A lot of people will tell you that the most important game that graced the competitive fighting game community in 1994 was Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but those people are lowly casuals. The most hardcore head-to-head release of that year—some would accurately say of all time—was released exclusively on the Super Famicom, the most hardcore platform, and based on the most hardcore intellectual property. Its name was Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Jougai Rantou?! Shuyaku Soudatsusen! And its design, mechanics, and balancing still fascinate players en masse to this day… mostly for being absolutely broken.
The game was made without a single thought paid to restraint, playing like a purposely over-the-top ROM hack of an already ridiculous base game. It's cheesier than an industrial dairy farm and we're here to introduce you to all the crazy stuff these beloved characters can do in this beloved game.
Come Sail Away
If you booted up the game with no prior knowledge, you would probably think we were full of it. How can a 16-bit 4 button fighting game with only 9 characters, most of which only have 3 special moves, no command normal, and the most lenient input windows you’ve probably ever seen in the genre have that much going on, after all? But as soon as you start playing, the game will show you its jank faster than a compulsive exhibitionist.
Every normal in the game can be canceled not only into any special moves but into the fastest, farthest back-dashes known to man. Not only does this mean that even the laggiest normal can easily be rendered safe, but since characters with air specials can use them mid-dash, letting them safely pressure their opponent further.
If you think those offensive options sound overpowered as hell, you’re right, but the defensive options are arguably even more broken. Ground specials and back-dashes can be done immediately out of block and if you somehow needed even crazier tools to get your opponent off you, the game’s superpowered desperation moves can be performed endlessly provided your Sailor Senshi is low on health, or the timer is close to running out. You might think these do less damage to make up for how repeatable they are, but that’ll only last until the first time you see 70% of your health bar disappear from a single attack.
But if you’re here because you’re a Sailor Moon fan, you probably just want us to talk about the titular heroines. Rest assured, they’re just as cheesy.
Sailor, Sailor, Sailor, Sailor
Sailor Mercury is the character who’s probably the closest to being designed for a normal fighting game, which says a lot about the game, seeing as she zips around the screen just as fast as her namesake. Beyond that though, she’s mainly a well-rounded character with decent options at long range and up close, but not excelling at either, a fairly normal character all things considered.
The same cannot be said about Sailor Venus, who uses her trademark chain to dish out long-reaching normal from afar right before getting in close for some incredibly damaging combos. Add in her extremely fast desperation move and you have a character who’s a constant threat whenever she’s on the ground.
Sailor Moon is one of 2 characters in the game with a forward dash and one of many more to be complete bonkers. This forward dash lets her continue to pressure her opponent after a back-dash-projectile, which will most likely end in another back-dash-projectile to repeat the cycle, so you better block if you’re on the receiving end of that attack… except that that will give Meatball-head a chance to throw you, which she can follow up with her aforementioned forward dash for more throws ad infinitum.
Chibi-Moon, on the other hand, is just as useless as she is in the show. Seeing most attacks in the game soar over her tiny 9-year-old body may lend to some quick laughs, but good luck taking advantage of those openings with her equally minuscule attack range. Add some of the worst special moves in the game and the only bad back-dash and you're just left with a joke character.
But if you want fireballs with obscene amounts of chip damage when blocked, Sailor Mars is the one for you. She has a high one that hits jumping opponents and a low that hits crouchers, plus multiple attacks that are perfect for hitting an opponent that somehow gets the chance to jump in on her. And even if she fails to keep her enemies at bay, her combo game is still deadly.
Jupiter is also overwhelming at any range, with a command throw that does up to 50% damage when comboed and two solid projectiles, one of which does more damage if it's blocked than if it hits. And if you need to ask why you clearly haven't been believing us about this game's jank.
Sailor Uranus is more than just the butt of a butt joke, but her forward dash which brings her from one end of the screen to the other in a second still lets her get all up in your anus. Once there, she only needs to pick the right option to win. Does she use her deadly command grab that can ear through a health bar like paper? Or does she use her infinite combo that doesn’t even require a special move? And despite all that, she’s generally considered to be one of the weaker characters. Have we hammered home how cheesy this game is yet?
Neptune is your typical shoto character, only cranked up to 11. Her special moves are incredibly quick, with one even being invincible except during its brief recovery period. God help you if you let her catch you in the corner.
The developers must have known that Pluto isn’t a planet, because the final Sailor is arguably the worst. She has a long reach and a good fireball and desperation move to maintain constant ground pressure, but as soon as she or her opponent is airborne she's out of reliable options. Readers familiar with normal fighting games will no doubt think that that still sounds like a strong character, but Pluto’s inferiority is just a testament to how extra the rest of the cast is.
Moon Prism Pals
But that’s enough about the Sailor Moon aspects of the game, we haven’t explained the phenomenon behind its competitive resurgence yet. The exact beginning is up for debate, but Japanese-only releases like this one have had a niche in the west since the rise of emulation in the late 90s. And since the fighting game community keeps growing, it was only a matter of time before people discovered this forgotten gem and created regular tournaments in major cities like New York and Toronto, to say nothing of the Japanese FGC.
Regardless of location, people fell in love with the unique feel of playing Sailor Moon S. No other fighting game was so mechanically absurd, but the controls were still responsive and intuitive, making the experience oddly satisfying despite the endless rage-fuel moments the game dishes out.
For players who don’t live near enough active competitors, the title has fostered a healthy online community, mainly channeled through a discord filled with helpful and welcoming players who use the mednaffe emulator to play each other online. The netcode isn't the greatest but is still more than good enough to display Sailor Moon S in all its cheesy glory.
A great anime never goes out of style, and neither does a great video game. Whether or not Sailor Moon S’ objectively questionable design but undeniable fun factor qualifies it as great is up to interpretation, but love it or hate it, its presence in fighting game competition is a hard curiosity to ignore.
Be sure to leave us a comment telling us what you think of this bizarre nugget of anime gaming history and if you happen to be a Sailor Moon fan tell us which Sailor Senshi you think is best and why the answer is Jupiter.