Ever since Splatoon was revealed, something felt familiar about it. Not about the game itself, which looks incredibly unique, but the feel of the game in Nintendo’s lineup. Then, while playing Collectible Badge Center on my Japanese 3DS I spotted a familiar cartridge in the crane game: Joy Mech Fight.
A 2D fighting game released in 1993 for the Famicom, Joy Mech Fight was Nintendo’s unconventional take on a popular genre, created by a young team (sound familiar?). The one-on-one battles in Joy Mech Fight are fought between limbless robots, each with their own fighting style. My personal favorite fighter is Sasuke, a purple bot with Vega-esque claws and speed.
The play modes in Joy Mech Fight are what you’d expect from the genre in 1993. You have your standard single player vs. computer and one-on-one multiplayer. One perk of the 3DS Virtual Console version is that the game allows for Download Play, so a second player with a 3DS can join your game and battle it out. Unfortunately, Download Play appears to be region-locked, as I was unable to connect to the game on my Japanese 3DS with my NA one.
The most involved mode is the quest. We’re given a Mega Man-esque story about two robot-creating scientists- former friends who are now at odds with each other. It’s a timeless backdrop for giving robots an excuse to fight other robots, and serves its purpose here. Through multiple playthroughs of the quest mode, you can unlock twenty-eight (!) additional playable characters. The method for doing so is pretty involved, but this Hardcore Gaming 101 article has a pretty detailed walkthough (and a lot of other great information on the game).
One nice addition is the Manual mode, which is selectable anytime you choose a fighter. Here, you can pick moves and get the button combinations for executing them, all demonstrated on a Famicom controller.
Although Joy Mech Fight only uses two buttons (obviously), there is a lot you can do, thanks to the Street Fighter-esque d-pad inputs for special moves. The game even has air throws!
Joy Mech Fight is a great example of Nintendo giving a young team freedom to create a new IP and a game in a genre that Nintendo is not typically known for. We’re seeing a similar situation right now with Splatoon, and I hope we continue to see it in the future.