Streets of Rage 4 is happening and I’m very happy about that fact. I spent a lot of time playing the series as a youngster, and seeing the trailer for its return is wonderful. It got me thinking about the beat ’em up games I’ve played over the years though, and the lovely Moe Gamer inspired me to write about five that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the years.
For the sake of clarity, I would consider beat ’em up games to be 2D (2.5D at most). If not for that, then there would be hordes of games to sift through, seeing as ones such as Devil May Cry and even Batman: Arkham Asylum could really be considered. With that in mind, let’s punch some faces!
Streets of Rage 2
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Honestly, I probably spent more time playing Streets of Rage 3 than its predecessor, but I have fonder memories of fighting my way through the second entry in the series. Picking from one of four heroes, you (and a friend if you’re so inclined) take to the streets to punch bad folk, and take down a crime chap! I’m pretty sure that was the plot.
Each character was suitably distinct (whilst I would always select Blaze, Skate was interesting with his unusual attacks) with a variety of tools at their disposal. It was pretty tough, but not outrageously so. The bosses all felt different, and looked great. Many an hour was lost to cleaning up the streets, and I can’t wait to dive back in once the new entry is released.
So, beat ’em up games often get stale as they go on. There tend to be a finite number of moves, and there areonly so many ways to punch baddies in the face before you’ve seen it all. How do you get around that? Time powers obviously!
Viewtiful Joe takes a solid fighting system and adds the ability to manipulate time in a variety of ways. Not only does that allow for some very interesting combat encounters, it also opens the door to some pretty clever puzzles. Add to that a gorgeous comic book aesthetic, and you’ve got a winner! Now where’s my damn remaster?!
Speaking of good aesthetics, Battletoads for the arcades looked great. Everything was super detailed and the characters had tons of personality. Add to that plenty of variety in levels and you’ve got some good potential on your hands.
As a franchise, Battletoads didn’t take off compared to a lot of others in the era, but it does have something of a cult following. The arcade game certainly has its share of fans, which is understandable considering it’s a very solid beat ’em up. And whilst it’s very, very hard, it has far less nonsense than the notorious NES game.
It saddens me that you can’t buy this game anymore because it’s really good! Following the plot of the books (with a matching art style to boot), you pick one of four characters and get to punching people in the face with…very few moves. Like a lot of beat’em ups, you don’t have many different moves, but Scott Pilgrim uses a leveling system to gradually give you access to more and more fun moves to avoid that drag that can sometimes creep in.
On top of that, you can gather money to spend in shops along your journey, giving you stat boosts which help out a lot against the tough bosses. Then there’s the music! A fantastic soundtrack keeps the action exciting throughout. I keep Another Winter (the opening track) as my ringtone. It’s a shame that you can’t get hold of this legitimately anymore. I may have to dust of the Xbox 360 at some point…
Somewhat underrated, Comix Zone is a beat ’em up that deserves a bit more love than it gets. Whilst it’s incredibly hard, the combat in it is fun enough, and the game’s aesthetics are a definite highlight. Being set in a comic book, your character (named, and I’m sorry for this, Sketch Turner) leaps from panel to panel taking on a multitude of cartoon enemies.
I loved that the super moves made use of the fact that you were inside pages of a book rather than being something as simple as a powerful punch that you’d see elsewhere. There’s certainly more style than substance here (it’s pretty short) but it’s something that’s worth a look, and considering it’s in so many Sega collections thesse days, trying it out is easy.
What, no Golden Axe? Honestly, I find it quite tedious these days. There isn’t a much to it, and the combat gets quite dull quickly. It’s certainly a great game for its time, but now it feels quite clunky. There’s no doubt it had a great impact on the genre though.
What beat ’em ups do you like? Are they better than the ones I’ve suggested? Let’s fight it out below!