In the heady days of the early 90's a new kind of game was making the rounds at the local arcades. Gone were the space shooters and maze games that had dominated the 80's. They were being quickly replaced by a new genre called the fighting game. Strange new names such as Capcom and SNK began to appear next to the old arcade standards such Sega, Atari, and Nintendo. Atari wasn't about to be left in the dust by these new competitors, they came out with their own one-on-one fighter but added a slight twist. Atari used large digitized characters to bring a whole new level of realism to the fighting scene.
While the arcade game may have been a giant leap forward in graphics, the 7800 version is a huge step backwards. Gone are the large oversized digitized characters that defined the arcade version, instead they've been replaced by some rather bland looking Double Dragon guys. While there was no way for the 7800 to pull off the arcade games digitized look, the 7800 was capable of much better than this. Not only are the characters puny and bland, but they all look alike! The only difference between them is the color of their pants.
It's probably not fair to judge this prototype against the arcade game as was still very early in the development process. There is no title screen or options, and the game starts automatically. The game itself (if you can call it a game) only consists of one screen with four bad guys who walk around. Although they occasionally take a swing at you, they never seem to hit you. However you can punch them by pressing the right button, or kick them by holding the right button down and pressing up, left, or down. Once you've knocked them all down there isn't anything else to do, and you must reset.
The history surrounding this prototype is a bit hazy. It was supposedly found on the hard disk of an ex-Atari developers old computer, but this rumor has never been substantiated. However given it's early state, it is doubtful that EPROM burns were made of this game. There are also more than a few unanswered mysteries hidden in this game. If you take a close look at the upper left of the playfield (near the shadowy figures) you can see what looks like a white dash. This object cannot be picked up, but it is probably a knife for throwing at your opponent. There is also what appears to be a text box at the bottom of the screen. Nothing ever appears in this box, but it may have flashed messages or contained vital stats.
Because this is an unfinished prototype, Pit Fighter contains alot of bugs. One of the more interesting bugs involves jumping. Your character can jump straight up by pressing the left button, usually this doesn't serve any purpose as you cannot perform a jump kick or other useful maneuvers. However if you jump near the bottom of the screen you will suddenly appear to be floating at the top of the screen! You can walk around this way until you decide to float back down to the ground. Useless but interesting none the less.
When compared to screenshots of the arcade version it's almost impossible to tell that they were supposed to be the same game. It is unknown why Atari thought the 7800 could handle a complex game like Pit Fighter, but the results weren't pretty. Atari wisely decided to stop development of this title when they ended all 7800 development in early 93. Pit Fighter is proof that just because you own the license to something doesn't mean you should port it to your game system.