Spanish studio makes a bullfighting game that even PETA might be OK with

Bullet hell, meet bullfighting.

No line describes better Toreador Neonsubmitted to Kickstarter backers earlier this week through Spanish indie studio Relevo. The 13-year-old company specializes in homage to the “futuristic sports” subgenre featured in games from the 1990s such as Windjammers or Cyberballand their latest effort came, fittingly enough, in a bullish session a few years ago.

“We were doing other projects at the time,” John Cortazar, chief executive of Relevo, told Polygon. “But when we decided to start a new crowdfunding project, Toreador Neon immediately came to mind. It’s kind of a crazy idea, with a bit of controversy, that could help keep Kickstarter going.”

To be perfectly clear: this is not a literal bullfight (or rather, a video game depiction of it). Neither Cortazar nor his colleagues are fans of him, despite the strong cultural attachment to the blood sport in Spain. (Relevo is based in Bilbao, where bullfighting competitions have been held since 1882 in the 14,781 seat Vista Alegre.)

Their concept includes a bull robot; moreover, the bull is not attacked. Instead, the goal is to evade and deflect these attacks until its battery runs out and the bull rolls over. It’s over muleta (cloak) than he is Espada.

“We set firm boundaries from the beginning on the unacceptability of in-game violence,” said Cortazar. “We designed a robot fight where the robot has all the firepower, and the armored bullfighter has only a light muleta. Handle the challenge. The only way to win is to drain it all [the robot-toro’s] battery with neon muleta and make passes while dodging and parrying his attacks.”

That’s where bullet hell starts; players must memorize, or at least pay close attention to, attack patterns as the bull rains deadly rain on the matador for a change. Here are a couple of GIFs illustrating the point:

Toreador NeonThe Kickstarter page says that players can choose from six different matador characters to take on eight cyber beasts, followed by two “optional final bosses.” Fights take place in four different areas with environmental hazards; single-player and local co-op multiplayer is available. There’s also a story mode, which Cortazar likened to street fighter 2, “where you see each character’s story and different endings depending on your choices.”

Bullfighter neon, scheduled to launch by the end of the year on Steam, caught my attention for several reasons. First, the 16-bit style, the attract mode and the flashing PRESS START BUTTON, and the matador knockdown animation – it all looks like something really weird that a local hangout blew the arms of an entertainment vendor off when I was a teenager.

Secondly, I am a firm believer in Hemingway’s holy trinity of sports, namely that “there are only three sports: bullfighting, car racing, and mountain climbing.” (“Everything else is just games,” he added.)

I have seen a lot of the last two (if SSX or Sean White snowboarding quantity) and none of the former. (That is, until McWhertor brought the Sega Bullfight and this to my attention, proving that I should never name any video game first in order to do something.)

With Toreador NeonFinally, my male sports video game circle is complete! Cortazar played along and offered his trilogy about Hemingway: his game (of course), the original Gran Turismo on PlayStation, and 1080º Snowboarding on Nintendo 64. Although: “I should point out that our last game was actually snowboarding game 48 KB created in assembler for the old platform, the MSX system, Cortazar said.

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