Ranma ½: Hard Battle (1992)

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“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

Japanophiles rejoice. I thought I’d pop this one into my SNES from my collection recently, as it had been years since I’d even given it a moment’s thought. This is Ranma ½ subtitled Hard Battle, an obscure 2D tournament fighting game based on a pervy manga and anime that I definitely admit I read in my B.C. days. The game published by Masaya in Japan, DTMC in North America, and Ocean Software in Europe.

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The appeal of Hard Battle is primarily for those who liked the original characters found in the manga and anime. The comedic premise is the main character, named Ranma Saotome (pronounced ron-mah), is a boy trained in martial arts who accidentally falls into a cursed spring. The spring transforms its unfortunate victim into the form of whatever drowned there previously, so Ranma is cursed to become a cute girl every time he’s doused with cold water. Hot water changes him back into a boy, because logic. In light of today’s rampant gender identity confusion, the original Ranma ½ is quite tame.

Ranma searches for a way to lift his curse while battling back rivals and would-be lovers. He often abuses his newfound ability to transform into a girl to get his way. Several of the other colorful characters in the series suffer from the curse as well and turn into all number of things and many of them make an appearance in Hard Battle.

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All your favorites are here, like Tofu Face and Fujoshi-chan-san.

There are three modes: Single Player, Two Player and Team Battle. There are twelve playable characters, including both Ranma’s male and female forms. Each character must defeat eight opponents at the behest of the wily high school principal Kuno, for various reasons. Ranma asks to be excused from taking an exam and Kuno agrees if Ranma can win his tournament.

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Other characters include Ryoga Hibiki, a young man with amnesia who is cursed to turn into a little black pig; Shampoo, a foreign fighter in love with Ranma but out to kill Ranma as a girl; Akane Tendo, an ordinary and popular girl who’s tired of fighting off her suitors; Genma Saotome who is Ranma’s father cursed to become a panda; Gosunkugi, a miserable student in love with Akane and voodoo; Ukyo Kuonji, a chef armed with a massive spatula once betrothed to Ranma; Mousse, a Chinese fighter in love with Shampoo and armed with hidden weapons who is cursed to become a duck; King, a gambler and casino fanatic; Pantyhose Taro, a villain with the worst of all curses and a horrible name. Pantyhose is the final boss of the single player mode. Happosai, a dimunitive old pervert, is the final, final boss and also a playable character provided you have a code for him.happosai.jpgThe principal, for whom I always had a special affection considering he’s Hawaiian like myself… and also a pathological liar, promises something to each of these fighters (minus Happosai) similar to the Wizard of Oz. The fighters eventually find that the principal was just playing them like the cheap anime clichés that they are and they ensure Principal Kuno gets what’s coming to him.

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Compared to the 2D fighters which dominated one of the best gaming libraries of all time, that of the Super Nintendo, Ranma ½: Hard Battle feels uninspired. For one, it is slower than a weeaboo. It’s much slower than Street Fighter 2 Turbo. It feels like molasses by comparison. It’s also not as visually arresting as Killer Instinct, not as graphic as Mortal Kombat, and not as input-complex as Darkstalkers.ranma-nibunnoichi-hard-battle-05.pngSo what then does Ranma ½: Hard Battle have to offer? Well, I’m not really sure. It’s cute in its own way. The expressive animations would appeal to anime fans and the personality of the game is a delight for fans of the Ranma series. There’s little story so unless you’re already familiar with these characters there isn’t much to latch on to in the game itself. For example, I didn’t really know who the King character was so he was pretty much automatically my least favorite fighter.

Hard Battle may be a good demonstration of sometimes why obscure games are obscure. Not all of them are hidden gems. Worse, it perpetuates the assumption that retro games aren’t polished. As an adaptation, it’s nostalgic. As a 2D fighter, it leaves a lot to be desired.

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The 8-bit Review
visual Visuals: 7/10
The visual drama of anime and manga draws largely from hyper-exaggerated expressions. Anyone who’s watched anime knows what I’m talking about. There’s an unspoken set of animation rules out there in anime to depict things like anger or sadness or joy in characters. I’m sure you can recall to mind the teardrop thing, the giant head yelling thing, the face turning blue thing, the falling flat on their face when someone says the punchline thing. Hard Battle manages to convey the quirkiness of anime animation with excellent character sprites.

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Don’t expect anything groundbreaking. The backgrounds are often either drab or overcluttered, with nowhere near the visual stylishness of a fighter like Capcom’s Darkstalkers. It’s cartoony rather than stylish, though the graphics often depict the ordinary rather than the fantastical. The are several games from the Super Nintendo era which remain impressive to the eye to this day but Hard Battle isn’t one of them.

audio Audio: 4/10


The first thing you’ll notice about Hard Battle’s soundtrack is either how unwaveringly oriental it sounds or how muffled it is to the ears. It always struck me how weird it sounded, like you were listening to it coming up from underneath a pillow. Maybe they tried to smother it and the attempt was unsuccessful. Nothing can kill the youthful energy of this soundtrack. Not even the fact that it isn’t memorable.

The vocal effects are even worse. Okay it’s a given that voice acting hadn’t really hit its stride but this is bad even by the standards of its contemporaries. Not only are they muffled as well but they’re whiny, tedious, mewling, petulant and not good. Gosunkugi’s “eeowwuh” will haunt your nightmares.

gameplay Gameplay: 5/10
There are several fun characters to play as. The fighting itself, as mentioned, is very slow. If you’re coming off playing any normal-speed 2D fighter, this is going to feel like wading through concrete. No prominent dashing or high jumps, or nothing. But hey, there’s throwing.

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The characters at least have variations in play style between them. Genma the Panda is E. Honda/Bowser slow. Ranma is your typical standard, balanced fighter, though his female form is faster and his male form does more damage. I feel like some of these characters are even too weird to have any identifiable correlation in archetypes of other fighters.

multiplayer Multiplayer: 3/10
Gone are the days where you can say “I didn’t have anything else to play so I played this game.” Now, you’ve simply got too much to play and not enough time to play it. The industry has got a billion more games today than it did back in 1992. Furthermore, you are probably like most of us. You don’t really have too many opportunities for a local two-player game, especially if its playing a match on an obscure and unimpressively slow 2D fighter on the SNES.

I say all that to point out Hard Battle’s biggest obstacles to its multiplayer. You’ve got to find someone you can play it with and you’ve got to get them to want to play it. Because that cover art sure isn’t going to win anyone over.

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There are at least two multiplayer modes outside of the story mode. The two-player mode is standard for the 2D fighter but this game also includes team battles, which involves players picking several characters that will go head to head, more like an actual tournament. The inclusion of team battles is novel but I’m not even sure why it’s here. It would take a lot more than Ranma ½: Hard Battle to occupy the attention of two human beings for the length of time it takes to complete so many matches.

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“Iyaaa!”

accessibility Accessibility: 8/10
Hard Battle is much more forgiving on a player than comparable 2D fighters. Since the pace is slower there’s less demand on perfect timing for your combos and even then the combos are simplified. It’s easy enough to do special attacks to get by.

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replay Replayability: 4/10
With a dozen fighters with different promises made and promises broken, you might expect there would be slightly more replayability. However, the opening interactions where the principal sets up your character in the tournament is barely any more than a working premise. Once you beat Pantyhose and then Happosai on another playthrough as Pantyhose, then there’s little else to do or unlock or accomplish.

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unique Uniqueness: 3/10
Alright so I originally intended to score this higher until I found out that there isn’t one nor two but five Ranma ½ games on the Super Nintendo. This isn’t even the first Ranma ½ fighting game. Also, Hard Battle doesn’t offer anything new or innovate its genre in any way I could think of, so it’s fair to say it is unoriginal.

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pgrade My Personal Grade: 5/10
I can’t even remember how I got this game but I remember it was one of the few games I had early in life. I can remember playing it with my brother as nearly every character on long afternoons, the sunlight streaming in through my windows into my wood-floor bedroom. I knew then that this really wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t a game I talked about with friends at school, unlike Breath of Fire II which was a favorite from that era.

Ranma ½: Hard Battle may be unoriginal, slow, and repetitive but hey… it is based on an anime so what else would you expect?

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Aggregated Score: 4.9

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25 thoughts on “Ranma ½: Hard Battle (1992)

  1. Ah, so glad you reviewed this! You may already know this, but in case you don’t: Fun fact – my username Mr. Panda actually comes from Ranma. It is, after all, the alias used by Genma during one of the arcs. It also happens to be one of my favorite anime, which is probably why I chose this username in the first place. Anyway, I’ve always wanted this game because of my love for the series. I know it’s bad, and your review reinforced anything I’ve ever thought about this game. But man, would I love to just play any Ranma game just for fun. It wouldn’t be the first time I played horrible anime games just because. haha.

    P.S. I learned you were Hawaiian, so I also got my Well-Red Mage factoid today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah so we learned new things about each other today! I always assumed your name came from a Pokémon, but now it all makes sense with a reference to Mr. Saotome. I think you could get some enjoyment out of this game, especially if you had another fan to play it with. I remember originally being drawn to it because I was familiar with the characters and enjoyed them in the manga once upon a time. I think a Ranma RPG would be really great but yeah this one is good for nostalgia and that’s about it! Mahalo, kanaka!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome! Yup, I’ve always been a big fan of Ranma, and my fandom was at its peak around the time I made this user name. A Ranma RPG probably exists, but Hard Battle is pretty much the only game that came out outside of Japan. I believe there was a puzzle game for Game Boy too. I imagine they did as much as they could with licensed games while this was still popular in the early 90s.

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  2. As ho-hum, and average as this may be, it is a triumph compared to the other Ranma 1/2 fighter on the Super NES. That game was released here in the states as Street Combat. They reskinned the characters, and dialogue screens. It’s one of the worst fighters you’ll ever play. With that in mind, Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Even if it is bad, at least it isn’t Street Combat.

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  3. I spent many, many hours watching Ranma, both the series and the movies, and it has to be one of the best and funniest anime series of my high school years. Paled in comparison to the actual manga, but between Ranma and Ninja High School, life was good. I enjoyed this game when I had rented it a few times, but it was no where as deep or as fun as Street Fighter at the time. An enjoyable way to pass the weekend, but little more.

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    • Be glad you didn’t shell out money to own it! I liked the manga enough to buy a copy but now it just sits in an old collection, collecting rust and dust. I don’t know that I’d ever pick it up again. I appreciate you comment and sharing your memories!

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  4. I haven’t picked it up for a while, but I think that this is one of those games that works best in small doses. If you still get some enjoyment out of the series, then that helps with the game, but otherwise, it definitely feels more like one to pay just so you can say that you have. The repetitive nadir didn’t surprise me though; I ran through every series s couple of years back, and it’s

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      • So I’m no expert on it since I don’t own any of the others but apparently at least one other is a 2D fighter and another is a puzzle game. There was a cancelled sequel for Hard Battle as well. The recurring jokes in a loop is one reason why I’ve stopped watching anime series. I’m glad somebody out there has played this game too. Thanks for the comment!

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        • If it’s jokes on loop that puts you off, you may do better with some of the more serious recent shows like Erased. Outside the stuff aimed squarely at teens, a lot of the conventions you’d expect either don’t feature our aren’t over played.
          Aye though, I think I was playing Hard Battle and the Dane time as Brutal: Paws of Fury, which I remember being about as show but with poorer contact detection.

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          • Well I think I’m just done with anime in general, multitude of complaints aside. I don’t have much time left for TV as it is anymore, live action or animated. I’m becoming crusty and old so any pandering at all puts me off. Cowboy Bebop will remain forever my favorite and I’m content with that, though I’ve seen a fair share of anime in my younger days.

            Paws of Fury?! Forgot about that one!

            Liked by 1 person

            • I find that I’m similar with TV as a general rule. Having kids means I get less time, as they dominate the TV when it’s on. With the writing too, it often becomes a case of grabbing an hour or so here or there before bed if I’m lucky.
              Heh. I rented Paws if Fury from my local curve shop along with Ecco the Dolphin. Ecco survived as a favourite at least, though Paws I rarely touched again. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat spoiled me I think. Then I hit up a couple of SNK games and it got pushed further back, along with Balls and Rise of the Robots.

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                • Oh aye, bother regular and side-scrolling fighters were always among my favourites. I think that the XBox One may be the onyl console I’ve owned that I don’t have at least one fighter on as yet (though that’ll no doubt change once I get around to it).

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                • I always wanted to like fighters more but some of them are just too fast for me! Used to dominate at Marvel vs Capcom and Primal Rage, but Injustice was one I tried to get into recently and it’s a tough genre to break back into after having stayed away for such a period of time.

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                • I’ve heard similar a few times recently, actually. I think that I got used to things being a little faster when I ploughed a ton of time in Street Fighter Alpha 2 Dash. These days, I’ve been mostly working on Blazblue, which is I think the only fighter I’ve paled online (read ‘played’ as ‘get whooped soundly’). The newer Mortal Kombats have been fun, Killer Instinct surprised me, and I’m liking the look of the new Tekken. I never picked up Street Fighter V either as I didn’t want to just play online. I haven’t played Injsutice as yet, but I want to pick up the second one when it’s out. Was it a speed thing that made the first one difficult to pick up?
                  Marvel vs Capcom was great. My word I was awful at Primal Rage though. For some reason, I just couldn’t get the hang of the thing. I tend to find it weird using an analogue stick and stick with the D-Pad regardless of what I’m playing now, which I think may be a throwback to my days on the SNES and Megadrive.
                  I’m still waiting for something along the lines of Streets of Rage and Golden Axe to appear and take my fancy though. It seems that there’s plenty of fighters out there on the current gen consoles, but nothing that reminds of the old scrollers. TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan looked like it might be good, but I haven’t grabbed it yet.

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                • Personally, I just think I trained my brain to not think that fast with hand eye coordination anymore. Injustice was too quick for me and I usually just devolve into button mashing on fighters. They can be fun though and I’m alright when going back to ones I was familiar with. I second the D-Pad as well. The analog stick feels weird to me on fighters. Darkstalkers was a favorite though!

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                • I’ve always found that there are characters that really suit button mashing on fighters. It’s useful, because I seem to have a limited capacity for combo memory per game. The sticks are just so odd feeling to me with fighters. FPS, 3D platformers etc, fine, but fighters just feel like they don’t need it fir me.
                  Darkstalkers had such a cool cast of characters. It seemed really hard to get hold of down my way though. I wonder if we’ll get s new entry in that franchise somewhere down the line.

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