Note: This is an original copy of Legend of Success Joe that was played on an Omega Entertainment Machine (consolized Neo Geo MVS) through component video cables. It was connect to an HD-tv.
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up/Boxing hybrid
Play Time: 25-30 minutes
Quick History: Legend of Success Joe is based on a Japanese manga that was released in the 1970s. The game was not released in the United States, but did come out for the MVS (Neo Geo Arcade) and the AES (Neo Geo home console) in 1991 in Japan. The game does play in English if played on a U.S. region console, or if a Unibios is installed and set to the U.S. region.
Quick Story: Joe Yabuki is an up-and-coming young boxer who is looking to climb the ranks, beat his rivals, and become World Champion. Between stages, a text description advances the story and lets you know what Joe is up to and who he’s going after next.
High Score Table: Ten slots. You’ll need to get over 100,000 to make the table, which takes some practice! If you have a Neo Geo console with a Unibios installed (3.2 or higher, I believe), your high scores can be saved.
Gameplay: In Legend of Success Joe, you’ll battle through tough streets, parking lots, and gyms on your way to the ring, where you’ll face off against your rivals in traditional boxing matches. There are a total of 10 ‘stages’ that are a combination of brief side-scrolling segments against multiple thugs and one-on-one boxing matches against your boxing rivals. You have three ‘health bars.’ Each time you take a punch, you lose some health, and each time a bar is depleted, you hit the mat (or ground). Get knocked down three times, and it’s Game Over. You can continue at the opponent or scene you last left off on, or choose not to continue and save your progress on a memory card.
Control: Legend of Success Joe only utilizes the A and B buttons, and pressing them with a combination of a direction on the control stick unleashes a different punch or other boxing move. Joe can dodge back (sway), block, throw jabs, uppercuts, crosses, and body blows using these different combinations. Different opponents are susceptible to different types of attacks, so learning what their vulnerabilities are is the key to winning. A handy ‘How to Play’ screen plays before you start that shows the different types of punches and defense maneuvers.
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: I had never read anything particularly good about Legend of Success Joe, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the game as much as I ended up enjoying it. There are two primary criticisms that I’ve read about the game, and I’ve found that only one of them, after spending a lot of time actually playing the game, is truly warranted. The graphics, it’s true, are not great – but that’s in comparison to other Neo Geo games. Unto itself, not compared to anything else, I like the big, colorful boxers and backgrounds. But ultimately, yes, the graphics not quite what you expect from a Neo Geo game, and the frames of animation are somewhat clunky looking.
The second criticism I’ve read about the game is that it has a convoluted, broken control scheme. This is false. On my first or second playthrough, I would have agreed with this assessment, but once I learned how to control Joe, I found the control scheme both intuitive, easy to master, and fun. I could easily see a person getting frustrated and giving up on the game before learning this system, but once you learn it, it’s easy to enjoy, and not as complicated as you originally thought. A lot of the game depends on learning the timing of your opponents’ moves, and reacting appropriately both with Joe’s defense moves and what type of punches work best on individual opponents. A big hint – learn the SWAY maneuver and utilize it often, as it’s key to beating many opponents.
I’m a huge fan of the Rocky movies, and this game has a very ‘Rocky’ vibe to it. You even have a manager who accompanies you throughout the game who seems reminiscent of Mickey from the movie series. If you happen to be a Rocky fan, you may get some enjoyment out of this game for that reason.
With a bit of practice, you can learn to power through the first several stages and boxers without having to continue, or even getting knocked down once. The later opponents will require a bit more patience and practice to beat. Learn your opponents’ moves, know when to dodge or how to block, know whether to counter with a body blow or an uppercut, and you’ll become a master of the game.
Legend of Success Joe has a very ‘old school’ feel to it. Practice, patience, frustration. Practice, patience, mastery, fun. If you have the temperament for this type of game, it’s quite fun. B+