Time Killers is a 1993 weapon-based fighting arcade game developed by Incredible Technologies and published by Strata. Along with Allumer’s Blandia, Time Killers is one of the earliest weapon-based fighting games modeled after Capcom’s Street Fighter II (1991 ). It was later overshadowed by the success of SNK’s 1993 weapon-based fighting game, Samurai Shodown. In Time Killers, eight characters from different periods in history face off with each other, and then Death, for a chance at immortality.
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Time Killers plays much like Mortal Kombat, with some similarities to Street Fighter II. Rather than the standard layout of punches and kicks of various strengths, a specific button is used to attack with the corresponding body part: left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, and the head. A stronger attack can be executed by pressing both limb buttons at the same time. The attack buttons involving respective arms and legs are also the basis of BloodStorm as well as Namco Bandai’s Tekken series, the 2011 Mortal Kombat game, and Bio F.R.E.A.K.S..
If enough damage is done to an arm, that limb will be torn completely off from the character’s body, rendering it useless in combat. It is possible for both limbs to be lost, thus forcing the character to fight with only their legs and head. Damage can also be done to the legs, but unlike the arms they cannot be removed. Sometimes, depending on when the blow is landed, an arm can be taken off with one or two hits.
Instant Kills or “Death Move”, if executed and hit successfully, will lop off the opponent’s head and immediately end the round. It is simply done by pressing all five buttons at once. Unlike MK’s “Fatalities”, which can be done only after the opponent has been defeated in 2 rounds, they can be done any time, though they can be blocked. There is also a “Super Death Move”, which can only be done while next to stunned opponents by holding the joystick in the direction that moves the character toward the opponent and pressing all five buttons. This attack removes both arms and the head. When the round ends, any lost body parts (including the head) are “magically” restored.
Each of the characters in the game hails from a different period, bringing his/her own origins and weapons into the battle. The handbook that was made for the game goes into detail that explains the origins and background of each. A few of the characters are based on historical figures and legends.
Rancid – A streetwise punk, framed for murder. He is from New Chicago in 2024 AD and carries a chainsaw. His ‘X’ shaped scar is from a battle he had with a man who was behind the X murders, which Rancid was being accused of. He managed to kill the man before disappearing. With this in mind, it is possible his backstory was somewhat inspired from Charles Manson, who had carved a swastika into his forehead with a knife. The scar may be a reference to the Fist of the North Star character Hyo.
Orion – A space hero of sorts who was supposedly grown in a test tube and loves riding in the vastness of space in the future period of A.D. 2885. He became a fugitive after escaping from police out of fear when he tried to report an alien attack that left no traces of evidence and now journeys to locate the aliens responsible. He fights with an electric sabre.
Thugg – A large, very powerful prehistoric caveman who wields a stone axe, having emerged from beyond “The Edge”. He led a fierce and bloody battle against a reptilian alien race known as the Troglodytes, who were harvesting humans as cattle for food and slavery.
Lord Wülf – A heroic knight from the medieval ages. His family was murdered by Count Morbid, who tried to conquer England before he was destroyed by Wülf. He is supposedly based on King Arthur, even hailing from Camelot, England and wields the legendary sword known as Excalibur.
Leif – An adventurous Viking who carries a large battle axe. He was a constant thorn in the side of the mysterious and undead legions of the Black Army, led by Black Thorn, who aspired to take over the world. It is most likely that he is based on Leif Erikson.
Musashi – A samurai who fights with a sword. Musashi is a brilliant strategist and the finest general in Japan who lost his once-undefeated army to a horrifying dragon. Musashi himself was protected by the dragon’s scale he wore and traveled for many years to find it and avenge his loss. Supposedly based on Miyamoto Musashi.
Mantazz – A mutant creature, resembling a praying mantis in appearance. She is the queen (as is implied in her background story) of a race of unknown origin from the far-off future of 4002 AD. Having overwhelmed an entire area and spreading quickly, these creatures wanted nothing but to cause death and destruction to humankind; after a fearsome war and the disappearance of their queen, both races managed to coexist peacefully. She fights with her razor claws.
Matrix – A female soldier from the future time of 3297 AD with a bionic arm in place of a limb she lost in a battle, giving her the ability to tap into the commands of cybernetic foes as a result. She uses a sword made of plasma as her weapon. In her period, all of the robots went mysteriously berserk and began to massacre humankind. She managed to defeat the Master Drone, but vanished shortly after her victory.
Death – The final boss of the game and the one responsible for the entire tournament and taking each of the fighters from their periods. Being the grim reaper, he carries a scythe. He cannot be defeated in a 2-out-of-3 match normally, and must be decapitated with a Death Move or a Super Death Move in order to beat the game.
Ports were announced for the Super NES and Genesis/Mega Drive, with intended release in Spring 1994, but Nintendo had the Super NES version cancelled early that Spring, while the Genesis/Mega Drive version’s release date was pushed back. Two months later the Genesis/Mega Drive version was cancelled entirely, even though developer THQ had already completed it. According to a journalist for GamePro, “Reportedly, the game was considered too explicit. It also had a poor test run among reviewers who saw the preview copy.” It was eventually published by Black Pearl in 1996 but sold poorly, due to being cited by most video game magazine critics as having incredibly poor graphics, sound and playability.
Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewed the Genesis version in 1993, roughly half a year before it was cancelled, and three years before its ultimate release by a different publisher. They gave it a 4.2 out of 10, remarking that “The only remotely redeeming factor of this ‘fighting’ game is the ‘super death moves’ where you dismember an opponent. Otherwise, the game play, sound, and technique aren’t here.” They gave it a second review the following month, in which they lowered the score to 3.5 out of 10 and assessed it as a botched conversion of an already awful arcade game, citing poor graphics, audio, and controls, and generally unappealing gameplay.