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randombullseye avatar 1:43 PM on 09.04.2008  (server time)
Old School Games: Beat Em Up Retrospective PART 6

I really, really do love a good beat em up.

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!


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 don't want to live in a world without beat em ups. My old ones aren't going anywhere, but the genre has taken such a huge dive over the last few years. Train wreck isn't the right word but its the one that comes to mind. Its like game developers don't want to make them anymore. I've got all my old ones to keep playing, but some new ones would be nice too. First here is the my passionate explanation of why this game is worth playing, taken from the forums. Yes, we have them. The only thing I added was a subtle image in the middle and a certain star at the end.

"Its a beat em up. An homage to beat em ups at that.

Beat em ups are a passed over genre these days. Most beat em ups these days can't compare to the classics like TMNT arcade, Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and Final Fight. Castle Crashers could stand next to any of those games. The same way that the developers of Castle Crashers previous game, Alien Hominid, could proudly stand next to Metal Slug or Contra. If you like old school game play, Castle Crashers is going to be one of the greatest things ever for you.

I don't see a whole lot of other developers doing a beat em up. Let alone one as well designed as Castle Crashers. The online play is a little spotty, but I expected it. I'd heard arcade games never worked properly online for some reason. When it does work well with three other people this game is awesome. Especially seeing the really crazy stuff for the first time or unlocking a really cool weapon or character.

So yes, this isn't a game for everyone. If you don't like stuff like the old Ninja Turtles or X Men arcade games, avoid it. Like most people in my age bracket of 21-24, you probably played and loved a lot of beat em ups in the arcades second high period in the early nineties.

Someone post a more you know star."

Now for a little about Castle Crashers itself. If you want my first thoughts on the game, try my randompressions of it from last week. This is my thoughts on it after a week.

Castle Crashers - Xbox 360

Almost ten years ago a man named Tom Fulp made a flash game called "Disorderly." It was a fun little flash game. After playing it I had high hopes to see what else this guy would do. I believed in this guy. The "newgrounds" guy. A few years ago he somehow got a game on the consoles, a wonderful run & gun shooter called Alien Hominid. Shortly after that, he announced his next game. A new beat em up. That game was to be called Castle Crashers. For three years I've anxiously waited. Hoping that this day would come. And that I would get a brand new old school beat em up. Last Wednesday the game was released.

Yes, this is a REAL beat em up. Not in 3D. Not "sort of" a beat em up like God of War or Gauntlet Legends. This is an actual Z-axis moving, select a character, elevator stage having, old school beat em up. Not nearly as old school as I had hoped, but still a shining light. I want an extra lives and continues mode, but even without that: Castle Crashers is a good game. Hopefully with its reported sales other companies will follow suit and at the very least make digitally distributed beat em ups.

What makes castle crashers so wonderful for me, is that it shows me people still care about the genre. My girlfriend's heard my speech "they don't make them like they used to" over and over again. Yeah, Castle Crashers isn't exactly like they used to make them, but its close enough to make satisfy me. Especially with the insane mode and the rumortoided downloadable contet. Insane mode adds some difficulty to the game by increasing the health and attack of all the enemy characters. Also cool is that you can buy health potions that function almost like extra men. Once you're out its game over. Plus once you quit playing its back to the start of the game with no level select. Downloadable content looks to add even more content to the game. Its the promise of hope for the future. Even though I've beaten the game several times all the way through, there is still more of it coming.

By my count there are 23 unlockable characters. 26 animal orbs to find. Counting the ones where you fight enemies or bosses, there are 33 separate level circles to go to. What more do you want for fifteen dollars? A handful of maps for a first person shooter and some horse armor? Play the trial version see if you like it. If you don't, please tell me what you found wrong with the game. If someone doesn't like this, it confirms you just don't like beat em ups. So don't play it if you don't like it, leave it for guys like us. Its one of the last games I really care about.

That's it really. Nothing else looks as much like the classic definition of a beat em up as Castle Crashers. Some games like the upcoming "Mad World" look somewhat like a beat em up. They could be more like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden. The "sort of" beat em ups, but not quite. I like those games, but they aren't beat em ups. They're "hack & slash" or "action" games. We could argue amongst ourselves for eternity, but I can point to games that are beat em ups and compare them to games that aren't. This whole retrospective is only based on my personal definition of what makes a beat em up, and I'm a humble community blogger for Destructoid.

Some asked me what's the best beat em up? For me, its the Ninja Turtles Arcade.

There are no combos, no weapons to pick up, no explicit violence. All four characters play almost exactly the same just differences between how far their weapons reach. Why is it my personal favorite pick for best beat em up? When I first played it, I was maybe five or six years old. I was in my friends father's store. Pumping quarters into an arcade cabinet. Me and three childhood friends beat the game start to finish. I've never felt that same immersion in a game as that feeling I had with The Ninja Turtles. The heads up display took up half the screen. The cabinet had three buttons: Jump, attack, and a big joystiq to move around with. Graphics look as good now as they ever did. This is the best beat em up.

I probably put in five dollars or maybe more in quarters. Back in those days, one quarter could get you three extra men. It was something so special and meant so much, that even to speak to my friends about the event, they remember it as vividly as I do. So I'm not just blowing smoke around. That meant something to them the same way it meant something to me. Maybe not as much, but it was still memorable for them.

How about you guys? What's your pick for the best beat em up? What counts as a beat em up for your own definition of the genre? I know I compare *ALL* beat em ups to that particular Ninja Turtles cabinet. Be they awesome or mediocre, I love to play beat em ups.

Don't forget to check out parts one, two , three, four, and five!

Tomorrow on old school games: Mega Man for regular Nintendo

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