By ShellShock
Revised on 10/12/08
   

 

 

The First Funky Fighter

Players: 2
About: Whack-a-Mole and gore
Courtesy of: Nakanihon
Back in: 1993
Originally on: Arcade
Also on: N/A

 
           
 

I'm sure old-school Whack-A-Mole (not to be confused with the green Mexican paste made out of puréed avocado) had to be one of the most popular early arcade games amongst kids. The concept of wielding a heavy mallet and smashing stuff without having to worry about consequences is luring enough, but beating the hell out of small creatures? And the more you kill, the more prize tickets you get! Priceless.
I raise my hand in guilt for having physically abused the poor mechanical moles' beyond their intended capacity. Specially since having a buddy to cheat with granted one valuable extra time when striking the rubber vermin, resulting in harder and rougher beatings. Yeah, I was one of those kids.
But hey, those days are gone. One grows up and finds more civilized ways to release stress. Unless, of course, you accidentally happen to come across Nakanihon's The First Funky Fighter.

Classic Whac-A-Mole arcade cabinet
Whack-A-Mole (in its many incarnations), and most of the mechanical games of skill found at arcades are considered "redemption" titles: they reward the player proportionally to their score, usually with tickets.

F.F.F. can be easily summarized in one sentence: "Fist of the North Star" meets Whack-A-Mole. Bearing such an impossibly (but still very fitting) ridiculous title, Nakanihon set out to upgrade the basic play mechanics of the classic mole-smashing game bringing it up to early 90's standards: the mechanical cabinet is replaced by one with a video monitor and big buttons, worn-out rubber moles give way to a wide variety of enemies controlled via software, and prize tickets..., well, most of us don't really care about those anymore.
How does it exactly work? The screen is divided into an invisible 3X3 grid, with each of its 9 square areas mapped to one of the corresponding big buttons on the control panel. The game presents the viewing area in first person view, sometimes scrolling side to side when following the enemy's movements.
Every time a button is pressed (or smashed!), the First Funky Fighter uses one of his jabs, hooks, or knife stabs on his mutant foes. Hitting many buttons simultaneously turns him into a human punch-throwing machine gun that might remind some of you of the "Hokuto No Ken" manga, although you'll also need some single-button quick-tapping skills to take down tougher monsters with combos.
The game is only over if time runs out (specially when failing to connect the required amount of punches to defeat a boss), so there aren't any health gauges or lives.

Arcade flyer
F.F.F. was available in two dedicated cabinets: 1 and 2 players.

Instead of punishing cute innocent moles, players traverse 4 levels in one of the cheesiest, most corny monster hunting in videogame history with the object of retrieving token voluptuous blonde from her savage mutant abductors. Signed up for this mission is Mr. Funky, a shirt-less, over-the-top muscle-head with two devastating weapons: his bare hands. That's right. Mr. F here punches clean through crocodile-men stomachs, cuts and dices underwater creatures to a bloody pulp with his army knife, and rips sharks' jaws completely open to make sure all of their organs look healthy.

As much fun as it sounds to be (and believe me, it is), it wouldn't be fair for me not to mention how technically underwhelming F.F.F. is. Although the animation is competent, the cool art design and presentation are weighed down by a color palette that doesn't even come close to the SNES'. Voice samples and music sound very close to those coming off of a bad Genesis title, and my ear is kean enough to identify some punching sound effects lifted directly from Capcom's Street Fighter 2.
All of these technical flaws smell of low-budget title, but the game's frenetic nature and cheesy theme covers it all up really good.

The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
Completing stage 2 grants you a cool (but overdone) bonus level in which the hero gets to break stacked stone slabs.

Due to the particular control panel, The First Funky Fighter was available as a pair of dedicated cabinets (single and 2-player simultaneous). It is also rumored to have been distributed as an upgrade kit for Nakanihon's other button-mashing title Monkey Mole Panic. This spiritual predecessor is, quite literally, classic Whack-A-Mole translated into software; so their cabinets are quite similar.
No home-console or computer ports of any kind are known to exist, the main reason being its uncommon 9-button control scheme. This is probably the reason why it hasn't been released under the Taito Legends label, even though Taito handled distribution of the rare arcade cabinets around the world.

Monkey Mole Panic cabinet
Some say F.F.F. was also available as an upgrade kit to Nakanihon's 1992 title Monkey Mole Panic.

The sheer amount of guts and blood the game puts out is as shocking as it is funny. If you find it hard to understand why its developers went down this road, remember 1993 was the year Midway's Mortal Kombat 2 was released, and the infamous "violence in games" controversy was actually doing more to promote these kind of arcade titles than to keep underage players away from them.
If you then take into account the exaggerated cheesiness of its hero, it becomes obvious that Nakanihon wanted nothing in F.F.F. to be taken seriously but laughs, smiles, and mindless button mashing. Excellent reasons to drop some quarters in it, right?

 

Some screenshots courtesy of www.vgmuseum.com

 

 

 

 
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade
 
The First Funky Fighter - Arcade