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The story of Fightin ‘Spirit, the Italian game that challenged SNK

The journalist specialized in video games Damiano Gerli has on his personal page several interesting reports on specific elements of the history of video games and one of his specialties is finding interesting stories about the industry in his native country, Italy, both at the level of marketing and development. He has recently published a complete dossier on a fleeting study called Light Shock Software, which despite only having existed for three years from 93 to 96, managed to leave a notorious footprint in the vast catalog of the Commodore Amiga thanks to her fighting game Fightin ‘Spirit.

Making fighting games on the 16-bit machine was not an easy task. Both external and internal memory have always been a limiting factor in bringing the arcade experience into the home, and the impressive audiovisual capabilities of the computer weren’t enough to make up for it. Fighting games also required constant disc changes by rapidly changing backgrounds and characters. (five discs occupied the game that occupies us, for instance). In the worst case, aberrations appeared like the first Street Fighter II conversion, very impressive on static screens but turning into a nightmare when we saw it in motion; in better cases we saw games like Super Street Fighter II, more competent but inferior to what was coming out on consoles at the same time. This general difficulty and the perception that it was not a genre in high demand on computers meant that there were not as many exponents on the Amiga as on contemporary consoles, but Fightin ‘Spirit was a notable exception.

Light Shock Software was formed by chance, a group of friends with a shared passion who stayed at home on weekends to program and demonstrate what pasta they were made of to the point of deciding to become a company and pick up the phone to see who I wanted their services. Of the four founders only one had professional experience and two of them could not even officially take part as they were not of the minimum age to work. After settling down with some testing, coordination and liaison work with houses, they contacted several Italian teams, one being a group from Palermo called Dynamic Style, which were two other boys of just 18 years old who were working on a game for Amiga clearly influenced by SNK, particularly Final Fight. The graphic work they had done was impressive, but there wasn’t much game behind it, so both teams joined forces to shape it, in passing changing the original name of Perpetual Craze to the more “salable” Fightin ‘Spirit.

When we tear it off it floods us in its presentation with power and nineties spirit thanks to his rock song (with matching lyrics) in which a tiger and a dragon come face to face. Up to ten wrestlers endowed with the spirit of an animal face off in a tournament hosted by international criminal Jenshi, each driven by their own motivations (presented in personalized intros for each). Once the action begins, we are faced with a game with large sprites, beautifully recreated backgrounds with some background animations, some colorful special attacks in which the inner power of each character is manifested and some catchy melodies that complement the action, you accompany of sound effects that they had recorded themselves in the basement of a house.

The range of movements and the quality of the animations are not at the level of the major leagues, of course, and at the level of combat mechanics, more solid alternatives could be sought within the system such as the Italian Shadow Fighters. But the set is awesome, a technical and artistic ceiling within the genre on the 16-bit computer, arguably the closest the legendary Commodore machine has ever come to a Neo Geo, which is saying a lot. And that was done by a group of teenagers without much experience in the industry and no financial support from their production company, the Austrian Neo. It is even more impressive to see how there was a version in the original computer chipset with 1 MB of memory, at a lower framerate and with less detail than the superior versions for AGA or CD 32 of course, but it was still something spectacular.

Unfortunately, as the report explains, in 1996 the market for Amiga was mortally wounded and numerous companies had tried to make the leap to consoles or were dying trying. The production company requested a version for the pop-up compatible with MS-DOS, but for the study the version in Commodore was inalienable And it’s what they focused on before considering anything else. Despite good reviews and some awards, their sales were non-existent, to which must be added certain suspicions that the label they had signed with was already going through serious problems that added difficulties in reaching active communities and the user base. I still had the system.

Be that as it may, the Italian study did not achieve a lyre of such impressive technical feat, only to recover part of the investment they had made in buying equipment to develop the CD version. The contract with Neo did not include any advance or charge for the work carried out, everything was entrusted to the sales of the game, so they did not get any financial compensation, nor for the other game signed with that seal, a motorcycle title called Black Viper performed by another team. Light Shock still helped launch a third game in collaboration with another team from his country, Pray for Death, which was trying to follow in the wake of Killer Instinct but for PC, although that’s another story. After an unsuccessful attempt to jump to Playstation, the team dissolved amid discussions due to the lack of income and the poor conditions of the signed contracts. But what remains is the legacy and passion of some teenagers who, based on naivety, passion and not knowing what they couldn’t do, built a game like Fightin ‘Spirit, raising the bar for what their favorite machine could do and leaving a memory that has lived on among the communities that keep the world alive. immortal legacy of the Friend.

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