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Video Game / Time Killers

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"Time Killers... engage!"

Time Killers is a Fighting Game released in arcades in 1992 by Strata, around the same time as Mortal Kombat. The game's story features eight characters (Rancid, Matrix, Orion, Musashi, Lord Wulf, Leif, Thugg and Mantazz) from throughout time, hand-picked by Death to battle each other before facing Death himself.

The game has an unusual control scheme: two punches, two kicks, and a head button, laid out in the shape of the human body. But it really distinguishes itself by featuring a healthy amount of violence. Every character carries some sort of bladed weapon, and it is possible to cut of one or both of the opponent's arms, potentially leaving them unable to block. Not only that, but there are Death Moves, which are activated by pressing all five buttons at once and, if they connect, will cut the opponent's head off and immediately end the round (even at the very beginning). Super Death Moves take off not only the head, but also any remaining arms.

Because the game's violence was more accessible than that in MK, Time Killers was briefly popular, but its fame soon died down. There is also a Sega Genesis port that was released in 1996.

Incredible Technologies and Strata would later make a spiritual sequel to Time Killers known as BloodStorm.

This game features examples of:

  • Action Girl: Matrix becomes one at the age of 10, fighting against machine armies that are trying to wipe out all human life on her native Mars.
  • Adjustable Censorship: The dipswitch in the Arcade and the Sega Genesis version features an option to set the violence level to "No Blood", "Blood", "Dismember", or "Decapitate".
  • All There in the Manual: The handbook features a very detailed story for each of the characters, but you wouldn't know by playing the game itself.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: It gets a little silly when which arm a character lost depends on which direction they're facing. The game's controls take it into account - instead of "left" and "right", the game designates sides as "weapon" and "back". The back arm is always lost first.
  • Artificial Limbs: Matrix has an artificial hand.
  • Bad Future: Matrix and Matazz's stages are the same location at different points in time.
  • Begin with a Finisher: Nothing's stopping the player from attempting a Death Move at the beginning of the round, decapitating the opponent in a single stroke if they succeed.
  • Bug War: Mantazz is the queen of a race of insect-like mutants bent on invading Earth and exterminating mankind.
  • Chainsaw Good: Rancid's weapon of choice is a chainsaw.
  • Complete Immortality: The prize for defeating Death - each character's ending describes what they do with their newfound immortality.
  • Dual Wielding: Musashi uses both a katana and a daito.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Rancid's story. In his case, it was the Calling Card of a Serial Killer.
  • Expy: Wulf (of Arthurian Legend), who shouts "Excalibur!" when he wins a fight.
  • Finishing Move: Two of them, actually: one that can be done anytime during the match, and one that can be done to cut off both arms and the head while the opponent is dizzy.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Death's stage.
  • The Grim Reaper: Death takes on this appearance at the start of his fights, but quickly sheds the cloak to reveal his true form.
  • Historical Domain Character: Leif is probably Leif Erikson and Musashi Miyamoto Musashi.
  • Life Meter: Unusual in that it fills, rather than drains, as a player takes damage. Whoever has taken less damage has their meter in green, while the losing player's meter is red.
  • Lizard Folk: Thugg fought against humanoid dinosaurs called Troglodytes. The weird green globs he spits as his projectile are supposed to be Troglodyte flesh.
  • Mirror Match: As in most games of this type, both players could choose Palette Swap versions of the same fighter: e.g., blond Matrix vs. redhead Matrix. A single player has to face a duplicate of their character as part of the game.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: In Rancid's backstory, he was accused of "the X Murders", a series of serial killings where the killer carved an X into his victim's foreheads. He was taken by Death right after cornering and killing the real killer.
  • Off with His Head!: AND HOW!
  • One-Hit Kill: Which you can actually use as the first move in a round.
  • "Psycho" Strings: The opening of Mantazz's stage theme.
  • Punch-Kick Layout: The game has five buttons, with four limb buttons laid out similarly to how the likes of Mortal Kombat 9 would do it (weapon arm, back arm, weapon leg, etc.) as well as a head button.
  • Puzzle Boss: Death is sort of like this. It's impossible to beat him by knockout; you can only win by decapitating him with a Death Move or a Super Death Move. Even if you do land the move, though, you still need to win two rounds out of three (although you only need to land a Death or Super Death Move on the match-point round).
  • Prehistoria: Thugg's stage.
  • The Quincy Punk: Rancid. He fulfills any cliché that comes with punks in fiction. His chainsaw makes him even cooler.
  • Reversegrip: Musashi.
  • Robot War: Matrix is from a future where mankind's robot servants went berserk and waged war against them. She was taken by Death right after destroying the alien computer that had caused said rebellion.
  • Samurai: Musashi.
  • Shout-Out: The ability to cut arms off and the armless fighting were inspired by the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Matrix was the only unambiguously female character.
    • Mantazz is female, but you couldn't tell without reading her backstory.
  • SNK Boss: Death hits like a Mack truck, which is bad enough. But he can also do this glowing dive move that's hard as hell to block and will usually cost you a limb if you get hit by it... If you're lucky, just a limb.
  • Unwinnable by Design: One-round version against the final boss - in order to be killed, Death has to be decapitated. It's technically possible (though given the amount of damage losing an arm does, very rare) to lose both of your arms without dying (in fact, there's a special on-screen message that pops up if a player wins a round without arms). But since you need an arm to hold a cutting implement (or use claws, in Mantazz's case), losing both against Death means that he can't be killed (and thus, beaten) that round, even if you somehow survive losing both arms.