Ragnagard, known in Japan as Shinōken (or "God Phoenix Fist"), is a 2D fantasy fighting game developed by both Saurus and System Vision and published by SNK for arcades (using Neo Geo MVS hardware) on June 13, 1996.
In Ragnagard, players play as one of several deities and mythological figures (such as Shinto god Susano, Buddhist goddess Benten, and the legendary Monkey King) as they participate in a tournament held by the supreme ruler Arkorion to determine who will succeed him in controlling the heavens.
The game is known for its use of pre-rendered 3D graphics, similar to the Killer Instinct series. It also features an extensive aerial combat system and a unique super meter system (which is based on the four classical elements and is used for temporarily upgrading special moves and performing super moves. It is one of the last games developed by obscure studio System Vision (who were previously known for the fighting games Deadly Moves and Battle Master: Kyuukyoku no Senshitachi).
It later received releases for both the Neo Geo AES (on July 26, 1996) and the Neo Geo CD (on August 23, 1996), both released exclusively in Japan. It also received a conversion for the Sega Saturn in Japan on April 4, 1997.
The Neo Geo version was digitally re-released for the Wii (via Virtual Console) on October 18, 2011 in Japan only, while the arcade version was digitally re-released as part of HAMSTER's Arcade Archives series for the Nintendo Switch on January 3, 2019, for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on January 10, 2019, for the PC on August 30, 2019, and for iOS and Android on August 3, 2023.
Ragnagard plays like other traditional 2D fighting games at the time, with two punch buttons (A for weak, C for strong) and two kick buttons (B for weak, D for strong).
- Double-tapping forwards or backwards on the joystick on the ground for dashing. Can dash forward in mid-air.
- Throws are performed using either C or D buttons and any direction on the joystick while up close. While thrown, players can recover mid-air by doing a specific quarter-circle motion (Upward -> Forward/Backward) and either A or B button. Each character also has an unrecoverable throw, which is performed through a special combination (half-circle backward + C/D).
- Both A+B buttons can be used for universal jump-based attacks. Holding upward on the joystick and pressing A+B, whether on the ground or in the air, performs a jumping "Rising Attack" that launches opponents into the air. In mid-air, holding downward on the joystick and pressing A+B performs a diving overhead "Falling Attack" (or "Jump Attack"). Both attacks can combo into other mid-air attacks.
- Holding forwards on the joystick and pressing C or D does a more powerful "Forward Attack". Holding forwards on the joystick and pressing B+C performs a special "Foot Bash" attack that knocks them away, sometimes causing them to bounce on the wall.
- By tapping Forward, then Backward on the joystick while blocking an attack, players can perform a "Continuous Guard", which allows them to guard cancel into a normal attack. Inputting the command again while blocking a second attack upgrades it, allowing it to guard cancel into a special move.
- The game includes two universal chain combos, consisting of two attacks (Any Punch -> Any Kick, or Any Kick -> Any Punch) followed by an automatic special move (by pressing C+D, with the move based on which Punch/Kick combination was used).
- Blocking can be performed mid-air. Pressing downward on the joystick and pressing either C or D at the right time while taking damage in mid-air causes the fighter to make a quick evasive dash backward, preventing them from further juggling.
Ragnagard's super meter, known as the "Cataclysm Gauge" (or "Tenpenchii Gauge") is unique for having four elemental attributes assigned to them, each based on the four classical elements (Fire, Thunder, Water, and Breeze). Each fighter has two elements, and manually charge-up the gauge with either element (holding A+B+C for their primary element, or holding B+C+D for their secondary element) to give themselves a temporary "Cataclysm" buff.
While the buff is active, they have access to element-specific special move upgrades (and/or new element-specific special moves) and element-specific "Cataclysm Item" pickups drop at random locations for them to pick-up and keep in the meter's Stock. Up to three Items can be held, with additional Items replacing older ones, and can be used for two techniques, regardless if the buff is active:
- The "Cataclysm Technique" (Tenpenchii-waza), a super move that requires use of one Item of the attack's specific element. Each fighter has two super moves, one of each element.
- The "Super Divine Fist Technique" (Choushinken-waza), a more powerful super move that requires use of all three Items, regardless of their element. It can also be used if the fighter has low vitality (as noted by a flashing lifebar), which does not consume any Items if they have less than three.
The game includes eight playable fighters from the start and three boss characters, who can each be played using specific cheat codes in the character select screen.
- Susano - The main protagonist, and the reincarnation of a black dragon that tried to destroy the heavens, participating in the tournament for fate. Based on the Shinto god Susano-o.
- Benten - A goddess participating in the tournament for fortune. Based on the Buddhist goddess Benzaiten.
- Chichi & Nene - Twin girls based on the Shinto gods Raijin and Fujin, who participate in the tournament for fun.
- Gokuu - Susano's rival. Based on the Chinese folk hero Sun Wukong.
- Binten - A mischievous old pervert based on the Shinto spirit binbōgami.
- Syuten-Dozi - A hulking masked brute who participates in the tournament in order to restore his cursed son. Based on the mythical oni Shuten-dōji.
- Seena - A mermaid princess based on the folk hero The Little Mermaid.
- Igret - A masked scythe-wielding shinigami based on the Grim Reaper.
- Behemoth - Sub-boss. A hulking beastman based on the biblical monster Behemoth.
- Eelis - Sub-boss. A demonic succubus.
- Lucifer - Final boss. A hulking demon lord based on the biblical figure Lucifer. Has an alternate unplayable version named "Gilfer" as his final boss.