Yet two large holes remain unfilled in the 3DO's growing repertoire of software: a platform action game (such as Sega's Sonic series) and a strategic fighting game (such as Street Fighter II (Capcom) or Mortal Kombat (Akklaim)). Fortunately for fighting game fans, Way of the Warriors (Naughty Dog Software) is nearing completion and I have recently had the pleasure of previewing this amazing product.
It has been the philosophy of Naughty Dog Software to use the 3DO's power to drive the most complete and consuming fighting game ever produced: an ambitious goal given the sheer quantity and variety of fighting games such as Mortal Kombat II and Virtua Fighters crrently in the arcades. One of the major design goals of Way of the Warrior, therefore was to ensure that Way was near or at the top of each of the categories of attributes important to the fighting game. The resulting product, even simply from a statistical point of view, is quite impressive:
The fighting engine, even if incomplete, already stands out in several respects. Whereas the characters in Mortal Kombat are all roughly the same size (with Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Reptile actually the SAME character dressed in diferent colors), the characters in Way of the Warrior are truly varied not only in techniques but also in size. The fighting engine takes into account the exact size and shape of the characters; thus a jumping kick to a very large character may actually fly over a shorter character, introducing deep layers of strategic and the necessity of knowing each opponent's strengths and weaknesses. The artificial intelligence behind the computer opponent (should you find yourself without a human victim to play with) is quite good even now; Andy Gavin (head programmer) told me "It beats me ALL the time." The controls resemble those of Mortal Kombat in that the five buttons are used for weak/strong kick, weak/strong punch, and block. The advantage of having a block button is that it allows the player to move backwards when his opponent is attacking; in Street Fighter II-style games in which block is away on the directional pad this is not possible.
The story behind the Warriors as well as the FMV introduction are equally impressive. Way of the Warrior is set in the mountain fortress of the obscure Kthundra monks. This bizarre group, decedents of the great mythical dragons of lore, are the keepers of the mystic Book of Warriors, which instructs the monks to hold a championship once every century in which they bring the world's greatest warriors to their citadel to fight for inclusion in the book. The background scenes are connected based on this setting and take place in and around a citadel, courtyard, and connecting bridge.
Way of the Warrior brings together the best features from a long tradition of fighting games, adds many unique new capabilities, and then takes many of these aspects to an entirely new level of realism and gameplay. It a truly interactive fighting game experience that makes the player really feel like he has entered the world of the warriors. Way of the Warrior, in short, is the most outstanding fighting game this reviewer has ever seen or played (I've played 'em all), and as long as fighting engine of the game proves to be as excellent as the rest of the package, it will stand alone.
Prepare to find the Way this summer...
David R. Liu