole attack button is "J".
You can't realize how bad this is until you try playing it: there's no way you can comfortably place your hand in that configuration unless you have dog246's freaky fingers, and your're forced to pinch the lone fire button unless you have really tiny hands. Secondly, because there are no keys mapped to diagonal attacks like in the original Body Blows, you can't perform a quarter of your available moves, and jumping diagonally is a chore. I don't know what would happen with a joystick or D-pad plugged in (perhaps that's the only way it's meant to be played) but with just the keyboard it's simply unplayable, unlike its predecessor, which was the exact same fucking game engine.
I must say, very few sequels have disappointed me as much as Ultimate Body Blows :-(