King of Fighters
If you’re a regular listener of the podcast you’ll know there’s a running joke (haha) about how old I am. I am old. I am old enough to remember a time when gaming microtransactions were the 10p’s you thrust into arcade machines on Skegness seafront whenever you wanted a game of, say, Final Fight. Ahhh… Final Fight. What a game. Arguable 1987’s Double Dragon set the standard for the side scrolling beat-em-up; a couple of kung-fu lads walk from left to right, punching, kicking and throwing various bad guys in an attempt to defeat a crime boss/save the girl (either or, really) in a now super 80’s setting, but Final Fight took that formula and refined it, adding chunky, gorgeous sprites, multiple characters to select and a more varied palette of weird and wonderful baddies. Looking back, it’s hard to believe Final Fight came out in 1989; visually it feels remarkably ahead of its time and features characters that are still heavily present in Capcom’s modern fighting game output. It also began a rich history of beat-em-ups for the studio which continued long into the good old days of the arcades, and which is celebrated in this brand new compilation on Nintendo’s Switch.
A surprise announcement during the last Nintendo Direct, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is hitting all the major systems, releasing not only on Switch but also PS4, XBox One and PC. It’s a collection containing seven of Capcom’s classic baddie biffers, spanning from 1989’s Final Fight, all the way up to 1997’s Battle Circuit. The games are presented in their original arcade versions with options for both local and online multiplayer, art galleries, save state options and crisp HD visuals. Obviously the bonus of the Switch version is the usual portability – my 12 year old self would have given his right arm for a portable, arcade perfect Final Fight. Okay, leg maybe – that right arm is essential for playing the game really.
So, what of the games that you get bundled in? Well, despite all of them following the same formula (walk left to right, punch dudes, repeat) there are some unique elements to each one that gives a unique experience:
1989 – 2 Players
Capcoms OG beat em up, Final Fight has aged remarkably well, its classically chunky visuals leaping off the screen with a flying kick. Up to two players can choose from three protagonists, Guy, Cody and Haggar, to take on an exodus through Metro City to rescue Jessica, Haggar’s daughter and Cody’s girlfriend, from the clutches of the evil Mad Gear gang. A no frills classic.
1991 – 4 Players
Captain Commando was Capcom’s mascot for several years (CAPtain COMmando – get it?) before the company gave him his own game. Pretty much a spiritual sequel to Final Fight, only with the ability for four players to enjoy the action, Captain Commando also introduced firearms and rideable mechs into the mix, as well as giving the game a distinct Saturday morning cartoon look.
The King of Dragons
1991 – 3 Players
The King of Dragons is an interesting title, being part beat-em-up, part RPG. Boasting 5 characters to choose from, each with unique abilities, and a ton of levels to play through, King of Dragons also features an interesting levelling mechanic whereby characters regularly level up, making their abilities more effective and their basic attacks stronger. This gives the game a little bit more depth than you’d normally expect – I had a lot of fun with this one!
Knights of the Round
1991 – 3 Players
Capcom does Arthurian! Yes, in this game you get to choose from one of the titular Knights of the Round Table, playing as Arthur, Lancealot or Percival. There’s a distinct Golden Axe feel to this one, but a bit of tactics can be wrung out of the fiddly but interesting blocking mechanic, whereby you can parry enemy attacks for a window of invulnerability. Mastering this can be essential in some particularly cheap areas – who said these games weren’t designed to eat all those 10p’s you’d spent so long scrounging of your Mum and Dad?
Warriors of Fate
1992 – 3 Players
A sequel to Dynasty War, based on the Tenchi wo Kurau manga depicting the “Three Kingdoms” period of Chinese history, Warriors of Fate is one of the more intense games in this collection featuring huge waves of enemies. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard fare made a little more spicy with the addition of the ability to ride horses, as well as one character who fights entirely ranged with a bow and arrow.
1994 – 3 Players
Armored Warriors is one of two games in this collection which is seeing a home console release for the first time. In this one, players control mechs as they stomp through ruined cities on time limited missions, punching tanks and other mechs about. It’s a really good time with the ability to switch body parts out to change up strategies, as well as initiate team up attacks that effectively Mega-Zord all the players together. Nice and chunky with some good explosions and manic combat.
1997 – 4 Players
The most recent game in the collection, albeit one that’s still 21 years old (sadness) is Battle Circuit, another one making its home console debut. Another cartoon adventure styled game, this introduced some interesting co-op mechanics for multiplayers, allowing the chaining of moves, as well as the ability to collect coins that can be used to purchase upgrades between levels. It’s more than a little mad to boot – one character is a girl riding on a pink ostrich!
So, while it’s easy to dismiss each of these games as being samey, there are plenty of differences in how each title plays to make them all worth a look. That’s not to say the collection isn’t without its downsides, although they are few. While the addition of save states is great, there is only one for each game, and the game doesn’t indicate a save is available when you restart, nor give you the option to jump right back in, necessitating a trip to the option menu. There is also a lack of filters available for the visuals. Where the Street Fighter and Mega Man collections each provided ways to make it look like you’re playing the game on an old-school CRT, this simply doesn’t have those options. On a content level, it’s also a shame that some of Capcom’s licensed games like Cadilacs and Dinosaurs, Alien VS Predator and The Punisher weren’t included here – all superb titles that would have buffed this collection up just a tad.
That said, though, this is a fun collection and, as with the aforementioned compilations, it’s great to see Capcom dipping into their history like this. It’d be great to see more going forwards, perhaps a platforming collection featuring the likes of Strider and Ghosts N’ Goblins, or a crossover set with Marvel VS Capcom front and center.