GO! GO! GO!
I cannot emphasise enough just how much of my young life was spent in the dingy, dark environment of the arcade. For the majority of my formative years, they were pretty dang cheap too, with most credits costing 10p/20p for many years. Whilst everyone else was out making friends and enjoying the sun, I was locked in mortal combat (literally and figuratively) with the colourful din of the cathode ray tube.
Scrolling fighters were my favourite genre in the early ’90s. Titles like Vendetta, Final Fight, TMNT, X-Men and Violent Storm. I even dropped many a coin into garbage like Growl and Dragonninja (No, it is). It’s easy to look back in retrospect at how shallow the gameplay was in said titles, but for you and a compadre, punching your way through these credit-munchers was practically a rite of passage.
For those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to experience the cigarette-smoke atmosphere of the arcade scene, Capcom has your back. Putting together seven classic scrolling brawlers for modern platforms, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle returns players to a time when all it took was an hour of mindless button-mashing (and at least three quid) to fill your Saturday mornings with joyous ‘toon violence. So knuckle up, and let’s go clean up the streets.
Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle (PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch)
Released: September 18, 2018
So, what do you get for your 20 bucks? Well, you get seven classic Capcom arcades, complete with online multiplayer, a museum of concept art and that’s pretty much your lot. The value-for-money here essentially comes from the rarity of the titles, some of which have yet see re-release since their debuts in the heady ’80s and ’90s. The elephant in the room is the exclusion of the great Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and the excellent Alien vs Predator, no doubt due to licensing issues. What a pity.
Leading the charge in button-mashing carnage is my favourite game of all-time, Final Fight. Still the best video game example of Jack Hill exploitation movie, Final Fight carries its weight as arcade royalty with huge sprites, a badass soundtrack and roster of characters that are still making appearances in games today, including Best Video Game Character Ever, Poison. It is the monarch of the bundle, and still tears the house down today.
An equally solid purchase-point is the little-known 1997 release Battle Circuit. This batshit-insane brawler features a cast of wild bounty hunters (including a sexy cat-woman, a giant Little Shop-esque plant, and a child riding an ostrich), battling through the galaxy to track down a stolen computer disc and land a huge reward. With great music and graphics, deep mechanics and five very different characters, Battle Circuit genuinely deserves to be experienced by all video game fans everywhere. It’s something else, pal.
Filling out the package is futuristic cyber-brawler Captain Commando, another game whose characters rear their heads from time to time. We also have the hilariously anachronistic Knights of the Round, which features Golden Axe-style gameplay with an added parry system. We stay in the past with D&D rip-off The King of Dragons, and Dynasty Warriors (No, not that one) sequel Warriors of Fate. Topping off the bundle is another game making its home debut, 1994’s Armored Warriors, which sees players pilot a selection of mechs, with the gimmick of each mech being adaptable to the weaponry of fallen opponents.
It has to be stated that despite the chaotic fun these games provide, it’s fun that was designed to be enjoyed short-term. Tension mounting due to the threat of a loss of real cash, as your heroes bit the dirt time and again. In the home environment – and without the pressure of losing your precious pocket money – these games lose their lustre before long. Though still a great time with friends, in short bursts, or if you have a particular nostalgic connection, a reality check should be made as to your genuine desire to play these quite repetitive games over and again.
This limited lifespan could be extended due to the online feature, which in some cases allows up to four simultaneous players. I’m disappointed to report, however, that online play in Capcom Beat ‘Em Bundle is poor to average. I struggled even when playing just two player co-op, with players in my own region, let alone four players worldwide. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to see these games stutter and creak in a modern era of online gaming. There have been reports that the Switch release is suffering similar problems. If you were intending to pick up this bundle purely for online play, you’d be wise to watch out for a patch.
When not stomping punks repeatedly into the ground like Shayna Baszler, players can recuperate by checking out the Museum, packed full of concept sketches, level plans, arcade flyers and character designs for all titles. Though the Final Fight section featured nothing new to me, the artwork for Captain Commando and Battle Circuit was fascinating. Not quite as in-depth as the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection‘s Museum, but there’s still a lot of great design materials from a bygone genre available for your perusal.
I said earlier that, growing up, beat-’em-ups were my favourite genre. They certainly were, but that was 30 years ago. Today, all of these titles still hold the power to entertain, but they are limited in long-term and I can imagine a lot of players perhaps scratching that itch once or twice then being done like a chicken in an oil drum. The poor online certainly goes someway towards damaging the title’s longevity.
Still, in a market that knocks out retro arcade releases for between eight and ten bucks a pop, 20 dollars for seven good to solid games that can still be enjoyed with friends in couch co-op is a bargain. At less than five bucks per game, even with the current online woes, it’s very hard not to recommend the purchase to classic arcade fans, or those who just want a quick dose of vigilante justice on their morning commute.
The Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle offers seven good (if repetitive) games for a great price. There’s zero excuse for a 30-year-old game having terrible online in 2018, which is a huge minus here. But for those who fancy a violent trip down memory lane, especially with local buddies to watch their back, The Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle still provides simple-minded mayhem for not a lot of coin. Besides, you probably spent more than that on those money-hungry arcade cabs anyway.
[This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.]