|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
|Producer(s)||James Goddard, David Winstead|
|Designer(s)||James Goddard, David Winstead, Fred Corchero Jr., Steven Chiang|
|Composer(s)||Brian L. Schmidt|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Weaponlord is a fighting game developed by Visual Concepts and published by Namco for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in October 1995. As in other fighting games, Weaponlord has players select a character and defeat a series of opponents. The game is a weapons-based fighter, with various gory moves and a deep counterattack system.
Project leads James Goddard and Dave Winstead aimed to design a title for enthusiasts of the fighting game genre. Unlike many other fighting games of the time, WeaponLord was designed specifically for home consoles and was one of the first fighting games optimized for online play. It has also been cited as the basis for Namco's Soul Edge/Calibur series.
At its core, WeaponLord is a standard 2D fighting game experience. Where it differs is in its gameplay mechanics, and in some of its aesthetic choices and presentation. The game features thrust-blocking, an aggressive blocking system similar to Street Fighter III's Parry system. Also introduced in the game are Deflect moves, a counterattack maneuver that each character has. Certain special moves, known as "Take Downs", knock opponents onto their back. A player can then follow up with additional attacks while their foe is still on the floor.
In addition, when certain attacks are performed on an opponent in mid-swing, the player can cut off a piece of their clothing or their hair. Players can finish off matches using "Death Combos" combination attacks that can have a gory effect on opponents.
Weaponlord's fighters possess between 9 and 12 special moves each. Moves can be executed one of several ways: sweeping motions on the directional pad followed by an attack button, "charge" moves where a directional button is held for 2 seconds quickly followed by the opposite direction, and finally an attack button, or hold down moves where the player must first hold down an attack button, followed by a directional motion, and finish it by releasing said attack button.
A password is given at the end of a match, so the player can always return to the middle of a game, if need be. A secret password is also given so the DemonLord Zarak is playable in Story Mode. Characters have different ending sequences depending on which opponents were spared or killed with a Death Combo during the Story Mode.
On a battlefield a demon spirit enters the body of a dying mercenary. He is reborn and defeats the reigning war king in a duel. He goes on to found the reign of the DemonLord Zarak. At the height of his power, his doom is foretold by a shaman: "When the night turns violent and the moon bleeds, gripped by the skeletal fingers of death...a child will rise to face the demon in combat...and the lord of demons will fall by the hand of...the WeaponLord."
Against the advice of his lieutenants to kill the children born that night, the DemonLord waits to face his foretold killer in fair, one on one combat. 25 years later, sensing the prophecy is at hand, the DemonLord holds a great tournament of champion warriors. The winner will face the demon in a final battle. The Demonlord prepares to meet his destiny head on and to destroy the WeaponLord. His challengers are:
- Korr – An unequaled swordsman searching for his lost brother.
- Divada – Power-hungry sorceress yearning to destroy the DemonLord.
- Bane – A cursed barbarian savage hunting for revenge and redemption. (Note: A Bane-like costume for Rock was also available in Soul Calibur III)
- Jen-Tai – Warrior Queen of the Arenas, rising to meet the ultimate challenge.
- Talazia – A forest-dwelling princess, destined to end the demon's rule.
- Zorn – An opportunistic thief who secretly wishes to kill his master, Zarak.
- Zarak – The DemonLord himself, who desires to face his foretold killer.
Visual Concepts had an incredibly tight schedule to complete the game, and the decision to add a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version came later into the development cycle than most other multi-platform titles. Comic Book artist Simon Bisley provided the cover art and the game's logo; the game was the only title to display the XBAND logo on its box.
The game's lead designers James Goddard and Dave Winstead had previously worked for Capcom. Goddard designed the character Dee Jay for Super Street Fighter II and Winstead had worked on Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Both had extensive fighting game tournament experience and wanted to cater to dedicated fans of the genre with Weaponlord. They also wanted to optimize the game for the slow dial-up connections of the XBAND service, timing parry animations and character turnaround time to account for lag.
Zarak was the only character in the game to feature his own signature fatality, although rumors persist that other character have unique finishing moves as well. It was originally intended for all of the characters to have a unique death combo but due to the apparent rush to get Weaponlord out the door, only Zarak's was completed.
Many characters were left out of the final version of the game, including a unique goblin duo that sat chicken-fight style on each other's shoulders. Due to the nature of the game mechanics, it was decided that this character would not work out. Other characters included a samurai-like warrior as well as a demon warrior similar to the mysterious being featured in Jenn-Tai's extended ending.
Both Jenn-Tai and Zorn's endings allude to a more powerful entity at large, with Zorn's Demon Shield being the imprisoned spirit of said evil. This was intended to lead into Weaponlord 2, which never came to be.
WeaponLord was originally designed for the Super Nintendo, and as such, was the better looking and sounding version of the game. There were far more colors and detail on the sprites and backgrounds, as usually was the case when it came to fighting games during the 16-bit era. Sound effects and music were also richer, and voice samples were generally clearer.
The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version also suffered from a reduced screen size, where the upper half of the screen was blacked out to display the health bars and timer. The SNES version had the upper health information floating over the stage background, as is standard in fighting titles.
However, the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version is considered the slightly faster of the two, and also worked well with the 6-button Genesis controller which was designed with fighting games in mind.
Allgame offered praise for the deep countering system, but said that the complexity of the game may turn off newcomers. Reviewer Scott Alan Marriott said it was not easy to pick up and play like Mortal Kombat and that Weaponlord was "designed for the hardcore fan rather than those new to the genre". In addition, he mentioned that game's computer opponents were far too difficult for novices. Marriott also wrote that the game's detailed character design was distracting and that the animations were choppy, as well faulting the game for having fewer playable characters than the Street Fighter II series. Despite these flaws, he recommended it as "a must-have title for the fighting game enthusiast".
Weaponlord was not a large commercial success. James Goddard attributed this partly to it being released at the tail end of the 16-bit console era.
Namco informed the developers that they would not be working on a sequel to Weaponlord. The game's weapon and parry mechanics was shown to Namco; Goddard and Winstead believe that the gameplay became the basis for Soul Edge/Calibur games.
James Goddard has remained in the gaming industry and worked on recent titles such as the reboot of Killer Instinct. As far back asa 2008 and as recently as 2014, Goddard has expressed interest in reviving the Weaponlord franchise for current generation consoles. He has his own small development studio but stated that there is currently no budget to produce a proper Weaponlord game.
- McGarvey, Sterling (February 13, 2009). "Fighting Spirits: The Men Behind the Combos". GameSpy. IGN. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
- Forging WeaponLord - GameSpot, October 8, 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
- Marriott, Scott Alan. "WeaponLord – Review". Allgame. Rovi. Retrieved January 25, 2013.