Every so often, a game comes along that is so wet with manliness that it could impregnate your girlfriend. It's the type of game that can force you to grow hair on your palms just from touching the controller. Forget electricity, these games run on gasoline, whisky, and broken dreams. These games chew up glass, mix it with blood, and spit it straight into your eyes. So--put on some goggles--it's Manly Game Monday.
Game: The Combatribes Platform: Arcade Release: 1990 Developer: Technos Japan Corp.
If history has taught us anything, it's that there is nothing manlier than huge upper bodies and tiny legs. DuckTales had Launchpad, Beauty and the Beast had Gaston, and The Combatribes had Berserker (named after the Norse warriors for his balance of speed and strength), Bullova (named after an Indian battle ax, for his massive strength), and Blitz (short for blitzkrieg, or lightning war, for his super quick attacks). For those that didn't know, alliteration is also manly--consider yourself informed.
What lies behind this manly triple threat of pectorals and hair known simply as The Combatribes? Well, as is the case with any group of man's men, not a whole lot. Real men are all action, all the time and Technos Japan Corp. knew this, as evidenced by the opening cinema:
So, what do we know so far? Only that there is a group called Ground Zero, they have a leader, and we have to go where the action is--Act I: The Motorcycle Nuclear Warheads. Let that sink in for a minute: Motorcycle. Nuclear. Warheads. The.
If that isn't the manliest opening level you've every heard of, you're a fucking liar. But the manliness doesn't end there, as you're immediately dropped into the middle of a gang brawl where you have a multitude of attacks at your disposal. Aside from your standard kick and punch combos, our heroes can stomp on fallen opponents, swing opponents by their ankles, smash enemy heads together, jump on fallen enemy torsos, grab enemies by the hair and smash their face into the pavement, and straddle downed opponents' chests and bludgeon their face until they drown in their own blood. Fuck yes.
The action doesn't end with mere unarmed physical combat. With a developer pedigree that includes games like Renegade, Double Dragon, and River City Ransom, you don't limit yourself to brutal hand-to-hand violence--you let the environments deal some punishment too. To this end, players have a number of conveniently placed and absurdly huge items that can be picked up and launched at opponents. The best of these items include motorcycles, go-karts, and pinball machines.
The Combratribes finds you fighting through a total of six stages, each with its own unique gang and boss. You'll fight bikers, clowns, skate punks, Native Americans, and some sort of army general with two robot arms and a cannon that pops out of his chest. The final stage is essentially a "boss rush" mode and forces you to clear enemies and bosses from the first five stages until the game's final battle. And this is where The Combatribes truly shines.
As you approach the end of the game, you see the Ground Zero leader, a generic giant-guy-in-a-suit-standing-by-a-limo. At this point, you would be foolish not to tingle with anticipation--you've been waiting for this battle ever since you decided to "go where the action is." But, suddenly, just as you think you're about to fight the toughest dude alive--BOOM!!--glass explodes and the man's internals are sprayed all over the sidewalk. Out from the limo and behind the now-fading corpse walks the Ground Zero leader's lovely cyborg bodyguard, Martha Splatterhead, who, inexplicably, thought it appropriate to kill her boss before fending off his attackers.
And herein lies the genius of The Combatribes: It forces players to realize that the only way to be a man is to beat the femininity out of everything around you. The streets of future New York are tough, but every gang has its own leader and its own code of ethics. Then Ground Zero decides to admit a woman into its ranks and, next thing you know, the most powerful man in New York has his guts painting the pavement. The message is simple yet profound, making The Combatribes possibly the gaming medium's greatest argument for games as art.
Perhaps the greatest fault of The Combatribes is that most people will never see its profound ending. If you ever come across an arcade machine, it will likely bankrupt you before you reach the end. But, this game is unapologetically tough for a reason: That's how a man's game should be.
If you're too weak to play The Comabtribes, this obviously manly dude can show you how it's done: