Star Gladiator Episode: I Final Crusade

STORY:  In the year 2348, humans have been exploring space for the past four centuries, and have established contact with various alien civilizations. People now emigrate from one planet to another, and life is generally good. In steps Edward Bilstein. A Nobel prize-winning physicist, he uncovers the secret to humanity's "sixth sense," and discovers how to use it as an energy source he calls, "Plasma Power."

After failed attempts to coerce other Plasma fighters to join him in taking over Earth, Dr. Bilstein is captured by authorities and imprisoned in a satellite orbiting planet Zeta. Six years later, Bilstein has built himself a powerful cyborg body, and has managed to escape from his cell, gathering a cadre of Plasma mercenaries at his side. After making quick work of Zeta's defenses, Bilstein again sets his eyes on Earth. A panicked Earth Federation has only one recourse: to find people who could utilize the Plasma weapons against their own creator in a last, desperate hope to stop the mad genius before he can invade Earth with his nascent Fourth Empire.


Star Gladiator character select screen.

REVIEWStar Gladiator is Capcom's first attempt at a 3D fighting game, set in a futuristic Star Wars-inspired world and presenting an entire new cast of weapon-wielding characters. The characters of Star Gladiator definitely resemble several well known personalities from Star Wars, but many are considerably original designs. Similar to Namco's Soul Blade, characters in Star Gladiator present a unique fighting style with halfway decent animations (although there are definitely a few awkward ones scattered about, too).

Instead of the usual 6-button layout, Star Gladiator uses a four-button system consisting of two attack buttons that utilize a character's weapon, a kick attack, and a guard defense. The fighters battle in a limited 3D plane field where ring-outs (a la Soul Blade) are possible. Characters can sidestep, however, they weirdly can't be punished with the opponent's horizontal strikes during a sidestep (which kinda sucks, technically-speaking). The overall gameplay speed is a bit slow, and overall, not nearly as fine tuned or as fun to play as Capcom's trademark 2D fighting games. Furthermore, the 3D mechanics and core gameplay of Star Gladiator definitely pale in comparison to Namco's TEKKEN 3 (1997), released only a few short months after Star Gladiator.


The dark side wins... Bilstein takes the set.


However, Capcom's Star Gladiator is at least playable and interesting in some areas. Other gameplay features include "Plasma Reverses," which are defensive moves that can be performed any time during gameplay. Another defensive maneuver "Plasma Reflect" allows players to deflect the opponent's incoming attack and stun them, leaving them open for a few seconds. "Plasma Revenge" enables fighters to counter an opponent's incoming move and strike back with their own quick attack. Characters can also use a Plasma Strike, which can cause huge damage to an opponent if it connects on sight, but a Plasma Strike can only be done once per round.

Star Gladiator also introduces the "Plasma Combo" System. Each fighter has his or her own combo strings, which can be used to combo their opponent in a relentlessly, even if the opponent is blocking. When a fighter strings together five hits they'll be able to initiate a Plasma Final, which unleashes a powerful attack at the end of the combo. This system was  later discarded in the sequel.

Star Gladiator gameplay on PS1.

The System 11 hardware this game ran on allowed an easy home translation to the PlayStation, and it received a better reception on console than it did in arcades. In retrospect, Star Gladiator was hardly the smash hit Capcom may have hoped for. The quirky 1996 3D fighting game would be quickly overshadowed by many others from the era. The sequel, Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein (or Star Gladiator 2 in Japan) was ported exclusively to the Sega Dreamcast despite much speculation of a PlayStation conversion.

FUN FACTS:    According to former Capcom community manager, Seth Killian, Star Gladiator was originally intended to be a Star Wars game. However, Capcom wasn't able to obtain the Star Wars license, so they created their own characters instead. Star Gladiator was Capcom's first in-house polygonal fighting game, as the earlier Battle Arena Toshinden 2 was licensed to Capcom from an outside developer.





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Page Updated: April 17th, 2024
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Designer(s): Hideaki Itsuno, Eiichiro Sasaki
Artwork by: Bengus     Artwork / Character Design
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation
Release Date(s): Oct. 25th, 1996        
Oct. 31st, 1996
December 1996
Characters Hayato Kanzaki, Prince, June Lin Milliam, Gamof, Franco Gerelt, Gore, Zelkin, Vector, Bilstein, Blood, Rimgal, Kappah

Featured Video:

Related Games: Plasma Sword, Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi, Bloody Roar, Rival Schools: United By Fate, Street Fighter EX, Soul Blade, Bushido Blade, Bushido Blade 2, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, SNK Vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash, Battle Arena Toshinden, Battle Arena Toshinden 2, Battle Arena Toshinden 3, Galaxy Fight, TEKKEN 3

Gameplay Engine  6.0 / 10
Story / Theme  7.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  6.0 / 10
Animation  6.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  5.0 / 10
Innovation  6.0 / 10
Art Direction  8.5 / 10
Customization  4.5 / 10
Options / Extras  6.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  5.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  5.0 / 10
Characters  6.0 / 10

 6.4 / 10

 Review based on PlayStation version    


Final Words:

Star Gladiator was an ambitious title for the time... and a fresh take on the well-known fighting game formula by Capcom. In the realm of gameplay and overall playability, Star Gladiator didn't live up to Capcom's most popular 2D fighting games of the late 90s. Most hardcore fighting game fans unfortunately passed on Star Gladiator, but its character designs and overall charm would continue to live on in various future Capcom games.

It was interesting seeing Capcom's original artistic take on a universe comparable to Star Wars. While Namco and other developers were beginning to develop groundbreaking 3D fighting games in the late 90s, Capcom's attempt was respectable but still seemed lacking on polish and overall content. Several years following Star Gladiator, Capcom released the sequel, Plasma Sword, which introduced new characters and improvements to the gameplay and graphics.

~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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