Martial Masters was the game played at Free Play last week, but work has been a nightmare on my brain. I wanted to get this out sooner, but I’ve honestly had no time. This is something I love to do, and I’m a little embarrassed that it takes me so long. I love Free Play, and it’s a shame I don’t have all the time in the world to tell everyone about it. Nonetheless, this past week was a doozy for sure. There was an upset victory, a first-time champion was crowned (although he did not deserve it), and much fun was had. Let’s dive straight into Martial Masters.
Martial Masters is an arcade fighting game developed by IGS and released in 1999. The setting and characters draw inspiration from Hong Kong martial arts films, specifically Once Upon a Time in China, Drunken Master, and Operation Scorpio. The game is highly reminiscent of Capcom’s fighting games of the mid to late 1990s for its impressive 2D visuals and fluid animation with mechanics very similar to those of Street Fighter III. Martial Masters is IGS’s third arcade 2D fighting game, with Alien Challenge being their first, The Killing Blade their second, and Spectral vs. Generation being their fourth (in collaboration with Idea Factory).
Compared to last week’s Street Fighter II, Martial Masters was slow. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing or a bad game, especially because while you play you don’t really feel the change in tempo. As a viewer, however, you notice just how little damage combos do in the game. Most attacks whittle your opponent’s health, bringing matches to a crawl. It makes the game much more strategic, as you only have 60 seconds for each match. In a tournament setting, it makes matches take quite a while. This is especially true in double knockout tournaments like the one at Free Play. This may have been the longest tournament I’ve been to yet, with the final match being played well past the venues closing time. Do I regret playing? Not at all, it’s a very fun game. Just not one too fun for the audience.
For once, my fight wasn’t the first in the lineup. While I waited for my turn, I noticed I have teamed up with Matt again. If you remember, I was partnered with him during the Fist Of The North Star tourney. My chances of winning were very high with this talented dude. I just had to pull out all the stops to make myself not dead weight. Once my fight was up, I took my walk towards the Martial Masters’ cabinet. Once again Free Play did a very good job setting up their equipment, with the machine looking and feeling great. I did have one issue though.
Martial Masters is only played with four buttons, with the button layout being very odd. In most fighting games, the top buttons are for punching and the bottom for kicking. For this game, both left buttons punch and both right kick. This was a very odd concept to me that never really stuck in my mind, which is very unfortunate in a tournament setting. I tried my hardest to remember every combo, but I was quickly knocked out due to a very bad problem. I have pretty fat fingers, which is normally not an issue when it comes to pressing buttons. The issue comes from the button scheme itself. Pressing both low punch and low kick will cause your character to taunt, leaving you vulnerable at the wrong moments. And I did this… a lot.
Matt didn’t have this issue whatsoever. He rolled straight in and eliminated both our opponents quickly, pushing us into the winners’ bracket for Martial Masters. We didn’t play again for a little while, but once we did history repeated itself. Once again I got rolled on by the enemy, and Matt came in and saved our chances once more. My fights were getting closer and closer, but I could never get those last crucial moments in to get a victory for myself. I wasn’t going to give up though, it isn’t in me to back down from a challenge.
I began practicing on a Street Fighter cabinet they had set up nearby, trying to perfect my combos as I went. Then I went and did something really problematic. My wrist began to get extremely sore, causing me an embarrassing amount of pain. It was my left hand, which is how you move in-game and set up combos in Martial Masters. From this point on, I knew there was no chance for me. My next fight was against Chris, the community manager. Our fight was incredibly close, but with my wrist causing an incredible amount of discomfort I couldn’t pull out a win.
Matt didn’t have any of that noise. He swept in and took both opponents out once more, which became a common occurrence of Martial Masters. We were set to play in the finals, and I was determined to get myself at least one win. My ride came inside right before the venue closed to wait, as the semi-finals were taking a bit longer than usual. Once it was wrapped up, the last match began. I strolled up, ready to get myself at least one win. Spoiler alert, I lost again. Disappointed with myself, I backed away and let Matt do his magic.
Toying with his enemy, Matt made sure to let everyone know he was the Martial Master. The victory was ours, making me a technical one time champion at Free Play. I’m determined to one day earn my own title, but for now, I’ll accept my night of glory with that belt. Which by the way, is a lot heavier than I thought it would be and a nice compensation for my shame. It felt nice, and I will take that feeling again one day. The next Fight Night is at Richardson, which I doubt I’ll be able to make. I’ll be cheering everyone on through the Twitch chat, so good luck everyone! Until next week, stay awesome Free Play!
My name is Gary, and I love video games. I’ve been writing and gaming since I got my gameboy color as a boy. Ever since, I haven’t been able to live without it. I’m an established playwright turned journalist, and I hope to entertain many for years to come!