|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players simultaneously|
Star Gladiator Episode I: Final Crusade (Japanese: スターグラディエイター Hepburn: Sutāguradietā?) is a 1996 weapon-based 3D fighting game released by Capcom for the PlayStation-based ZN-1 arcade hardware. It was Capcom's first polygonal fighting game, preceding the original Street Fighter EX (which Capcom had co-produced with Arika) by a few months. A PlayStation port was released in October 1996. It was followed by a single sequel, Plasma Sword, in 1998.
The control of Star Gladiator is unique from some of Capcom's own past fighting games. Instead of the usual six-button configuration system seen in past fighting game series such as Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers, Star Gladiator utilizes a Soul series-esque four-button configuration system, which consists of two attack buttons for a character's weapon, a kick attack, and a guard defense. The fighters are able to battle upon a limited 3D plane field and a ring-out victory is possible for a fighter if they're able to knock their opponent out of the field.
Characters can initiate unique tactics seen from within this game. Plasma Reverses are two special guard moves that can be unleashed at any time from within a battle. A Plasma Reflect enables a fighter to deflect an opponent's incoming move and stun them in an instant, leaving them vulnerable for a few seconds while a Plasma Revenge enables a fighter to counterattack an opponent's incoming move and strike back with their own fast 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. Through a specific string of attacks, a fighter can combo their opponent from within a relentless manner, even if the opponent themselves are blocking. If a character is able to string together five hits and press a specific button from within the end of the combo, they'll be able to initiate a Plasma Final, which'll enable them to unleash a powerful technique that'll cause a strong amount of damage to be inflicted upon their opponent. This system would later be discarded in the game's sequel, Plasma Sword.
The arcade mode of Star Gladiator consists of 10 fights. Depending on who the player chooses as their character, they'll fight against a specific set of opponents from within the game. Gore is always fought at Stage 9 and is considered a sub-boss before Bilstein, who is fought at Stage 10 and is considered to being the final boss of the game. Depending on how the player got to Bilstein from within a specific time limit, the game either ends with a false ending or it continues as the player is then taken to a special battle against an unplayable computer-controlled final boss named "Ghost Bilstein". Losing to "Ghost Bilstein" results in both a bad ending and a game over while defeating "Ghost Bilstein" results in the full completion of the game and seeing your character's own true ending.
In the year 2348, humans have been exploring the vast reaches of outer space for the past four centuries and have established peaceful contact with various alien civilizations. People now emigrate from one planet to another and life is generally good. However, some problems arise with a couple of alien races, so the Earth Federation begins its research in creating a Plasma-power weapon to help protect the Earth from any possible outside threats. Dr. Edward Bilstein: a Nobel Prize-winning German-American prestigious physicist for the Earth Federation, uncovers the secret to humanity's "sixth sense": a technique for capturing the energy of the human mind and discovers how to use it as an energy source he calls "Plasma Power". The specific Plasma weapon is built, using mental power as its basis and that Bilstein is able to gain fame and fortune for the invention, but it is soon discovered by the Earth Federation that Bilstein had experimented on actual human bodies during his research on Plasma Power and that he's immediately arrested and exiled from Earth, being imprisoned in a floating prison satellite that orbits the Planet Zeta while the development of the specific Plasma weapon is indefinitely suspended. Word of Earth's possession of a super weapon immediately spreads throughout the universe and that it instantly reduces hostile confrontations while the name Dr. Edward Bilstein is completely forgotten from within the minds of everyone. However, four years later, a report from Zeta states that an Earth Federation army base from upon the planet was attacked and immediately destroyed by a small group of rebels calling themselves the "Fourth Empire" and that Bilstein, who had built himself a powerful cyborg body and managed to escape from the floating prison satellite on Zeta, is the one who's leading this group of dangerous individuals. With several other similar reports coming from other nearby planets and realizing that the specific pattern of attacks is leading right back to Earth, a panicked Earth Federation has only one recourse: to find people who could utilize Plasma Power in their own given accord and attempt to stop Bilstein from within a last, desperate effort before the mad genius can invade and conquer Earth and the rest of the universe with his nascent Fourth Empire. All of Earth's hopes rest in the project codenamed "Star Gladiator".
- Hayato Kanzaki: The main protagonist of the series. A rebellious young Japanese intergalactic bounty hunter who fights with a Plasma Sword while living on his own and caring about others, especially the children living in the orphanage in which he was raised from and his close friends June, Saturn, and Gamof. Hayato's noble love and determination for his friends is the driving force that prompts him to go up against Bilstein and the Fourth Empire. Hayato is the only character in the series to cross over in another Capcom game; in this case, Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Hayato also makes a cameo appearance in Tekkaman Blade's ending in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.
- June Lin Milliam: A talented young British-Chinese rhythmic gymnast of mixed race descent (her scientist father, Michael Milliam was English and her mother Cantonese) who fights with a Plasma Ring and that she battles to avenge the death of her parents by Bilstein's hands (she is unaware that her father is in fact Rimgal). Even though June has a happy-go-lucky outlook, she hides deep within her soul the pain of having to lose the people that she had loved the most. After Bilstein's defeat, June felt that she had nothing else to live for and tried to commit suicide through the use of a drug overdose, but Hayato had managed to stop her in the end and reminded June that he and the rest of their friends had cared very much for her. With this emotional revelation, June realizes that she still has much to live for and is determined to spend the rest of her life in a state of peace and happiness with Hayato and the others. June makes a cameo appearance in two of the background stages in Super Gem Fighter: Mini Mix, as well as the Shanghai stage in Capcom vs SNK 2. June also makes a cameo appearance in one of Hayato's win poses in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, in Hawkeye's ending in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as a member of the new West Coast Avengers, and she can also be seen in Deadpool's ending from within the same game as well.
- Saturn Dyer: A green-skinned cone-headed alien who is named after the planet where he comes from in the Andromeda Galaxy of the universe (but not the one present in Earth's Solar System) and that he fights with Plasma Yo-Yos while having quite an eccentric yet friendly personality towards those who meet him. Saturn is a well-known and renowned popular street performer from within his home planet who is somewhat of the comic relief in the protagonist group, with a clown-like attitude and a perennial ten-mile-wide smile on his face. Upon coming to Earth in order to enjoy his personal hobby of theater while on a new assignment to research life on Earth, Saturn learns about the threat of the Fourth Empire and decides to join the Star Gladiator project in order to help protect both Earth and his home planet. Saturn makes a cameo appearance in one of Hayato's win poses in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
- Gamof Gohgry: A brown-furred alien who comes from the forest planet of De Rosa which lies from within the Andromeda Galaxy of the universe and that he fights with a Plasma Axe. Gamof works as a noble lumberjack to help support his family. When Gamof's job as a lumberjack is compromised at the hand of an unknown Earth microbe virus that destroys nearly all of De Rosa's forests, he decides to become a reluctant bounty hunter and eventually meets up with Hayato, becoming good friends with him from within due time. When Gamof learns about the threat of the Fourth Empire, he decides to join the Star Gladiator project along with Hayato so that he can protect both his home planet and his family.
- Franco Gerelt: A renowned and honorable Spanish matador who is an expert fencer and that he fights with a Plasma Rapier while valuing honor from within the fights that he participates in. Unlike most members of the Fourth Empire, Gerelt is a forced ally of Bilstein. Seeing the strong potential that Gerelt has from within his fighting skills, Bilstein had kidnapped Gerelt's wife and daughter with the help of a rival matador who had envied Gerelt's popularity and skill and framed Gerelt for the kidnapping and through this, Bilstein threatens to kill Gerelt's wife and daughter unless Gerelt follows his direct command. Making sure that he also had Gerelt's willingness, Bilstein had implanted a bomb in his chest, forcing Gerelt to commit horrible crimes against mankind for if he refuses, the bomb would be triggered and go off. All that Gerelt wants is to be free to save his family.
- Vector: An emotionless prototype assassin robot created by Bilstein to become the ultimate killing weapon that fights with a Plasma Gun. Vector's only directive is to seek and destroy every single human being. Vector makes a cameo appearance in Roll's ending in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars, where Roll reprograms the heartless robot, along with Huitzil from Darkstalkers, into a caring and loving individual who not only helps out with Dr. Light (Roll's creator), but also, in the Japanese version of the game (known as Cross Generation of Heroes), displays a newfound affinity for human children.
- Rimgal: June's father, the former English scientist Michael Milliam turned into a Velociraptor dinosaur who fights with a Bone Club after Bilstein had experimented on him, mixing his human DNA with dinosaur DNA. Rimgal fights to try and control his transformation. However, Rimgal ultimately fails, and fearing his primal instincts will overtake his human sensitivity and end up having him kill his daughter, Rimgal kills himself in the end. Rimgal is the only regular character not to return in Plasma Sword (along with Kappah, who is a secret character).
- Zelkin Fiskekrogen: A blue-feathered bird-like humanoid alien who comes from the Planet Klondike which lies from within the Andromeda Galaxy of the universe and that he fights with a Plasma Claw. Zelkin, who is known for being a brave and noble valiant warrior for both his people and his home planet fights alongside with Bilstein because of his loathing of humans, who nearly destroyed his bird-like humanoid alien race from within a past war. Zelkin is also an old acquaintance of Hayato.
- Gore Gajah: A big-brained pointy-eared tanned Indonesian alien who fights with a Plasma Mace. Gore, who is a genius magician seeks to gain much knowledge about Plasma Wizardry and joins Bilstein's Fourth Empire in order to advance his own studies into Plasma Power itself. It is to be noted that Gore's profile states that he hails from Indonesia, even though he is clearly not an Earthling.
- Dr. Edward Bilstein: The main antagonist of the series. A Nobel Prize-winning German-American prestigious physicist and cybernetic mad scientist emperor who fights with a Plasma Broadsword and leads the Fourth Empire in his universal conquest. Bilstein had once stumbled upon a research document left behind by one of his ancestors. It described Plasma Power and how it could be derived from human emotions. Bilstein was driven by his ancestor's evil will because they were unable to complete a specific project from within the research document and that Bilstein himself had decided to carry out their work and build the unknown Plasma weapon. However, before Bilstein could realize his evil plot, he was detected by the Earth Federation and was then arrested for violating various human rights, using actual human bodies in his experiments. After escaping his prison and forming his "Fourth Empire" organization while placing himself in a powerful cyborg body, Bilstein now seeks to conquer the entire universe and establish a new order under his own rule. This form of Bilstein, who would later be known as "Ghost Bilstein", would make a cameo appearance in Tekkaman Blade's ending in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.
- Kappah Nosuke: A green-skinned turtle-like humanoid alien who comes from the Planet Kappa which lies from within the Cygnus Galaxy of the universe and that he fights with a Plasma Spear. Kappah is based on a Japanese legendary creature known as a Kappa, which is a type of water sprite that usually inhabits various ponds and rivers throughout most of Japan. Kappah and his race are known for having a military and war-like lifestyle on their home planet and that all of them despise peace and friendship, living only for war and fighting. Kappah himself has a bitter and belligerent nature and personality as a military soldier, which lead him to join Bilstein and the Fourth Empire, who in turn would promise to defend his home planet from any potential outside threats. Kappah plays very similar to Gerelt barring a few specials, although the characters are in no way related. Also, Kappah does not have a character select screen portrait in favor of a zucchini pair image instead. A sub-boss and secret character.
- Blood Barbarians: A robust young American expert swordsman who fights with a Plasma Broadsword. Blood was taken in by Bilstein at a very young age, due to the fact that his parents were killed by the antagonist on account that Blood had the highest amount of Plasma Power stored in his body and that Bilstein had wanted to use his potential on his Plasma Power research. Blood plays in similar respect to Bilstein, barring a few specials. A sub-boss and secret character.
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- Star Gladiator's vocals are unique in a sense that it uses both English and Japanese voice acting. This unique vocal feature is also present in its sequel.
- In an interview with Destructoid.com, Capcom's Seth Killian mentioned that Star Gladiator was supposed to have been a Star Wars game.
- Star Gladiator at the Killer List of Videogames
- Star Gladiator 2: Nightmare of Bilstein at the Killer List of Videogames