At the time of writing, Sega System 32 emulation still isn't 100% there, but from what we've seen Arabian Fight mostly works as intended and is a lot better than it used to be. There used to be blank backgrounds and all sorts of out-of-place shit! Still, there's a few graphical glitches here and there mostly related to the floor shifting around and briefly detaching from the background. Hopefully our screenshots should be free of these blemishes but just keep it in mind. However, after watching as much off-PCB footage as we could find, in particular from Janet's channel and also comparing the emulation with the version on the Astro City Mini, it does seem that a lot of the game's weird presentation quirks aren't messed up emulation or anything- it just, well, kinda looks like that all the time. Sometimes, games are like that.

It's time for another weirdo Sega scrolling brawler from the arcades!

If you thought D. D. Crew was strange, you're not ready for Arabian Fight.

Released in March 1992 according to Sega themselves (it was also showcased at the American Coin Machine Exposition / ACME 1992 of that month, as seen in Cash Box, so that 1991 copyright on the title screen can be safely ignored), Arabian Fight is one of those arcade games with no credits scroll so pinning anyone down as having worked on it is less accessible than usual. Still, it's listed on Sega AM2's Past Works listing on their old website and in the years since the game's release, Tohru Nakabayashi (here's his VGMDB page too) and Akihito Hiroyoshi, interviewed by Sega Bits here (and here he is sharing the Character Select screen art that he redrew to put in the game) have been confirmed to have worked on the game, and Akihito specifically says that, during the game's development, "fighting game know-how had not yet been established in AM2, so we were very experimental in our production" so we can at least pin down the department of Sega that worked on the game, Sega AM2 of Space Harrier and Virtua Fighter fame. He doesn't talk much about Arabian Fight in that interview sadly, but he does mention that "the special move animations were created by an outside animation studio" which explains why they're so high-quality, and this approach would be taken in a later AM2 game on the same hardware, Burning Rival (while the studio Zero-One is credited for that game, I had no such luck finding out who did the animation for Arabian Fight). Experimental certainly is the operative word here and I'm glad, thanks to Sega Bits, we have a little insight in the game's development, and anything like that is good for a game this old now.

Arabian Fight was the fifth game Sega released for their System 32 hardware, their last 2D-focused arcade board (unless you count the ST-V hardware, I suppose you could) which was supported concurrently with the Model 1 and 2 boards before being essentially abandoned in 1994 (with one pseudo-post-mortem release, Capcom's Slipstream from 1998). The hardware's probably most notable these days for housing a few high-profile unported arcade games, specifically SegaSonic the Hedgehog, OutRunners (on the related System Multi 32 hardware, while the Mega Drive version did its absolute best, it's not really the same) and Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death-Adder (well, that technically has a home port, we'll get to that later) but there's a lot of other neat and interesting games released for it too (including something we've covered before, Air Rescue). With a focus on sprite-scaling and zooming features far beyond what the home consoles of the day could achieve, it shouldn't be surprising that a lot of racing games were released for it (of the four games that came out before Arabian Fight, three of them- Rad Mobile, Rad Rally and F1 Exhaust Note- were racers) but Arabian Fight, perhaps even more so than Spider-Man: The Video Game, feels like it was meant to be a demonstration of what this kind of hardware muscle could do for other genres. Imagine, a scrolling brawler with scaling and zooming in and out for the sprites! In early 1992!!

Well, in this case, it turns out it'd be a right mess. Oh dear.

Arabian Fight, as you might guess from the punny title, is a One Thousand and One Nights-inspired brawler (and not, as you might assume, Disney's Aladdin- that film wasn't even previewed by the time Arabian Fight was released!) with support for up to four players depending on your dip switch settings. On her way to a neighbouring country across the sea with her retainers and servants in tow, Princess Lurana is kidnapped by the evil Sheikh Sazabiss and his loyal army of pirates, swordsmen and even monsters. They plan to sacrifice Lurana to their God and conquer the world, what a wicked plot! So Lurana's staff- Goldor and Ramaya- plus two other world-travellers also on the ship- Sinbat and Datta- decide to take matters into their own hands and battle their way across the Middle East through whatever dangers Sazabiss might throw at them to save Lurana and the world. They have a long fight ahead of them- an Arabian Fight if you will, ohoho- but as well as strength and bravery, they have magic on their side. Let's quickly meet our cast of playable characters, then:


Age: 17
Height / Weight: 175cm / 69kg

A sailor boy with a fiery nature
bounding over the Seven Seas.
Makes quick attacks to
defeat the enemies.


Age: 15
Height / Weight: 168cm / 55kg

From what she says, Ramaya
seems to be Princess Lurana's
servant, and is pretty, agile &
a tomboy.


Age: 38
Height / Weight: 195cm / 121kg

Princess Lurana's retainer. Having
a strong sense of justice, he is
very powerful and detests
the evil foes.


Age: 24
Height / Weight: 182cm / 75kg

A priest travelling all over the
world. Although normally quiet,
he can be terrible when angered.

Let's start with the fundamentals- at its core Arabian Fight is fairly basic with some little wrinkles here and there. The standard two-button setup of Attack and Jump is present and correct, but there's a couple of different attacks available- there's a standard (albeit short) combo string that ends with a knockdown, and also a high attack that sort-of knocks down by holding Up and Attack (many enemies will just stand back up as they're launched but others drop to the floor) and a low attack by holding Down and Attack that's more useful when combined with the knife (yes, this game does have knives to pick up- this attack gets extended range when you have one, but they appear so infrequently you might not even realise they're in the game). The most shocking element to me is this game has blocking, where holding the Attack button down allows you to guard against incoming attacks from both sides with a visible barrier appearing, taking less damage when you're hit and even allowing you to counter with a throw if you block something and you're close enough (doing grabs otherwise is finicky and awkward). You can't block everything though, as sword and magic attacks will cut right through it, and eventually you'll drop your guard if you hold it down long enough, but the fact it's there at all and works pretty well is a genuine surprise. As for movement, you can move up and down the field while jumping (you have to be careful as holding Up / Down and pressing Attack gives a different aerial attack) and you even get dashing by double-tapping Left or Right with a dash attack that can send you across the entire screen. Finally, pressing both buttons does a desperation move, a spinning attack that hits anything even remotely near you at the cost of a tiny bit of health (seriously, it'll hit people way at the back of the screen sometimes) and also provides invincibility when used without hitting anything, which is more useful than you think.

It's a fairly standard toolset, but the blocking and dashing in particular are early examples of such mechanics in the genre (albeit ones found in other contemporary Capcom brawlers in particular- blocking appeared in Knights of the Round and dashing in Captain Commando) which should count for something, one would hope. Unfortunately, a lot of the execution is just not up to par at all, and almost nothing about playing the game feels good. A lot of this is down to the bizarre hit-detection which will frequently not register hits (your chain-combo is pretty much useless because of this) or count hits from across the screen, grabs and throws feeling almost random (on the plus side, sometimes you can throw enemies one after another if they're close enough!) and combine this with the strange and erratic movement of enemies (it's like they're jittering their way across the screen) and it all feels mushy, not satisfying at all. The main exception is, surprisingly, the blocking which works pretty well and even blocks attacks from behind! It's definitely worth learning how to use effectively because you'll need all the help you can get. There's also some very strange quirks with the controls, like doing a full chain-combo if you land a dash attack then turn around and press Attack, and the dash itself being very fiddly and difficult to execute when you need it. It feels weird and janky, but it's a distinct kind of jank from D. D. Crew which expects a very different playstyle that is not made obvious to the player and requires actual preservation to overcome and appreciate, if that's the right word. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but you can definitely get into D. D. Crew if you feel it's worth putting the time in. There was no such revelatory moment with Arabian Fight for me, however. After a lot of practice and studying Janet's 1CC videos made on real hardware (flashing warning throughout), I realised the optimal strategy a lot of the time was to hit with aerials, in particular ones that hit straight away after you leave the ground and when you've moving in and out of the background so it's hard for enemies to retaliate... But the rest of the foibles of the system just left me feeling like nothing was really under control and it didn't feel satisfying at all, even from a casual standpoint. In learning as best I can how to play this game, I didn't get that weird sense of accomplishment I got from D. D. Crew, and even fans of off-feeling brawlers might struggle with this one.

There is one other important game mechanic that, to me, kind of summarises everything about Arabian Fight's approach to design, the limited-use MAGIC (all-caps, just like the game) powers. Available when you pick up magic lamps found in barrels and treasure chests, press both buttons to hear your character shout, "TAKE THIS MAGIC!" and cast a spell to decimate the enemies! This is probably the most memorable aspect of the game but also highlights the game's flaws. It's easy to compare these spells to the magic system in Golden Axe at first glance but they're very different- you can't gradually build up power across stages or even rooms because your lamp stock is removed when you change scenes, and the spell you get is based on what scene you're in. Almost every time they show up though, their purpose is pretty clear- it's to whisk away small-fry enemies so it's just you and the boss, about 90% of the time when you find a lamp that's what it's for. You can say that's what Golden Axe's magic is for too, but it feels different here- some spells in that game would at least leave low-level mooks alive and act more as a get-off-me button in desperate situations, but here it's a lot more blunt and obvious in its use. I say it speaks to the design of the game and that's partly because it feels like the game knows you want to fight as little as possible because it feels bad so here, you've got an out to get right to the boss fight instead. More than anything though, they're designed to show off the power of the System 32 board, including sprite-scaling, fancy magical effects and even your character leaping into the foreground with animation that looks like it's just come off the TV (as well as, unfortunately, strobe flashing). These effects look especially great in still shots like on a flyer for instance or in a magazine scan, which is definitely something that might entice you to try the game. The same can be said for the other visual tricks like sprites zooming in and out as they move towards and away from the screen, enemies jumping into the fight from the front like they're right in your face (the first boss, Shoulder the pirate, swinging in from a rope like this is especially cool-looking), weather effects like clouds and sandstorms...

See, that's the other part of what I mean when I said the magic highlights Arabian Fight's approach, it's all about the flash, the spectacle. Usually I get to the presentation side of things last in these articles of mine. That's not to say presentation isn't important for video games- it absolutely is- but it's a little habit of mine, I like to get the guts of the game covered then move on to any nice little presentation touches if I feel it adds a lot. With Arabian Fight though, it's basically impossible to leave that sort of thing until last, you kinda get swept away with the impressive technical side of things. Almost every time you hear a mention of this game- even when it was new, especially when it was new- the presentation gets top-billing, and it is impressive, from a certain point of view. The flyer boasts that the game has 'the feel of watching TV animation, thus further enticing [the player] into the 'world of games'" (modern games really need to get on '90s Sega's level and entice me into the 'world of games', if you ask me) and that's partly true- the full-screen animations that play out for when you use your magic attacks and for certain cutscenes are great, albeit slightly stretched and dithered (probably something less noticeable on a CRT screen, admittedly). However, while a lot of the rest of the game looks equally good in still images- or, rather, shots in the old video game magazine style of photographs-of-a-screen- in motion it really doesn't look that great. The aforementioned scaling doesn't really do the finely-detailed sprites any favours as they end up really bitty and weird- Sega's scaling tech definitely looks better on fast-moving objects that whizz by you, so having a brawler built around it where you're always reminded of the scaling up-close and personal feels strange and weird. The jittery movement and animation of the enemies really doesn't help matters in that regard, and it somewhat undermines the cutting-edge feel of the game's presentation.

Getting back to the mechanics for a moment, the way the levels are put together is another unusual aspect of the game and leads into one of its more frustrating elements. Rather than scroll through a long area that stops periodically to get you to beat up the current wave of enemies, each area allows you to roam freely similar to Renegade or The Combatribes. Other games can take this approach just fine, but with Arabian Fight the camera usually follows one main enemy instead of your character. This isn't always the case, and it seems multiplayer uses a different system at some points, but it's certainly an odd choice which leads to you being unable to pick up items when an enemy or boss insists on hanging out on one side of the screen, and other weird things like getting caught off-screen at times, mysteriously snapping to other parts of the screen, some enemies not even participating and hanging out off-screen, and so on and so on. On the plus side, the enemies are fairly varied- a bit more so than D. D. Crew, it has to be said- and they definitely require different approaches depending on who you're fighting. This includes enemies like the large turban bruisers who need to be blocked and punished lest they combo you to oblivion, the Holly Wood / El Gado-esque jumpy swordmasters whose attacks can't be blocked and even wilder if less mechanically-unique enemies like the hieroglyphs that come to life from the pyramid walls and the command-grabbing lizardmen. That's something undermined by the way magic lamps often just remove them from the battlefield of course, but it shows there was a little thought put in at least.

I think the last thing I want to talk about is the environments you'll be fighting in and the general theming of the game. A few backdrops surprisingly get repeated with palette swaps (in particular the desert, cliffside and pirate ships areas) which isn't something you see too often in the genre- headswaps yes, background swaps not so much! However, the unique backgrounds that are there certainly fit the Arabian Nights feel the game is going for. I think the stage that fits this ideal the best is Stage 6: Hell on the Hill, which has two magic carpet rides (including one large one you can knock enemies off of and a smaller one you move around by yourself) and some dramatic cliffside battles with a death pit to dunk enemies into. It's got a snappy pace to it, there's a decent variety of enemies and there's not as many points where you can whisk the enemies away with a magic lamp. The music really helps too! It is, of course, a shame this is followed by Round 7: Castle of the Devil, the final stage but also the longest and dullest with far too many enemy encounters and repeats (a few rooms are just 'this boss you fought already, but there's two of them now'). Hell on the Hill shows what the game could've been, the kind of level that would've been interesting in a game that didn't feel so rough to play.

The concept of extensive sprite scaling in a scrolling brawler would be implemented in a much better way on home hardware several years later- Guardian Heroes, Treasure's 1996 RPG-infused brawler for the Saturn. Beyond just playing better, I think there's something interesting to be said about comparing the aesthetics and approach to scaling in both games- rather than highly-detailed sprites with lots of subtle colours as in Arabian Fight, Guardian Heroes' sprites use bold, solid colours so any graphical imperfections brought on by the scaling are mitigated, plus the sprites are mostly smaller, taking up less of the screen and making things a little less cluttered (although it's got plenty of its own chaos with everything that happens in that game). The fact there's only three lanes also means that the characters look more natural when scaling as you shift between them a lane at a time, compared to Arabian Fight which just looks much messier as characters move in and out of the screen. Come to think of it, Guardian Heroes has similar level construction, seeing as they tend to be smaller arenas you have free reign over... Of course, Guardian Heroes also has a lot of other things in its favour over this game but I think the comparison is interesting. It shows that Arabian Fight was really ahead of its time in terms of presentation- whoppin' massive sprites! All this scaling! Animated close-ups worthy of the PC-FX that wasn't out at this point! Being this advanced did ensure there'd be no contemporary home port, mind, but similar to D. D. Crew, porting this to the Mega Drive would've had to compromise on the visuals, the most important part of the game, and also make it roughly contemporary with Streets of Rage II, a deeply-embarrassing place for Arabian Fight to be in. Don't worry though, it got a port eventually but, well, we'll get to that.

To wrap things up, I think it should be fairly obvious why the presentation makes such an impression with this game- to be blunt, it's all the game's got. Sure, you have some features that were uncommon in brawlers at the time and some real technical achievements here, and I don't want to dismiss those out of hand. I was especially impressed with the blocking mechanic and some elements of the backgrounds, but all the technical bells and whistles sound exciting on paper, in theory, something that sounds really nice on a sales sheet or you can rattle off as a fun fact. In execution Arabian Fight falls apart completely- none of it comes together to make an enjoyable brawler you can sink your teeth into. The collision detection and jitteriness of character movement makes the combat feel unsatisfying and far too loose to get into even on a casual level, the bizarre camera system often leaves you fighting against the game when you're trying to play it, boss fights often undermine the inclusion of smaller enemies by giving the player a way to just remove them entirely, some parts including the end of the game drag on for too long with a lot of repeated fights... It's one of those brawlers that I struggled to enjoy even when playing casually, and trying to learn how to play the game properly- if that's the word to use here, this is me we're talking about- only confirmed my gut feeling that yes, the game is pretty rough to play for me! Six months after Arabian Fight, Sega would release Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death-Adder and all was forgiven, but maybe we should give Arabian Fight a little credit for walking so that game could run, and maybe that's what we should remember this game for rather than the game itself.

For not being as playable as Arabian Magic, Arabian Fight is awarded...

In a sentence, Arabian Fight is...
Just a bit of a mess.

And now, it's that time, folks!

Arabian Fight had to wait just under 30 years (!) for a home port, and it's not even one you can get easily anymore.

The Astro City Mini, a plug-and-play mini console released in 2021, included 37 games from Sega's arcade gameography and surprisingly, a few System 32 games showed up too. Alongside Dark Edge, Rad Mobile (which works surprisingly well on a joystick) and Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death-Adder (yes, this is that game's only home port), Arabian Fight was included too. While the emulation is a little better than MAME for sure (the shuddering floors and backgrounds aren't an issue here), it has a few omissions and quirks common to other games on the unit- only two-player support as it only has two control ports, no options like difficulty or number of lives and only a basic CRT filter. It's also just weird that the unit's screen is 16:9 so you have a small screen with borders if you play it that way. Still, if you can get your hands on one (they were released exclusively by Limited Run Games in the US- I'm sorry, American friends) and accept all those caveats, then it might be worth taking a look. Plus, it has Dark Edge on it!

We'll wrap up with a pair of miscellaneous things- a cameo and some merchandise.

The Sega Ages rereleases on Switch have intros where various Sega characters appear holding placards, and Ramaya is one of them!

Each release has an exclusive character from what I can tell, and Ramaya only appears in the intro to Sega Ages: OutRun.

Courtesy of Liam Ashcroft, Sega Ages: Columns II on the Switch has The Jewel Case where you can view some of these characters, including Ramaya (in a different pose).

To unlock her, you have to clear 25 stages of the game, and, well, Liam has more patience than me for that.

Ramaya was also included in the first line of Yujin's Sega Gals Collection of gashapon figures, and you can see a paper slip advertising that line here.

Of course I have this figure. I already have Arle and Honey from the same line, how could I not?

Special nod to Janet for their extensive and impressive Arabian Fight 1CC videos recorded on original hardware!

Take this magic!! Or something like that.

What's next on the Weirdo Sega Brawlers list, I wonder?