Friday, 20 December 2013

Top Ten Scrolling Beat 'Em Ups part 2

Hi everyone and welcome back for the second part of the best scrolling beat 'em ups. No need to go into introductions so on we go!

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
Konami 1991 

Released during the end of the Turtles craze of the late 80's, Turtles in Time is a vibrant 4 player arcade beat 'em up which also saw a superb Super Nintendo port.

TMNT might be the most perfect license to turn into a beat em up. And Konami made the most perfect beat em up out of TMNT. It's super flashy. Every few minutes there's an amazing set piece or animation to ogle at. It also has great Konami-calibur music.

Yeah, I think it’s the best TMNT game around and depicts the Turtles really well. Lot's of fun to play, especially in the arcade with friends.

I will admit i'm biased, I love the turtles (I still own the Amiga coin op version, ahem), and I love the fact they finally appeared in a decent scrolling beat 'em up. The character animation, graphics and colours are awesome and the gameplay is spot on.

I don't entirely agree. It's not my personal favourite of Konami's licensed brawlers - actually hitting enemies feels a bit loose, and there's (understandably) no weapons besides the environmental one like fire hydrants so  it can get a little dry.

I agree the combat itself can be clunky at times. But I still find it so much fun, such a polished product. 

The gameplay is certainly simplistic, very repetitive but I just cannot help but enjoy this game. The levels are so varied and there is so much going on. I especially enjoy the Super Nintendo port when played with a friend. The arcade version is better but the added bosses of the home version is well worth the trade off. 

Despite my feelings on the combat, has some neat set-pieces like Krang attacking you on the first stage, and there is plenty of stage variety like the surfing levels. It's also ideal for co-op (and all the better for it) as it's very easy to pick up and play.

Although I never enjoyed the SFC TNMT as much as its arcade sibling, I did find it a very enjoyable romp. It still remains one of my favourite beat 'em ups on the system. It's a lot of fun with friends and Konami did a good job with the port. The arcade version remains the one to play though, it's brilliant.

Despite the simplistic gameplay, this game is immensely enjoyable to play and all the more so with friends. The Super Nintendo port is very good and the Mega Drive has a solid alternate version in The Hyperstone Heist.

4. Light Bringer
Taito 1994

Light Bringer is an isometric fighter with RPG elements. Set in medieval times and featuring platform elements too, it is one of the meatier games in the genre.

You don't see many isometric brawlers, and it's got a few light RPG elements too like levelling up and finding better weapons along the way. It's a bit slower-paced than some of the other entries, although if it went any faster it'd be perhaps too tough to play from this perspective.

The pace of the game is perfect, any faster and it would indeed be tough to play due to the viewpoint. The RPG elements really give meat to the game and I wish there were more games like this. For me, it's the perfect way to add depth to what is normally a shallow genre.

I could eat these RPG/beat ‘em up hybrids for breakfast – I love them! The isometric view and free-roaming nature of Light Bringer give it a different feel from the usual belt-scrolling jaunt.

Yeah there is a fair amount to do and lots of weapons to find. Also different paths through each stage (some with better loot/less traps than others) and the charge shot, which differs between the four characters is quite versatile. You've also got magic attacks for when things get too rowdy. The isometric angle takes a little getting used to, but this is really worth trying for something different from the norm.

Confession time; I only discovered Light Bringer about two years ago, on one of those Taito Legends compilations. On the one hand I was a bit sad that I'd missed out on it all these years, but on the other, I was elated because it's one of the best examples of the genre. Classic and gorgeous sprites, coupled with the rather unique (and charming) isometric viewpoint make Light Bringer a tremedous experience.

Light Bringer is stunning with gameplay that has aged really well and the game offers a lot of replay value. The only known home version is on Taito Legends 2. Any beat 'em up fan needs to play it.

3. Golden Axe
Sega 1989

Golden Axe is a Conan inspired fantasy beat 'em up featuring magic, dragons and violence aplenty.

It’s for me, the original hack and slash fantasy or certainly the first one I remember. I really like the setting and the music, particularly on the arcade version is excellent.

I spent a lot money playing this in the arcade, and was thrilled when it was released on the Amiga, I love the story, the action and the magical abilities. I really enjoy the fighting and combos and with bright vibrant graphics to match, it's a great 2 player game.

The fighting has a little less impact than others of the genre (more Konami -style than Capcom-style), but the addition of running attacks, creatures to ride and those magic spells are enough to keep things interesting.
It helps that the game knows to be brief, moving you quickly from scene to scene rather than dragging things out., keeping your attention at the same time.

Yeah the overall fighting is quite simple but the magic system and variety of the creatures really help this game. It does indeed move at quite a pace too. I really do love the magic system in fact, it really creates a strategy, especially when learning about the game. Do you use magic against multiple normal enemies or wait for a high power attack on a boss? Great stuff.

Now this is an older beat ‘em up I can really get my teeth into! It looks a little basic (it doesn’t exactly play like the most complicated example of the genre either) but the key points – flying on the back of a giant eagle, summoning a fiery dragon to destroy screens full of enemies, kicking tiny elves for potions – are perfect and elevate the game to a place I’ll reluctantly admit it probably wouldn’t reach just on the strength of its gameplay.

I know I'm risking the wrath of many a retro gamer when I say this, but I don't think Golden Axe is quite as good as many make out. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I find it a bit plodding, a bit ugly and kind of boring although it's much more fun with friends.

Golden Axe is a classic. Despite dated gameplay, it still offers plenty of fun and as always with the genre, is a lot better with a friend. The magic system, running and beast riding systems really are excellent, even today. 

2. Final Fight.
Capcom 1989

Final Fight is a now legendary beat 'em up from Capcom. Ported to many a system, including famously the Super Nintendo where it has no 2 player mode and was missing a lot of content. 

Final Fight - The first ever scrolling beat 'em up I played, so has a special place in my heart.  I loved the characters and the subway train levels, it was something I had never seen before.

Final Fight: Final Fight is such a quintessential game in the beat em up genre. And yet there are many issues about it that would challenge this status. It's not the first beat em up. It's not even the first significant/popular one either (that might be Double Dragon). It's not the best. It's not even the best in its own series “gameplay wise”. But yet, a lot of people gravitate to it. And there has to be a reason for why people use the term “Final Fight-clone/rip-off” on many sub-average generic beat em ups. I think it's due to Capcom's great ability to give so much character to its games and to Final Fight. Haggar, Cody, Guy, Poison, Hugo, even Metro City itself are all great, memorable characters that have a bigger presence than just Final Fight. And I think tagging the Final Fight story into Street Fighter greatly helped give all of these characters many opportunities to appear again and again. And it helps that Final Fight is a good game too.

Every scene is absolutely packed with enemies, giving a true feeling of an all-out brawl.  It may lack the amount of moves later games have, but it still feels satisfying (going from a combo straight into a throw then back again especially) and Metro City and its inhabitants have a certain charm to them. It also has one of my favourite brawler stages- the Bay Area. Starting at midnight, it seems to be a never-ending road of punks, with plenty of changes to break up the action like the bathroom scene and the fire-bottle assault, until you end up by the Statue of Liberty as you see the sun rise... As if you've been fighting all night to clean the streets of Metro City. 

Final Fight is a game I never really loved but I have grown to enjoy it and respect it's place among the classics of the genre. It really is packed with action and a real exercise in crowd control gameplay. The graphics I still love today, with huge sprites and decent animation. I will never forget the size of the first boss. 

I think Final Fight often gets unfairly maligned these days. I adore the characters, and the fantastically ropey story, but most of all, I can't get enough of pounding about Metro City, stoving heads in. 

I think Final Fight is something I can appreciate rather than enjoy and I’d never dream of questioning its importance to the genre, but I must admit, I do find it a bit bland these days.

The animation and movement is very impressive in the arcade and it channels great through the SNES version. It's a pity the SNES version missed Guy. I do enjoy this game but I don't think it stands up well against Streets of Rage. 

Final Fight is legendary in the genre. Any fan really needs to play this. The SNES version is weak but the Mega CD housed a decent port as did the Gameboy Advance. 

1. Streets of Rage 2. 
Sega 1992.

Streets of Rage 2 is a 1992 sequel for the Mega Drive featuring 8 new stages and plenty of thumping techno music. 

This was always going to be top, I don't think anyone really doubted it. 

SoR 2 is one of the few games that me jealous of my Mega Drive owning friends, when I was younger. Probably because it is genuinely the best scrolling beat em up there has ever been. From the minute you set foot on the beautiful neon bathed streets, and hear the timeless music fill the room, you know that you're in for an experience that few can match. Throw in some fantastic characters, and an interesting one on one option and you're left with one of the games of the generation.

The animation and style of this game surpasses it’s prequel, it's probably the best sequel ever. Intense, superb animation and a mind blowing soundtrack makes for good viewing, listening and playability.

Whilst SoR3 is my personal favourite in the series, it’s obvious why this one remains the popular choice. It has big, beautiful sprites, a kick-ass soundtrack and above all else a fair and fun game to tie it all together. A huge step up from the first game and an instant classic.

Love everything about this title, specifically the awesome soundtrack and great combos. I also liked being able to pick up and use weapons! It's one I'll happily play through again and again. It also taught me it's fine to eat giant apples off the floor, and large bags of money can be easily hidden in an array of everyday objects, even in wooden chairs.

I love this game and I am not at all bothered that it sits at the top. Is it my personal favourite? Possibly. Regardless, the music is awesome, especially when hooked up to a stereo system with a sub woofer! The levels are big and interesting, weapons are varied and cool and the characters fun to use. The special move system is excellent, much better than the standard 'call the cops' of the first game. 

Really enjoy this a lot, worthy of being an absolute classic with good gamepaly and amazing sound. I just wish more people would give SoR3 a chance as I really feel it's the better game. 

Street of Rage 2 is rightly regarded as a masterpiece. It's regularly touted as the best scrolling beat 'em up so it's no surprise it takes top spot. If you haven't played it, well you cannot really call yourself a gamer!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Top Ten Scrolling Beat 'em ups part 1.

After plenty of talking and a whole lot of threats, a group of the worlds most respected retro gamers on Twitter finally got together to choose the greatest ever scrolling beat 'em ups!

Step in Martin (@nakamuramartin), Kerry (@_kimimi), Paul (@pablo_0151), Danny (@GuyFawkesRetro), Badr (@BadoorSNK), Ant (@TepidSnake) and James (@RealityGlitch). Each of us voted for our favourite games and this list was compiled completely fairly with absolutely no intervention by this blogger at all!

10. Aliens vs Predator.
Capcom 1994.

Released in 1995, AvP is a superb three player game developed by Capcom on their superb CPS-2 arcade board. Despite receiving very positive feedback on release, it has never been ported to a home system.

'What I love about this game,' said Ant, 'Is the excellent character variety and not just in terms of attack. Each character differs greatly depending on who you choose. Schaefer has a dash instead of a jump as standard and the Predators leap across the screen very quickly. This really changes how you approach the game with each character, making it stand out.
The long-range weapon, available at all times albeit with recharging ammo, gives you more attack options, of which there are loads already... And it's super-satisfying to get to use the Predator's laser cannon!'
'Yeah this is spectacular,' interjects Kerry, 'This is the AAA summer blockbuster of beat ‘em ups – showy, loads of fun, and a bit silly with a complete disregard for canon beyond plumbing the depths of both series for cool looking things to hit!'
'I absolutely adore it,' adds Paul. 'I think it's the fact that you get to take on literally hordes of screamingly violent xenomorphs...if only they'd ported this version to the SFC!'.
'It would have been a bit rubbish on SFC Paul, not sure that slow CPU could have handled it! Maybe with Super FX assistance but surely this was ideal for the Saturn. Pity it never happened.' Martin said.
'This is Capcom proving that licensed games don’t have to be terrible lazy cash
 ins like so many were back then, and still are,' said Kerry.
'This should be higher on the list really,' Danny groaned. 'I completely forgot about it when collating my list so I only have myself to blame!'.

AvP is a stonking game. Wether it be 15th on the list or 1st, it is undoubtedly one people should experience and one Capcom really should add to PSN or XBLA with online play.

9. Guardian Heroes.
Treasure 1996. 

Guardian Heroes is often considered one of the best games on the Saturn, no surprised given the pedigree of the developer. Released in 1996, it is one of the more unusual beat 'em ups around with a fully blown story and multi-plane battle system.

'Treasure doing what Treasure do best – have a quick go at a new genre and get it right first time while being completely different too.' started Kerry.
'Yeah this title is immense,' adds James excitedly. With it's branching story system and massive selection of characters (especially in battle mode). This is probably the game I've put the most hours into, trying out the different story lines, collecting all the characters to use in the arena, and basically just having lots of fun along the way.'
'I've struggled to get into this myself.' said Martin. 'I have always found the visuals a bit scruffy and it feel a little messy to play.'
'The sheer amount of enemies on screen at once gives it the feel of a true brawl, though,' added Ant.  Although I agree sometimes it can get so chaotic you can lose yourself on-screen.
The three-tier movement system means you never have that problem where you can't quite hit an enemy because you're not level with them and allows you to escape sticky situations easily, It also allows for magic shortcuts, tapped in like Street Fighter moves, which is a lot easier to get to grips with than mini-menus!'
'It's a simply brilliant battle system and a man that shoots laser beams from his crotch make for one unforgettable experience!' exclaimed Kerry.
'Kasumi Ninja on the Jaguar has a man shooting stuff from his crotch at that is certainly unforgettable, and not in a good way! I should really give this another go.' Said Martin. The rest nod in agreement.

Guardian Heroes is yet another in Treasure's Trove of genius. Available on Sega Saturn and XLBA, it's something that must be tried by fans of the genre.

8. Dungeons and Dragons:Shadow Over Mystaria.
Capcom 1996.

One of the last 2D scrolling fighters released by Capcom, D&D: Shadow Over Mystaria features many mechanics not seen in arcade games and was fortunately ported to the Saturn for home players in 1999.

'This one's got a slightly steeper learning curve, mostly because of the Alien Soldier-style menu for selecting items and magic- you have to juggle that and not get hit at the same time.' said Ant.
'Yeah it expands the scope of what a beat em up can be. There's so much content and so many different ways to play through it.' remarked Badr. 'And there's so much depth from the magic system and other RPG elements. All that, and yet there are no compromises to the basic physical combat. Mashing attack still feels great (and is still a viable tactic).'

'It's basically a full scale D&D game mashed with Goldenaxe. I really wished I owned a copy of this. That said, the recent Steam and online console release may push the price of the Saturn version down.' said Danny.
'I play this a bit with Darran from Retro Gamer. He loves and it you can see why. Such a stunning game and so many ways to play it. Loads of levels, amazing graphics too.' added Martin.
'It's one of my all-time favourites,' Kerry said. 'And to my mind both a good game in its own right as well as a good representation of the license, seeing as it features both dungeons and dragons along the way. Multiple routes, rare equipment, co-operative attacks… this is a rare game that manages to be both an engaging spectacle for first timers as well as offer a deep experience that rewards skillful play.'
'Yeah with a fair number of branching paths and weapons/gear to find, and six very different classes to choose from, you can't see all of it in one playthrough.' agreed Ant.
'I love that that with beautiful late-era Capcom 2D artwork, with nicely animated characters, large bosses, and amazing backgrounds, and you have what might be my all time favorite 2D brawler.' Finished Badr.

A must of beat 'em up and RPG fans alike. Now it's on all home consoles and Steam with online play, there is no excuse not to play this.

7. God Hand.
Clover Studio 2006

The brainchild of Shinji Mikami and Clover Studio, God Hand is the famously IGN maligned (3/10!) but utterly magnificent 3D beat 'em up. The last game from Clover Studio before it was sadly dissolved by Capcom, is arguably their most memorable.

'Alongside Sega's Dynamite Cop/Deka games, this is a great adaptation of the genre in 3D- the difference here is it's 'true' 3D rather than the side-on perspective in Deka. It's hard to get traditional brawlers to work well like this, but Clover pulled it off.' said Ant.
'Yeah it's no surprise they did it, there are pretty much a modern Treasure when it comes to game design, utterly superb.' Added Martin. The battle system is simply incredible and easily the most viable 3D beat 'em up ever. There is so much scope in the combat with customisable combos and impact moves.'
'It's tough but fair (dodge enemies then punish their mistakes!),' agreed Ant. 'Each hit has real impact (especially when you catapult enemies into the walls) and the combo creation system gives you a chance to be creative with the art of beating dudes up.'
'The special moves are insane also. Either the roulette ultra style moves from the 'Home Run' which is literally hitting someone into the stars with a baseball bat, to the 'Ball Buster' which involves a cheeky kick to the nads! Only works on the men though!' laughed Martin.
'It also retains that silly, over-the-top 'feel' of so many scrolling brawlers, like Gene's rapid-fire pummeling techniques and the enemies taunt you with baffling expressions like "You're not Alexander!"...'chimed Ant.
'Not to mention the homosexuality and spanking of scanilty clad women, there is nothing else like it on the market!' said Martin.
Badr coughs, 'It's God Hand, nothing else needs to be said, everyone needs to play this.'

God Hand is on PS2 and PS3 via the PSN store. Everyone must play this game. Visually a little average and quite tough to start, it's a complete modern classic and we may never see the likes of it again.

6. Undercover Cops.
Irem 1992.

Irem's first attempt in the modern beat 'em up genre. A few years later after its release, a lot of the team who made the game went on to form Nazca, who created the Metal Slug game series. It received a good quality Super Famicom port in 1995. 

'You can tell it's by members of the team who'd go on to make Metal Slug, as the graphics and animation are superb. With its post-apocalyptic backdrop, it's got a different atmosphere to many of the others on this list, leading to some unique enemies (like the underground mole people and cat-girls).' started Ant. 
'Yeah the game has a real Metal Slug Vibe in the art, kind of scruffy but neat, edgy if you will.' Added Martin. 
'I love the detailed and chunky sprites, a fantastic future wasteland setting and three distinctively different characters.' said Paul. 'Undercover Cops defines what I consider to be the perfect scrolling beat em up. Classic gameplay but it doesn't feel boring. It moves well and has lots of variety'.
'Plenty of varied moves indeed Paul,' smiled Ant. 'With wake-up attacks and weapons (lead pipes? They're for punks! You use a steel girder instead here!), it makes for a really good brawler. The soundtrack's top-tier as well- brought to us from HIYA! of Metal Slug 
fame, it really captures the mood of the game well... Complete with amusing 
voice samples.It's just a shame it never really got more attention overseas, as it really deserved it.'
'A huge pity it wasn't at least released in the west on the SNES.' said Martin. It's just such a supremely playable classic style fighter. I had no idea it was so old, it feels more advanced than a 1992 fighter as so many were formulaic at the time.' 
'I must admit It’s not that much fun, IMO Two Crude Dudes was better.' pipped up Danny. 
*everyone looks at Danny, a cat meows and licks it's paws.

Undercover Cops is a brilliant classic style game. Yet to be re-released on anything since the Super Famicom in 1995 it's tough to get hold of now but worth a play if you can. 

Thanks for reading part one. Part two will follow within the next week. In the mean time, why not let us know what games you feel should be in the top 5?