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by Sotenga - December 12, 2013

Bullfight / The Tougyuu (ザ闘牛) - Arcade (1984)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

American Arcade Flyer

If there is a sport that exists in real life, there is most definitely a game that has been made about it. It would take many a fortnight to categorize all the American football games out there with and without John Madden's endorsement, and baseball games are highly common from both Western and Japanese developers. Then there's soccer, hockey, tennis, golf, racing, fishing, hunting, bowling, and boxing which have all been represented in some digital form. On the note of boxing, if you wanted to split hairs, you could even consider every single fighting game to all technically qualify as "combat sports." But what about those weird exotic sports that don't really seem to be all that popular outside of a certain region? Video games about cricket and curling are few and far in between, perhaps except in England and Canada respectively.

One such sport that is relatively obscure is bullfighting, a traditional Spanish event where a human "matador" ("killer" in Spanish) engages in a one-on-one conflict against a bull armed with nothing more than a sword and capote (cape). Skilled matadors end up slaying the bull while less savvy fighters are likely to be gored. Considered artistic by some and barbaric by others, it never really caught on with the rest of the world outside of Spain, Portugal, and some parts of Central America. It is then odd that the Japanese duo of Sega and Coreland/Banpresto made a game about bullfighting, almost as if to say that any and every sport could be translated into video game form.

Bullfight is exactly what it says on the tin: A game about bullfighting. Back in the days where games had bloody simple titles that gave you a good idea of what you could expect (like Space Invaders being about invaders, possibly from space), Bullfight essentially advertised itself by being a virtual representation of one of the world's most exotic and controversial sports. It takes place in an overhead perspective where you, as the matador, must defeat the bull by lodging your sword into the weak spot just beneath the top of his neck. You have a fair deal of space to move in the arena, where you leave your capote perpetually outstretched. The bull often charges forth when you're close enough and sometimes aims for the capote, though you'll have to watch out for how close his head comes to the matador's body. As the bull runs by, you'll have to position yourself a fair distance so you don't get hit but close enough so your sword can reach the bull. One button attacks while the other redirects the capote to better face the bull, and as it gets close, your sword will automatically aim for the bull's small yellow weakpoint. If you graze the spot, you get some points and the circle enlarges into a green hole for a few seconds, and if you're able to strike the bullseye (pun semi-intended), the bull falls down as the sword is lodged into his backside.

Killing even the first bull is not easy, and bulls may sometimes get up and shrug off your sword, forcing you to retrieve it and stab it again to end it for good. If the bull hits you with its horns, that's the end of your current matador. Being grazed by any other part of its body only knocks you down, but getting hit head-on flings you out of the arena. An interesting touch is how your lives are represented by three different bullfighters, with your first guy wearing green, the second yellow, and the third dark blue.

The bulls become increasingly aggressive and hard to hit, and some levels even sic a second, especially vicious and indestructible (and oddly green-colored) bull on you if you take too long to kill your target. If you manage to pull off the difficult feat of surviving four rounds, you engage in a bonus stage which is akin to the Spanish tradition of running with the bulls. As a red-clad participant, you are unarmed and simply have to evade the bull for as long as you can as light-blue guys run around the field. The round ends if you get nicked by the horns, but you win if the time gauge around the arena ticks down until all of its notches turn from yellow to purple. The fighting resumes proper after this distraction with increasingly aggressive bulls until all three of your matadors are forcibly ejected from the arena.

Bullfight doesn't go any farther outside of its concept; it's a game about bullfighting, nothing more and nothing less. It presents itself well with a mean-looking bull and a cheering crowd that praises you for felling the animal by tossing confetti. Its graphics are simple but colorful, and there's not too much for sound, except appropriate toreador music before and after each round. Its hit detection can be a bit spotty and it's difficult to survive long enough to even see the bonus round, but any flaws take a backseat to how there is no other game quite like Bullfight. For being the only game from the eighties that served as tribute to one of Spain's national pastimes, it's worth a look just to fight bulls in a humane way that doesn't hurt any real animals.

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Bullfight (Arcade)

Bullfight (Arcade)

Bullfight (Arcade)

Bullfight (Arcade)

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