While SNK and Capcom are battling at the top of the arcades, some secondary roles share the rest of the cake. Data East is back after its controversial Fighter's History with a sequel, Fighter's History Dynamite - aka Karnov's Revenge. Taito for its part, is entering for the first time in the world of VS fighting with Kaiser Knuckle: a newcomer, who will make some noise in the dark rooms. Data East offers a 122 megs lush to this Fighter History's sequel, against no less than 249 Mb for Taito's game. It's great, especially since the F3 hardware is a tough cookie: next-generation MC68EC020 processor (MC-68000 evolution) clocked at 16 MHz, while the 68000 is in charge of sound, clocked at 16 Mhz too, assisted with strong Ensoniq sound chips. The resolution here is 320x224 with 32,768 displayable colors and animation capabilities are phenomenal. The MVS, two years older, is beaten on many technical points. Speaking about sound, both hardwares are top-notch, showing equal capabilities. So for this match, Taito F3 hardware is granted a slight technical advantage, thanks to its more powerful processors and the rom of the game, twice bigger.
With its impressive specs and powerful cartridge, we expected to see the Kaiser sweep Data East's soft bluntly... and it is not so! The number of backgrounds is in favor of Karnov's: thirteen against twelve. Those of Kaiser Knuckle are larger (on average four screens wide, anyway!) and beautifully drawn, although the level of detail is not very convincing. Karnov's Revenge offers thinner drawings and a better chosen palette of colors: both games feature evolutive and destructible stages, but KR takes advantage thanks to the fighters sprites, better made than in Taito's KK, showing not much style.
KARNOV'S REVENGE .............. 78%
KAISER KNUCKLE ................... 75%
First remark, the two rivals offer a line-by-line animated ground similar to SFII, giving providing a successful 3D effect. Indeed, a bit more in Taito's, with vertical elements also animated in '3d '. The animation is good in both games, without reaching the level of a Kof 94 or SSF2x; anyway, characters' moves are fluid and fast. Karnov's Revenge is significantly more punchy and decomposed, while Kaiser Knuckle offers lively and scalable backgrounds, almost entirely destructible! Indeed, at the beginning of each battle, walls or other things demarcate the fighting area: breaking it extends the area for the rest of the fight! Fun detail, the soil can be demolished too with force throws and falls. Flame effects, backgrounds changing... Taito spoiled us! Despite this remarkable attention to detail, Data East takes the lead with a stronger base, a more speedy rythm and a better decomposition.
KARNOV'S REVENGE .............. 80%
KAISER KNUCKLE ................... 74%
The themes of both games are not especially significant. Karnov's Revenge proudly wears the emblem of kitsch, with its music worthy of Z movies: the tone is set! From crappy accordions at Jean's (France!) to dissonant chords of Matlok the punk, one is spoiled... Kaiser is more discreet, featuring mat music mostly devoid of personality. You got it, nothing to wake up at night. Kaiser Knuckle's sound effects are sounding like its music, though bland! We feel like hearing impacts of a Beat 'em Up game, and not the best ones, believe me! Karnov's FX are a bit like Street Fighter II's, with impact and sounds of fall very heavy and powerful. Voices and other noises have more personality, and thanks to this Data East's game wins this round.
KARNOV'S REVENGE .............. 71%
KAISER KNUCKLE .................. 67%
Karnov's Revenge and Kaiser Knuckle are quite close for the number of characters: fourteen in the first one, with thirteen selectable basically. There's twelve in the second, but only nine are selectable. Data East's game features four more playable characters, not bad! Moreover, it's richer and its difficulty is better adjusted: Taito's game is almost impossible to finish, the CPU being a real bitch! The three Bosses are overpowered and have priority over almost every of your character's moves... Even with two players, the game is dominated by Karnov's in terms of life. KK is more fun that's true, players have a good time destroying the stages, discovering the special moves and furies over addictive and full of surprises 2-P matches... but once the short-pleasure of discovering past, the software seems a bit flat and the roster quite uninteresting, while KR, while not being much more balanced, appears richer, broader, and its difficulty more human.
KARNOV'S REVENGE .............. 84%
KAISER KNUCKLE .................. 69%
Taito is a first-timer here, and it feels. The editor borrows the six-button system of SFII, but allocates five power levels for punches and kicks! For example, combining LK + MK performs a "Super Kick", and MK + HK an "Extreme Kick"... Not very ergonomic and above all, not useful at all! Together, our two rivals feature backdash, and Karnov's Revenge, while adopting a classic four buttons system, stands as more intuitive. Without matching the big names of VS fighting, Data East has now mastered the subject, with its past experience with Fighter's History. This result is pretty technical, requiring precise timing and practice to master combos and special moves. Some characters are more complex to play (Karnov, if you hear me...) and therefore are to be reserved for seasoned players, while others are easy to master. Karnov's Revenge is more comprehensive, deeper, with its broad roster and game mechanics running smoothly. The icing on the cake, dizziness are managed according to a dress worn by the fighter: destroying it causes the famous 'stun'. All this weighs heavily in the balance, but Taito's soft is not catastrophic: you can destroy the stages, the characters are fun to play and pack many good combos, assisted by a host of special moves and Desperation Moves. As in Fatal Fury, the DM can be triggered when health is low, and as Samurai Spirits in the 'Crush' gauge increases the power of special moves. Dowsnsides: the life bar too short, a moderately accurate hitbox and the rude gameplay. With its experience, a thirteen characters' roster and a technical, dynamic gameplay, the Data East's game wins this round.
KARNOV'S REVENGE .............. 75%
KAISER KNUCKLE .................. 68%
For a first try, Taito has not fared so bad. Yes, the realization is disappointing given the size of the game, the system a little stammering (ten levels of blows, no less), the average roster and gameplay uncouth... But some excellent ideas are featured, as we 've seen. Karnov's Revenge takes the lead on crucial points: the gameplay inspired from SFII is completed with new ideas and an 'exotic' roster; more complete, more technical, Data East's fighter pays the luxury of dominating Kaiser Knuckle on the realization too... Karnov WIIIIIIINNNS!