Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vaguely Homoerotic Fun with Rival Turf!

If there’s one important lesson that I learned from the 1992 SNES game Rival Turf!, it’s that I probably shouldn’t have spent money on the 1992 SNES game Rival Turf! But the other important lesson I learned is that nothing says justice quite like the cop from The Village People wrapping himself in hundreds of strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups and punching the heck out of tactless criminals across two continents. 

After the success of fist-fueled fiestas like Double Dragon and the original Final Fight in the late 1980s, side scrolling beat ‘em ups flooded the arcade and home markets, slugging it out for everyone’s fighting dollars. The craze spawned a few truly memorable titles like Sega’s Streets of Rage trilogy for the Genesis/Mega Drive, and plenty of other games destined to be reviled and forgotten, like Burning Fight, Guardians of the ‘Hood and David Robinson’s Supreme Court.

Rival Turf! is one of those games in the latter category that so bad it’s still bad, but at least it serves that function in a bland and uninteresting way. What it does add to the genre, however, are vague homosexual undertones, which make any video game worth playing.

The ambiguously gay fun begins when our two fashion unconscious heroes, Oozie Nelson and Jack Flak, decide to clean up the streets of Los Angeles by pounding the crap out of everyone from the local biker population, sans-motorcycles, to the glam rockers/transvestites that live in the local Rival Turf! homeless shelters. You might be thinking that these are the kind of people the police are supposed to be helping, but Nelson and Flak have it all figured out: Everyone knows that to make an omelet, you’ve got to break a few eggs – or in the case of Rival Turf!, assault hundreds of mentally challenged thugs while wearing a red leather police officer outfit. And this game certainly makes a lot of omelets.

At least there are no women in Rival Turf! to get in the way of the undertones. Err, action. I meant action. Wait, no, I mean... Never mind.

There’s not much about Jack Flak that separates him from Axel, Cody, David Robinson or any other regular joe found in these kinds of games, except that his jacket kind of makes him look like Marty McFly from Back to the Future 2 or perhaps even Aries from Final Fantasy VII. It’s the unfortunately named Oozie Nelson, the Mexican wrestler turned male stripper/cop, who takes center stage. An enigma: If Nelson is supposed to be Hispanic, why does he look like a black guy in the character select screen and a white guy in the ending? The world may never know.

These character designs are totally rad!

You know how real gangs have specific colors and styles that they wear to show that they’re gang members? You’ll see none of that tripe in Rival Turf! I learned a long time ago from games like this that for gang members in the early ‘90s, anything went as far as fashion. You want to wear a motorcycle helmet and a pair of MC Hammer pants? Go for it! An eye patch, bicycle shorts and wrestling boots? Sure! A Saran wrap t-shirt, a cockring and a hat made of breadsticks? Hell yeah! Not one to break from tradition, Rival Turf! dives right on to the “randomly dressed from Hot Topic and grandma’s attic” bandwagon.

The game itself is was pretty standard punch and kick fare. The first few levels offer action that was stale even when Rival Turf! was released and it really didn’t age well from there. But after lots of uncomfortable grabbing and an end-of-level celebration that got a little out of hand, I came across these two guys trying to hide their, um, activities behind a barrel.

Aye carumba! The last time I saw something like that in a video game, Gen. Custer was getting his revenge! I’m not sure why, but Nelson flew into Angry Mode at that point and savagely suplexed both men’s backs into Jell-o. Maybe he knew them somehow and didn’t approve of their behavior.

I guess I should explain Angry Mode, which sounds like what happened to all the children who paid $50 for this game when it was new. Angry Mode makes your character invincible for a short amount of time, as indicated by his flashing white, like this:

Note: Angry Mode does NOT affect your gloves.

Later on I found this guy, who looked like he was more into fighting the demons in his head than our two suspiciously flamboyant police officers. But I had a duty to uphold the peace, so I dragged him out of his hiding spot and bludgeoned him to death with a rusty steal pipe. There was also this dude who was out for a stroll with this most triumphant boombox in the local car garage at 4 a.m. So like the good cops they are, Nelson and Flak pummeled him mercilessly.

Then it was off to South America after hitching a ride on a nearby enemy military chopper for three more rounds of… rounds! Did you know that gangs in Brazil are basically the same as the gangs in America, only with more green in their wardrobes? Forget social studies; why aren’t children all across the world playing Rival Turf! in school to drink deeply of its vast educational value?

After fighting my way through some kind of factory instead of just walking around it to get to the final stage, the gang leader, Big (gay?) Al, decided I had slaughtered enough of his poorly dressed, unarmed henchmen and attempted to kill me by wearing white after Labor Day. Of course, this threw Nelson into Angry Mode and you can guess what happened from there. Then I watched the credits, secure in the knowledge that not one of the billions of gang members that I ruthlessly executed was smart enough to bring a gun to the battle and put and end to Nelson and Flak’s brutal love and/or friendship.

So remember kids, crime doesn’t pay. The next time you decide to steal some candy or cigarettes or kill a man, think about this: When the cops catch you, the last thing you’re likely to see before blinking out of existence is the heavy, possibly homosexual boots of justice stomping you and your friends’ skulls into a fine powder.

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