Fighter's History makes other Street Fighter II wannabes look like sloppy thieves. Call it plagiarism (Capcom did by filing an unsuccessful lawsuit against Data East), but Fighter's History has stood the test of time better than its clunky contemporaries: Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Art of Fighting, Clay Fighter, etc. Fighter's History deserves to be called the most underrated fighting game of its era and tops most of the competition on the SNES.
Tighter gameplay separates Fighter's History from other Street Fighter II clones that didn't even get the foundation right. The special moves and combos in Fighter's History simply feel more responsive than the norm. The game isn't smoother than Capcom or SNK's best, but then again, what is?
Fighter's History is all about doing more with less, which makes the game more thoughtful than one might expect. With nine playable characters, the 16-bit fighter doesn't have the selection of Samurai Shodown or Mortal Kombat II (though it easily has more depth than the latter). Some characters only have two special moves, so it's up to the player to find good combinations and strategies. In many cases, the special moves merely supplement the regular attacks. For example, projectiles are easier to counter than they are in Street Fighter games, so don't expect many fireball fights. In general, special moves don't carry as much priority in Fighter's History, though air throws and certain charging attacks (such as Ray's "Dynamite!") can be pesky.
Special moves might also prove to be less important due to Fighter's History innovation: Weak points. That is, developing strategies to attack an opponent's weak point might prove smarter than spamming special moves that can be easily blocked. The weak point varies from character to character - it can be a headband or even someone's shoes. If you strike an opponent's weak point enough, the article will start flashing and, if hit again, fly off. At this point, your opponent falls down and becomes dizzied. Once a weak point is exposed, a fighter can be knocked out quickly without good defense. Weak points create some interesting dynamics. For example, a character with a weak point on his or her head can be exploited by Samchay (the Sagat clone), whose standard grappling maneuver is repeated elbows to the head.
The similarities to Street Fighter II inspired a lawsuit, but they're fairly charming today. Not only does Fighter's History have a Ryu clone named Mizoguchi, but the music from Mizoguchi's stage is reminiscent of the music found in Ryu's level. At the same time, Mizoguchi feels like more of a bruiser than Ryu; his special uppercut, for instance, doesn't leave the ground. Even though Fighter's History is ultimately its own game, spotting and hearing all the bits from Street Fighter II is part of the fun. The references even show up in unexpected spots (Sagat's chant of "Tiger!" takes its place with Marstorious, the Zangief-esque wrestler from Italy).
This game doesn't push the limits of the Super NES in terms of graphics or sound, and its final boss is a Middle Eastern stereotype that can seem especially irresponsible in our post-9/11 landscape. But consider the philosophy of Fighter's History: Gameplay over everything else. It's a philosophy that many retro gamers will claim, yet Fighter's History remains a relatively forgotten fighter. The history book on classic fighting games needs revision.