The research for this one was divided between a few different versions, primarily the PS4 rerelease as part of Hamster's excellent Arcade Archives Neo-Geo series and online fisticuffs via Fightcade. As such, we once again have Ultra Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell HokutoNoShock to thank for many of the screenshots here today- fortunately for my idiot writer, none of them aren't quite as humiliating as the 16-loss streak he had in Vampire Savior, but a modest 7-loss streak will just have to do, won't it?- and for some extra help in researching this title. Also, a tiny bit of housekeeping but we'll generally be referring to the game as just Galaxy Fight rather than the full-barrel name because, well, it's shorter. No-one calls Vampire Savior by its full title either, right? Right?!

Blah blah blah it is the '90s and there is time for fighting games blah blah blah everyone and their dog was in on it and so on and so forth.

In this particular case, we get to witness a company throwing their hat into the one-on-one fighting ring for the first time, at least in the traditional sense. Sunsoft, a company known for series like Hebereke and Blaster Master, and known to me for releasing the delightful Mr. Gimmick and Trip World, had dipped their toes in the fighting game genre, in a way, with the top-down arena-based brawler Sugoi Hebereke. By 1995 they finally made their formal fighting game entry with Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors. This was also their first Neo-Geo game, one of only three they developed for SNK's system (the second was their follow-up fighter, Waku Waku 7, and the third was the cancelled Hebereke Pair Pair Wars). However, Galaxy Fight is often overlooked because of that second Neo-Geo release- Waku Waku 7 is the stronger of the two games by far, as we'll find out another day. Galaxy Fight has its own qualities too though, so let's do the thing Gaming Hell always does, and give the underdog a chance!

As well as eschewing the traditional 'fighting game tournament' plotline of most games around this time (although it's not present outside the manual- Felden Cryce, an evil being who wishes to rule the galaxy, has taken physical form after 1000 years, and eight space warriors fight amongst themselves for the right to battle Felden for their own reasons), Galaxy Fight, as the title implies, has a science-fiction motif, with a roster including a robot, a rabbit-girl-thingy, a jetpack-sporting space hero and an alien beast. It's certainly not the first fighting game to go with this theme- precedents include 1993's Superior Soldiers by Irem, 1994's Alien Challenge by IGS, and if you really want to go far back, 1985's Galactic Warriors by Konami- but with the raw power of the Neo-Geo behind it, this nails the sci-fi aesthetic better than previous games. Now, let us meet the eight world galaxy warriors! Sure, that's not quite as many as contemporaries were starting to have, but like Taito's Kaiser Knuckle and SNK's Savage Reign, Sunsoft were creating a new cast from scratch, and they're all distinct enough from one another, if nothing else. The stats and mini-biographies come from the Saturn manual, the only English source for them as far as we know (as originally transcribed by Arcade Quartermaster- ta!)

He came from the famed Clan of Knights.
He has been told he is the one to be
the clan's champion to fight a powerful evil.

The rightful prince of the world Rozalis,
who uses his magical powers in battle.

This poor creature has no memory of anything,
and no idea who he is or where he comes from.
The only thing that keeps him going is
the voice inside his head.
He must find the source of the voice...

Power and beauty both define
this famous galactic robber.
Her speed and kick attacks
make her difficult to defend against.

Carrying his trusted Silver Pack, Rolf travels through
the galaxy looking for excitement, which is why people call him
the "Galactic Adventurer". His special attacks are assisted
by an internal booster pack, enhancing his fighting abilities.

His dream is to carry on the tradition
taught to him by his late father, and to
become even stronger than his father was.

She left her home to seek fame and fortune.
Her unusual movements and fighting style
make her a challenging opponent.

The Fakir Empire's newest technology
has been used to create this battle robot.
It has been sent to gather data on battle techniques.

So, character and setting aside, what does Galaxy Fight do differently? For a start, there's the controls, which are a little odd. There's only four buttons to play with, and while most of SNK's fighting games get along fine with that for light and heavy punches and kicks, Sunsoft decided they still needed the traditional Street Fighter-style attacks with three strength levels. So, A, B and C are Light, Medium and Heavy respectively, with D just being a taunt button (very important). Not a common setup at the time (there was Konami's Martial Champion, but, well, that's not exactly great) although it would be adopted by more anime-like fighters such as Nitroplus Blasterz and Melty Blood further down the line. This takes a little adjusting as there's no shorthand like Jab, Roundhouse, etc. for knowing what each button does, and this is compounded a little as the game also changes every normal attack depending on whether you're close or far away from your opponent. Roomi's normal Heavy is a roundhouse kick that knocks down, but her close Heavy is an uppercut that launches the opponent across the screen and leads to an auto-run (more on dashing later). In theory this is not new- you can see this all the way back in SFII- but Galaxy Fight places a lot more emphasis on it as their properties can change so much more drastically (and again, no help with shorthand for each button) so it's something you need to learn to play effectively, with timing being very important especially if you're running in.

Speaking of running, that's the other big difference here- horizontal movement. It's not as exciting as the varied movement options in Vampire Savior, but Galaxy Fight does away with stage corners and walls, and each arena scrolls forever. You can lock scrolling if both players get as far away as possible from each other, but otherwise there's no corner traps, allowing the developers to throw in a ruck of moves that emphasise horizontal movement, such as launchers that catapult the opponent several screens away, non-projectile moves with a lot of horizontal range like Rolf's napalm and Roomi's air-dive, but one that everyone shares is being able to run. Double-tap forward and your character will run across the screen, and critically keep running even if you let go- they'll only stop if you double-tap back where you'll stop, or meet your opponent where you'll pass through them to the other side. In fact, some special moves like Kazuma's Ninja Hurricane even keep the momentum you have if executed while running! All these elements combine to give the game a unique feel- there's less of an emphasis on long strings of combos than in its contemporaries, seeing as a lot of moves knock your opponent away or onto the ground, but unlike something like Martial Champion, this feels more like a conscious decision than anything else, given the mechanics accommodate for it with the running system to keep characters close, and the lack of corner battles. It certainly makes it exciting to look at, with competitors bouncing all over the place and getting walloped silly!

There is a certain lightness to Galaxy Fight's other mechanics, though- while the special moves lists are about on par with other contemporaries, at the time super meters or desperation moves of some kind were becoming the norm in fighting games, yet with one bizarre exception (Alvan can become stronger when his health is low) such things are absent from Galaxy Fight. Similar to Fighter's History Dynamite from the previous year, the characters have moves that feel like they should be supers- Juri's long combo, Gunter's grab-and-run throw, Rolf's napalm, etc.- but they're not, and so there's no super resource management of any kind. However, in spite of this omission, in a strange way the other mechanics like infinite scrolling, weird running mechanics, and things like Kazuma having a move that requires the Taunt button, remind me of a game from the year before, X-Men: Children of the Atom. With its brand new system, that game felt like a testbed for wilder ideas Capcom were toying with, such as character-specific powers and tech-rolls, and does indeed have one super (Storm's Hail Storm) that uses the Taunt button.

While some of COTA's mechanics would be iterated upon in later fighting games from both Capcom and other companies, Galaxy Fight's main innovation- borderless stages- never really caught on in other 2D games, and to an extent I can understand why. It's exciting to watch characters get walloped across the stage and see their assailant catch up, and with the running mechanics it was clearly designed this way (and hey, I guess it would make infinites harder!... Although there's at least one death combo). That said, it can make actual versus matches a slightly stop-start affair with a lot of closing the distance inbetween, making it feel a little disjointed, and while it's hard to articulate, close-up controls can feel a bit awkward, especially as you can't dash in and close small distances without ending up on your opponent's other side unless you're careful. As such, it doesn't quite mesh together to make a game as exciting to play as it is to watch. You can clearly see Sunsoft learned this for Waku Waku 7, which kept moves that sent the opponent flying, but incorporated wall bounces (and different wall recoveries!) to keep things closer. Some 3D titles did adopt the borderless design with some success- early Tekken titles had them, but most attacks don't catapult the opponent across the stage, allowing for juggles and more 'standard' genre combos, and Street Fighter EX had corners but they would With Galaxy Fight, however, you can't really get away with stuff like that, so while the game is designed around it , evidently Sunsoft's approach didn't quite manage to make it all mesh together. Exciting to watch, but it does make actual versus matches a bit of a stop-start affair.

Of course, what I've said about the mechanics mostly applies to a player versus player situation, which ideally is how you'd look at a game like this. If you know anything about Galaxy Fight at all though, you know about its absolutely ludicrous difficulty in single-player mode. Regardless of whether you've set it on Level 1 or Level 8, the A.I. is going to humble you swiftly and brutally, taking advantage of any gap in your defense, punishing you severely for any lapse of judgement on your part, and generally ensuring you have a miserable time if you're playing alone. The only break the game gives you is that you at least get a 'bonus' fight against an opponent who can't block (more on him later), but for the most part fighting against the CPU is an uphill battle and not especially fun. It's fair to say you should try and play fighting games with other people as opposed to the CPU where possible, but Galaxy Fight is an especially notable example of this, which makes it a shame that there's no official way to play it online after the Playstation 2's online service shut down for its Sunsoft Collection version (and even then, that was Japan only through a service called KDDI, which you can find a few details about over here.).

Credit definitely needs to be given to the game's visuals, though. It's not nearly as vibrant as Waku Waku 7- not many games are- but while some of its backgrounds can be a bit drab (looking at you, Alvan's stage), there's a lot of detail, and more notably the game has some very cool lighting effects, in a sense- character palettes change, and they change quite dramatically, depending on the lighting of the stage being played on. It certainly has a distinct look for 1995, and the character designs by the late Kouta Kita are great, evoking just the right kind of sci-fi weirdness while also providing some variety (and, predictable as it is for me going with the cute characters, Roomi is one of my favourite designs from the era). The soundtrack also has some highlights, especially the character select theme, Rolf's theme and G. Done's theme (which wants to be the Mortal Kombat theme so bad it's actually endearing), and the extra Versus mode stage even has a well-voiced news report over the sounds of a bustling galactic city street. If nothing else, Galaxy Fight took advantage of its host hardware to deliver a great-looking, great-sounding game.

Where does this leave Galaxy Fight in the great pantheon of '90s fighters, then? I would say it's a little somewhere in the middle. It most certainly isn't a bad game, and considering this was Sunsoft's first real attempt in the genre, it's an admirable first try. The aesthetics are a treat, especially for fans of sci-fi oddness, and it at least has an interesting approach with its endless arenas and emphasis on horizontal movement. The cast also has a fair bit of variety in terms of moves and designs. It's just it doesn't quite all meld together into the kind of fighting game you'd like to really dig your teeth into and dedicate yourself to, something I think can be blamed on the more stop-and-start nature of fights because of you constantly launching your foes and chasing after them after such long distances (for the genre). A lack of magnetic power, however, is something that can't be said about the next game along, Waku Waku 7, which has repeatedly threatened to siphon my attention away from other fighters. Evidently, Sunsoft took the lessons learned from Galaxy Fight and used them to inform the development of Waku Waku 7, but a bit like Bubble Bobble being an advancement from The Fairyland Story, you shouldn't see this as a sign to not give Galaxy Fight the time of day. It has its own ideas, and while their implementation isn't completely successful, the fighting game gold rush of the '90s most certainly saw way, way less playable games than this, and it has a unique flavour of its own. So, a good ol' sitting-on-the-fence answer from us here at Gaming Hell- Galaxy Fight is alright.

Roomi's still pretty great, though. She'll fight everyone in the galaxy.

For being a first shot at the genre, Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors is awarded...

In a sentence, Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors is...
A pretty OK game in a very crowded genre.

And now, it's that time, folks!

First up, a quick look at the boss characters! Not that you'll be able to play as them, mind you. Not in the original Neo-Geo version, anyway.

The three bosses you will always fight are, in order, Bonus-Kun, Yacopu and Felden. Bonus-Kun appears after your fourth fight in solo play (on the same planet the fourth fight was on, he has no home stage) and is a sentient punching bag, trained by the mysterious warrior Rouwe. Yes, he is a punching bag. Literally, he's a very easy bonus stage. In a game with brutal single-player AI, he's a nice breather- he has very few legitimate attacks and can't actually block, so you won't struggle with him like you will the rest of the roster. He is, of course, a mickey-take of Ryu from Street Fighter, given his red headband and fireball attack. He'd show up again, with even more training under his belt (if he has one) in Waku Waku 7, providing an easy link between the two games.

After fighting every other character, the game's mid-boss is Yacopu, a tiny rabbit thingy, and actually the protagonist of Game Boy obscurity Trip World, a fantastic write-up on which you'll find over at et tu, Gamer?, and he's fought on a different area of Lutecia, Roomi's home planet. As with the source game, Yacopu can move and kick and, well, that's about it. He's unique amongst Galaxy Fight's cast for being absolutely tiny (be sure to duck to hit him) and, in this version at least, he will morph into your character shortly after the start at the start of the second round (in home ports where he's playable, this is done by a special move).

After Yacopu, the final boss of the game is Felden Cryce, who has taken physical form after a thousand years spent becoming more and more powerful. His plan? Total global galactic saturation domination! There's less to say about him than the other bosses, mostly because he's exactly what you expect him to be- a big dude who has a big fireball, a near-invincible dragon punch, and will basically just clobber you. The most notable thing is his stage, really, which appears to be the very centre of the galaxy- the background keeps shrinking and expanding, which affects your character sprites too, meaning this stage can get very disorienting. Good thing you can't play on this stage against another player, eh?

The fourth boss is the hidden one, Rouwe, a martial arts hermit who wouldn't stand out in any other game in the genre, but sticks out a bit here because he's a 'normal' fighter amongst a roster of freaks, freaks, freaks. He'll only challenge the worthy, which in this case means you'll have to beat the game and defeat every opponent with a 2-0 win record. You are allowed to continue, mind- if you lose a round, lose the match then continue and try for that 2-0 clean sweep again. Meet these conditions, and after defeating Felden and watching your character's ending, Rouwe will challenge you in a very charming manner as you can see above, in a lonely desert. You only get one chance at this- lose and Rouwe says he's waiting for your next challenge, win and you get a group shot of the main cast. Either way, you'll get ending text and the staff credits for your trouble.

Next, the standard home port round-up, and there's not too much to go on here, but we'll do our civic duty.

First up, the ol' Neo-based conversions, with the Neo-Geo AES home console version doing the standard AES things, such as limiting you to four credits per session and a very basic difficulty selection when you start a game. The Neo-Geo CD version doesn't have many extras either, but it does have a controller configuration mode and an arranged soundtrack which is pretty great! It does, of course, have the standard Neo-Geo CD fighting game port problem of taking several centuries to load, but you knew that already, right?

Next, there's the Sega Saturn port from 1995 (and 1996 in the US), worked on by Santaclaus, which according to GDRI consisted of ex-Sunsoft staff who did work for them sometimes, most notably the ST-V and Saturn fighting game oddity Astra Superstars. Surprisingly, this one got a full hand- Japanese, American and European versions! Features-wise, it's perhaps a little under-par for a fighting game port of this era, with nothing like Survival or Training Modes that were showing up in its contemporaries, but it is faithful to its source material (loading times aside), uses the Neo-Geo CD's arranged soundtrack and has a Special Command Mode that allows you to assign special move commands to other buttons. You're free to set 360 motions, half-circle motions, plus the requisite buttons for the associated moves. Basically, hotkeys! It also has an easy button code to add the four boss characters to the character select screen in Vs. Mode, and loading screens that show otherwise-rarely-seen character art (and, in the Japanese version, character bios and stats, omitted from Western versions). Generally, this is a fine port, although avoid the PAL version- as well as being very expensive nowadays, it's 50hz. An obvious statement, but while some later PAL Saturn releases were PAL-optimised, this one was too early, so it wasn't.

The Playstation version from 1996 skipped America- I'd put this down to Sunsoft USA being shuttered, a little bit of history explained by the excellent Playstation Year One in their Mahjong Goku Tenjiku Vs. Mahjong Station Mazin episode, or Sony's apparent policy of refusing publication for 2D games- but strangely did see a release in Europe, under the Sunsoft label and all. I'd love to tell you more about how that happened, but, well, let's just say don't look up a copy of this on eBay. Yikes. Anyway, the Special Command Mode is missing from this version, but it has a truncated version that lets you hold the shoulder buttons and press a single attack button to perform certain moves for each character. It also has a few things missing from the Saturn release, specifically a timer count option, both the arrange and original soundtracks, and a Stage Select for Vs. Mode. You can still unlock the bosses in this version, but you now have to beat the game with every character then enter a button code. Good luck. As far as NG-to-PS1 conversions go, this is OK, but compared to the Saturn release, the presentation is a bit less colourful, close-up the sprites look a lot blockier, and it has longer loading times. Also, the exact same warning about the PAL Saturn version applies- too expensive, 50hz. I've seen worse PS1 ports, though.

Additionally, the Playstation version was released on PSN, playable on Playstation 3, PSP and PS Vita, in 2007 in Japan, 2010 in the US, and 2012 in Europe. Notably, the US and EU releases were actually listed as import games, as part of Monkey Paw's series of untranslated import games on the service, even though the game was released properly in Europe (the same thing happened with Sonic Wings Special). Monkey Paw also put out a very basic guide to the game with a few fun errors- see if you can spot them. As a warning, though, while it runs fine on PSP and PS Vita, playing the EU PSN version on a PAL Playstation 3 will play it in 50hz!

Oddly, all Western releases of these ports omit the 'Universal Warriors' part of the title.

Zooming ahead to 2008, Galaxy Fight was bundled with Waku Waku 7 for a Playstation 2 double-pack as part of SNK's Neo-Geo Online series, simply titled Sunsoft Collection. Generally the emulation on these sets is pretty solid, based on the AES versions specifically,and they generally come with a few notable extras. In this case, both games have arranged soundtracks and training modes, online fighting back when that was a thing for the PS2, and Galaxy Fight finally lets Player 1 and 2 freely pick colour palettes for their characters- in all previous releases, Player 1 could only use the standard colours and Player 2 was locked to the alternate colours. This ties in with the other bonus feature that was standard with SNK's PS2 collections, a colour palette editor. However, while Waku Waku 7 allows you to play as Bonus-Kun and Fernandeath in Vs. Mode- as it was in the AES version, to be fair- you cannot play as any of the bosses in this version of Galaxy Fight. It does make sense- these are based strictly on the Neo-Geo versions, after all, and they never had voice files announcing the boss names for the [Name] Wins display after a round, so that may be a reason- but it would've been nice to have them playable, especially given Alfred was playable in Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2. I would like to say this is the version to get, but it sadly shares the same fate as fellow Neo-Geo Online release ADK Damashii, in that it is very expensive. You gotta love Roomi and Arina a lot to put that £80+ down on this puppy.

Finally, we have an honest-to-goodness modern port, perhaps a more viable alternative to the PS2 release. Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors was one of the games released as part of Hamster Corp's Arcade Archives Neo-Geo range of downloadable Neo-Geo ports, getting rereleased on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Switch and Windows 10 (the following notes are based on the Playstation 4 version, but they're all supposed to be the same). These rereleases all have a shared set of features, and so they're relatively barebones- they're based on the MVS version of the game, and have no memory card stuff, no jukebox, no online multiplayer. However, you do get to choose between the Japanese and English versions of the game, the full set of Soft Dip options (which will be important in a second), a five-minute timed Caravan Mode, a one-credit Hi-Score Mode with its own leaderboards, and a few screen options including scanlines and even CRT-style screen-rolling. The lack of online versus is an unfortunate omission, but you can kludge it on PS4 if both players have a PS Plus account and do it via Share Play (with inevitable lag). Still, this is the best legally-available version of the game, so it comes recommended if you want to try it.

Finally, an interesting rule variation on the game that a certain arcade in Japan raised awareness of- the quick-fire one second match.

Mikado in Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo is a famous Japanese arcade that hosts a superb range of '80s and '90s arcade games, with special attention given to fighting games- you can read a little spiel on them over here. We actually visited the place in 2015 and they were streaming Kaiser Knuckle runs while we were there playing Buriki One (and could hear Jam in Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator from across the room), so that probably says a lot about the games they have on offer. What you see above is a special Galaxy Fight tournament that focuses on a rather unusual option in the Soft Dip settings- the round timer. Most other Neo-Geo fighting games let you change the timer speed but not the actual count itself. Galaxy Fight does, and lets you define it to the second... Including one second.

Needless to say, this changes the game entirely, and it's a surprisingly fun variation- because characters can dash so freely, you have more than enough time to make your way over to the opponent, and when we tried this out for ourselves, it's a very tense way of playing the game. You even have the time to fake-out your opponent for the ultimate in quick-draw mind games! Sadly, none of the home ports at the time included this- you can't fiddle with the timer at all in the AES, Neo-Geo CD or Saturn versions, and the Playstation version only lets you change it between 30, 60, and 99 seconds (as well as infinity, exclusive to this version). However, because the Arcade Archives version reproduces the Soft Dip settings of the MVS version, you can play with one second in this version. Do it and experience the thrill of single-second combat!

Waku Waku 7's next, right?

We'd joke about the next game being Astra Superstars, but our editor won't pay for it.