EDITOR'S NOTE:
Can we give a round of applause to Ultra Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell HokutoNoShock for this one? That poor friend of ours toughed out an entire online session of Star Gladiator's PS1 port to help us figure out what the heck's up with this game and then humoured my idiot writer with a long roundtable discussion on it. As a direct result of that session, Star Gladiator has now entered my fool writer's lexicon as a shorthand for fighting games with an absurd number of recovery frames on every move, because they're a God-damn nerd. Sadly, because of the completely bonkers setup we had to use to make that session happen, there aren't any screenshots from that session. Instead all our shots come from the arcade version via MAME, stretched and adjusted via HTML (unless you really want to see the game in ultra-widescreen / Hidamari Sketch mode) and so there may be slight graphical glitches here and there because, you know, PS1 hardware emulation an' all that. Additionally, you can't really talk about Star Gladiator without mentioning Namco's 3D weapons fighter released around the same time, but to save precious words, we'll just be calling it Soul Blade. We know, we know it was Soul Edge in arcades, but we don't wanna type both names out all the time.

Back in 1996, Capcom finally- after somewhat dragging their heels- entered the 3D fighting game space.

Their baby-steps into the newest form of the genre they helped shape resulted in Star Gladiator - Episode:I Final Crusade.

... Well, Star Gladiator was actually the backup plan. As revealed by Seth Killian on Destructoid's BIT TRANSMISSION podcast (specifically this episode at 56:00), Star Gladiator was, quote, "originally supposed to be a Star Wars game, which is not very well hidden if you kinda look at it". Take a look at character designs like Gamof (a giant furball with an ammo belt on his shoulder) and Bilstein (a robotic-looking empire leader with a vaguely skull-shaped helmet) and, well, yeah, this game absolutely wears its inspiration on its sleeve, no bones about it. Sadly there doesn't seem to be much more about this Star Wars connection out there beyond the Kusoge Wiki referring to the game as an 'homage' to the series, so I think it's reasonable to assume the Star Wars pitch was just that, a pitch, and so there's no build of the game with Luke and Obi-Wan and my favourite, Sasori Vader, locked in a vault somewhere in Capcom's offices. In any case, the final product is probably a better Star Wars fighting game than the actual Star Wars fighting game, although not by much but one can only wonder, what if Capcom had gotten the license? How differently would things have turned out? These are the sorts of things we can only dream about.



Regardless of its starting point as a licensed title, Star Gladiator was a big, big step forward for Capcom. Not the first 3D game published by the company, of course- Resident Evil beat it by a couple months- but their first internally developed polygonal fighting game. That's especially significant because in this arena, Capcom had lost a lot of ground. They had stuck to their guns on 2D sprite-based fighters throughout the '90s in spite of competition like Sega and Namco making huge strides in the 3D sphere, both on the second instalment of their respective flagship fighting game series Virtua Fighter and Tekken by the time Star Gladiator was released (Virtua Fighter 3 would follow a month later) and with the release of the Playstation and Saturn, these games were coming home alongside console-exclusive 3D efforts like Battle Arena Toshinden. Part of the problem for Capcom was tech- in an interview regarding Street Fighter III in 1997 with Next Generation magazine, Noritaka Funamizu, who was producer on both Star Gladaitor and SFIII, said that, "We feel that 3D is not really suitable for the head-to-head fighting... and, to be frank, Capcom doesn't really have the techniques to display high quality graphics in 3D.", and while it's hard to tell exactly when this interview took place, it was almost certainly after the arcade release of SG. Harsh. I mean, I can't hold it against Capcom because I think it's fair to say that games like Street Fighter III and Vampire Savior look visually stunning even today which can't necessarily be said for every early 3D game (not that flat-shaded polygons can't be beautiful or make for a good game).



Regardless of your feelings on 2D versus 3D, Capcom were lagging behind the competition and had to make the jump sooner or later and so 1996 was the year they went for 3D with two very different stabs at it. One was Street Fighter EX which was developed by Arika on Capcom's behalf (although it has its own history with the series- the company was formed by former Capcom employee and Street Fighter II collaborator Akira Nishitani) and used 3D visuals but stuck gameplay rigidly to a 2D plane. The other, appearing earlier in the year, was Star Gladiator- today's subject, don't you know- which had proper 3D movement and was entirely a Capcom joint, albeit with some relatively new blood working on it, with director duties shared between Hideaki Itsuno (planner on Street Fighter Alpha the previous year) and Eiichiro Sasaki (future planner on Tech Romancer and Project Justice), programming by Yuichi Kagawa (programmer on Rival Schools and Star Gladiator's follow-up, Plasma Sword) and character designs by Capcom veteran Akiman. Alas, even when they were trying to catch up, they'd already lost some ground- the release of Soul Blade and Battle Arena Toshinden 2 while Star Gladiator was being developed was a point of frustration for Capcom, as developer essays on the official site point to them being exasperated by those games coming out before they had finished (including Capcom themselves publishing an arcade version of BAT2). In any case, that SFIII interview was accurate- Capcom didn't have their own 3D hardware to work from, so perhaps to give them a flying start, the ZN-1 board that runs Star Gladiator as well as Street Fighter EX (and, uh, a few Acclaim titles somehow) was based on Playstation hardware, comparable with Namco's System 11 but not a patch on Sega's more powerful Model 2. This is how Capcom entered the 3D fighting space, so let's see how they got on.



The lore is pretty deep on this one, so let's have the English manual set the scene:

2348. Humans emigrate easily from one planet to another and peaceful contact is made with many races or alien beings. Yet problems arise with certain races, so the Earth Federation begins researching a plasma-power weapon to protect Earth. The top physicist for the Earth Federation, Dr. Edward Bilstein, uncovers the secret to humanity's "sixth sense": a technique for capturing the energy of the human mind. The plasma weapon is built, using mental power as its basis. Bilstein reaches fame and fortune for the invention, but is quickly exiled when it is revealed actual human bodies were used in his experiments. Bilstein is placed in a floating prison cell that orbits the planet Zeta, and development of the plasma weapon is suspended.
Word of the Earth's possession of a super-weapon spreads throughout the heavens, reducing hostile confrontations. The name Edward Bilstein is completely forgotten. Until four years later.

A report from Zeta states that a Federation army base was attacked and immediately destroyed by a small group of rebels calling themselves the "Fourth Empire." Several other similar reports come out of other nearby planets. The pattern of attacks leads back to Earth, so the Federation believes Bilstein is coming back for revenge.
A man as dangerous as Edward Bilstein can be stopped in only one way. He must be attacked before he reaches Earth. The Federation Army hastily organizes people who can utilize the Plasma weapons against their own creator and battle the "Fourth Empire." All Earth's hopes rest in the project codenamed "Star Gladiator".


Thus, the battle against Bilstein begins. Who will save the Earth from his impending tyranny? Only the stars know...





We'd better take a quick look at those fighters, it's tradition now.

With a new IP comes a new roster, one as strange as a Capcom fighter would get outside of the Darkstalkers series. Funnily enough, most of them still have Earth countries listed as their birthplace, but there's a few aliens and robots from different planets in the mix too. Much like Star Wars characters being with the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire, these characters are either part of the Star Gladiator program by the Earth Federation or working for the 4th Empire under Bilstein's command, and this is actually reflected in-game- by the character names under their lifebars, there's either a diamond (Star Gladiators) or a double-circle symbol (4th Empire) plus it changes the order you fight the characters in single player depending on your character's allegiance. Anyway, these character profiles are a mix of the profiles from the PAL PS1 manual and Capcom's official site, Star Gladiator's Gallery (some of the details, like Gore murdering his father and Planet DeRosa being ruined for drug harvesting, were toned down in the English manual) with the art taken from Star Gladiator's Gallery too and the voice actor data taken from the Japanese Wikipedia page plus checking the staff roll and other sources (in particular, Yukimasa Kishino is often listed as the voice for Gerelt, but this is emphatically untrue). Let's meet the cast, then.


HAYATO KANZAKI
Birthplace: Japan
Weapon: Plasma Blade
Affiliation: Star Gladiators
(VA: Nobutoshi Canna)

A reluctant bounty hunter with
a strong sense of justice who
wants to earn money to save
the orphanage he was raised in.

JUNE LIN MILLIAM
Birthplace: Hong Kong
Weapon: Plasma Circle
Affiliation: Star Gladiators
(VA: Megumi Ogata)

The world's greatest gymnast
who seeks revenge against
Bilstein as he is responsible for
the deaths of her parents.

SATURN DYER
Birthplace: Saturn, Andromeda
Weapon: Plasma Yo-Yo
Affiliation: Star Gladiators
(VA: Kazumi Tanaka)

A top Saturn scientist who got
bored, took an assignment
to study humans on Earth and
mastered the yo-yo while there.



GAMOF GOHGRY
Birthplace: Planet DeRosa
Weapon: Plasma Axe
Affiliation: Star Gladiators
(VA: Daisuke Gōri)

A friend of Hayato whose planet was
devastated and his lumberjacking job ruined
by humans harvesting for a potent drug,
he needs money to support his family.

FRANCO GERELT
Birthplace: Spain
Weapon: Plasma Saber
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Hisao Egawa)

A matador framed for spying by a rival
who had his family detained, Bilstein helped
him escape from jail and convinced him
to work for the empire to save his family.

VECTOR
Birthplace: Unknown
Weapon: Plasma Gun
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Osamu Hosoi)

A prototype robot assassin created
by Bilstein that assisted in his escape
from the Planet Zeta jail, Vector
is nearly ready for mass production.



RIMGAL
Birthplace: England
Weapon: Death Bone
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: RARRR! RAAARRR!!)

June's father, Michael Lin Milliam,
turned into a dinosaur by an experiment
by Bilstein, he is now under Bilstein's
command via a bio-control chip.

ZELKIN FISKEKROGEN
Birthplace: Planet Klondike
Weapon: Plasma Claw
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Hisao Egawa)

A brave Klondike warrior, his people
were at war with Earth and he surrendered
himself in exchange for Klondike hostages.
Bilstein freed him from jail to serve him.

GORE GAJAH
Birthplace: Indonesia
Weapon: Plasma Mace
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Daisuke Gōri?)

A famous magic-wielder who can perform
bizarre feats like growing in size,
his body has been twisted by his overuse
of Plasma Magic for Bilstein's empire.



KAPPAH NOSUKE
Birthplace: Planet Kappah
Weapon: Kappadent
Affiliation: Star Gladiators
(VA: Kazumi Tanaka)

A secret fighter.
He loves sake and fights Bilstein's
empire to protect his Japanese friends
because that's where sake comes from.

DR. EDWARD BILSTEIN
Birthplace: USA
Weapon: Plasma Sword
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Daisuke Gōri)

The final boss.
Bilstein created Plasma Energy after
discovering his ancestor's writings, he now
plans to dominate the Earth with his empire.

SUPER BILSTEIN
Birthplace: SPACE
Weapon: Plasma Sword
Affiliation: The 4th Empire
(VA: Daisuke Gōri)

The true final boss.
Bilstein's body is destroyed,
but his spirit...







With a lot of firsts for a Capcom game here, there's a sizeable amount of game mechanics to go over so do bear with me as we comb through all of this together, with assistance from the legendary Kao Megura's guide. At the very least, the button layout will be familiar to anyone who's played Namco's Soul Blade, as there's one button for vertical weapon strikes (essentially an overhead that can't be blocked low), one for horizontal weapon strikes (no special properties), kicks or other physical strikes (quick attacks that cannot be reversed) and guarding (no holding back to block on this one, luckily you can't be disarmed or break your weapon if you guard a lot) as well as a genre-standard throw via the two attack buttons together. Especially for a 3D weapons-based fighter, this approach makes sense, so clearly Capcom and Namco reached the same conclusion around the same time, much to Capcom's dismay.

From there though, Star Gladiator tries to carve its own path with some of its additions. The movement options are particularly worthy of praise in theory because you get a lot of them, mostly on the ground- beyond the wake-up options that were slowly becoming standard at the time, the guard button gives you movement in and out of the screen to dodge attacks and jockey for position and a special low-dash for getting in a little easier than the normal dash / run options. You'll want to get a handle on these manoeuvres sharpish as the arenas have edges you can fall off of to get a Ring Out, and while you can't dash or jump off the edge some of your other moves will make you take a spill. We'll get to how these feel in practice a little later, but for now, moving on to when on the defensive, there's also several reversal options divided into vertical and horizontal-countering versions of the Plasma Revenge (an automatic attack when hit during it) and Plasma Reflect (essentially a parry you can combo from). Gotta pick the right one otherwise you get nothing but a plasma weapon to the face yourself. Heck, there's even a 'flip' attack that's similar to a mechanic that would appear in Street Fighter III: New Generation, where you can force an enemy to turn their back to you allowing for a quick knockdown to get 'em off your back and can even lead to unique grabs like June's Camel Clutch if you get that knockdown.



The big offensive mechanic that distinguishes this game from the pack is the Plasma Combo system, with each character having one of three strict combo trees where you can string together up to five attacks in a pre-determined order, sometimes leading to a stronger hidden attack (the Plasma Final) at the end of a string. While they sound like thy should be similar to strings in Tekken or Virtua Fighter, they feel a lot different, being considerably more rigid and specific in the timing, not offering you much freedom to experiment (especially since there are no moves that you can cancel into other moves, everything has to play out completely) which is offputting and plays into some other problems later on. In a nice touch though, the inputs for legitimate Plasma Combos are shown in the Plasma gauge below your health bar, which also indicates how they have to be blocked... Which can actually be a detriment if you're using them to react to your enemy as some Plasma Combos have attacks that only hit if the previous ones whiffed or get blocked! That Plasma gauge also lets you know if you can use your Plasma Strike, a once-per-round super move that you lose whether you hit or it whiffs. In addition to these, each character has more traditional Street Fighter-style special moves and command normals (some of which are done automatically in Plasma Combos) and so it kind of feels like a mish-mash of what 3D fighters were doing and what Capcom did best in the 2D space- somewhat cluttered, trying to see what would stick.

As for the characters themselves, their movesets make them feel mostly unique- while there being only three combo trees shared between the cast may sound like it's limiting to a degree, they have their own hidden combo paths (albeit not many) and Plasma Finals as well as unique special moves. Some highlights include Zelkin whose Plasma Final allows him to fly around the entire arena (and, if you're not careful, off it), Hayato who can extend his Plasma Blade to ridiculous lengths temporarily and Gore who can dramatically increase his size and freeze opponents in place with short-range projectiles. I certainly can't fault Capcom for not bringing a varied cast to the table, 'cause they did. Some characters even have taunts in their moveset (Gerelt can clap repeatedly after one of his Plasma Combos) which is such an odd thing to add, especially since the inputs are often pretty elaborate!



That's quite a lot to chew on, isn't it? I know it might be a bit dry to just list all the mechanics like that, but I did so to make a point that there's a lot going on in this game. Star Gladiator, as they say in the trade, has a lot of stuff in it. The resulting game is one with the theme of 'let's put it in, why not'. Being their first real foray into 3D, I can see why they'd go with this approach- make the game a testbed of sorts similar to X-Men: Children of the Atom, see what mechanics work best, keep the good stuff and lose the chaff moving forward- but in this case it's a detriment to the game, and the execution is pretty dubious. Just because a game's got lots of stuff in it doesn't necessarily mean it'll stick the landing, and Star Gladiator is absolutely a poster child for this. Even though you have lots of movement options, movement itself is weird and stiff especially moving in and out of the screen with lots of pauses between actions where you can't do anything. These movement issues are compounded by the Ring Out system which will often see you drop to your death for moves you could've sworn were safe, and the way the camera swings when you're close to the edge can throw you off at times. More critically, attacks that play a part in Plasma Combos often have a delay or pause between each hit so the timing of the core combo system just feels all stiff and clunky, there's no proper flow to it like Soul Blade or Virtua Fighter 2. It feels more like you're typing each combo, and the huge amount of recovery (where you have to wait for the move to end) on pretty much everything you do means that every string of attacks and even individual blows feel like a Heavy Slash from Samurai Shodown and an unwieldy ten-string combo from Tekken at the same time. Samurai Shodown balanced those Heavy Slashes with 'safer' options, but it feels like even Kick attacks have got just that little too much recovery on them. There ain't no good buttons is this game, is what I'm saying.

All this combines to bog the game's pacing down and make it feel unwieldy and not satisfying to play, even once you have a grip on all the mechanics. I think I get what the intention was, mind you- a slower, more deliberate combo system that allows canny players to predict what their opponent is going to do and counter with the appropriate Plasma Reverse to turn the tide, or even incorporate Plasma Combos with hits that need to be blocked / whiffed to mix them up and keep 'em guessing. That's not a bad idea! It's just the surrounding game itself feels so clunky and stiff that it doesn't do the underlying mechanics justice, and the fact that it's pretty unfocused- adding as many mechanics as possible to see what sticks- makes it feel very messy. If playing fighting games as poorly as I do has taught me nothing else, it's that a developer can add as many systems and mechanics as they like to a game and still make it work, as long as the execution is laser-focused and spot-on in making it feel satisfying, and sadly Star Gladiator is not that kind of game. There is absolutely an audience for this kind of game I should think, and I imagine there's someone who's been reading about these mechanics and is just pumping their fist in the air at them, but execution is king, and so it may not be what you're looking for. This isn't a case of me going back to a game generations after being spoiled by later, more polished 3D fighters, by the way, the thing is that this lack of speedy game flow is an area where the game's contemporaries absolutely trounce it. I would like to make the argument that you can go back to Virtua Fighter 2 and Soul Blade now and get stuck in straight away, get some combos in and just slip into playing them really easily. That, in fact, is exactly what I did after learning Star Gladiator thoroughly and even though it'd been some time since I'd played any of them and couldn't remember a damn thing (Soul Blade has sidesteps? Coulda fooled me) I was doing combos and fancy moves very quickly. This game doesn't have that same kind of easy-to-grasp hook though, which is deeply unfortunate for an arcade fighting game, and so I basically had little luck getting into it.



Presentation-wise, this definitely looks the part for a Playstation-era fighter but it comes at a cost. The character models are detailed for the time and represent the character designs in 3D quite well, and while not all of the designs work for me (some are clearly more derivative of Star Wars than others) characters like Hayato, June and Zelkin certainly stand out and give the game an identity of its own. The theming helps too as it's fairly unique, although it would perhaps be less so as time went on as sci-fi-themed fighting games, especially involving robots, were starting to crop up on home consoles with the likes of Tobal No. 1 and Zero Divide. The stages have also had a lot of care put into them, with particular favourites being the Neo Tokyo stage with its garish advertising billboards, the Fouth Empire's laboratory with its sinister lab equipment and Bilstein's flickering visage on the monitors and, of course, the final battle scene atop Bilstein's HQ with an ominous thunderstorm and all sorts of mechanical nonsense going on in the background. Some, like Rimgal's water-surrounded platform and Zelkin's plane stage with a somewhat confusing background that can mask the edge of the stage slightly, aren't as strong however, and the soundtrack is OK but not particularly memorable. As for the cost of these visuals, an interview with game director Hideaki Itsuno explains that Star Gladiator runs at 30FPS because of the detailed 3D backgrounds and the weapon-trail effects. Not that hitting 30FPS is a requirement for making a good fighting game, mind you, as Soul Blade had to make the same concession for similar reasons, but it was clearly a bone of contention that future Capcom 3D fighting games would avoid.

If nothing else, Star Gladiator was a milestone release of sorts for Capcom, not for what it was or what it achieved, but rather the lessons that were learned from it. That Hideaki Itsuno interview mentions that he wanted to avoid the 30FPS issue for his next directoral role- Rival Schools: United by Fate. Released a year after Star Gladiator, Rival Schools feels like Itsuno and his staff saw what was wrong with Star Gladiator and set to rectify it, with 60FPS gameplay (compromising with 2D backgrounds), the removal of Ring Outs, a more free-flowing combo system that allows for air combos in the style of Capcom's own Marvel fighting game and the Plasma Reverses being replaced with a counter system more akin to the Alpha Counters from Street Fighter Alpha with even more freedom. Star Gladiator's own sequel, Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein, would further double-down on fixing many of the problems of the first game, but while Capcom would continue working with Arika on the Street Fighter EX series and release a few more 3D-movement fighters such as Project Justice and Tech Romancer, alongside more experimental fare like Power Stone, Gotcha Force and Heavy Metal Geomatrix, eventually they would concede and the experiment that began with Star Gladiator would come to an end. Street Fighter IV's release in 2008 cemented Capcom's fighting game standards going forward- games with 3D graphics set on a strictly 2D plane. Leave the fancy 3D movement to the Tekkens and Dead or Alives of this world said Capcom, and it seems to have mostly worked out for them. Well, mostly.



I find that going back to my personal experience with a fighting game either by myself or with my fighting game friend always serves me well when concluding these articles, and Star Gladiator has a doozy. In our little roundtable discussion after playing a long session, my fighting game friend explained that when they were practicing, they'd load up Training Mode, pick a character... And then frequently pause to do something, anything other than play Star Gladiator. The session was completed successfully and the discussion we had afterwards was fruitful, but I figure that says a lot about the game. As for myself, during the research for this article I not only played a bunch of Star Gladiator's contemporaries but also its sequel, Plasma Sword. After an in-depth session of the original game, playing the sequel was a relief as it's so, so much better than the original, with its movement and game-flow problems basically sorted out, complete with other new mechanics that make it feel distinct from other fighting games of the time. There is a point to be made that maybe Plasma Sword removes a lot of what made the first game unique and that SG's flaws and strangeness give it an identity that a 'fixed' version loses, and that's a fair point to make (indeed, some people say that about another duology of Capcom fighters, the Slam Masters games, although Ring of Destruction being a great game is a hill I am absolutely going to die on one day). I see it a different way though, of Plasma Sword (and, to an extent, Rival Schools and Project Justice) capitalising on the good ideas Star Gladiator had but fixing the execution and making necessary cuts and changes to turn it into a much more accessible and fun fighting game. Again, execution is paramount. I guess that's Star Gladiator's legacy, then- a somewhat interesting but flawed stepping stone on the way to much better fighting games from the venerable king of the genre. Its slow pacing, movement oddities and generally unsatisfying-feeling combat mean that this is one to look at and study if the ideas sound interesting to you, but only the really dedicated who can put up with its foibles may find a fighter to get their teeth into.

For being an essential but messy start, Star Gladiator is awarded...

In a sentence, Star Gladiator Episode:I Final Crusade is...
Capcom's 3D fighting game baby steps.



And now, it's that time, folks!
EXTENDED PLAY!



Let's start with the secret characters in the arcade version- there are two characters to unlock and two hidden fights!

All this info comes from the Star Gladiator Gallery page



The first secret fight is Kappah Nosuke, a literal space kappah with a unique trident weapon, the Kappadent. He's sort-of a joke character in that he doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of the cast, but he plays just fine so he's not a Dan kind of character. To fight him, on the third stage of single-player mode (Hayato for Star Gladiator characters, Zelkin for The 4th Empire characters), end the match with exactly 00 milliseconds on the in-game timer. To clarify, that's not the round timer at the top of the screen, but the current playtime at the bottom-right of the screen. If you've done it right, Kappah will replace Saturn (Star Gladiators) / Vector (The 4th Empire). You're more likely to fight this guy by accident rather than actively trying, honestly.



The second secret fight is the 'true' final boss, Super Bilstein, the one standing between you and a proper ending sequence. If you get to the end and beat Bilstein without meeting the requirements to fight this secret foe, you'll just get a generic text-only bad ending and the staff roll. That's no good! In order to fight Super Bilstein though, you need to reach the end of the game and defeat Bilstein with a total game time of less than 3 minutes (1-round matches) / 6 minutes (3-round matches) / 9 minutes (5-round matches) / 12 minutes (7-round matches). So, you have to beat each round of each match in roughly 18 seconds to make it on time. Meet these requirements and you'll get a "Here Comes a New Challenger" message and begin the Special Stage against Super Bilstein, which according to a translation of this page from Capcom Database, takes place in 'The Spirit World of Bilstein's Mind'. Blimey. He does way more damage and his Plasma Sword now has even greater reach, so good luck. Win and you get your character's specific ending (although you may wish you hadn't, as some of them are pretty dark), lose and you get another, different text-only bad ending and then game over, get off the machine, kid.



Rather than time-release like the Tekken games, Kappah and the normal version of Bilstein can be unlocked with a quick code each, but they have to be done in this order:
To unlock Bilstein, on the Character Select screen, hold Start, move from Hayato to Gore using Right (not Left!) then press G, K, G, K, A, A, A, B, B, B then G + K at the same time.
To unlock Kappah, on the Character Select screen, go to Bilstein, hold Start, move to Hayato then press K, A, B, A, G, A, B, A, K, A then G + B at the same time.
Scrolling off the Character Select screen will let you pick these characters. These codes last until you power the machine off.

In the Playstation version which we're about to talk about, the codes are similar but not identical, but can be saved to the Memory Card:
To unlock Bilstein, on the Character Select screen, hold Select, move from Hayato to Gore using Right (not Left!) then press Cross, Circle, Cross, Circle, Square, Square, Square, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle then Cross + Circle at the same time.
To unlock Kappah, on the Character Select screen, go to Bilstein, hold Start, move to Hayato then press Circle, Square, Triangle, Square, Cross, Square, Triangle, Square, Circle, Square then Cross + Triangle at the same time.



Additionally, there are three unfinished characters hiding in the arcade game code, selectable via MAME cheats and shown in the video above. These three characters are mostly in an early development state, with untextured / unfinished graphics and placeholder moves and stances borrowed from other characters, but some have unique moves and one even has a somewhat-unfinished versus screen plate. In order, they are an unnamed lady with a rod-style weapon (a possible early design for Kaede from Plasma Sword), a robot named Blodia (seemingly unrelated to the Blodia model from Armored Warriors / Cyberbots) and an unnamed man with a fan. There appears to be a joke about the robot one on this official page that implies its model is based on a Gundam of some kind, clarified by this video as a MS-09R Rick Dom from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Weirdly, none of these were picked up and finished up for the Playstation release, as that just added a completely new character...





Speaking of! There's only one home port for this one, but Star Gladiator was given a quick and faithful home port to the Playstation.



Given that the ZN-1 hardware was based on the Playstation, it should be obvious that this is a straight port job- in fact, Capcom's official Star Gladiator site
calls it 'indistinguishable' when placed side-by-side with the arcade release which, yeah, it basically is. They'd have to try pretty hard to fluff this one up. In any case, there are a couple of extra bells and whistles to talk about. Similar to the Tekken ports for the system, there's an all-new FMV intro with Bilstein attacking a city with some Vector units plus Hayato and June showing off their training montages which doesn't look bad for the era, and there's an array of mostly standard play modes- Arcade, Versus (which has options for player handicaps and stat tracking), Training (which also shows every character's Plasma Combo chart for quick reference), Group Battle (allows two players to pick teams of up to five to duke it out) and Options (mostly standard stuff).

There's a couple of exclusive unlockables and cheats, too. The biggest addition is a whole new character, Blood Barbarians- a human kidnapped by Bilstein and raised as his son who seeks to kill Plasma users to restore the balance of power, he has a robotic arm and uses many of Bilstein's attacks with a Plasma Sword. It doesn't seem like there's a way to fight Blood in Arcade Mode like with Kappah, you just have to unlock him with a code entered after the codes for Bilstein and Kappah- on the Character Select screen, move to Hayato, hold Select, move to Bilstein then press Cross, Square, Cross, Square, Cross, Square, move to Kappah then press Circle, Triangle, Circle, Triangle, Circle, Triangle then L1 + R1 at the same time. You can also unlock a Wall option by beating Arcade Mode once (any ending is fine) which stops Ring Outs from happening with invisible walls around each arena (perhaps a tacit admission of the Ring Out system not being great, you decide) and there's also some silly codes (taken from GameFAQs) like dark mode (hold L2, R2 and Down before a match begins- everything will be blacked out except for each character's weapon), big feet and hands (hold Right, Square, Triangle and Start before a match begins) and small feet and head (hold Left, Square, Circle and Start before a match begins).

Annoyingly, this was one of many, many PS1 Capcom games to get a rerelease only on the Japanese PSN (2006 - 2021) and no other territory.



Finally, let's talk about Star Gladiator in other games.

(As there's so few nods to them outside the series, let's include characters from Plasma Sword / Star Gladiator 2: Nightmare of Bilstein too.)



First up, while Pocket Fighter / Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix doesn't have any Star Gladiator characters, there's a lot of cameos.

Chun-Li has an animation where she switches into June cosplay- tap Punch then Kick repeatedly to see it.



Felicia has a few too. Her Down + Special attack has her change into Rimgal cosplay to clock here opponent with the Death Bone.

Tap Punch, Kick, Punch and Felicia will change into Kappah cosplay, then into Gamof cosplay to deliver a spinning piledriver!



There's also some background cameos. June is the cashier of DeeJay's Maximum Cafe, on the right-hand side.

The Christmas Shopping background has a June hologram, plus a Bilstein standee and Rimgal on the shop's sign.




Next, SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash has a small selection of Star Gladiator cards.

Hayato, B. Hayato and June, plus Rain from Plasma Sword, appear as Character Cards in the first game.

All these characters and Bilstein, plus Ele from Plasma Sword, appear in the second game.

All these characters minus B. Hayato are also in the DS game.

I've used only the Neo Geo Pocket Color art here because look at that pixel art! Why would I even think of using anything else?



Next, and by far the biggest representation of the game elsewhere is the inclusion of Hayato as a playable fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Not only was this the first and only time Star Gladiator would have a playable fighter in another Capcom game, it was also the first time someone from the game would appear in 2D sprite form. As well as versions of his Shiden, Guren and Byakko Hou moves, Hayato actually has a few dial-a-combo style Plasma Combos in this unique to him, as well as a version of his Plasma Field move from Plasma Sword! His victory animations also have cameos from June, Saturn and Ele, and B. Hatato appears during one of his Hyper Combos. Sadly he is generally agreed to be at the lower end of the tier list but hey, this is Marvel 2, if you ain't playing the top tiers then you can play as whoever the heck you like.



Moving on, Capcom vs. SNK 2's Shanghai stage has a little cameo from June, even if she's in a blue palette that can only be her with that hair back there.



Both versions of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom have Star Gladiator cameos in some endings.

The vanilla Japanese release, Cross Generation of Heroes, has Vector appear in Roll's ending as a play park attraction for children.



The Ultimate All Stars version has Vector in Roll's ending again, this time reprogrammed as a household chores bot.



Bilstein is also in Joe the Condor's ending on a pile of villains, and both Hayato and Ghost Bilstein star in Tekkaman Blade's ending.

Additionally, June was in the running to be a playable character in the game but ultimately never made it.

A shame, really- the Star Gladiator cast would fit in perfectly alongside the likes of the Gatchaman and Yatterman characters!



As for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you had to wait until the Ultimate update for Star Gladiator content.

The Heroes & Heralds mode, which has character cards to collect, has cards for both Hayato and June.



Hayato gets a somewhat depressing cameo in the Days of Future Past background, on the poster of apprehended and slain MvC2 characters (he was apprehended).



June, meanwhile, gets to cameo in two endings (in Hawkeye's as part of the New West Coast Avengers and Deadpool's at the party before he blows up Cleveland).



Not even Star Gladiator could avoid Capcom Fighting Evolution.

June and Ele make a quick cameo in Felicia's ending with June as part of the chorus line and Ele in the panel with Elena and Rogue.



For strategy game fans, Project X Zone 2: Brave New World on the 3DS has June as a Solo Unit, voiced by Yukari Tamura and with a theme song from Plasma Sword.

Vector and B. Hayato are also in the game as enemies, and you can see Vector getting his robobutt kicked above.



Finally, Street Fighter V added a June costume for Chun-Li as part of the time-limited Extra Battle.

(If you missed it though, Champion Edition includes it as standard.)

You can also hold LP, MP, HP, LK and Up as the match is loading to change her hair to something more Chun-Li-like.





At the time of writing, this game's name is wrong on Wikipedia. There isn't a 'The' in the title.

If you want to go nuts, look closely at the game's logo and try to figure out the correct punctuation.