I Should Play That: Dong Dong Never Die
Imagine if Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were addicted to drugs, then had a child together while under the influence of narcotics—wait, that's a bit too obscene—imagine if all the Asian WTF videos you've ever watched on the internet got together and starred in an arcade game. That game would be Dong Dong Never Die.
With a name like that, it's hard not to be curious about what sort of insanity lies within this freeware gem. Released in 2009 by a group of Chinese fighting game fans, DDND must be played to be believed—screenshots can only convey so much of the "I have no idea what's going on" wackiness this indie game serves up. Made in the do-it-yourself program 2D Fighter Maker, DDND will feel instantly recognizable to anyone that's played a '90s fighting game. On LSD. Playing the game is as simple as downloading and unzipping the program, and all 24 characters are available from the get-go.
Now, fundamentally, these characters are familiar prototypes we've seen before: Ken from Street Fighter II, Kyo from King of Fighters, Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat. The difference here? They're all reskinned into a mish-mash of horrifying and hilarious stereotypes. Members of the downright-bizarre cast include the Chinese version of the T1000, a soccer player who inexplicably hurls wrenches, and a spray-paint wielding hooligan that wears a monkey mask. It doesn't matter that I don't speak a word of Chinese—wrenches to the face are a universal language.
And the supers—oh, the supers. If you thought the characters were strange, wait until they bust out their ultimate attacks. A 100-ton hammer materializing out of nowhere? Check. John Woo-style slow-motion bulletkata, complete with flock of pigeons? Check. Giant paper airplanes hurled by an androgynous nerd? Yep, DDND's got that too. My personal favorite super belongs to the dainty umbrella-wielding Mian Hua Tang: she calls out to her manservant, ordering him to attack. (Relevant: her manservant is Optimus Prime.)
The graphics are a blend of live-action photos and 2D/3D spritework, and it's hard to believe that the people developing the game weren't professionals. Attack animations are slick, and character hit-boxes actually correlate with all the goofy effects that are happening onscreen. Over the course of three years, the dev team compiled over 10,000 photos to use as frames of animation, and their diligence shows. Fireballs and flash kicks look exactly like they should. The zany victory dances include enthusiastic pelvic thrusting and another character that chugs a bottle of juice before singing "I Believe I Can Fly." As for sound and controls, you'll recognize music from all over fighting-gamedom, and the keyboard controls work like a charm. DDND even has netplay, if you and a friend can navigate the tricky IP-exchanging system.
DDND is easily the most creative, and more importantly fun, freeware fighting game I've played of the semi-shameful heap that I've downloaded. If you enjoy it, there's a bevy of freeware fighters out there just begging to be played, like Arm Joe or Vanguard Princess. But DDND is a great way to get a taste of the fan-made fighter genre, and it'll have you uppercutting nurses and machine-gunning overweight construction workers in no time.
Troubleshooting note: if you have problems running the GAME.exe file in Windows 7, try using compatibility mode. Default Player 1 controls are WASD for movement, U and I for light/heavy punch, and J and K for light/heavy kick. You can change the controls in the K option of the O file menu.