by Jed Pressgrove
Note: This review was inspired by the Switch version of the game.
Back in the 1990s, games like World Heroes made it easy to call a clone a clone. The two main characters in World Heroes, Hanzo and Fuuma, obviously borrow qualities from Ryu and Ken of Street Fighter II, right down to the white and red outfits and the special-move trio of the projectile, flying uppercut, and spinning horizontal attack. Even the theme of “World Heroes,” much more than the titles of clones such as Fighter’s History, trumpets Street Fighter II’s emphasis on geography and ethnic pride.
This clear debt to a recent ancestor gives a humorous edge to the last word in the title of the final World Heroes. If this game were perfect, its appeal wouldn’t be so reliant on the qualities of a monster hit like Street Fighter II. (Similarly, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild shouldn’t go down as a groundbreaking work given its liberal dedication to concepts from recent pop games.) Here, perfection merely amounts to a series-best effort in using logical, player-friendly rules: attack strength is determined by which buttons you press rather than how hard you mash buttons, you can block in the air, and so on.
Yet in some of its characters’ endings, World Heroes Perfect displays more humbleness about its limited aspirations than open-world adventures like Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn (which, in some ways, offer far less freedom than the first two Fallout games, for instance). The most blatant evidence of World Heroes Perfect’s awareness comes in the conclusion for Fuuma, the Ken proxy. After emerging as a victor, Fuuma believes it’s time for him to go on a date to celebrate his success. But as in his ending in the original World Heroes, Fuuma instead finds himself tied to the monotony of office work. Ken, Fuuma’s inspiration, never faced such a banal finish. Never a real threat to Street Fighter II’s greatness, World Heroes Perfect at least playfully observes the tired maxim that applies to countless sequels and wannabe trailblazers: the more things change, the more they stay the same.