BEAT THEM UP THROUGH AGES
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BEAT THEM UP - CONTINUATION
The development studio Rare makes Battletoads & Double Dragon on the NES, and it's produced by... Nintendo! The game is quite a success - home systems customers being far less demanding than arcade ones - and it will be adapted on 16-bit thereafter. Double Dragon license is temporarily granted to them by Technos, which releases a new game: Shadow Force. The realization rose significantly compared to the latest Double Dragon, but alas Technos is now far behind Beat them Up tenors, and clearly can't match with Konami, Capcom or even SNK.
Jaleco on its side, finishes the third installment of its hit series on the Super Famicom, with Rushing Beat Shura. For many players, this is the most successful episode of the saga, and the game now rivalizes with versions of Final Fight on the same support. Still on home systems, Sega chose to release Golden Axe III directly on the Genesis: leaving aside a possible adaptation of the previous album (Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder) the editor doesn't develop a new version for the arcade, taking in account the few success encountered with the last two sequels. Finally, SNK releases a single Beat them Up title in 1993, but a high quality one: Sengoku 2. This continuation of the 91' game still uses the principles of transformations, weapons, japanese magic and folklore, all bathed in an epic atmosphere of apocalypse. The game is a success, but the Osaka editor seems to mobilize more energy for its VS fighting games: the same year were made Fatal Fury Special, World Heroes 2, and Samurai Shodown... while The King of Fighters 94' and Art of Fighting 2 were already under construction. This is the last SNK Beat them Up that the firm releases for the Neo Geo, almost completely abandoning the genre thereafter.
Toaplan, a little known publisher, tries its luck on the Beat' market with Knuckle Bash. Data East who is no more a beginner, releases Night Slashers, which remains until today the best BTU of the firm. Irem tries a shifted approach of the genre with Ninja Baseball BatMan, but strangely the game makes poor financial results, while the game is just awesome... However, we can assume that Capcom will draw heavily from the style used here for their Viewtiful Joe, years later. But this year again the editor offers us the best titles of the market. If SNK with Sengoku 2 and Konami with Violent Storm signed high-end games, Capcom is even stronger. No less than four titles of exceptional quality - again - emerge: in arcades, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, Dungeons & Dragons and The Punisher, while on the Super Famicom, it's Final Fight 2 which is released exclusively on the system. The company has an impressive overview of the market, as it offers with all those titles above not only the best games of the category, but they also satisfy all sub-genres: post-apocalyptic, heroic-fantasy (with a hint of RPG), comic's and old-school!
The three titles meet a great success in dark gaming rooms; Cadillacs and The Punisher are some of the latest games to run on CPS, while Dungeons & Dragons already uses the powerful CPS-II, the new hardware of Capcom. Super Famicom side, if Final Fight 2 sells well, the review is not very good: the game is disappointing compared to the first episode. Finally, it packs good gameplay mechanics, but the realization is deceiving (dull graphics, always the same enemies) and the game is a bit short. Capcom is now recognized everywhere as the uncontestable No. 1 in arcade Beat 'em Up, while Sega's Streets of Rage 1 and 2 are the indisputable references on home consoles.
The year 1994 showed the first signs of weakness of the Beat them up, yet at its peak past year with exceptional titles. In fact, only three quality creations emerge in arcade that year. A sign that means a lot... Big firms are gradually abandoning this niche. Demand and technology are changing, and the battle is now taking place on other fronts: Versus Fighting is by far the most popular gaming genre when it comes to 2d, and many companies have understood and develop their own games to take advantage of this market. On the other hand, the emerging 3D games are more and more successful, and it's now the war between Sega and Namco: Daytona USA and Ridge Racer pull the wad and Virtua Fighter is about to be released in the arcades, as Tekken will follow few months after. Beat 'em Up now looks dinosaur compared to these games with innovative gameplay. Is it doomed to extinction?
Capcom seems to mock about these facts, and still holds the upper hand. Faithful to its fans, the editor releases two more Beat em Up this year, 2/3 of the whole world production in arcade! Using its new CPS-II, Armored Warriors puts the player in control of highly sophisticated robots. This is an original idea, but the game is a bit messy and does not meet the expected success. Alien Vs Predator, however, proves to be a mega-hit in power! The game has one of the finest realizations ever, and exploits brillinatly the new hardware. Three players can play simultaneously, four different characters are available and the stages of the game are super long and varied... In the tradition of Capcom's Beats, the game appears as a crowning... And players got it right, the game became a powerful hit in smoky rooms.
The third title to be released in arcade in 94' is Super Battletoads, developed by Rare. Deliberately quirky and offbeat, the title reminds Ninja Turtles, in a good gore registry! The gameplay takes place on a single line, it's fun but a bit light, and its aesthetic qualities pretty average. Consoles side, the Sega Genesis is granted the third installment of Streets of Rage. The gameplay is still evolving: dodge, dash, special moves and new characters ... everything is there to delight new owners of the 16-bit... one last time. As for the Saturn and the Sony Playstation, the brand-new 32-bit systems, those are immediatly provided a good title: Nekketsu Oyako from Techno Soft, which retains a real 2d gameplay and graphics.
THE FALL (1995-1998)
The year 1995 confirms the foreboding feeling felt last year. Only ten Beat them Up are published this year on all existing platforms: and pretty few are good games... War in the playrooms is now happening on other fronts: VS fighting side, Capcom and SNK are still in competition together, but now there's also Sega and Namco (Tekken and Virtua Fighter). Dedicated cabinets are numerous and successful, and the recent emergence of 3D sees flowering moult driving simulators. The 32-bit new games are coming with their polygons, and the public loves it. Beat' fell into disuse, and only a few editors will keep making things in the years to come.
Against winds and tides, Capcom releases Final Fight 3 on Super Famicom. The realization honors the machine, and the game stands as the best Beat them Up on the Nintendo system, but also the last to hit the market. Comics always provides money and Beam Software (an unknown company) tries its luck with the not-too-bad Jim Lee's Wild CATS, always on the Super NES. Sega on its side, releases Comix Zone. An original soft to say the least, since the hero is fighting over comic cells! Original gameplay, nice graphics... a good game that will not have players forget the Streets of Rage. Nothing to report in arcade during this sad year 95, Capcom responds conspicuously absent, Irem in full financial turmoil only adapts In the Hunt for Saturn and PSX, while Konami and Banpresto realizes Guardians and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, two quite dispensable titles. A dreary year for the Beat '...