Friday 8 February 2013

Retro 101's Favourite Beat'em Ups Part 4: The Best of the Rest

We all know that SNK and Capcom are the undisputed kings when it comes to creating beat'em ups, but over the years many other companies have tried and failed to make an impact on gamers. Among the piles of trash (Rise of the Robots, Shaq Fu), and the exceedingly average (Primal Rage, Brutal: Paws of Fury), are a handful of games that are actually pretty good.

Waku Waku 7

Waku Waku 7 is one of the weirdest and most wonderful games we have ever come across. The game itself is a polished title from sunsoft that bases itself on the classic SNK four button template. What sets it apart is the mad cast of characters and super bright colour scheme. This title, you see, is a completely crazy parody of Japanese anime.

The bizarre combatants include a giant Totoro style Japanese soft toy creature and a walking tank with a gun for a head. The moves are over the top and it all rolls along at a lively pace. It's unlikely that Waku Waku 7 will hold players attention for as long as something like Street Fighter Alpha 3 but it is undeniable fun and anarchic.

Waku Waku 7 is pretty difficult to find. The home version will need to be imported on the Saturn or Neo Geo and neither is cheap.

Guilty Gear X2

Guilty Gear X2 is a thing of true beauty and genius which looks amazing and plays even better. All the characters are remarkably different and players need to spend some time trying them out to find someone suitable to their style. The thing that really sets it apart from every other fighting game is the absolutely phenomenal level of depth it has.

We could list all the different features and techniques but it would take all day. It can be intimidating for newcomers but once you get your head around multiple special bars and different types of counters and cancels it all blurs into some heavenly stream of consciousness. Watching two Guilty Gear masters at work is mesmerising and the game is so engaging that you may well want to stick with it long enough to become one yourself.

Mortal Kombat 2

Mortal Kombat is by far Midways best known and most successful franchise. The original game is fairly archaic and only stuck around thanks to a wave of media attention and later games always seemed to lack something. However, despite not being the most technical game in the world, Mortal Kombat 2 is still really good fun.

The overall feel has been improved and characters are much easier to control than in its predecessor. The mass of different special moves, distinctive character designs and imaginative arenas also helps to hide the fact that most of the fighters core moves are all the same.

You can't deny the game has personality in buckets and there is more than enough here to occupy players in both single and multiplayer. There are decent versions of Mortal Kombat 2 on the SNES, Megadrive and, surprisingly, the original Gameboy. There is also an arcade version available on one of the Midway Arcade Treasures compilations but it feels a bit lose to us. The Mortal Kombat Anthology, which contains all the characters from the first three games, on the Playstation, is also well worth a look and there are also compendiums on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.

Killer Instinct

Rare's combo heavy fighter made a massive impact upon release but returning to it now it's clear it can no longer hold it's own with the big boys and can feel a little clunky. However, Killer Instinct is still a very playable and enjoyable game and acts as a kind of middle ground between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat with a few of it's own tricks added.

One difference is that it isn't split into rounds. Players each have two health bars, when one is depleted the character falls to the ground for a second and then gets back up. This makes scoring a perfect on your opponent even more humiliating.

The other big thing the game brought was the combo system. Killer Instinct was the first game that really focused on the idea of certain moves linking into other moves and executed it well. The game takes the concept to an extreme and players can set off massive successions of blows heading towards the hundred mark.

Killer Instinct is available on the SNES and there is also a decent version for the old Gameboy. There is a sequel on the N64 but the pad isn't really up to it.

The one-on-one beat'em up didn't really get into its stride until the 16-bit machines came about. However, there are a few games that did the genre justice before then. Barbarian and Fist of the North Star are worth a look but IK+ is by far the best of them. It is also unique in the fact that you are fighting against two other opponents.

This idea of having three fighters on screen was later used in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and in co-op modes in some of the later Street Fighter games. Players also don't have an energy bar but need to score a set number of points to the win the round.

You have a wide range of martial arts moves to take down your opponents and you need to move quickly as the other two fighters can score points off each other as well. The now legendary feature of IK+ is that you can make the players trousers fall down by pressing a certain button. It may not be revolutionary but it can't help but raise a smile.

IK+ is available on just about every 8-bit computer system known to man. It is also available on the Wii Virtual Console in the UK and is a must buy at 500 points.

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