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Some of the best old school gameplay is in a beat em up. With Castle Crashers having just been released, I've been seeing some people not understand that history. So now, on a very special blog post of Old School Games!
WHAT IS A BEAT EM UP?
A beat em up is where you select a character, than go fight wave after wave of bad guys. A end level boss shows up once you reach the end of a stage. Every stage is generally left to right and multiplayer is a big part of the appeal. Beating up a bunch of guys by yourself is fun, but its even better with a friend. Most feature a special move you can do by pushing jump and attack at the same time. Does more damage but hurts your character. Most also let you pick from a strong but slow one, the balanced one, and a quick but weak attacking character. A lot of awesome stuff.
I tried to pick out a few of my favorites. For a complete list of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis beat em ups, try gameFAQs here and here. These are just some that I felt I could write about.
During this era, home console ports started looking almost as good as the Arcade originals. There are so many great home ports and original games that I just couldn't list them all. Stuff like The Final Fight series, The Punisher, Splatterhouse 3, Knights of the Round, Captain America & The Avengers, and oh so many other beat em ups.
Comix Zone - Sega Genesis
I love this game so much. It still holds up graphically and is such fun to play. The plot has you a underground comic book artist get sucked into your own comic book worlds. You then battle literally from panel to panel of these comic books against all sorts of mutants and ninjas. You also have an inventory system for using health or your pet rat. This game is amazing.
Only one minor flaw: NO TWO PLAYER MODE! Still this game is one of the best beat em ups ever. The graphical style and the general sense of beating enemies faces in is not to be missed.
Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time - Super Nintendo
This is the same game play from the Arcade game, but better and on the home consoles. I've played through this game at least a hundred times or more. Its so much fun and is among the greatest in the genre. The time travel element has you go fighting dinosaurs as well as riding a flying surfboard in a mode 7 future world. The bosses are all the characters you'd expect: The Super Shredder, Krang, Sewer Rat King, Bebop & Rocksteady as pirates, and all the rest of the beloved Turtles rouges. Such a fun game.
There's also a sega genesis version under the name "hyperstone heist." It changes the level order and plot, but its an easier remix of the same game. One cool thing in it that's not in the snes one is a level where you have to re-fight all the bosses one after another. Other than that, its about the same game, just on sega and way easier.
Streets of Rage Series aka Bare Knuckle - Sega Genesis
Streets of Rage- Sega Genesis
Streets of Rage is an amazing game. You've got three characters to choose from in the classic balanced/strength/speed style of beat em ups. You've got a special move that calls a policeman with a bazooka or similar weapon to attack all the enemies. Standard streets, trains, and construction zone levels. Later on the in the game the bosses team up against you and you don't have the bazooka move! Its the type of difficulty that I want more of in video games.
Streets of Rage 2 - Sega Genesis
Streets of Rage 2 is among best. Its completely straightforward, features two characters from the first game plus an extra large brawler character and a backwards cap kid with roller skates. You've got moving levels, the ever popular broken bridge level, and of course the elevator level. No beat em up is classic without an elevator level. This is probably the best example, besides Ninja Turtles of course, of what defines a beat em up. The way this game plays is so amazing it has to be experienced. Get this game.
Streets of Rage 3 - Sega Genesis
The final Streets of Rage game brings in more wild elements. Its a great beat em up, but it feels like a step back from the second game. There's a robot guy from the start and a secret unlockable boxing kangeroo is included. Not even joking. I can only think of two other games with playable kangeroos. More games need kangeroos. Anyone else love saying the word kangeroo? I could say it over and over again. Is anyone even reading the words in these retrospectives or do you just care about pictures? Streets of Rage 3 is still a fun game to play, but I always go for the first or second when I want to have the urge to play some Streets of Rage. Anyone else feel that way?
Also the game's box made me giggle when I saw it.
Power Rangers: The Movie - Sega Genesis
Its morphing time! Someone gave this to me as a present and I must say despite my distaste of the Power Rangers, this game is a lot of fun. You've got all the power rangers to pick from. It also includes boss battles where you control the giant robot in beat em up style. I love that so much!
This one just sticks out because it was one that I had. I played this game over and over back in the glorious 16-bit days.
Spider-man: Maximum Carnage - Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis
Its no secret that I'm a Spider-man fan. At one point I had over six posters hanging up of the character in my house. Yes, six. Having a video game of his adventures that isn't as abysmal as the nes game Spider-Man vs the Sinister Six or as brutally difficult as X-Men & Spider-man Arcade's Revenge meant a lot to me as a kid.
Maximum Carnage is one of those games I used to play so very often. The storyline, based off a comic book crossover of the same name, has Carnage escaping from a mental institution so its up to Spider-man to save the day. In a cool twist, a few levels into the game you're given the option of playing as Venom! You go to the Fantastic Four's building in one memorable level to steal a weapon to use against Carnage. One other memorable stage was one of Venom's level's has you fight in the Statue of Liberty! Some levels were these vertical chase levels where you had someone shooting down at you while you tried to climb up.
You fight against most of Spider-man's enemies at the time. The Demogoblin, Shriek, Doppleganger, and of large amount of generic thugs. Another cool thing you could do is pick up a small picture of a marvel character and have them do a screen attack, for example Black Cat does flip flops across the screen attacking people. Be sure to save those for the boss battles!
Its only major flaw was the lack of two player mode, but that's why the sequel Separation Anxiety exists.
Spider-man & Venom: Separation Anxiety - Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis
Separation Anxiety feels like an overlooked game. Most people were moving on to other consoles by 1995. Not me. I was still very much in love with my sixteen bit systems, of which I had both by this time period.
I'll never forget the first time I played this. A cousin of mine had rented this and brought it over. This game had me hooked within two seconds. Right from the start you can choose between Venom or Spider-man AND if you have a friend you can use both in two player mode. It was just so amazing to finally have a GOODtwo player Spider-man game that any flaws the game might have, such as the broken bridge level's platforming elements eating extra men, are completely overlooked.
The plot of this game has Venom's symbiote costume create five offspring. A group of bad guys try to take those aliens for their own schemes, and its up to Spider-man and Venom to stop them. Just an excuse to fight five alien symbiote bosses is enough for me. This was taken from Venom's solo book "Lethal Foes," and another called obviously enough "Separation Anxiety." I think these characters showed up a few times in the Amazing Spider-man comics as well.
I ended up buying the Genesis versions of both, but the first versions I played was on Super Nintendo. I also have the snes red cart of Maximum Carnage. No Aladdin differences between the two, so either version is a great find. That is, If you like Spider-man and the beat em up genre.
I won't dare attempt to list all the beat em ups of the era. These are just some that I thought worth mentioning my thoughts on. Hope you liked part three of my retrospective.