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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Oh hello! Didn’t see you come in!

I don’t think any genre of video game is quite as quintessentially Video Game as the humble beat-em-up. One of the hardest genres to do well, and one of the easiest to do poorly, there’s still nothing in the medium quite as immediately accessible or understood. You see a hundred guys in jean jackets or capes with names like Roper or Bred and you proceed to punch your way through all of them. Occasionally you murder an entire car with your bare hands

So here we are, with a new forum and me with a hankering to make a thread for something I love before someone beats me to the punch.

Pun Unintended, but welcome
 

Issun

Could be a fren
The arcade games get all the love, but I think TMNT 3 for the NES is an underappreciated gem.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I love beat 'em ups but yeah, so many when I think of the games strategy is "walk down, press punch" and "JUMPKICKJUMPKICKJUMPKICKJUMPKICKJUMPKICK."

So here's a beat em up exclusive questionnaire:

1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
2) What is the most fun as an experience?
3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
 

Issun

Could be a fren
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
Castle Crashers

2) What is the most fun as an experience?
Castle Crashers

3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
Castle Crashers

4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
The Office

5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
Visual Novels
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
Nothing tops Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara with its diverse classes with multiple appearances, shop screens, inventory system, branching paths, and of course the secret ultimate magic that's hidden by a laundry list of prerequisites, including at least three players being in play and all players pressing every button at the same time.

Honorable mention goes to Alien Vs. Predator and LINN ACROBATIC SHOW.


2) What is the most fun as an experience?
Streets of Rage 2 always goes down incredibly smooth. The aesthetics are unimpeachable, and complexity and difficulty are just right. Great alone or with a friend. I can and have played it over and over.


3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
The American version of Double Dragon 3 pioneering in-app purchases in the 1991 certainly was experimental.


4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
Big Trouble in Little China. In keeping with the themes of the film, Jack Burton would be presented as Player 2. (Player 1 is Wang Chi. Players 3 and 4 are Eddie Lee and Egg Shen.)


5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
I will keep the candle burning for Alien Vs. Predator until the good day comes.


6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
"Rhythm games" was the first thing that leapt to mind. I leave it as a thought experiment for the reader.
 

WildcatJF

I will not be stopping
(he / his / him)
Alien Vs. Predator needs a re-release on anything that is not a narcissistic and expensive European arcade stick
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
Certainly the most complex are the ones that marry adventure game or RPG structure and character development progress to the genre's fundamentals--your Dungeons & Dragons, Guardian Heroes, Dragon's Crowns, or any appropriately dense Kunio-kun title. For the sheer density of fight mechanics that unravel over the course of player-driven mounting expertise, there's stuff like Alien vs. Predator, Sengoku 3 or Denjin Makai II near the top.

2) What is the most fun as an experience?
Depends on what I'm in the mood for! Sometimes I want a long-term incremental grind that still requires mastery over its systems to thrive in (Dragon's Crown), and sometimes I want something straightforward done to the best of its potential and exuding aesthetic excellence (Undercover Cops), or maybe I just want to inhabit something totally inexplicable for a while expressed through a genre that's often derided for being formulaic in ways that other video games aren't (Pu·Li·Ru·La). It's not something I can easily distill down to one representative example.

3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
I think Growl/Runark will always stand out for its preservationist thematics and premise, especially in this genre that on a baseline romanticizes violence against outsider groups and minorities by authority figures, often literally police.

4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
Dorohedoro!

5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
Gazelle's Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon arcade game deserves much wider exposure than it ever got. The animation cel-like special attacks alone are worth the price of admission, and it's just a solid game in every way from a developer too soon gone from the world. Alternatively, I'd accept Capcom's Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, another mostly overlooked title in the company's vast oeuvre.

6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
I wouldn't say no to danmaku patterns in a belt scroller context.
 
I like beat 'em ups, but I also like, uh, beating beat 'em ups. Why are so many of these games so freaking difficult? Not understanding how to improve is turning me off of enough acclaimed entries that I think this is a real pattern, and not just some individual preference of not liking this or that game.

There was a moment where I played Final Fight 3 out of the blue and had a blast, and I rode that enthusiasm into replaying it until I could beat it, including harder modes if I recall. But trying to follow up that experience with more acclaimed games/series? Streets of Rage 2? Dungeons & Dragons? TMNT? All those wacky arcade games? I end up having fun until I start getting game overs with no more enemy patterns or defensive maneuvers left to make use of. If I'm still getting hit too frequently by random enemies at that point then I guess that's where my progression ends.

I feel like I'm just too bad at most of these games rather than most of them being too difficult, if that makes any sense. For some reason, there are some oddly enjoyable games for me like Battletoads (NES) and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (SNES) that I don't think I've beaten, but they are too difficult in the "I want to move on" sense, and not the "I have to move on" sense.

Separate Topic of Discussion:
What do we think about 3D beat 'em ups (hack 'n slash type games)?
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.

Shadows of Mystara for all the reasons Kishi laid out, but Ninja Saviors also has some surprising depth

2) What is the most fun as an experience?

Again, SoM is hard to top, but in recent years thereve been the likes of Fight n Rage and Streets of Rage 4.

3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?

Hmmm, Way of the Passive Fist is pretty noteworthy for being a (relatively) non-violent example of the genre (your character is a pacifist who instead dodges enemies until they’re too exhausted to keep fighting), as is Treachery in Beatdown City (a beat-em-up/RPG hybrid that makes combat a menu-driven, ATB affair)

4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?

One Punch Man feels like an easy answer.


5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy?

Scott Pilgrim is the one on everyone’s lips as of late, but the SNES Turtles in Time has a lot to recommend about it. Furthermore, I’d love to be able to play Shadows over Mystara without digging out my WiiU

6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up

Honestly, outside of RPG (And in the case of Guardian Heroes, Choose Your Own Adventure), any other genres intersecting with Beat-em-ups is often a recipe for disaster, so if I can tweak the question a bit, if I never see beat-em-ups interact with platformers again, then I’m satisfied.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
While I haven’t any doubt that the game itself is precisely my kind of nonsense, I haven’t picked up Night Slashers, owing to the fact that Flying Tiger kind of... sucks at emulation. But now they aren’t the ones with their name on the package, so is it worth picking up now?

Or is the base game good enough to compensate for the lacklustre presentation that held back the rest of Johnny Turbos works?
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
We're all desperate for Night Slashers and the rest of Data East's library to be represented to the best fidelity possible but the Johnny Turbo's Arcade releases are not it under any circumstances. Personally, I just don't want to support that kind of work, no matter how dear the game in question is to me, and often because of it.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I just bought Fight 'n' Rage! While it's possibly a bit too horny for its own good* it feels incredible to play. The Takeover is pretty great too. After years of no good beat 'em ups (or vanishingly few) we seem to be in a new golden age.

*it's far, far too horny for its own good
 
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Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
But now they aren’t the ones with their name on the package, so is it worth picking up now?
As far as I know, all the releases in that line are unchanged other than having the publisher's name updated on the shop page.
 

WildcatJF

I will not be stopping
(he / his / him)
To my knowledge, Golem Entertainment is just a rebrand of Flying Tiger, and all the Data East games outside of the Arcade Archives lineup and Dotemu's Windjammers are theirs. I bought Night Slashers when it was on sale (it was frequently around $2 or so) and while the game itself is a grand time, the emulation FTE/Golem did is really not great in contrast to nearly every other retro release I've played on the Switch. I'm not personally as bothered as some are when it comes to perfect emulation...but it sure would be nice if G-Mode would just yank those licenses from Golem and give them to Hamster or M2 or Digital Eclipse or anyone else really.

Here's what I wrote about the emulation when I played NS a little while ago:
Now for the packaging. This is my first purchase from Flying Tiger Entertainment, who is the current licensor for G-Mode, the home of most of Data East’s properties post-closure. And in contrast to Hamster, the overall implementation of this series is lacking. It’s serviceable, let me say. The game runs perfectly fine, with not a single weird hitch of emulation in sight. But it doesn’t go into the depth of features Hamster’s Arcade Archives series has, especially in terms of visual and gameplay options. There’s no getting around the fact that the game looks fuzzy. There’s no way to have unfiltered sprites. The default is still a tad blurry, and this is a bummer for a game loaded down with excellent 2D graphics. You are stuck with the US release of the game, with no other variants included. The blood is intact, but Christopher’s cross is a gemstone of some sort and the “To Hell” side of the arrow is missing, along with some other cutscenes. The save states are weirdly implemented, with no indication it was actually accomplished beyond exiting out and seeing the “Continue” option on the title screen. The controls cannot be changed. No dipswitch options. And the intro before the game FTE put in is way too long. I don’t need to hear Johnny Turbo shout out “Night Slashers” before I actually start the game. It’s annoying.

Again, I am not an expert on emulation stuff, so take the "it's serviceable and runs perfectly fine" portion with a grain of salt if you are particular on that sort of thing.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I just bought Fight 'n' Rage! While it's possibly a bit too horny for its own good* it feels incredible to play. The Takeover is pretty great too. After years of no good beat 'em ups (or vanishingly few) we seem to be in a new golden age.

*it's far, far too horny for its own good
In a genre that’s never handled female characters particularly well, it really may be the worst example of it.

It's otherwise exemplary, mind. The rest of the time it’s just an example.

good to hear about Takeover, though. I’d been meaning to ask.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
1: TMNT IV - Turtles in Time on the SNES.
2: River City Ransom (but nowadays it would be real nice to have save states).
3: I guess I don't like stuff that is too experimental but I'll say the Neo Geo game Ninja Combat.
4: The One
5: Maybe River City Ransom 2 / Shodai Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-Kun with a translation patch?
6: Maybe a stealth game or an "area conquest" game?

if I never see beat-em-ups interact with platformers again, then I’m satisfied.
There are many genres which just don't mix well with platformers / platforming. If only we could prevent foolish developers from trying to put them together.

"Rhythm games" was the first thing that leapt to mind.
So a beat-em-up?

I like beat 'em ups, but I also like, uh, beating beat 'em ups. Why are so many of these games so freaking difficult?
Personally I would blame their quarter munching arcade roots for this.

Or for this reason:
One of the hardest genres to do well, and one of the easiest to do poorly.
 
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That Old Chestnut

The most doctor.
(he/him)
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
As far as sheer number of moves you can perform, probably the Guardian Heroes games. Even Advance Guardian Heroes was impressive with how many moves they crammed into two buttons and a D-pad. Plus the barrier-reflect move you perform with R calls back to one of Treasure's more interesting design philosophies of giving you the bigger advantage the more you put yourself in harm's way, if not outright requiring you to do so in order to progress (Mischief Makers and Bangai-O both do the same thing to great effect).

2) What is the most fun as an experience?
Seconding Castle Crashers here. The variety of settings and characters, the situations you find yourself in, and the sheer style with which it's all pulled off all come together in a way that's like nothing else out there. Even the introduction to the first boss gave me an impression of "holy shit, these guys aren't playing around."

3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
This is probably a boring answer, but gameplay wise, Guardian Heroes. Turning what could have normally been a "hit punch button to win" type affair into basically "Street Fighter but with hundreds of dudes" will never not feel like an inspired move to me.

As far as setting, Pu·Li·Ru·La, simply because of how insane it gets.

4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
Adventure Time! I feel like Adventure Time could lend itself well to a lot of genres.
OOO!!! Or maybe a beat-em-up set in the Darkstalkers universe! One with the same 2D style as the fighting games would be fucking bonkers.

5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
The big three that I can think of are The Simpsons, Alien VS Predator, and yeah Scott Pilgrim VS the World.

6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
If I have to pick one, maybe something with some very light RTS elements. It might be fun to have a little group of minions you can boss around while you're smacking goons around. Maybe they could help you combo attack against a particularly tough enemy, help with crown control, support you with healing or buffs, or even build little structures like walls or pit traps or whatever. Don't know how you'd pull off something like that well, though.

I feel like I'm basically describing Final Fantasy XV or Dragon's Dogma or something with half of this. I don't know.
 
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Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I'd argue that Guacamelee is a beat 'em up platformer and it actually works really well there.
I will cheerfully concede that point
Yes, I guess I'll amend my statement as well. Platforming can be mixed with other genres but I think works best with side-view 2D (or modern 2.5D). But it needs to be a platformer type jump. If you are trying to do platforming with a beat 'em up type jump (especially if it is a belt-scroller) then that's just a recipe for frustration.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Could also argue that Guacamelee is a platformer with beat-em-up elements rather than the other way around
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
2) What is the most fun as an experience?
3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
1) I guess Scott Pilgrim, though I didn't realize it was cribbing a lot from Kunio-Kun when I played it.
2) Double Dragon Neon. It goes places AFTER the rocket dojo.
3) I can't name a lot. I guess Spider-Man, which was better than Double Dragon alternating between beat em up and platformer, to my recollection.
4) The Raid: Redemption with more running and escaping than most beat em ups.
5) I wanna play the Simpsons again. I bet there are better beat em ups but that one meant a lot to me.
6) Has there been a Rogue-like beat em up? That seems like something to do.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Valdis Story is an action RPG/platformer/beat-em-up hybrid, and it is awesome as well. I think platformer mostly doesn't work when you're in the traditional 2.5-D perspective (looking at you, Double Dragon series).
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I mentioned it briefly before, but now I'm going to talk about it at length;

Way of the Passive Fist isn't the best beat-em-up I've ever played, but it may be the most inventive. Also quite probably the best title for one;

Game's kind of a brawler-take on Borderlands mixed with a bit of Punch-Out but with the caveat that you're (more or less) a pacifist who specializes in a form of martial arts about *not* hitting your opponents. Instead of throwing punchs or kicks, all your attacks are dodges or blocks which you use to *avoid* harm until your opponent passes out from exhaustion. Each enemy (including recolours of the same enemy) has a unique set of attacks and combos that you have to learn to make your way through each level; and landing a long enough combo of evades and parrys fills up your super meter, which, in turn, DOES let you throw a punch (with devastating effect, and which is the only way to fight some enemies).

Biggest complaints being that it shoe-horns in some unneeded RPG elements where you need to level up in order to unlock functions that there's no reason not to have in the game from the get-go, and also boss fights are *absolutely brutal*, even with the extremely generous difficulty slider set to the easiest level.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
1) Which is the richest/deepest beat em up you've played? I'm not talking philosophically but more about being able to do a lot within the game.
If we're talking just belt-scrollers, I agree with Kishi, but since neither the thread nor your question specify that, I would easily say GODHAND. Not only because there's a metric fuck-ton of techniques, but because those techniques can be mapped to literally any attack button or any point of your combo, even if it makes ZERO sense to do that. The multiple dodge mechanics and Gene's inability to block just add to the risk/reward factor, and I'm honestly still pissed that no one has made another game that even tries to imitate it.

2) What is the most fun as an experience?
For a pure junk food brawler experience, I think I would say Turtles in Time with a narrow 2nd to Streets of Rage 2. But Turtles is almost the anti-GODHAND, with only a handful of techniques, but everything just feels so goddamn good, especially once you master how to execute the throws.

3) What, for better or worse, is the most experimental beat em up you've played?
I'm not totally sure it counts as a beat-'em-up per-se, but I don't know what else you'd call The First Funky Fighter. You have 9 big, light-up buttons, each corresponding to a section of a 3x3 grid on the screen. When enemies pop-up in a section, you hit the corresponding button to PUNCH THEM IN THE FUCKING FACE. And bosses have you going full Kenshiro on the big buttons. It's a blast, honestly.

4) I remember a LOT of the games I played in the early 90s were licensed. What IP would make an awesome licensed game?
Into the Badlands

5) What out of print licensed game would you be happy to buy? There's a specific one that comes to my mind but I feel like there are a few.
Aliens vs. Predator

6) What genre or genre elements would you like to see mashed up with the beat em up?
Unless you count getting new techniques as "RPG elements," I tend to be a fan of the pure brawler, I feel like adding other genre elements to them just dilutes what I love so much about them. That being said, I don't mind a break in the action in the form of stuff like shoot-'em-up sections like in Captain America and the Avengers.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Turns out Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster is pretty good? I'm going to qualify that with "for an early 3D brawler," so people don't think it's GODHAND or anything, but yeah. It's more fun than I feel like I've been led to believe for the last 20+ years.
 
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