Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
If we imagine the internet as a physical realm, perhaps a futuristic city, with giant Amazon shops and Wikipedia libraries, then Salty Bet is one of the trashiest dive bars. It’s a noisy den in the Squalid Quarter, full of loutish cackling and people throwing money at the bar staff. In the centre of the bar, an illicit cage fight is about to start, between an anime princess and a weird creature spawned from MS Paint. I feel dirty just walking into this place, so why do I keep coming back?
Well, playing with fake money is always fun. For anyone confused, Salty Bet is a website where you can bet on fights between weird AI bots, battling in M.U.G.E.N, an old 2D fighting game engine. The contenders are stripped from generations of fighting games, or sometimes simply inspired by them. You can find Jin from Tekken, or Marvel’s Dr Strange, or any of the Mortal Kombatants. Some of the brawlers are horrible monstrosities – huge scorpions or blobs. Others are Sailor Moon characters or Ninja Turtles. These copyright-skirting bots are often overpowered maniacs with unlikely moves and weapons. Lasers, swords, robots, missiles. Everything is allowed, so long as it doesn’t “break” the fight. And a tier system keeps everything (mostly) in check. The perfect Salty Bet fight is quick and close, and upsets are wonderful.
I don’t recognise the majority of the characters. Fans of both anime and fighting games have created their own sub-culture here, and that’s part of the appeal as a stranger. You have no idea who to bet on. The tiny animal with a smile is just as viable as the demon breathing fire. But don’t rely on the Twitch-based chat for help. This is a raucous place, sometimes offensive. A kind of Jabba’s Palace for the year 2017. But if you can ignore the worst of it (or if you’re happy to turn chat off entirely), you might still enjoy one of the grubbiest, weirdest bloodsports available on the horrible streets of this Internet city.