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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 Playstation, Dreamcast, and Sega Saturn beat em ups, try gameFAQs. These are just some that I felt I could write about.
Normally I wouldn't speak of games on the CD systems in my articles, but since this is a special retrospective about the beat em up genre, why not? It's the begging of the end at this period. These are the dark days of the beat em up genre. It gets harder to define what a beat em up is. A game like Gauntlet Legends comes close to my definition, but it isn't the same as Ninja Turtles or Double Dragon. This handful of games is the closest to the definition of a beat em up that I could come up with. Most games in the genre at this point simply were rehashes of the old games or more ports from the Arcade, as is the case with the Sega Saturn versions of the Dungeons & Dragon beat em ups. I included the dreamcast and N64 in with this article as well, but for some reason when I made my fancy logos up Playstation/Saturn was what I typed in.
Games just went into directions where the beat em up got lost. Some say antiquated or passed over. I know this was the point where I started to distinguish my old school tastes for more two dimensional gameplay.
Fighting Force - Playstation
Fighting Force was on the demo disc that came with my first playstation. I had a playstation briefly in 1997 and the demo of that game was among my favorites. It wasn't until the next year that a full version of the game made its way into my hands and what a fun game this is. Very simple controls and a nice variety of weapons make it worth playing. Its relatively easy to beat through and the graphics have not aged well at all. Still this is what a 3D beat em up should be, camera stays on your characters so you don't get confused. You've got some basic combo moves to use.
Check out some video:
The coolest feature that I remember is in the elevator level, you could rip pipes off the wall to use as a weapon. In fact, pretty much every level had things to pick up and use as weapons. In the first stage there are a few cars parked. Beating on the car will make the wheels fall off, which are usable as weapons. Beating on the back of the car gets you a bazooka. Nothing is as satisfying as shooting a missile at enemies. All in the glorious polygonal third dimension.
Four characters to choose from. You've got the balanced character, a giant brawler type, and two female characters I never wanted to use. They were generally faster, but the gigantic muscle bound character was too cool to pass up. Especially since he could break apart parked vehicles and use their giant engines as weapons. He was the only one strong enough to lug it around and warp skulls with it.
There was a sequel for the Playstation and Dreamcast, which I rented hoping for more beat em up action. Sadly, it was just a single player third person shooter with one character to play as. All information I've read says it was supposed to be a stealth game, but from what I vaguely remember I ran around with machine guns killing guys. Maybe I did it wrong?
Guardian Heroes - Sega Saturn
I want my own copy of this game. Guardian Heroes is the sort of mythical game that just doesn't exist in the real world. Like Chrono Trigger (which I somehow found a cartridge of a few years ago) and Radiant Silvergun, its one of those games that became expensive years after it was released and everyone heard about it. If only I had gotten it back in the day. Even without owning a Sega Saturn myself at that time, it would have been worth getting. Oh so very worth getting.
I first came to know of this game in 1995. There was what I now assume had to have been locally produced a television show about video games. It was essentially two guys sitting on a couch talking about games while videos of the games played. They showed off other games of the era such as Rayman, but one game in particular sparked my interest. It featured a golden knight brought back to life and a large cast of characters, most of whom were unlockable. It also looked so bright and colorful that I just had to play it.
This story is not happy end however. I've never played it, but sweet jesus do I want to. From my research on the Sega Saturn, I don't think it would be impossible to import a copy and play the Japanese version. My searching on ebay seems to have one constant: the one that isn't in english is cheaper than one that is. I wonder why that is?
There's a gameboy advance sequel, but surely that game can't compare to the legend of Treasure's Guardian Heroes. This is the holy grail of video game beat em ups. A woman who looks good, cooks, cleans, and likes difficult video games. The great white whale. A yeti, loch ness monster, or a real life superhero. It's just something that doesn't exist in reality. If only for me. I probably wouldn't appreciate it as much now as I would have in 1995, mainly because of all the anime stuff, but still yet. Look at how this game plays. It's a 2D beat em up with RPG statistics. A man can dream can't he? I'm sure you have holy grail games that you want to find.
Tekken 3 - Playstation
Tekken 3 in and of itself is not a beat em up, its a fighting game. An unlockable component of this and a few of the sequels however, is a beat em up. Tekken Force mode was only three levels, but it was enough to warrant a mention. It's cool feature is that you can do all the fighting game style moves but in a beat em up setting. Several of the sequels to Tekken also have a similar beat em up mode. The video below is an example of the force mode and how it works.
I can't remember if it was unlocked from the start of the game or if it had to be unlocked. Sorry guys. Anyone remember?
Die Hard Arcade - Sega Saturn
This one has a weird back story. It was originally not going to have anything to do with the Bruce Willis movie, but at some point they got the licsense and now its called Die Hard Arcade. Even if the plot and setting is only sort of Die Hard related. Of course, I don't play beat em ups for their storylines.
No I play a good beat em up for some gameplay. This is exactly what a 3D beat em up should be. In fact, its more of a 2.5D game than a 3D one. Yes, there are polygonal models, but this the same beat em up formula you've come to appreciate. You and a friend beat through levels against bad guys. Jump and attack are all the control you really need.
One thing to talk about with this is its inclusion of the now popular quick time events. I'm sure you've heard of those right? A movie plays and you have to press a button that comes up on screen at the right time. In Die Hard Arcade If you press the buttons at the right time you can avoid certain fights. Screenshot's don't really do the game justice so take a look at some video.
I wouldn't say this is my favorite brawler.Out of what I've played of the playstation/saturn stuff, Die Hard Arcade is as close to a beat em up as you can find on those systems. In America and in english that is.
Dynamite Cop - Sega Dreamcast
This is the follow up to Die Hard Arcade. Lots of action, with even more faces to beat in.
Take a look for yourself!
Dreamcast games aren't nearly as tough to locate as Sega Saturn ones, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding Dynamite Cop in english and relatively cheap.
Japan Only Beat Em Ups
However, like Guardian Heroes these are some that I've not played but would really love to play. There are A TON of import only Japanese beat em ups games. I guess Japan still loved beat em ups in this time period as well. This stuff makes me wish I could read or comprehend all the moonspeak. Not that you need to know much to beat people up, but still I like to know whats going on. At the very least so [url=http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/randombullseye/the-story-lost-me-93862.phtmlthat I don't make up my own storylines.[/url] I'll point out again that this isn't all of the beat em ups released, just ones I've heard about or read about somewheres.