Many, many fighting games were released on the Neo Geo and these are slowly but surely filling up the Switch’s eShop. Compared to most of the options available World Heroes and its sequels offer a simpler experience with less depth, but the series can still entertain when its varied cast of fighters (largely based on historical figures) face off against each other.

This first entry in the series gives you a choice of just eight characters, based on the likes of Rasputin, Bruce Lee and Genghis Khan, who provide a variety of fighting choices whether you are looking for a strong powerful brawler or someone a bit quicker. Hanzo and Fuuma are based on figures from feudal Japan, but also Street Fighter’s Ryu and Ken, serving as the good all-rounder options with some similar moves to the shotokan pair.

The game features a button for punch and a button to kick, and holding them down a bit longer performs a stronger attack. A four-button setup would be preferable, but it doesn’t really cause any trouble as the fighters move quite slowly. There’s also a throw button, but as pushing a direction with punch will also usually perform the move it is not often used. Each character also has some special moves at their disposal, and whilst a few could have used simpler input commands there’s a quite generous time allowed for you to perform the necessary button presses.

Simple controls and CPU opposition that’s not too tough makes World Heroes a game that’s quite newcomer friendly, but the slow pace lessens the enjoyment somewhat. There's still some entertainment from knocking someone out of the air with a well-timed special attack or avoiding one of their moves and then countering with a throw or kick to the face. Subsequent games would tweak the gameplay and speed and ultimately the final instalment - World Heroes Perfect (already available on the eShop) - is the best of the bunch. This does offer something that game doesn’t however: death matches.

Death matches (dropped from the series with World Heroes 2 Jet) can be selected after picking your character, and these add hazards such as spikes and flaming ropes to the fighting arenas. These prove to be fun fights that add a bit of strategy as you try to stay away from the spiked edges or stay airborn when there are landmines scattered about. Some matches even combine dangers, so you may find yourself jumping away from an electrified barrier whilst trying not to land on a slippery oil puddle. Though it can get annoying when your opponent has you trapped against a hazard, the chaos helps hide the slow speed which makes for more enjoyable gaming.

Having beaten the other fighters you face off against shape-shifting metal man Geegus, who will morph into other characters during his fight against you; it's a kind of cross between the T-1000 and Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung. Once defeated there’s some replayability as you go through again to see the endings of the other characters, or you could dive into the options menu to bump up the difficulty for a tougher challenge.

The usual ACA one credit Hi Score and five minute Caravan modes are available if you want to see how your point-scoring compares to players from around the world, and a second player can buy into the regular arcade mode at any time to challenge you to a fight. Two player battles are enjoyable, but if playing death matches there’s no way of selecting specific hazards other than playing through solo until you find what you are looking for and then having the second player join in.

Conclusion

There's only eight characters and the simple combat setup means there are not as many moves available as in other one-on-one brawlers. The slow speed of the fights is another negative, but death matches liven things up a bit even if you can lose from poor positioning rather than something your opponent has done. Though not the most fully-featured series, subsequent games would add characters and tweak the gameplay (the regular World Heroes 2 also features death matches, though handled a little differently), and so whilst World Heroes can provide some fun fights, those desperately looking to pit historically-inspired fighters against each other would be better off with one of the sequels.