Bastard!! -ankoku no hakaishin-

Hardware: Super Famicom/SNES
Released: 01/28/1994 (Japan)
BASTARD!! -暗黒の破壊神-
Bastard!! -The Dark God of Destruction-

Though it may not seem like it to some, Bastard!! is one of Shounen Jump’s best selling manga series of all time. Having debuted in 1988 and still running today (no matter how infrequent), this dark fantasy gained popularity over the years despite itself. Manga featured in Jump publications are typically crated to appeal to either a young or extremely broad audience. Bastard!! broke the Jump mold its copious amounts of sex and violence, but was not punished for it whatsoever in terms of sales., While all of this may be unusual for a Jump published work, it is somehow appropriate for a dystopian and highly heavy metal influenced work. And when I say it’s heavy metal influenced, I mean that in every possible way. The main character, Dark Schneider, is named for German heavy metal vocalist Udo Dirkschneider (of Accept and U.D.O.). The world itself is named Metallicana (obviously a play on Metallica), and more characters and spells than you can count have names that are references to well known heavy metal and rock musicians: Lars (Lars Ulrich of Metallica), Bon Jovina (Bon Jovi), Guns N’ Roses, Whitesnake, Anthrax and more. We even get into the more obscure with the character Dai-amon (a reference in both name and appearance to heavy metal vocalist King Diamond, of both Mercyful Fate and his own solo work) and Abigail (most likely a reference to one of King Diamond’s most well known albums of the same name).

Due to the manga’s popularity as well as the release of the final anime OVA episode of the series approximately half a year before, early 1994 was a great time to finally release a Bastard!! game. This was the 16-bit era after all, so anime licensed games were incredibly common. There were already more Dragon Ball and Gundam games than anyone knew what to do with, and a large number of games from other less prolific shows going back to the previous console generation. Even franchises like Gegege no Kitarou had a small handful of games available, including a Super Famicom entry nearly a year prior. That’s why it’s so surprising that this game turned out the way it did.

Bastard!! - Dark Schneider and Gara in a Cutscene Bastard!! - Dark Schneider vs. Gara Gameplay
Dark Schneider and Gara in a pre-battle cut-scene, both of them looking very accurate! And both of the same characters in an actual battle. You’ll be at this distance from each other the entire match!

An anime-based game in Japan was a slightly less severe equivalent of the equivalent of a movie-based game in the US: There were some gems, but there was never any real guarantee of quality. However there were a couple of promising possibilities for Bastard!!. It was a fantasy product primarily at aimed at boys, which leaves two obvious and lucrative genre choices: RPG and Fighting. The good news is that it ended up being a fighting game, and it had a very interesting core idea. The Super Famicom’s famous Mode 7 rotating and scaling capabilities were used to create as 3D of a fighting game as you could at the time, allowing for each of the two characters to circle around the battle field in combat instead of just moving toward each other on a single plane. The problem is that I missed the issue of the manga where all the characters did was throw projectiles at each other, because that’s basically all you can do in this game.

Each one of the face buttons corresponds to a projectile that curves in a different direction, with the R trigger often being a special move projectile that is fairly difficult to connect. FAQs claim that for some characters you can use the R trigger and various button combinations to produce other special moves, though I wasn’t able to get any to work properly (Perhaps the manual would explain this idea in better detail). This not only results in each of the characters feeling nearly identical to one another, but also makes for frustrating battles since all you can really do is anticipate your opponent’s direction of movement as you chip away slowly at their life meter with dinky projectiles. Some close range combat options might have made this game more interesting, but the idea was likely to show off the scaling and rotating as much as possible with all ranged attacks. Absolutely none of the spectacle or excitement of the source material comes through in the game play.

Bastard!! - Dark Schneider and Dai-Amon in a Cutscene Bastard!! - Dark Schneider vs. Dai-Amon Gameplay
Here is a cut-scene featuring Dark Schneider and Dai-Amon, looking very much like heavy metal legend King Diamond (particularly in his portrait) The same two characters in a battle. Dai-Amon’s sprite looks extremely plain and off-model from a distance, but the background in this stage is very nice!

The roster is fairly small for a fighting game, with only six playable characters (Dark Schneider, Gara, Kall-Su, Abigail, Arshes Nei and Diamond). You have three game modes to choose from: Story, VS and Battle. In Story mode you are told a very abbreviated and disjointed version of the source material’s story at that time, and play as Dark Schneider for the duration. Battle allows you to choose a team of characters, which you will play in a random order, And VS. mode is exactly what you would think, allowing you to play individual matches against either the CPU or another player. Even if you have a Bastard!! loving friend to play this game with though, it’s hard to imagine spending any significant amount of time in VS mode. The game play is just not fun enough. One night normally lay this square on the developer (I could find no record as to who that actually was), but this game’s flaws lie not on the development but rather on the conceptual level.

Bastard!! does have two great things going for it though: The art (both in the cut-scenes and in-game) is extremely well drawn, and is very true to the original character designs. The music is also very well composed, standing as one of the best examples of heavy metal on the Super Famicom. It’s just a pity that neither of these factors make the game fun to play. I can’t recommend that anyone buy this, or even bother playing it, unless they are a Bastard!! super fan or a fighting game historian.