The side scrolling beat ’em up is a game genre that dominated the arcades, especially in the 80s and 90s, with games like Final Fight and Double Dragon taking the act of smacking goons in the face to a whole new level. As a result of this, it was only a matter of time until the beat ’em up would find its way into the home, with some arcade games getting ports onto the home consoles of the time. Along with this, some original games were also made solely for home consumption, allowing video game enthusiasts to have some coin chugging, fist throwing fun in the comfort of their own home. This week in Retro Respawn, we will be looking at five virtual punch ups that you should consider adding to your video game collection.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo) and The Hyperstone Heist (SEGA Mega Drive)
We open up with a two-for-one special by looking at a couple of fourth gen offerings that featured the pizza-noshing Heroes in a Half-Shell. Players could sometimes find themselves caught in a conundrum during the “console war” of the 90s between Nintendo and SEGA when it came to selecting the console that best catered to their video gaming needs. Thankfully, this was not a brain teaser that beset fans of the Turtles franchise as both the SNES and Mega Drive had some good Foot Soldier-smashing fun on their respective books.
Turtles in Time was a pretty faithful port of the popular arcade release of the same name that even brought some new things to the table over its arcade counterpart by adding boss battles with the Rat King and Slash the Turtle. Overall, Konami have done a very good job at transporting the arcade game over to the weaker hardware, and I still enjoy playing it even to this day.
The Hyperstone Heist is also clearly inspired by the Turtles in Time arcade cabinet but presents its own original story along with some special boss battles that you won’t find on the SNES release. Personally, I probably prefer Turtles in Time due to playing it more during my youth, but The Hyperstone Heist is still a nice slice of beat ’em up bother that I would strongly recommend to any Mega Drive fans out there that happen to have a Turtle itch they’d like to scratch.
Streets of Rage 2 (SEGA Mega Drive)
With a fourth game in the series recently making its debut to mostly strong reviews, the Streets of Rage series remains an enduring and popular collection of games that often finds its way onto the tongue of SEGA enthusiasts when they big up the blue team’s fourth gen console. It’s with good reason too as Streets of Rage 2 not only remains an imminently playable release but one that the modding community has had a lot of fun with over the years.
Did you ever want to crush the skulls of naughty gang members on the mean streets whilst playing as E. Honda, Ryu, Hulk Hogan or The Ultimate Warrior? If so, then it’s not too difficult to hunt down modded versions of Streets of Rage 2 where helpful folk have enabled you to do so! If that isn’t your bag though, then the base game is still oodles of fun, especially if you have a mate who fancies grabbing the second pad and giving you a helping fist and foot to lay a whupping on the criminal element. There’s a reason this series is still going, and playing Streets of Rage 2 will make that very clear.
Fighting Force 64 (Nintendo 64)
Moving into the fifth gen, there were still great beat ’em up thrills to be found if you were still in the mood to take on an army of goons in quick succession. One of my personal favourites from this era would be Fighting Force 64 on the N64. Developed by Core Design and published by Crave Entertainment for Nintendo’s console (it also saw releases on the PlayStation and PC by EIDOS), Fighting Force sees you collecting weapons and smashing your way through scenery in order to bring the would-be world destroying Dr. Zeng to his bitter end.
The PlayStation version of the game doesn’t tend to review that well, but I personally love the N64 version of the game, and I’ve played it quite a bit over the years. Bringing the genre into the world of 3D means there are potential pitfalls, but overall, it’s not a bad effort, and the game is still playable to this day. It really feels like you’re tearing the stages apart, and it’s a good choice to add to your N64 collection if you’re looking for the superior version of the game to play.
Dynasty Warriors 3 (PlayStation 2 and Xbox)
This one is technically a “hack and slash” game as opposed to a pure beat ’em up, but this is often considered a sub-genre to the beat ’em up games, so I’m counting it, especially as running around battlefields in ancient China and slicing unsuspecting soldiers to pieces with a ruddy big axe or sword provides similar fun to me as the previous games already listed. Dynasty Warriors as a series is often sneered at due to its repetitive gameplay and frankly appalling voice acting (seriously, it makes Jill and Barry in the first Resident Evil game look like Oscar-worthy work), but I’ve enjoyed it ever since my sister, of all people, got me into it during the 00s.
My sister is hardly someone who regularly likes to play video games, so for this action-packed and frankly quite silly game to grab her in such a way gave me a newfound appreciation for it. The series would go on to evolve and change as the 00s plodded along, but DW3 is the first one that I would class as representative of the true Warrior experience, and you can probably get it for buttons these days, so I highly encourage you to give it a go, especially if you can draft in a friend to play it with you.