BEAT THEM UP THROUGH AGES
The Golden Age (1990-1994)
Capcom's game will inspire many. The new feat' needed in the arcade Beat them Up in 1990 is the multiplayer. If Konami had already proposed a four-players simultaneous game with Ninja Turtles, now 80% of the titles released this year offer at least a three-players cooperative play, and this feature will be kept in many apps during the following years, even going up to four players on home systems for some games. For their part, the consoles are now very well supplied. Super Famicom receives the adaptation of the now legendary Capcom's Final Fight (in one-player version only, due to the technical limitations), and the Genesis is not left behind. Not satisfied with hosting Double Dragon and Golden Axe, Sega's 16-bit system sees itself rewarded with several ports of Beat them Up coming out the same year in arcade. Sega is involved in this, the firm takes a stand with two very good quality titles: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, and the excellent Alien Storm. It's one of the first to propose varied action , alternating shooting and combat phases.
Double Dragon 3 follows the wave, since the game also proposes a three-players simultaneous play (have to believe the threesome was "in" at that time) but the game doesn't conquer much players: despite some good ideas such as stores and the ability to improve characters, Technos fell asleep on its laurels: the realization of the game is outdated as soon as it's released, as well as the gameplay. We are no longer in 1986, and players does not make a mistake of this: the game is shunned by the public, despite some modifications on consoles and computers, it was a strict commercial failure. The game looks poor beside Capcom's Final Fight or even Streets of Rage on the Genesis, which will be released a few months later.
Still in 1990, the Neo Geo welcomes its first Beat em Up: Ninja Combat. This one is developed by Alpha Denshi, who have already realized the nice Gang Wars in 89'. The game is technically successful, with impressive soundtrack and graphics, and a staging that is downright awesome with its zoom effects and huge bosses. The soft offers several fighters to embody, an original gaming system with different power and speed levels for fighters, numerous weapons and three-buttons gameplay. Here is a title that made some noise in the arcades back then.
Other less good-looking titles little emerge in 1990, and it was not until the following year that other great fighting games make their appearance, 1991 standing as a great year for the genre. On the one hand the players were treated to quality, as we shall see, but also the quantity, quite impressive: more than twenty Beat them Up titles came out this year, it's a record! And all major japanese publisher are present. Some are not going to put gloves to openly plagiarize their neighbor! Jaleco draws with its first Beat': 64th Street, A Detective Story. The game is intended to be a Final Fight clone... but not as good as the original! It was not too bad too, introducing a semblance of kitsch scenario, a friendly atmosphere, simple but successful graphics and an enjoyable gameplay, if not innovative. Cloning the same model, SNK produced Burning Fight, which title already reminds about something! This game is extremely close to Capcom's game, but doesn't exceed the model once more. The palm of the worst copy goes to master Sega, back this year with the pretty average Riot City.
SNK is one of the most active publishers during this period. They release two other BTU looking way more original than Burning Fight: Robo Army and Sengoku. One puts the player in command of cyborg policemen, while the other thrusts the player into the fantastic feudal japanese atmosphere... with the great idea of transformations: each hero can turn into three different forms of warrior, meaning four possible fighters! Two more great titles on the Neo Geo, making their way through the arcades. Other companies are trying to rule the Beat them Up world: Video System and its Karate Blazers, and Data East using a popular license with Captain America & the Avengers ... but these two games won't encounter much success.
Sega, in addition to its shabby Riot City, is not partying this year with DD Crew and its ugly graphics, or even though its expected Golden Axe II: the editor has clearly spent little time and energy to these games. This second episode takes back 100% of the first Golden Axe game engine! Graphics, animation, soundtrack, nothing has changed since 1989, except for the four-players simultaneous play instead of two. Sega, as well as Technos, crashes completely after experiencing success ... Rest on its laurels can sometimes be tricky!
But if Sega made a deceiving performance in the arcades, the Genesis received much more attention: with high revenues generated by the beautiful 16-bit and its good sales worldwide, the publisher decided to provide some excellent games to its system. Team Shinobi offers to machine's lucky owners Streets of Rage. It's an incredible Beat them Up for the system at the time, featuring a nice realization. The game can be played in cooperation, offers three different characters, a good range of attacks, and eight stages for a life of almost an hour! This is yet another Final Fight clone, but the innovations are there. The gameplay is great and the realization, albeit below the most impressive arcade productions, is still remarkable (salute the excellent soundtrack!).
Konami's side, the success is still at the rendez-vous in the dark rooms, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. A great sequel to the first arcade game, still featuring four-players action. Other license, The Simpsons is declined in the Beat them Up genre! The game is original and fun, but nothing revolutionary here. The firm also releases Crime Fighters 2, better known as Vendetta, quite average technically but fun: the soft offers to play different characters and four simultaneously. The title is a true "Renegade-revival" as it incredibly reminds Technos' hit.
But the editor who is clearly beginning to raise above all other editors, with games packing exceptional quality, is Capcom. Probably busy with the development of Street Fighter II, the company made nothing special since Final Fight in 1989, but it's now back with three impressive titles: The King of Dragons, Knights of the Round and Captain Commando. The first two offer to play with weapons, while the third one is more classic. How remarkable games! Three-players simultaneous play (even four for Captain Commando), greater life and gameplay leaving the competition far behind: Capcom's games once again take up the basket. A legacy of Final Fight that keeps its promises, showing the excellent foundations of the ancestor and exploring heroic-fantasy and "comics" genre with originality and talent.