Fight For Life is a 3D fighting game, released exclusively for the Atari Jaguar in 1996. It was the final title to be developed and published by Atari Corporation before support for the Jaguar was withdrawn.
The game has three play modes: practise, tournament, and two-player versus mode, and features eight different fighters (Kimura, Ian, Kara, Pog, Mr. G, Muhali, Jenny, and Lun), any of which you can choose to play as. Practise and two-player modes are self-explanatory; in tournament mode you must fight a succession of computer-controlled opponents, beating each in a best-of-three match.
Combat takes place in a ‘purgatory’ dimension known as “The Spectre Zone“, and each of the eight fighters is actually deceased. Winning the tournament bestows a second chance of life upon the fighter who beats all the others – thus the name of the game. You’re actually playing dead characters who are literally fighting to come back to life again. It’s an interesting concept, but doesn’t have any real effect over the gameplay itself (other than the ending).
Each match takes place in a square arena, surrounded by an invisible barrier. If you touch the barrier – either accidentally, or if you’re knocked into it – you’ll immediately lose the round. Interestingly, if you beat an opponent in tournament mode you can steal some of their moves at the end of a match, adding to your own repertoire. Passwords are used to continue tournaments from the last opponent you beat.
Motion capture was used for the animation of the fighters, and they look quite impressive for the time, even though they have a relatively low polygon count for each character. The slowness of the action is a problem, and the health bars of each fighter – slipping in and out of view when they’re hit – is also an annoyance (they should’ve just stayed on-screen permanently, IMHO), but Fight For Life is playable and arguably even compelling.
Fight For Life was clearly an attempt by Atari to reproduce the thrills and spills of Sega‘s Virtua Fighter on the Jaguar, and the lead designer and programmer of this game – Francois Yves Bertrand – actually worked on the original Virtua Fighter arcade game, which further reinforces that fact. Fight For Life fails to challenge Virtua Fighter for dominance, though, mostly because of its slowness.
While Fight For Life is not a bad game overall, the menu screens, fonts, and the aforementioned health bars, do make it look at a bit amateurish when compared to its contemporaries. The fighting action, and the camera movement, are quite good though, so the game is not entirely without merit. Compared to modern fighting games it of course looks pretty bad, but don’t let that put you off playing it. Fight For Life did review poorly when it was first released, but it’s actually not bad when you get into it. I think it got a raw deal from critics when it first came out.
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