Star Gladiator Episode I: Final Crusade is a 3D sci-fi weapon-based fighting game developed and released by Capcom for arcades (running the PS1-based Sony ZN-1 hardware) on July 1996.
The first 3D fighting game developed in-house by Capcom, Star Gladiator takes place in the far future (year 2348), where humans coexist with various alien civilizations throughout the galaxy and have discovered a new energy source within living beings (known as "Plasma Power").
The story involves Dr. Edward Bilstein, an Earth physicist who discovered Plasma Power and began construction of Earth's Plasma-powered super-weapon before being imprisoned in a prison satellite due to his unethical research. When he develops a powerful cybernetic body in-secret and escapes from his cell, he forms the Fourth Empire and sets his sights on Earth. It's up to a group of bounty hunters, the Star Gladiators, to use the Plasma Power to stop him.
Technical-wise, this game is known for its use of a Guard button (the only known Capcom fighting game to do so), a dedicated chain combo system (the Plasma Combo) with a special finisher command (the Plasma Final), two forms of counter-attacks (Plasma Reverses), and a powerful once-per-round attack (the Plasma Strike).
The game was later ported to the Sony PlayStation in late October of 1996 and later received a sequel, titled Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein, in 1998. While some characters make cameos in other games, only series protagonists Hayato and June are playable (Hayato in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, June in Project X Zone 2).
The initial arcade release included nine playable characters and two unlockable characters (one of which is the final boss and one of which is a hidden opponent). The PS1 version adds a new secret unlockable character, bringing the total to 12.
- Franco Gerelt
- Zelkin Fiskekrogen
- Gore Gajah
- Dr. Edward Bilstein (unlockable final boss, has an unplayable "Super" form as the game's secret boss)
- Kappah Nosuke (hidden opponent, can be unlocked for use)
- Blood (added in the PS1 version as a secret unlockable character)