I really miss the old days of 2D fighters. Today, it seems like only SNK is pumping out any worthwhile games, and even then, they're just building off their past successes. Back when Street Fighter 2 first came out, things were a lot different. Arcades were filled with Street Fighter cabinets. Whole pages of magazines like EGM and Gamepro were devoted to Champion Edition or Turbo or whatever small upgrade Capcom was releasing. At the same time, publishers everywhere were eager to capitalize on the craze by issuing their own 1-on-1 brawler.

The problem was, how do you make your fighting game stand out? Fatal Fury introduced multiple planes and 2-on-1 battles. Art of Fighting had huge characters and impressive scaling. Mortal Kombat had digitized characters and lots of blood.

Power Instinct was just weird. Really, really weird.

Known as Goketsuji Ichizoku (or "The Gouketsuji Family"), Power Instinct was Atlus' entry into the genre. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the game mechanics - features such as super bars and tag teams were nabbed from other games - but has features one of the most bizarre cast in any fighting game ever. There's the evil granny who attacks with dentures. the giant anthropomorphic dog, a half-naked sumo kid, a magical girl straight out of a shoujo anime, a time traveling cyborg chick, an old man who wields a cane, another evil grandma with an huge hairdo, and a scary looking Amazon girl. Unlike Waku Waku 7, which wears its cartoonish goofiness on its shoulder, Power Instinct has an art-style closer to typical Capcom and SNK fighting games, and almost seems to take itself seriously. At least, most of the time.

The story is simple - every 10 years, the Goketsuji family holds a tournament to determine who will rule the clan. Family members from all over the globe come to participate and beat each other up to claim the title.

Characters

Keith Wayne
The American fighting guy. Looks almost exactly like Axel from Streets of Rage 2 in most of the games, but looks cooler in Matrimelee (pictured).

Reiji Oyama
The Japanese fighting guy.

Saizo Hattori
Every fighting game series needs a ninja somewhere along the line, and Saizo fills that role nicely. He wears a scary mask in earlier games.

White Buffalo
A big large Indian. Probably not related to T. Hawk from Super Street Fighter 2.

Chinnen
A Buddhist monk, looks kind of like Krillen from Dragon Ball Z.

Annie Hamilton
The main chick. Looks pretty dorky in the original games, but gets a spiffy hairdo in Matrimelee.

Angela Belti
A huge female wrestler who wields a whip. Looks kinda like that one scary chick from Strip Fighter 2.

Oume Gouketsuji
The frightening grandma fighter, and erstwhile mascot of Power Instinct.

Otane Gouketsuji
Oume's twin (i.e. pallette swap). Can temporarily transform into a younger version of herself.

Oshima Gouketsuji
The super-old matriarch of the Gouketsuji clan. Has a fantastically large hairdo.

Kanji
Power Instinct has no less than three old ladies. So I guess you need one old man to balance it out.

Clara Hananokouji
A magical girl who looks similar to Card Captor Sakura. Likes to cosplay and attract creepy old guys. Star of her own action game as well. Sometimes also called Kurara.

Super Clara
Like most magical girls, Clara can turn into an older version of herself. Super Clara is, for some reason, a skater chick in a bikini bottom.

Kintaro Kokuin
A tiny little brat who wears practically nothing. Voted the worst fighting game character ever in the HG101 forums. Put some pants on, son!

Pooch
Kinta's super power form is this huge dog, who can attack by digging up bones in the ground.

Sahad Asran Ryuto
An Arabian fighter who wields the power of the genie.

Chuck
Chuck is a homage to Capcom's Dan Hibiki, who in turn is a combination of Ryo and Robert from Art of Fighting. In other words, a copy of a copy.

Kuroko
The little assistants that usually jump around the background are playable characters in Goketsuji Legends. These tricksters should look familiar to Samurai Shodown fans.

Shintaro
Punk #1 from Matrimelee. Brother of Butaro.

Buntaro
Punk #2 from Matrimelee. Brother of Shintaro.

Hikaru
I initially thought this was another pretty boy to appease the shota fans, but Hikaru is actually a girl dressed as a guy (i.e. the anti-Bridget.) She wields a mean cane.

Olaf
A criminal mastermind who attacks mostly with his legs. Looks kinda like Gendo Ikari from Evangelion.

Sissy
The cute little girl boss character from Matrimelee. Seems to wield a box filled with unimaginable horrors. Also has buzzsaws in her shoes.

Bobby Ologun
Found only in the PS2 version of Shin Goketsuji Ichizoku. A real life comedian/boxer who speaks very strange broken Japanese and wields an attack called "Bobby Beam".

Since the beginning, the illustrator for the series has been noted artist Range Murata. Although he was relatively unknown when the first Power Instinct hit the market, he's since found quite a bit of fame. He's done artwork for some Psikyo games, such as the mahjong game Hot Gimmick, as well as the Saturn strategy game Wachenroder and the Sammy stealth game Spy Fiction. He also did the character designs for the animes Blue Submarine No. 6 and Last Exile.

Power Instinct was relatively popular in Japan, although it floundered everywhere else. Perhaps it was because it was bit too odd. Or perhaps it was just because the strange, twitchy gameplay just didn't feel right. The first game had home releases for the Genesis and Super Nintendo, but was otherwise relegated to obscure arcade releases. The most recent game in the series, Matrimelee, was released for the Neo Geo and was ported to the Playstation 2 in 2006. Take note that there several different spellings of "Gouketsuji", including "Goketuji". The game tends to use different variations, because they're just different ways to transliterate the same word.

Power Instinct (Arcade)

Power Instinct (Arcade)

Power Instinct (Arcade)

Power Instinct (Arcade)

Power Instinct 2

Power Instinct 2

Power Instinct 2

Power Instinct 2

Power Instinct 2

Gouketsuji Legends

Gouketsuji Legends

Gouketsuji Legends

Gouketsuji Legends

Matrimelee

Matrimelee

Power Instinct / Gouketsuji Ichizoku - Arcade/Genesis/SNES (1993)


Arcade Flyer

SNES Cover

Power Instinct (Arcade)

The original Power Instinct features a scant eight characters to choose from. The fighting engine feels a little off, and there are a number of quirks, most notably the floaty jumps. Although the character portraits look pretty decent, the ingame sprites are almost spectacularly ugly, especially in the case of Annie Hamilton. The only interesting bit are the barriers on each side of the fighting area - if you hit your opponent hard enough, you can knock them through, making a larger playing field. (This feature was later borrowed in Real Bout Fatal Fury.) All of the characters have double jumps and dashes, which does make the game feel a bit more versatile than other games from around the same time. Other than the granny, there aren't any particularly interesting characters either. Given the rather weak introduction to the Power Instinct series, it's easy to see why the rest of the world never warmed up to it.

The Super Nintendo port is relatively decent, as least as far as 16-bit ports go. The Mega Drive version has lowered color depth and worse music, but still plays well. It also has a bizarre karaoke option that plays one of two songs and displays lyrics on the screen.

Power Instinct (Arcade)

Screenshots Comparisons


Arcade

SNES

Genesis

Power Instinct 2 / Gouketsuji Ichizoku 2 - Arcade/Playstation (1994)


PSOne Cover

Power Instinct 2 (Arcade)

Power Instinct 2 (Arcade)

Power Instinct 2 improves greatly on the fighting engine of the original, making for a game that's far more playable. There are also several new characters, including the magical girl Clara, and the weird little kid Kinta. Both have super moves which allow them to transform into alternate characters - Clara turns into "Super Clara", a sexy adult version of herself, and Kinda turns into Pooch, a huge, walking dog. Taking a page from Super Street Fighter II, there are now power bars which allow you to charge up for super attacks. Whenever you fill up your power bar, your character emits a Dragon Ball Z-like power charge which renders them temporarily invincible .

Power Instinct 2 is also one of the first fighting games to have a vocal soundtrack. Most stages have their own theme songs, crossing a variety of genres like folk, hard rock and J-pop. There are plenty of small details that make Power Instinct 2 stand out a little more. The pre-battle screen has a variety of animations, ranging from lightning strikes to blazing fires to hearts floating in the background. The winner of each match gets to doodle on the loser's face, leading to some amusing post-battle portraits. Even the win/lose quotes are customized for the characters fighting each other. It's the type of polish you usually see in SNK games, and it's good to see Atlus giving their own series the same care. The only real problem is the insane difficulty level. The enemy AI blocks, retreats from your attacks, and otherwise demolishes you completely. This is Art of Fighting 2 level of insanity, so the only real way to enjoy the game is with two players.

Power Instinct 2 was also ported to the Playstation with the subtitle "Chotto Dake Saikyou Densetsu" (A Slighty More Powerful Legend). It hacks out some animation and background details, and adds some load times, which is par for the course for a PSone port. However, the transformations are accompanied by a three second pause, which gets really annoying. Otherwise, it's a fairly decent port, and is quite a bit better than Capcom's early PSOne offerings. There's also a variation of the tag team mode found in Power Instinct Legends, although you're restricted from choosing from two characters. This release also features a fully arranged soundtrack, so the vocals sound much better than the arcade version.

MP3s (all from the PSOne version)

Player Select
First Love - Annie's Theme
Tears... - Saizo's Theme
I Want Love To Be Magical - Clara's Theme

Power Instinct 2 (Arcade)

Power Instinct 2 (Arcade)

Power Instinct 2 (Arcade)

Intro/Post Battle Screenshots

Gouketsuji Legends / Gouketsuji Gaiden Saikyou Densetsu - Arcade (1995)


Gouketsuji Legends

Gouketsuji Legends

Gouketsuji Legends

Also known as "Power Instinct Legends" (although the title screen says "Gouketsuji Legends"), the third game is really more of an upgrade than a whole new title. Super Clara and Pooch have become their own characters, while Clara and Kinta have lost their transformations. There's also a new final boss named Chuck, who looks like a punk version of Dan Hibiki wearing a codpiece, and the Kuroko (dubbed Ninja Boy in English) is now playable. The only real change is that you can choose two characters - if the first character loses a round, the second one comes into play, similar to King of Fighters. Other than some modified backgrounds and new music, there's not too much to distinguish this one from Power Instinct 2.

Gouketsuji Legends

Intro Screenshots

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