Summer has finally arrived and with it comes a lot of moaning. Moaning about how hot it is. And usually the same people who, just a few weeks previous, were moaning about how cold and wet it was. So what better reason is there to get away from these pitiful humans than shutting yourself away in complete isolation to play old games your friends (if you have any) have never heard of. Plus, the bright days give you a valid reason to pull the curtains; who would want actual sunlight invading the room? Horrible, nasty sun.
Fur Fighters is one of those games that precisely half the gaming population know about and the other half doesn’t. Actual gaming fact. I know because I conducted the study. It was released on Dreamcast in 2000, but, despite good reviews, it hardly caused a stir at the time. With its recent debut on the iPad, I thought it was time to give my retrospective thoughts on the DC version.
The Fur Fighters plot is simple enough. The Fur Fighters, consisting of six different animals, are living perfectly happy lives until some bastard called General Viggo abducts their families and is intent on ruling the world. Just from the sounds he makes, it’s clear this guy is a bit of a knob. It’s sad stuff, but Fur Fighters takes a rather humourous approach to its storytelling. It’s not hilarious or as good as the LEGO games, but the plot would be far duller otherwise.
The single player campaign is not great. Reviews at the time were fairly generous, but I always found it incredibly boring and monotonous. I still find it incredibly boring and monotonous (insert your own clichéd joke about Adrian Chiles). I never liked it when the game was first released and, having tried the first few levels again, I haven’t changed my mind. There’s nothing horrendously wrong with it, but there’s not much right with it either. A bit like fancying your girlfriend’s sister.
Essentially, you travel around each level shooting the odd bear, rescuing one of the abducted babies, and then solving some puzzle to reach the next stage so you can shoot more bears and rescue more babies. The most infuriating thing about rescuing the babies is you have to be its parent. So, to rescue one of the puppies, you must be Roofus (the dog) and so on. Invariably, when you do find a baby to rescue, you are 99% likely to be the wrong character and so you then must go back and find a teleport device to get the correct one. Thrilling eh?
The default control scheme was also quite difficult to get used to. As much as I like the DC controller for its snug feel and unique design, it needed a couple more buttons and lacked that all important second analog stick. Instead, the default controls forced you to use the A, Y, B, and X buttons to move forward backwards and sideways. You used the analog stick to look around and aim. To be fair, it did create an unusual way of dodging enemy fire and getting around the map. Sidestepping was the order of the day and it did allow you to see what was around the corner right away and immediately fire upon enemies. It worked, but just looked odd.
But none of that matters anyway. What matters is the multiplayer. Multiplayer in Fur Fighters is excellent. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play it again for this article because I had nobody to play it with. Serves me right for shutting myself away in isolation and renting out that Wild Things DVD. So, admittedly, this part of the article is from memory – fear not.
In terms of the number of hours wasted with friends, Fur Fighters is second only to the Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart series… and Goldeneye, FIFA, Timesplitters and Lylat Wars. But, seriously, I did play it a lot. Four-player splitscreen was always a draw, despite just all of two people owning a Dreamcast at school. But get a few mates, enough controllers, some Fruit Shoots and you’re evening is set.
The beauty of Fur Fighters’ multiplayer is its simplicity. There’s nothing particularly new about it, just a good selection of weapons, decent level design and four players on the map. The arena is set, let the players do the rest seems to be the motto.
Health in Fur Fighters is a far cry from today’s multiplayer games. When you sustained damage, it was actually, you know, sustained. Health could only be replenished by “eating” the cans of food dotted around the map. This presented unique challenges: do you go all out and finish opponents off who are low on health, but expose yourself to enemy fire, or do you position yourself strategically near some food cans. Fortunately for this game, going all out and not allowing your opponents the opportunity to replenish their health was the best tactic overall. This helped fuel the chaos.
Most matches descended into races for the best weapons. This sounds awful, and it perhaps should be, but in practice it was fantastic. Fighting over the “light gun” or the “fireball gun” (I made those names up) continuously and then seeing your pals scurry away as you wield the grenade launcher was hilarious at the time.
My favourite tactic was to find the highest point in the level, whip out my grenade launcher (ahem, ladies), and rain down exploding black balls of destruction. It wasn’t actually a brilliant strategy in terms of getting kills or winning, but it was just joyous to watch my opponents on screen running for their lives, not knowing whether they were safe.
I think this reflects what Fur Fighters did well for me. It just set the platform for funny moments between mates. It wasn’t forced in any way; you and your friends made it fun. I’ll admit, it didn’t quite work with two or three players – cornering an opponent behind a door while you wielded the rocket launcher from the other side of the map, firing every time your friend opened the door slightly was, while funny for you, a bit monotonous. This game NEEDS four players.
Perhaps we don’t see four-player splitscreen games like this anymore because it actually requires people to socialise and that takes effort. Online gaming allows for great experiences and you get a full screen to yourself, but being sat on your own with an earpiece is still quite lonely. I enjoy it, but online gaming has never given me the same memories as when I’ve had my mates in the room with me. It’s a shame, but all the more reason to keep the old consoles unpacked along with cult classics such as this.