Tag Archives: beat ’em up

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

Here is a complete list of passwords for normal mode of Rolling Thunder 2.

A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET

Let's get this rollingRolling Thunder 2, in an effort to not drive its audience completely insane, made all of its passwords actual words and phrases. This is in stark contrast to much of the NES and Genesis library, which used a password system that was, according to nine out of ten scientists, ferret chasing a ball wearing banana pants crazy. The mere concept of misplacing one semicolon and causing the entire program game to crash is a cruel thing to inflict upon a five year old that just wants to see Simon Belmont conquer the Castlevania countryside, and the idea that someone could memorize those random assortments of letters and numbers is laughable (ONBI UQAU Z12S SRYA). Rolling Thunder 2 instead presents a series of words for selection, and every password at least looks like a complete sentence. Awesome! This is even thematically appropriate, as the heroes of Rolling Thunder are (not very stealthy) spies, and these “passwords” could be seen in spy media as… well… passwords.

Of course, when you’ve got actual sentences going, it’s inevitable that you want to find meaning in said sentences. Our password to access Level 2 is “A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET”. This makes a certain amount of sense, as the heroes of this game are the titular Rolling Thunder Task Force, and I guess they learned a secret at some point. And they can soak more bullets than most people, so “magical” seems appropriate. So far, so good!

A NATURAL FIGHTER CREATED THE GENIUS

WHAT IS THE PASSWORDThis is not how these things work! I could see a genius creating a natural fighter (I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of at least two Tekken backstories), but a fighter creating a genius? Ha! The very idea is laughable… and immediately causes me to consider exactly how that would work. I’m assuming we’re dealing with one of those “negative intelligence stat” situations wherein someone was clobbered so soundly by a natural fighter, they suffered extreme brain damage. But there’s a happy ending! Said addled “genius” now is too dumb to realize that, say, inventing time travel is impossible and stupid, so it is done. How about them apples? Or maybe we’re just dealing with a specific kind of genius, like a fighting genius? That’s less interesting.

A ROLLING NUCLEUS SMASHED THE NEURON

I don’t know enough about science to say whether this is at all accurate or not (Gee, did the previous paragraph give that away?). But I want to say that this sounds just science-y enough to be legit. Look, I’m giving a TED Talk later this afternoon, and I’m going to see if the audience reacts at all when I stick this phrase in my introduction. I’m betting there will be no issues.

A CURIOUS PROGRAM PUNCHED THE POWDER

Oh hell yes. This is obviously the plot for the next summer blockbuster. In a world where science runs rampant, one professor decides to code his own sentient AI. But everything spirals out of control when this curious program decides to “punch the powder” and take control of all the nuclear weapons on Earth. Only natural fighter Hadoken Harrison (Shane Black) has what it takes to bring down this rogue AI. But when that AI inhabits the body of a generically sexy lady, will Hadoken still be able to jump kick his way to a better tomorrow? With Patton Oswalt as the nerd and whichever actress is currently 22 as the AI.

A LOGICAL LEOPARD BLASTED THE SECRET

ELEVATOR ACTION!There are logical leopards now? And they’re capable of blasting? Dr. Rob Liefeld wrote that most creatures are invincible while they’re blastin’, so we’re pretty much screwed. Let us all take a moment to bow to our new leopard masters, so they may evaluate our succulent necks at their leisure.

A PRIVATE ISOTOPE DESIRED THE TARGET

You know, while we’re on the subject of spy media, I think I want to compile a list of words and phrases that just sound like they’re something out of a technical manual. “Isotope” is the obvious science word here, but let’s not discount “target”. Adding “target” to any bluff increases the validity of your statement by about 200%. “We’re looking at hitting target projections shortly”. “The target demographic is very excited about this.” “Stay on target.” Every time you use the word “target” (and you’re not talking about darts), you sound more worldly by a target estimate of about 300%. And no isotope is ever going to take that away.

A NATURAL RAINBOW ELECTED THE FUTURE

Man, I wish that happened in 2016.

A MAGICAL MACHINE MUFFLED THE KILLER

The final boss of Rolling Thunder 2 is a robot man, so this might be some manner of foreshadowing. Or… wait… No, it’s the duty of Rolling Thunder to defeat that magical machine… which is a killer… um… Hm. Oh, no, I’ve got it! The killer is the final boss, and the muffling magical machine is your gun! Yes! That makes perfect sense. Apparently Rolling Thunder 2 is more pro-gun than the NRA, and believes your standard pistol to be a magical machine. Now we’re all on the same page.

A DIGITAL NUCLEUS PUNCHED THE DEVICE

For a game that only lets you use firearms (even when you run out of ammo, you still shoot the same gun, just slower), there sure is a lot of punching in these passwords. This one seems to be a “greatest hits” of the other passwords, and retreads a lot of well-worn ground. A digital nucleus? Are we back on another robot kick? And always with “the device”. I’m betting it’s just a common watch. A robot punched a watch? Huh. I guess that does sound more interesting when you bring a little ambiguity to the table.

A PRIVATE THUNDER CREATED THE POWDER

Did you think I was making this up?It’s only appropriate that we close these passwords with something that at least passingly acknowledges our heroes. While a “private” thunder is still the dream of planetariums everywhere, if we assume the “Thunder” in this case is actually referring to the heroes, then… they’re making drugs? Oh! Wait! They turned their enemies to powder! That’s it! “Private” aka stealthy Thunder-spies infiltrated eleven different strongholds, shot the living heck out of everybody, and turned their foes, human and robot alike, to powder. These passwords do make sense! Awesome! Next we’ll tackle the hard mode passwords, but let’s take a little break first. I need to go create a private thunder.

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

  • System: Sega Genesis and Arcade. Unlike the original Rolling Thunder, I’ve never seen the Rolling Thunder 2 arcade cabinet. I don’t particularly remember where I saw Rolling Thunder 1, mind you, I just know that it’s burned into my memory from somewhere. Oh, also available on the Wii Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: Two player simultaneous! Woo! And you can’t accidentally shoot each other, either! Even better!
  • Pew PewMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: What we have here is a basic “cover shooter” in the 2-D environment, a little slower than Sunset Riders, but a little faster than OG Elevator Action. This is the kind of game that does really well in the arcades, but gets kind of boring on the home consoles. Or, well, I suppose it doesn’t get too boring, as, if you ignore Hard Mode, the game doesn’t really overstay its welcome, but it has about as much replay value as your average beat ‘em up.
  • Favorite Character: There are only two available here, but I’ll take Leila, the hard boiled 80’s gal, over Albatross, a James Bond wannabe (with a heavy emphasis on “wannabe”) any day. Apparently, in the arcades, Leila was the default player one, which is unusual for the era always.
  • Did you know? The original Rolling Thunder featured presumably “real” human opponents, they were just cloaked into genericness by a bunch of hoods. In Rolling Thunder 2, the majority of your opponents (save a few evil dogs) are secretly androids of some kind. I’m pretty sure this means that the bad guys of the Rolling Thunder universe followed the same trajectory as The Foot Clan.
  • Would I play again: Rolling Thunder 2 is pretty fun with two players. As was tangentially mentioned earlier, it’s basically a beat ‘em up game with guns, so that makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I have other, better, real beat ‘em ups that I’d rather play with my friends, so, sorry, agents, you’re retired.

What’s next? Random ROB… is taking a backseat, as I play the game everyone has to play right now. Metroid 2! Samus is back, baby! Please look forward to it!

Huh?

FGC #314 Kung Fu

HIYAHKung-Fu is the NES port of Kung-Fu Master, an arcade game originally intended to be based on Jackie Chan’s 1984 film, Wheels on Meals. By all accounts, such a dubious origin should not be the foundation for every fighting game that has ever been produced, but, hey, here we are.

Kung-Fu originates from the early “arcade” era of videogames, a time when “fun” had to be carefully balanced with “player will never ever succeed”. Kung-Fu appeased these twin masters with a fun, interesting gauntlet of unlimited, faceless mooks that want nothing more than to see your immediate death. Everyone remembers the bizarre “man train” of random dudes, but those that actually had the quarters to finish Kung-Fu also encountered dragons, moths, and a unusually high number of acrobatic dwarves. Each stage finished with a unique boss, and the final level of the pagoda hosted none other than Chuck Norris. Or maybe that guy from Karate Kid? Look, it doesn’t matter, the point is that that guy is capable of some punishing kicks, so trouncing him and reclaiming the captured Sylvia felt like a real accomplishment. And then the whole thing looped back to the beginning (complete with a bit of text that seems to imply that Sylvia is a professional kidnapping victim), because an arcade is not happy until you leave the place a penniless (quarterless) hobo.

Now, to be honest, that account could describe a number of games. Who is Mario but an average dude that deals with generic/murderous monsters on his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a big boss? And this game is based on a movie… a movie that didn’t have that much of an original plot to begin with. Come on, if battling up a pagoda was at all original, it wouldn’t be a lame sidequest in Final Fantasy 7. No, there isn’t much of a plot and story for Kung-Fu to latch onto. And if we’re going to claim this is the origin of fighting games, welp, it ain’t because this was the secret origin of Ryu.

Growl!But in the same way that Space Invaders tells you everything you need to know within its title, and Pac-Man never need be anything more than a puck-shaped man, Kung-Fu’s fighting origins come from the simplest of sources: the joypad. Ever seen a Kung-Fu Master arcade cabinet? There is a completely centered joystick, punch and kick buttons on either side (seemingly to, for once, placate our left handed community), and a complete lack of a jump button. Where did jump go? It’s the up key, and that’s all it ever needed to be.

And that changes everything.

Remember Donkey Kong? Why did Mario need separate “up” and “jump” buttons? Because ladders, that’s why. Mario had to distinctly climb his way to rescuing Pauline, and, while Jump Man may have been on a 2-D plane, he needed the faux 3-D motion of “going up” to properly ascend. In some stages there were elevators or moving platforms, but “up” was a necessary way of scaling the heights. “Jump” was there not to soar, but to avoid obstacles in Mario’s path. And when Mario became Super (after the release of Kung-Fu Master, incidentally), “jump” became Mario’s offense, defense, and a way to properly climb over blocks and up towards clouds. Mario’s jump was versatile to a ridiculous degree, and time has shown the many, many ways a jump can be applied to both terrible platformers and more interesting jump-a-thons.

But the jump of Kung-Fu is a very different animal. When you jump in Kung-Fu, you are doing one of two things:

  1. Avoiding a low attack
  2. Delivering a hella rad jump kick

HIYAHThat’s it! That’s all a Kung-Fu jump does. There are no ladders to climb. There are no doors to enter. Even vaulting over an enemy is less satisfying than simply kicking that creeping snake right in the asp. The jump of Kung-Fu is there for one reason and one reason only: it is another avenue of attack. The best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid a million encroaching dudes is to distribute a million deadly punches. If that doesn’t work, leap over the incoming attack, and, hi-yah, jump kick to the face. Who needs “environmental hazards” when you’ve got dudes tossing friggin’ knives!?

And that right there is the origin of the fighting game. I’ve said it before, but fighting games are pure expressions of basic concepts. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self (mirror match). Man vs. Metal Slug. When Chun-Li experiences a particularly bad Tuesday and needs to avenge her father, she doesn’t need to jump over seventeen barrels and then successfully bop sixty turtles before finally moving onto the main boss; no, all she need do is beat ten dudes to a pulp, prove her worth in a simple 2-D plane, and advance to the tournament organizer/Magic Hitler. And, yes, Chun-Li jumps by simply tapping up, because her jump exists exclusively to necessitate various kinds of sweet kicks. In fact, upgrade for better graphics, buttons, and the occasional fireball, and Chun-Li controls exactly like Thomas the Kung-Fu Dude. And the boss of the third stage of Kung-Fu? You can’t tell me that ain’t Mike Bison Balrog.

So many little peopleKung-Fu might not be a true fighting game, but all the elements are starting to coalesce here in this 1984 game. Play Street Fighter, Blazblue, or even Tekken, then return to Kung-Fu, and things will seem… very familiar. It all starts with a simple jump interface, and it ends with Ryu tossing dragon punches.

And the poor folks behind Kung Fu Master never get any credit…

Oh, wait, apparently Kung-Fu Master was created by Takashi Nishiyama, the man responsible for Street Fighter who then went on to SNK to start Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown. Huh. I guess that guy knew what he was doing.

Well, nobody ever claims Moon Patrol was the start of all fighting games…

FGC #314 Kung Fu

  • System: NES for the review (and certainly the version I played the most), but Kung-Fu also appeared in the arcades (duh), Apple devices, a couple of Ataris, and the Commodore 64.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. This is not the game where two guys fight in front of a judge with weird hair. That’s Karate Champ.
  • HIYAHFavorite Boss: The magician at the end of the fourth stage will literally lose his head if you knock it off with a kick. He… gets better.
  • Did you know? Koji Kondo, the composer for Street Fighter 2 (and thus, Guile’s theme) composed the soundtrack for the NES version. Another fighting game connection!
  • Would I play again: This is an important piece of history that is hard as steel. I might play it again for thirty seconds, but I’m totally quitting after my first death.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Generations! Dammit, ROB! Sonic Mania just came out! Can’t I write about that game? Or could you have picked Sonic Generations last week, and we could have made a theme out of it? No? Damn you, robot. Fine, Sonic Generations it is. Please look forward to it!

HIYAH

FGC #254 Streets of Rage 2

UPPER!Streets of Rage 2 might be the best beat ‘em up of all time. It’s certainly the best BEU on the 16-bit consoles, and, considering that was the heyday of the genre, it’s hard to believe it could be topped elsewhere. But why is it the best? The BEU genre is pretty straightforward, so how is this game any better than Final Fight or Double Dragon?

The answer is simple: Streets of Rage 2 doesn’t suck.

… Hm, I should probably elaborate on that.

The beat ‘em up genre, one way or another, started in the arcades. If you want to cite Kung-Fu Master or Double Dragon, either way, they both premiered in arcade cabinets well before they hit the home consoles. From there, it was a only a matter of time before we got Final Fight, and then, inevitably, the parade of licensed beat ‘em ups that offered no real innovations to the genre, but God in Heaven is it fun to hit random dudes with Bart Simpson’s skateboard. The beat ‘em up completely conquered the arcade scene roughly until Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat decided it was fighting games’ turn, but even today, you’re likely to see Turtles in Time or X-Men at a roller rink (assuming roller rinks are still a thing at all… sorry I’m not a twelve year old girl).

HIYA!So, for the beat ‘em up to maintain arcade dominance for so long, the genre must have been doing something right. But what was it? The licensed beat ‘em ups have an easy answer: do you need to hear anything more than the title “Alien vs. Predator” to waste a quarter or two on finding out what that’s all about? “Be The Punisher”? Yeah, I’ll take a chance on that. But even the less “established” beat ‘em ups offered some level of “role play” that you couldn’t really experience at home. When Mario still looked like a random collection of brown pixels, here were King Arthur and his two or three knights, traipsing across the countryside, occasionally riding amazingly obedient horses. Here are all your favorite Saturday morning and mythological heroes, all at the arcade, and all ready to be controlled for the low, low cost of a single Washington (and the silver kind to boot).

That’s enough to get 25¢ out of practically anybody that can grip a joystick, but why was the beat ‘em up so successful? Simple: OCD. Or maybe just sunk cost fallacy. In general, unless it’s your absolute first time and some damn foot soldier keeps you in an arm lock for too damn long, you can make it up to the first boss on any given beat ‘em up on one credit. And then that boss is going to trounce you. And, depending on the game, that boss is going to laugh at you while the timer ticks down. Want to add another quarter? You know you will. You’re not going to let Abobo get away with that, are you? Come on, you got through the whole stage on one quarter, you can spare another to make this doof go down.

And so begins the worst problem in beat ‘em ups: quarter-killer, damage-sponge bosses. Rocksteady of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, possibly one of the most fought level one bosses in any videogame, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. He has, what, three moves? A kick, a charge, and a gun for jump kickers. That’s it. He should last for maybe eight hits, because, come on, a mouser is more complicated than this guy. But, no, he lasts forever, because if he can’t take the punishment, he’s not going to require more quarters to defeat, and if he doesn’t fleece your poor pockets, then what’s the point in being an arcade game?

YummyIn other words, beat ‘em ups were kings of the arcade because they were fun… and they made their owners a lot of dough. I don’t think those fat cat arcade barons are moving to Maui, but Final Fight probably did pay for at least a few trips to Disney World.

Streets of Rage apparently started in the arcades, but, fun fact, I have never seen a SoR cabinet in my life (I’m pretty sure this is another case of Wikipedia lying to me). Regardless, SoR started off a little… janky, and, in my humble opinion, wasn’t very good. It’s one of those Metroid 1 situations: you know there’s something cool here, but there is a lot of cruft involved, and, by the time you’re finally used to everything, it’s over. Though I suppose I’ll preserve that kind of whining for when ROB chooses that particular game…

What we’re here for today is Streets of Rage 2, and it does one thing absolutely marvelously: it actually scales boss health to something reasonable. It even scales all enemy health to a practical level.

It’s the subtlest little change, but it means so much to the game. The first boss in Streets of Rage 2 does not, at any point, retreat and force you to fight some random thugs while he eats a hamburger. The fourth boss does not have seventeen lifebars. Heck, the second boss brought a damn jetpack to the fight, but his HP is scaled to account for the fact that he can’t be hit all the time. He barely has more life than Symbol Y! It’s like Streets of Rage 2 actually respects the player’s time, and accounts for “this boss has three main patterns, he doesn’t have to be fought for the next ten minutes”. The average Streets of Rage 2 boss goes down in about as much time as a Robot Master, and that’s phenomenal! I might finish this game before I run out of imaginary, arbitrarily assigned credits because this is a console game, dammit! Somebody finally acknowledged that simple fact!

THE ENDishAnd there are a lot of little things in Streets of Rage 2 that make it appear as if the designers actually wanted to see the player succeed, and not just empty their coin purses into an imaginary arcade console. Food distribution is less random and closer to the power-up distribution of Super Mario Bros. games, for instance. Yes, there’s still a big fill up of meat before every boss, but you’re a lot more likely to see a life granting apple at more conscientious points than in any other beat ‘em up. And the average mooks, like their big boss brothers, aren’t massive damage sponges, so you’re not stuck in the same six square feet of a random city until the timer runs out. And even some of the less fair baddies, like those Road Warrior rejects or that one dude with a knife knifing around, can be defeating easily by acknowledging that jump kicks exist. There is not a single situation where there’s an infinity trap on the screen, and you’re going to die a thousand deaths to some random laser while you’re trying to position your character around that damn blast radius. Oh, and the special moves are pretty rad, too.

So, yes, you put it all together, and Streets of Rage 2 is the best beat ‘em up out there. It’s a lot of little things and one big thing working in concert, but, when it all combines, it forms a Voltron that blazing swords the competition.

Other beat ‘em ups are quick to rely on their arcade roots and suck for it. Streets of Rage 2 doesn’t (suck).

FGC #254 Streets of Rage 2

  • System: Sega Genesis and arcade, though it has also seen rerelease on more systems than I’m going to list. The 3DS version is, as always, pretty damn rad.
  • Number of players: Oh, yeah, another reason people play beat ‘em ups is for the “easy” two player factor. Practically anyone can join in and be “helpful”, so whether it’s your videogame adverse mate or little brother, you can get a few extra punches in with a buddy.
  • WeeeeWhat’s in a name: The arcade machines glimpsed in Level 3 are for a game called “Bare Knuckle”. Ha! What nitwit would play a game called Bare Knuckle?
  • Favorite character: Normally Blaze would be my go-to, as I (almost) always favor the “faster” character in beat ‘em ups. But, in this case, I’m going to go with Skate. He’s faster than Blaze and he’s the only character with a proper dash attack. Considering the dash is my preferred attack in any BEU, that’s kind of deal sealer. Guess I do always go with the quickest choice.
  • Did you know? Let’s not talk about Blaze’s underwear. Let’s… just not.
  • Would I play again: Yes, which is always surprising for an “ancient” Genesis game. I just have to convince my friends that this is the beat ‘em up to play, and not The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, X-Men, Battletoads, Dungeons and Dragons, Final Fight, Knights of the Round…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS! Get your leaves ready, it’s time to go fluttering with Mario! Please look forward to it!

DO NOT CLICK

WW #3 Senran Kagura (Franchise)

Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. We’ve got some PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware

So I’ve covered a number of Beat ‘em Up games over the course of the FGC. I went back and reviewed a couple of those articles before writing this, and I realized something: Beat ‘em Up Heroes rarely wear shirts. Haggar has a suspender strap, Billy and Jimmy Lee are wearing (as far as I see) ab-bearing vests, and when Liu Kang took a vacation from Fighting Games, he didn’t think to pack a top. This tells me two things: one, that Beat ‘em Up Heroes are ripped as hell, and two, they’re generally men. Yes, there’s usually an alternative choice that features the fairer sex, but nobody ever talks about wanting to see Final Fight 4 so we can get closure on Lucia’s story. Does she even piledrive anybody?

I already discussed Senran Kagura Bon Appétit, the rhythm-cooking game from the Senran Kagura franchise. As mentioned, I enjoyed that game’s gameplay (but not aesthetics), so I decided to give the rest of the franchise a try. Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was technically the “origin” of the spinoff title, and I was rather lacking for new Vita games at the time (and forever), so I tried it, and, what’s more, I enjoyed it. It was more gross pandering, yes, but it was a fun little beat ‘em up. Also, thanks to the camera being more controllable than in the “pretty much cutscene based” Bon Appétit, I didn’t have to stare at some random cleavage all day long. I mean, obviously the cleavage is there, but it isn’t like the camera is eternally investigating the valley.

In time (and mostly thanks to sales), I tried the rest of the Senran Kagura series. The “original” Senran Kagura Burst (technically not the original, but basically the Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo to Senra Kagura Skirting Shadow’s Street Fighter 2) for the 3DS is basically a “classic” beat ‘em up to the bone, and comes off as almost a gender-swapped Streets of Rage. Its technical sequel, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, adopted the 3-D feel of Shinovi Versus, but maintained the more “technical” aspects of the Burst gameplay, making for a more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding, entry in the series. Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, meanwhile, follows the Shinovi Versus format and…

Christ, what the hell am I writing here? This is Wankery Week, dammit, not Gameplay Week.

Let’s try this again…