Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½ is a bizarre humor-oriented martial arts series with a very large cast, a plethora of ridiculous fictional fighting styles, and some of the most convoluted love triangles you’ve ever seen. Several of its characters are are afflicted with various curses that cause them to transform when they come into contact with water, resulting in plenty of silliness. Since there’s lots of fighting, it made good material for several fighting games, three of which were released for the Super Famicom by NCS/Masaya. One of them made it to the States in heavily altered form, while the other remained faithful. Neither of these were great, but the third one – released in Japan only – is pretty fantastic.
The protagonist of Ranma ½ is an arrogant and brash practitioner of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu (Anything-Goes Martial Arts) with a paralyzing fear of cats and a harem of fiancées and admirers he never asked for. Because of a mishap involving the cursed springs of Jusenkyo, Ranma becomes a female whenever he makes contact with cold water. (Warm water reverses the effect, however.) Though Ranma occasionally acknowledges that being able to transform into a buxom, eye-burstingly gorgeous female version of himself has its advantages, he ultimately wishes to be rid of his curse. All three Ranma ½ games include Ranma’s male and female versions as separate playable characters. As you can probably guess, male Ranma tends to be stronger and female Ranma tends to be more agile.
Ranma’s insensitive, selfish oaf of a father. He was his son’s instructor in Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, though Ranma’s skills have long since exceeded his own. Genma transforms into a panda when he comes in contact with cold water, but he seems to have a much more lackadaisical attitude towards his predicament than the other cast members with Jusenkyo curses. Since he is voiceless in his panda form, he communicates with written signs à la Wile E. Coyote. Chōnai Gekitōhen features Genma’s human form, while the other two games include his panda form. His wish in Chōgi Rambu Hen is to be cured of his baldness.
An insecure, awkward, ill-tempered, but well meaning practitioner of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, and Ranma’s original fiancée. Akane and Ranma are deeply in love, but are both too immature/crazy to admit it to themselves, much less each other. Akane is a horrible cook, an even worse swimmer, and has an extremely short fuse, but she’s awful cute when she’s not in one of her homicidal fits of rage. Her wish in Chōgi Rambu Hen is to learn to swim.
Ranma’s main rival is an adept martial artist with an extremely bad sense of direction. Due to a fell Ryoga took at Jusenkyo (for which Ranma was indirectly responsible), he transforms into a tiny black pig named P-Chan when he touches cold water. Ryoga blames Ranma for virtually everything wrong with his life, including his hopeless situation with Akane (with whom Ryoga is madly in love). Even though Ryoga can be rather dense, he is tremendously strong and one of the few characters who can consistently give Ranma trouble in a fight. In Chōgi Rambu Hen, Ryoga’s wish is to be rid of his pig curse.
An arrogant kendo master with a flair for the dramatic. Kuno regards male Ranma as his greatest rival (even though Ranma can thump him with virtually no effort) and is in love with female Ranma, being completely unaware that the two are the same person. He is also in love with Akane, and sees little need to choose one over the other. Kuno’s Chōgi Rambu Hen wish is to win the affections of “the pigtailed girl” and Akane.
Kuno’s sister is a lunatic rhythmic gymnast with a piercing laugh who prefers to be called “The Black Rose.” Like her brother, Kodachi is unaware of Ranma’s two forms and loves the one while despising the other. She wishes for nothing but a date with (male) Ranma, who feels nothing but disgust for her.
This Chinese amazon is one of Ranma’s many fiancées. Long story short: Ranma defeated Shampoo in a duel, which means she has to marry him according to her tribe’s rules. Despite her My Little Pony voice and cute demeanor, Shampoo is obsessive and ruthless in her pursuit of Ranma. Shampoo becomes a cat when she makes contact with cold water, which is something of a turn-off to the ailurophobic Ranma.
Much like Lei-Lei from Darkstalkers, the Chinese warrior Mousse fights with a cache of weapons concealed in his sleeves. He has horrible eyesight that requires him to wear coke-bottle glasses, but he almost never does. His Jusenkyo curse causes him to transform into a nearsighted duck when splashed with cold water. All Mousse wants is to marry Shampoo, though she only has feelings for Ranma.
This spatula-wielding okonomiyaki chef is yet another of Ranma’s fiancées. Genma struck a bargain with Ukyo’s father, agreeing to arrange an eventual marriage between the six-year-old Ranma and Ukyo in exchange for the Kuonji okonomiyaki cart. Genma then ran off with the cart and the oblivious Ranma, leaving a sobbing Ukyo behind. Ukyo has since then caught up with Ranma and opened her own okonomiyaki joint in Tokyo. She is still intent on marrying him, but is somewhat less fanatical in her devotion than Ranma’s other admirers. Her wish in Chōgi Rambu Hen is better business for her restaurant.
Shampoo’s great grandmother operates a Neko Hanten cafe and attempts to assist Shampoo in winning Ranma’s affections. Despite her age (somewhere between 100 and 300 years, depending on who you ask) and tiny size (a result of her prodigious age), she is an extremely skilled and knowledgeable martial artist. She prefers to move around by using her staff as a pogo stick. Cologne only appears in Chōnai Gekitōhen, is not fought in a standard match. Instead, she throws things that you have to kick out of the air. She is unplayable in arcade mode, but can be enabled in Vs. mode with a code.
Genma’s teacher and Grandmaster of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu is an overt pervert and generally not a very nice guy. Ranma views him as something of an archenemy, the female cast members regard him as a nuisance, and Genma and Soun are petrified of him. Despite his goofiness, the only Ranma 1/2 character who can hold a candle to Happosai in terms of sheer skill is probably Cologne. Like Cologne, he appears in-game in Chōnai Gekitōhen, but is not fought in a standard match. Instead he will jump around the screen without attacking and you will be rewarded for how many times you hit him. Happosai is only playable through codes in Chōnai Gekitōhen and Hard Battle.
The insane principal of Furnikan High School, and father to Tatewaki and Kodachi. After a three-year long vacation to Hawaii, he returns to his post with an obsession with all things Hawaiian. A total power junkie, Kouchou spends most of his time making his students’ lives miserable, but is usually foiled by Ranma.
A con man who looks exactly like the king in a deck of playing cards. The Gambler King’s victims tend to be children, since they are usually the only people incapable of beating the snot out of him once they find out they’ve been had. Ten years ago he had the misfortune of trying to swindle a pair of six-year-olds out of their families’ possession, and ended up getting tossed into a river by Ranma and Ukyo. Only appears in Hard Battle.
A extremely shy and friendless young man, with a penchant for photography. He is treated as a kind of “doom and gloom” character with an interest in magic. Hikaru has feelings for Akane, and resents Ranma for being her fiancée. He’s not much of a physical fighter, but has some skill in voodoo. Like Gambler King, Hikaru is exclusive to Hard Battle.
A cold, sadistic martial artist who was given his strange name during his baptism at the filthy hands of Happosai. (Tarou is sort of a generic Japanese name.) Tarou has, without question, the strangest Jusenkyo curse in the series: when he touches cold water, he transforms into a a bizarre amalgamation of a yeti, a ox, a crane, a eel, and a octopus. He seeks out Hipposai to convince the old man to give him a better name. Both his human and whatchamacallit forms appear in Hard Battle.
A martial artist with a cheerleading-oriented fighting style who once had feelings for Tatewaki. Mariko only appears in Chōgi Rambu Hen, and her wish is to fall in love.
A woman in her late twenties who ages very slowly and looks like a child. Hinako is also a practitioner of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, and has the unique ability to absorb her opponent’s battle energy with a 50 yen coin. Doing so causes her to take on an adult form and increases her fighting power. In Chōgi Rambu Hen she has the ability to transform from one to the other, and her spastic child form has the best walking animation of any fighting game character ever.
An armored martial artist and villain in the manga, and the boss of Chōgi Rambu Hen. Like Ranma, Herb becomes a female when he makes contact with cold water. Herb is only playable via cheat code: hold down L and R before the character selection screen shows up. In Vs. Battle Mode, this code can be entered inbetween fights, if you did not do so before entering Vs. Mode.
Chōnai Gekitōhen is modeled on the Street Fighter II template but deviates from it in several ways, especially in its control scheme. Jumping is performed by tapping X. You have two buttons for normal attacks: Y and B. A special attack is assigned to A. Blocking is performed by holding L or R, like in Mortal Kombat. Combos are essentially irrelevant, and you can change characters between fights. The controls are as responsive as they need to be and its game physics are decent, but do not allow for the ease of control and perfect responsiveness necessary for a Street Fighter II clone that wants to be taken seriously. There are special moves, but they are performed with rather simple commands, ala Super Smash Bros., rather than quarter circles or whatever. Besides iffy control responsiveness, hit detection could be better and it’s basic fighting system is simply not very well designed.
Chōnai Gekitōhen‘s presentation does little to redeem the title. The game is ugly, even by the standards of 16-bit Street Fighter II clones. The backgrounds, character designs, and animation details look poor, and music the and sound effects are lacking.
The game was localized in America by Irem with some major cosmetic changes. Since Chōnai Gekitōhen‘s release came several years before anime and manga hit the American mainstream, Irem probably felt releasing such a goofy and heavily Japanese (for lack of a better word) game might be a risky venture. The title was changed to Street Combat, the cast was swapped with a bunch of World Heroes and Street Fighter 2010 rejects, and the plot was given a total overhaul. Male Ranma was turned into a blond-haired dude named Steven who fought in a robotic suit, while Female Ranma was turned into an armorless version of Steven. The rest of the Ranma cast received similarly bizarre makeovers – Genma turned into a black guy with sunglasses and pink hair named Tyrone. Kodachi is now a clone named Dozo, while the kendo sword wielding Kuno is now a hilariously generic army dude (also wielding a sword?) named G.I. Jim. Konchon was turned into a skateboarding robot name Helmut, while Shampoo received the most transparent makeover by dying her hair and turning herself into a masked wrestler. Ryoga is now a wiener in a red suit named C. J. It’s exactly the same game as Chōnai Gekitōhen, except totally embarrassing.