Fighter's History is a 2D fighting game developed and released by Data East for arcades on March 1993.
The first fighting game released by Data East after the release of Capcom's Street Fighter II, Fighter's History pits nine combatants from around the world in a martial arts tournament.
One of the main features of this game is that in order to dizzy an opponent, the player must attack the opponent's weak position, which depending on the fighter can be the upper, middle, or lower sections of their body. Clothing representing the weak position glow as it's attacked until it breaks, dizzying the opponent. The game is also known for including one of Data East's earlier characters, the Russian strongman Karnov, as the game's final boss.
Compared to other fighting games at the time, Fighter's History was known for its strong similarities with Street Fighter II, including a six-button (three-punch, three-kick) control scheme, technical features (such as parallax scrolling for the ground), and limited use of gimmicks (prominent in games like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting). This has led to Capcom's U.S.A. division initiating a lawsuit against Data East a year later, which due to its ruling in favor of Data East, expanded on the precedent that generic similarities between games did not infringe on copyright law.
The game was later ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan on May 27, 1994, with a worldwide release on August 1994. This version adds a Turbo speed setting and the ability to play as the two boss characters. The game also spawned two sequels: Fighter's History Dynamite for the Neo Geo in 1994 and the Japanese-exclusive Fighter's History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!! for the Super Famicom in 1995.
The game later received a digitally re-release by Flying Tiger Entertainment for the Nintendo Switch on January 3, 2019, as part of the Johnny Turbo's Arcade series. The SNES version was added to the platform's corresponding Nintendo Switch Online service on July 21, 2022.
The game includes nine playable characters and two unplayable bosses (who were later made playable in the SNES version with a cheat code). Each fighter has a specific weak point, with the vast majority of them being in the head or chest area (with only two characters having a weak point in the leg area: Lee for the upper leg and Marstorius for the lower leg).
- Ray McDougal - Brawling detective from the U.S. His weak point is his chest area, represented by the lightning bolt design on his shirt.
- Liu Feilin - Classical opera actress from China. Her weak point is her chest area, represented by her armored chestpiece.
- Ryoko Kano - High-school Judo master from Japan. Her weak point is her head area, represented by her headband.
- Lee Diendou - Martial arts master from China. His weak point is his upper leg area, represented by the knee area of his uniform.
- Makoto Mizoguchi - High-school delinquent (in his 20's) from Japan. His weak point is his head area, represented by his headband.
- Jean Pierre - Professional gymnast from France. His weak point is his chest area, represented by roses strapped to his arms.
- Clown - Traveling circus performer from France and the game's penultimate boss. His weak point is his head area, represented by his mask.
- Karnov - Strongman and "undefeated servant of God" from Russia. Serves as the game's final boss and previously appeared in his own game. His weak point is his head area, represented by his head covering.
Coincidentally, Data East USA has been in court involving a fighting game in the 1980s, claiming that Epyx licensed and distributed World Karate Championship (better known as International Karate), which they believe infringed on their fighting game (Karate Champ). The game names were similar, combatants wore white and red outfits, referees looked the same in-game, the moves were similar, and the scoring mechanisms were the same. However, the court judged that these similarities encompassed "the idea of karate" (they were the elements of a karate video game) and was not protected by copyright. Due to this, Data East lost the case.
Capcom USA attempted to sue Data East USA in 1994 with similar claims, claiming that Fighter's History infringed on Street Fighter II. Capcom identified the similarities into four categories: representation of the playable characters, representation of the special moves, control sequences for the special moves, and miscellaneous (such as "V.S." screens, attract mode, and tracking a player's vitality). The court ruled that the miscellaneous similarities were commonplace and not protected by copyright (in a similar vein to the previous Data East lawsuit). The court also ruled that while the control sequences for the special moves were similar, they were not a form of expression protected by copyright. As for the representation of the playable characters and special moves, the court found three characters (Matlok, Feilin, and Ray) and five special moves in Fighter's History were similar but not virtually identical to characters and moves found in Street Fighter II. Because of this analysis, Capcom lost the case.
This case marks a decline of Capcom's close grip of the fighting game genre, as it provoked other fighting games to be less restrictive in terms of emulating the mechanics of what is known as the "traditional fighting game".