Best Games - One Must Fall 2097
The early 90s were the era of the fighting game. Entire arcades could be filled with nothing but fighting game machines and they would still draw a crowd. It was not uncommon to see multiple versions of the same game, stood beside each other with a line queued up in front of each.
Street Fighter 2 was the undisputed champion amongst fighting games, but Mortal Kombat was a strong contender. With it’s large digitized characters and outlandish violence, Mortal Kombat was designed to catch people's attention. It was brash and blunt in a way that most games at the time just weren’t. Most games that lean heavily on a flashy gimmick tend to have very little depth. There usually isn’t a real game there. Mortal Kombat was a notable exception to that rule. Mortal Kombat was a solid, nuanced fighting game.
Great artists steal, right?
One Must Fall 2097 apes Mortal Kombat in all the ways that matter. The pace of the game. The snappy back and forth sparring paired with movement that feels deliberately languid. A less twitchy game than Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat could be slightly more tactical. It rewards patience and timing over aggression. One Must Fall borrows, or steals, all of these elements. It also shamelessly lifts many animations and moves from the celebrated arcade game. It does all that and replaces the gimmick of violence and digitized humans with giant cg rendered fighting robots. A solid gimmick.
That could have been it. The developers of One Must Fall could have settled for making a sturdy Mortal Kombat clone, and it would have sold well. This was the early 90s after all, and fighting games on any platform would sell. One Must Fall 2097 was released on the pc in 1994, at a time when pc gaming was just starting to get exciting. Doom was installed on more computers than windows, and internet access was on the rise. One Must Fall was the right game at the right time.
Popularity is great, but this is why One Must Fall gets on my best games list. They could have done a straight clone of Mortal Kombat, but they didn’t. They built a game that plays to the strengths of the pc, rather than copying a game that was designed to digest quarters at a phenomenal rate. One Must Fall includes a deep robot customization system, and a campaign that could take hours to play, rather than the 20 or som minutes of an arcade machine. There were a surprising large roster of playable robots, and an equal array of human pilots, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This mean that the total number of pilot / robot combinations is somewhere around 100, which is bonkers for a fighting game.
Variety, play time, customization, these are the things that pc games excel at compared to their arcade counterparts. That is why One Must Fall was great. They took an established genre, with well defined boundaries and conventions, and then changed them all to best fit the pc platform. It was risky and strange and not the type of thing that an established company like Capcom or Midway would have done, at least not at that time.
The game also uses a very simplified control system for a fighting game. 2 buttons, tapped rather than rolled inputs for specials. This might be thought of as a dumbing down, but One Must Fall is just as satisfying to play as its arcade cousins. Just as fast, just as tactical, just as fun.
The soundtracks for Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat are good, but they were made to be heard in a noisy arcade, so there are a lot of small musical stings and baselines, but that’s the height of it. The soundtrack for One Must Fall was made to be heard in your quiet home, on your pc speakers. It rocks. Fantastic era standard techno music plays behind every metallic clang and dense thud. This isn’t arcade sounds at home, this is sound designed for, and around the pc gaming experience. In other words, sound you can listen to for a long time without it ever becoming repetative or grating.
It might have started as a clone, but One Must Fall 2097 rose above its origins to become one of the best games.