People who know me, know that I am a huge fan of the Tokusatsu genre. For those of you who don’t know what that is I will put it this way. Remember Power Rangers (or are you still watching it, it’s ok I won’t tell)? Well, all of that footage of them in suits fighting monsters with weapons and giant robots all comes from a separate series in Japan known as Super Sentai, a franchise that is just now entering its 40th year. Super Sentai is part of the Toku genre. Essentially it’s a genre that includes suits, cheesy monster costumes, and lots of action and explosions. See why I love it? If you have ever seen a Godzilla movie then you too have dabbled in the realm of Toku.
There are several hugely popular series in this realm from the Land of the Rising Sun, and over time we have gotten tidbits of them sent to American shores. One such example is Ultraman. Ultraman is a series that has been running since 1966 and is about giant aliens who use human hosts to fight other giant monsters. Pretty simple and to the point. When it comes to series, I consider Ultraman to be one of the “Big 4 of Toku” along with Super Sentai, Metal Heroes, and Kamen Rider. Admittedly compared to other Toku Genres, Ultraman is an area I am not incredibly strong with when it comes to familiarity. The order pretty much goes like this:
1. Kamen Rider
2. Super Sentai
5. The Hero Yoshihiko
In fact, I have only been able to see 4 Ultra Series to completion: The original (which I found on DVD for $7.50 and dubbed by the same people who did Speed Racer, what a day!), Mebius, Ginga, and Ginga S. In time I will see more but what can you do.
So after all of that rambling let me get to the point. As much as I love the Toku Genre, it has been hard to find good games for these series, let alone any in English. Which is why I was so delighted to find out about Ultraman: Towards the Future on the SNES….at first.
Towards the future is a Fighting Game that was released in 1991. I am pretty sure the reason it got a U.S. release was due to the short popularity the dubs of different Ultraman series were getting when they aired on TNT (that channel was really cool in the early 90’s). Any who, how is the game itself? Honestly, it’s pretty terrible. The very first issue is that the game is incredibly slow. How many great fighting games have you played that moves about as fast as the U.S. Congress? The answer is none. Not only that, but in order to drag out the game, you have to build up you power while fighting and then actually use Ultraman’s finishing move, The Specium Ray/Beam, to defeat them. This is the only way to defeat a monster, period. You can’t just drain their life bar like any normal fighting game, nope. Once their life is empty, they will simply keep fighting you until you can use your finishing move, which takes forever to charge….fuuuun. And sure this may all be due to how most giant fights in Toku tend to be on the slower side in order to help emphasize the epic scale of their fight, combine that with the big flashy signature finishing move and you might think that they are trying give a more authentic feeling to the game based on the source material. While that sounds good in theory, it simply does not translate well here at all.
To add on to this, the enemy difficulty is just silly. While a game typically gets harder as you go along, right at the start it feels like the enemies know the perfect defense. This is something I hate in fighting games. How can I enjoy it if I need to already be an expert at combos and moves before I even pick up the controller? It just hurts your mass appeal, and the audience is already going to be semi-limited with this title as is.
Another issue is that by your fifth fight, you fight a recolor of the very first monster you faced in the game, and keep in mind that there are only 9 monsters in the entire game. Understand this, monsters reappearing in the Ultra Series is far from uncommon, I mean seriously there is no way there is only one of every monster they fight in the entire universe. But when it is presented in this manner, it’s just lazy.
So to recap: Sluggish, drug out, unnecessarily hard, and lazy. It does not matter what franchise you are using, this is a recipe for disaster. This was a big letdown for me when I got it, and I can only imagine how frustrated true Ultra fans were when they got this. I originally found this game for a whopping 8 bucks at a comic book store, so it’s not like it broke my wallet. You can pick it up, if you want to understand what this game is really like, but for me, Ultraman: Towards the Future is a definite: