Randomly thinking about Holosseum

holotitleOn my days off work I tend to poke through some of my old media to generate content ideas, and today’s walk back through time led me to SEGA’s Holosseum.

SEGA released two holographic arcade games: Time Traveler in 1991, and then Holosseum in 1992. These cabinets are perhaps the most 1990s thing ever – white, futuristic-looking capsules that emit the vibe of what people from the 20th Century thought the future would look like, complete with shapes on the playfield to give it a little bit of 3-D “pop.” The games were laserdisc games that ran on SEGA’s System 32 hardware that heavily pushed scaling in arcade games such as Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, Burning Rival and the company’s first arcade attempt at Jurassic Park.

Time Traveler was notable as an FMV game in the quick-time event style of Dragon’s Lair, but Holosseum served as a one-on-one fighting game. Holosseum actually has some pretty decent sprite art and sound as you would expect from a SEGA game, but it woefully lacks in content. There are only four characters to choose from, which results in the single-player arcade mode being very uninspired … there isn’t even a hidden final boss that is only accessible to the CPU.

When tackling the single-player mode, your selected character battles the three other characters in a best-of-three format. After that, you face off against the WORLD CHAMPION – which is merely the mirror match against your character.


It gets slightly more interesting after that point, but the difficulty ramps up a little, and you get a limited bank of time to try and defeat the CPU 10 rounds in a row. This finally ends the game, and in unceremonious fashion at that.

The limited roster does admittedly allow for a little more flair on the character select screen, giving players the choice of karate master Dave, wushu master Chen, Muay Thai fighter Dompayagen and self-taught martial artist Garrison. The characters are quite different in appearance, and their highlighted martial arts specialties give you the impression there is a lot of variety to be seen in how the characters duke it out.

When you break down the versus aspect of the game, though, it heavily relies on a neutral position. Players have their default stance and can only step backward or forward once, along with the ability to jump and crouch in these three positions. Holosseum features the expected “hold back to block” mechanic, which generally puts you in the “retreat” position and allows the opponent to get more aggressive in stepping forward to apply more pressure.

The characters also have a variety of special moves coupled with attacks executed between a “quick” button and a “fierce” button. The cabinet actually labels these buttons as “quick tricks” and “fierce tricks,” which has become a meme between the only other player who plays this game with me – The Toa of Bass. Many of the special moves are executed in quarter-circle, half-circle or charge formats, so Holosseum doesn’t stray too far off the Street Fighter path in this regard.


In essence, though, the setup does kind of make Holosseum one of the more pure “footsies” games available. As I mentioned earlier, because you can only move to three spots on the playfield, going on defense really corners you and can create problems. The neutral game occurs in the middle, and you want a read on your opponent so you can counterattack and put them in the defensive position.

If you get cornered, it’s a race to find a counterattack so you can knock the opponent back into neutral and try to find a way to turn the tables and get them cornered. Despite the limited movement, the versus mentality of this game is way more visceral than most people probably realize.

I was actually able to get quick glimpses of both the holographic cabinets as a kid, as they briefly appeared in resort spots in Frankenmuth. It was one of those deals where I saw the cabinets one time, they got quickly shuffled out, and then I spent years wondering if those cabinets actually existed … because try explaining Time Traveler to another kid in the 1990s – it sounds like a fever dream. In my recollection, I never recall seeing these games mentioned in magazines at the time, so I might have to make it a mission to search out and see if Holosseum ever got magazine coverage.

The Time Traveler cabinet was actually in a shop a few miles off the highway, and it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. I remember staring at this machine trying to process what was going on as some cowboy-looking guy found himself in all of these strange scenarios in the attract mode. I didn’t end up playing this game at the time, as I was very confused as to what the game entailed. Given Time Traveler’s QTE nature, I’m guessing there is zero chance I would have had fun with it at that time.

Holosseum was found deep in the bowels of the Bavarian Inn – pretty much THE hotel in the City of Frankenmuth. There was an arcade near the lobby on the first floor that introduced me to my first games of arcade Ninja Gaiden (that was a shock to play after only having played the NES version) and Punch-Out!!, but if you took an elevator to the basement, there was a small water park in the hotel, and this branched off into other amusement areas such as arcades and miniature golf.

This basement area featured the Holosseum cabinet, and being a one-on-one fighter, I wasn’t intimidated at all. With the presentation of the cabinet, how could I not give it a try?

I couldn’t tell you which character I picked, but I know I got through two or three fights before losing. It’s weird how little I remembered about the gameplay itself, but the presentation of Holosseum had just buried itself into my brain, a process similar to how I have previously mused about SNK Vs. Capcom: Chaos on this very site.

Unknowingly to me at the time, in some form or fashion, I had taken in everything SEGA’s hologram games had to offer in one fell swoop. And then they seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth for two decades.

charactersThe games resurfaced years later at Galloping Ghost Arcade, and through The Toa of Bass, we developed one of our favorite fighting game sets – the Dave-Off. This is a series of mirror matches featuring the karate shihan master Dave, and we’ve been able to piece together two full recorded sets of us playing this game.

In our limited time with the game, we found the Dave mirror match provides an honest matchup, and he seems to be quite strong when he isn’t matched up with the computer. With a hurricane kick input he has the kakato otoshi move, which is his big axe kick that hits twice, knocks opponents out of the air, seems to be an overhead and does decent damage. When that has opponents taking their guard high, you can bust out his “tripping up” move (half circle forward plus fierce trick) to have Dave shoot forward very quickly and use his arm to sweep the leg of the opponent. Coupled with his range of decent normal kicks, Dave has proven to be a fun character to fight with in this game.

Revisiting the game, it was bizarre that I didn’t remember you could only move to three places when I played this as a kid. But when I played the game with someone I love playing fighting game sets against, the limitations of the game no longer seemed to matter. I would actually say, in a twist, it actually gave us a straight-forward fighting game that we were able to adapt to very quickly and kind of realize what SEGA was aiming for in developing this title.

So, while Holosseum will never take the world by storm, it has two fans. And when you insert the magic of video editing, you end up with a truly special memory!

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature


Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka (http://gemubaka.com). For business only: gemubaka at gmail


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  1. | The search for a social media identityGemuBaka - November 26, 2022

    […] any longer than that, that content should really be a feature on GemuBaka, right? (Funny enough, the recent Holosseum feature on GemuBaka was an evolution of a random Cohost post I […]

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