Tag Archives: compare and contrast

FGC #422 Captain Commando & Battle Circuit

CAAAAAPTAIN COOOOOOOMANDO!Captain Commando is a Capcom beat ‘em up title unleashed upon the arcades in 1991 (two years after Final Fight, the same year as Streets of Rage). It was one of Capcom’s earliest beat ‘em up titles, and one of the most creative, non-licensed punch mans games you could find at the arcade.

Battle Circuit is another original, future-based beat ‘em up from Capcom. It was released for arcades in 1997, and was the last Capcom beat ‘em up to receive that honor. In a way, through no fault of its own, it is a title that signifies the end of an era.

But who needs to read another epitaph? Let’s find out what Capcom actually learned over six years!

Characters are Key

Okay, let’s start with the basics: a beat ‘em up lives or dies by its characters. This is why Konami made an estimated seventeen hundred trillion infinity dollars (adjusted for inflation) by slapping the Ninja Turtles and Simpsons into beat ‘em ups. Lisa Simpson battling kabuki warriors with a jump rope? That shouldn’t be a phrase that recalls one of the most played arcade machines of the 90’s, but here we are. And, what’s more, the minute you marry good gameplay to memorable characters, you have a game that is never going away. There are still Turtles in Time arcade cabinets out there! I saw one at the non-Wii based bowling alley! Which is apparently still a thing, too!

Captain Commando really shot for the moon right out of the gate (those metaphors work well together, right?). The titular Captain Commando was the (quickly abandoned) mascot of Capcom in the 80’s, and, incidentally, a cyborg thunder-tossing cop from the future. That makes him, like, a double Thor. Then we’ve got “a ninja”, which, okay, it was the 90’s, that had to happen. But! Our other choices are a mummy alien knife master and a genius baby that rides his own private robot. Score! If you can’t find a favorite character from that group, you are reading the wrong blog. Go see what is happening on some recipe site, you squares!

High number of cyclopsesNow, it would be understandable to expect that Battle Circuit could not top the concept of “genius baby” or “alien mummy”, but could I offer you a cup of carnivorous plant monster from space? How about a yellow catwoman flamenco dancer (she probably hates Mondays)? Plastic Man with ice powers? The cyborg hero that is clearly a descendant of Captain Commando is nice and all, but wouldn’t you rather play as a little girl and her pet pink ostrich that may or may not be a pirate (I cannot think of any other reason for an ostrich to have an eye patch, okay?)? Oh, and the little girl is, naturally, named Pola (sic) Abdul. She uses a flaming bow and arrow. She will deliver us all from evil.

Bad Guys are Key (too!)

Captain Commando came hot on the heels of Final Fight, so it seems only natural that its Metro City streets (yes, it is canon that Captain Commando takes place in the far future of Haggar’s fair city) are descendants of the same three or four guys that menaced Cody and Guy. In a way, it’s kind of cute that some families clearly never got over the ideals of the Mad Gear Gang, and passed on fond genetic memories of suffering mayorally mandated piledrivers. Unfortunately, give or take the occasional boss that is inexplicably equipped with a harpoon gun, Captain Commando is generic dudes for days. That’s a pretty boring future! Like the actual future! Heck, Scumocide’s second in command, (First) Blood, is just Rambo in cargo pants. That’s not 20XX! That’s not even the 90’s!

Battle Circuit at least makes “the same three guys” a little more interesting. Bosses are amazing, and the various robotic creations of a certain recurring mad scientist reminds one a little bit of the venerable Dr. Wily. Wait, I’m sorry, is that a giant skull I see on the floor of Dr. Saturn’s lair? Yeah, these guys went to the same robotics academy. And a mad scientist naturally means the mooks of the world are going to be fun, like floppy lizards and… Wait a minute. Is that…

NO!  ROB!

I’m beating up R.O.B.? Wow, okay, Battle Circuit just shot to the top of the charts.

Show me your Moves!

Captain Commando is a traditional beat ‘em up, and, despite their natural variety (a baby is not a mummy), each of the characters is interchangeable from a moveset perspective. Okay, technically their special moves show a touch of diversity, but, give or take a baby missile, all the usual bases are covered here. Jump kick, dashing punch, grab n’ smack: all the old standbys are represented. Why mess with the classics?

Well, maybe because you could be shooting freaking lasers out of your chest.

This is just plain funWithout resorting to fighting game-esque unreasonable controller motions, Battle Circuit grants each of its bounty hunters fun and exciting moves that add quite a bit to the gameplay. Want to shoot a magic missile all over the place? Just charge up with the attack button, and release your mega buster. Or maybe you’d like to be Yellow the Cat Lady, and perform an amazing dive kick. Or how about you fish out Ice Man rock blasts with Captain Silver? And if you’re not whipping enemies around with Unknown Green’s plant arms, then why are you even alive? A piledriver is nice, but it’s nothing compared to the repertoire on display with this fighting force.

Oh, and if you’re confused about any of the inputs for these moves, they’re all clearly on display during the “upgrade your moves” screen at the end of each level.

And, uh, you can upgrade your moves. That’s pretty important. Probably deserves its own section…

Upgrade your Moves!

BABY!Captain Commando might have one leg up over its descendant: you can ride a robot. You can also score a missile launcher. Captain Commando is basically Golden Axe in a few weird respects, as riding creatures and nabbing interesting (and temporary) weapons is the name of the game (wait, did variable weapons happen in Golden Axe? Meh, I need to be awake to write this article, so I’ll skip replaying that one). Beat ‘em ups do get pretty monotonous pretty quick, so making a dash for that heavy artillery is a great way to spice things up (and send a few Scumocide henchmen to the great, flashing beyond).

The weapons and ridealongs are missing from Battle Circuit, but there are more than a few powerups scattered about. A special “battle download” capsule will temporarily boost your hunter’s stats, and, continuing the pattern of these distinct characters actually being distinct, each battle download works differently for each fighter. And, if we’re being honest, it probably is a lot more fun to suddenly leap around at double speed, or soak hits like it’s nothing, than ride a mech for a whole fifteen seconds.

And, for a little more longevity, any money or “points” found around the area can be exchanged for permanent powerups that enhance things like your beam weapons or special moves. Or you can expand your health! That can be a bit of a wallet-saver in a quarter killer, so maybe make a beeline for that upgrade. Regardless of how you’d like to cash-in, this simple upgrade system makes literally every object on the screen important, regardless of whether or not said object is currently punching you in the face. That’s no small feat for a genre that litters nondescript boxes and barrels all over the place like Jimmy’s Shipping and Crab Shack ™ was going out of business. And speaking of pickups…

Soup’s on!

SMACK 'EM GOODIn Captain Commando, when you find random food on the ground, it restores your health, and that’s that.

In Battle Circuit, when someone collects a meal, it restores health, and it makes an incredibly satisfying crunching/eating noise.

Battle Circuit is truly the culmination of all beat ‘em ups.

FGC #422 Captain Commando & Battle Circuit

  • System: Captain Commando was an arcade title first, and then a Super Nintendo title second. Very second. They dropped the mechs! That was the best part! No matter, even if ROB technically chose the Super Nintendo version for this article, the recently released Capcom Beat ‘em Up Bundle for Switch and PS4 contains both Captain Commando and Battle Circuit (in America for the first time!). Also, there was a Playstation (1) version of Captain Commando. I wonder how that turned out.
  • Number of players: Four? Let’s count all of the commandos, and a solid 80% of Team Battle Circuit. There are certainly enough “insert coin” messages flashing on the screen…
  • Captain Commando Memories: Somehow, I never saw the Captain Commando cabinet in an actual arcade. However, it did appear in a number of random hotel lobbies across I-95, so I did play the game for whole minutes at a time during family vacations. This is likely why I was excited about the Super Nintendo release, a feeling that was… misplaced.
  • Favorite Character: Baby Commando and Unknown the Hideous Plant Monster from Space should team up and, I don’t know, probably beat some dudes up.
  • Dance through the danger: Okay!
    Dance for me!

    Don’t mind if I do!
  • An End: Battle Circuit also has multiple endings! If you choose to fight the Master Control Program Shiva, you will face an incredibly brutal boss that is probably responsible for more deaths than the entire rest of the game combined. Meanwhile, if you choose to simply shatter the disc that contains Shiva… the game just ends. No bad ending, no “you did something wrong”, just a cute little ending that doesn’t require five bucks to access. That… is an odd choice.
  • Did you know? Yellow Iris/Beast inspired an alternate costume for Felicia in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This is an incredibly odd choice, as the fighting game that would probably most appeal to Americans (“There’s that Iron Man guy! From the movies!”) included paid DLC that honored a beat ‘em up that was never released in America in any capacity. Still, it’s nice to see someone remembers Battle Circuit other than Namco X Capcom.
  • Would I play again: Heck, why not? Either game is pretty alright, though Battle Circuit certainly has more replayability. Unfortunately, Captain Commando also tugs at my heartstrings, so it’s likely to see play again, too. Don’t make me choose between the past and the even-more-past!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Smash Bros! For no particular reason! Yep! Total coincidence! And there won’t be an extra-special guest artist for the article or anything! Nuh-uh! And this is almost entirely a lie! Which part isn’t? Well, guess you can find out next week. Please look forward to it!

What is even happening?

FGC #139 Mega Man

Let's Mega Man!Is Mega Man 1 any good?

This is a question my friends and I toss around on occasion. I used to be an avid defender of Mega Man 1, because it’s Mega Man, stupid, so it must be good. There really isn’t that much of a difference between Mega Man games, so what’s the confusion here? Run, jump, destroy Guts Man, the end. It’s good stuff.

Then Mega Man Legacy Collection was released. This wasn’t the first compilation of Mega Man games ever released, nor was it even the first time we’d seen a Mega Man rerelease in a while (seriously, I feel like I downloaded the 3DS Virtual Console version about two weeks before Legacy was announced), but it was the first time I played through the entire Mega Man NES library in rapid succession (almost like I was trying to get something done). Previously, I had always let Mega Man games “breathe”. Despite the fact that some of the entries can be completed in an hour or so, I always tried to space Mega Man games out by at least a day, either to properly enjoy and digest the experience, or perhaps just because I didn’t want to be reflexively reaching for a metal blade while tackling Toad Man. So, in my rush to play through all of Mega Man Legacy Collection as quickly as possible, I played through Mega Man, and, within a few hours, also played Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3.

And from that day forward, I have not been quiet about stating, in no uncertain terms, that Mega Man 1 is crap.

This is something that I’ve touched on in my own thinking for years. I maintain that Mega Man games are only ever “great” by the second or third release. Mega Man 2 is obvious, but its descendants like Mega Man Battle Network 2, Mega Man Zero 2, and even Mega Man ZX Advent are all great games primarily because they scrapped or reformatted features from their ancestors until only an impeccable play experience remained. The only Mega Man game that bucks this trend is Mega Man X, and I’d argue that that only happened because it’s much more of a direct Mega Man descendant than any of the spinoffs. Like Miyamoto and Yoshi, I can totally see Inafune implementing a number of brilliant ideas for Mega Man X that had been kicking around his noggin for years, but were unable to be realized on the NES hardware. Something like Mega Man Battle Network, though, needed a few tweaks before it hit that same echelon.

And that’s why I think Mighty No. 9 is doomed. …. Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right, Mega Man 1. So, yeah, while I always acknowledged that Mega Man 1 was no Mega Man 2/3, it’s only recently that I’ve come around to the concept that Mega Man 1 might be just plain not worth it. Like, it’s not a bad game, but DODGEthere’s a reason every one of these articles ends with “Would I play again?” I can acknowledge that Final Fantasy 2 (JP) or Dragon Warrior are games that set the standard for genres that are still healthy(ish) today, but I’m pretty sure I’m never going to tromp through Palamecia ever again. You’ve seen one monster closet or cursed belt, you’ve seen ‘em all. By the same token, every second spent fighting Guts Man is time I could be spending with Guts Tank, so why play the “lesser” game?

Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to objectively look at a video game. Even the simplest NES titles have so many moving pieces that I am completely incapable of looking at one piece of a game as overwhelmingly terrible (glitched, floating, shooting Ice Man platforms) without also comparing it to something that I enjoy (nothing like a slippery hallway full of penguin bots). At best, I can compare a game to other games like it, and hope that a certain level of “no, I like A better than B” will take hold.

So, I can compare Mega Man 1 to Mega Man 2. No, that’s a terrible idea. Mega Man 1 is a band’s first demo tape, Mega Man 2 is the studio album with an experienced producer. You can see the influences, but comparing the two objectively is going to be a pretty inevitable curb stomp for one party. UGH No, comparing Mega Man 1 to its remarkable successor is a poor choice. Hm… perhaps I should compare Mega Man 1 to other… ones.

Mega Man wasn’t the only hero to start an empire on the NES, so maybe we can take a look at other “first” games, and see how Mega Man 1 compares. Let’s start with…

Super Mario Bros. singlehandedly revitalized gaming… and it’s basically the reason I’m even considering giving up Mega Man 1. Super Mario Bros. is a great game! It is masterfully crafted and designed from top to bottom to be not only fun, but also teach 2-D platforming in general. It’s iconic for a reason, and, what’s more, it sold about a million Nintendo Systems, too.

It also contains the Hammer Bros. Without a fire flower handy, I have snuck past the Hammer Bros unmolested… maybe twice? And that one bro guarding (final) Bowser? Bane of my existence.

That’s not any fun. What is fun is transforming into a flying raccoon, riding a dinosaur, or even hurling vegetables. I’d argue that every single other Mario game is more fun than Super Mario Bros, so why waste my time on the original? This doesn’t make SMB a bad game, simply an unnecessary one, as it has a complete lack of cat suits.

(And “The Lost Levels” doesn’t count, as that’s clearly an expansion pack for SMB.)

The Legend of Zelda sits on the other end of the Nintendo spectrum. Despite all later Zelda games improving on LOZ’s gameplay, the original You see, because... oh never mindis still a damn fun experience. While one could argue that much of the LOZ franchise has gotten away from the original’s overhead sword ‘em up adventure model, we’ve still got A Link to the Past, which really is “Super Legend of Zelda” in every way. Regardless, LoZ still offers an unprecedented level of freedom completely absent from its descendants, and a few bosses/challenges that have not been reprised in later editions. I’m basically down for a game of Legend of Zelda whenever, and I’m a lot more likely to hit its delightful aesthetics than some of its 80 hour brethren.

Speaking of which, there’s Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy is an odd duck, because, were you to ask me if I would ever play the NES version ever again, I would immediately deny any and all impulses to fire up that old clunker. I’ve only ever played through Final Fantasy, start to finish, once. That said, I’ve also played through Final Fantasy Origins (PSX), Final Fantasy Advance (GBA), and Final Fantasy (PSP). And I think the PSP version got a second play as a Vita download. Aside from Final Fantasy 4, I’ve probably played through more versions of Final Fantasy than any other Final Fantasy game, and, given I seem to keep doing it, I must enjoy something from the experience.

But, all that said, I don’t want to deal with “spell charges” or “no saves in caves” ever again. Even if I felt like relying on aging Nintendo hardware to preserve my game progress from Garland to Chaos, I doubt I’ll ever play the original Final Fantasy again, because it’s another game that was only improved in later versions… just, in this case, the later versions are a cavalcade of remakes. Mega Man 1 only seems to have one or two remakes (Genesis and PSP), and neither particularly “replace” the original game.

Speaking of games that are remade constantly, there’s Castlevania, the eternal story of a leather-clad sadist and his clearly masochistic partner. He just keeps coming back for more! The original quest of Simon Belmont has been remade in a number of ways over the years, but those games may as well have been sequels (or actually are?). Pre-Metroidvania days, Castlevania heroes were generallyBrrrr interchangeable, and, ultimately, it didn’t matter if it was Simon, Richter, or Eric battling the legions of batness. So the original Castlevania established a template that would be used for years… but Castlevania III is right there. Like, there is not a single way that Castlevania III doesn’t improve over the original Castlevania, and it has a pirate! And, if you want to game the password system, you can play 90% of the game as a bat. Castlevania is another great start, but it was eclipsed by Trevor Belmont faster than some sort of flying mammalian creature escaping an inferno of some kind.

Arguably, there’s one franchise on the Nintendo that’s phenomenal and probably contains the gameplay closest to a Mega Man experience. I’m talking about Wizards and Warriors.

Hahaha, no, that franchise sucks. I’m not playing any of those ever again.

No, a game that really hues closest to the Mega Man formula and also started on the NES is Contra. Contra is unmistakably a game I will play again, and primarily because there’s nothing like it, even within its own universe. Yes, on the surface level, Contra is a simple, run ‘n gun game where you’re tasked with destroying an army of alien backpackers, but on a deeper level, Contra is a perfectly calibrated game where your offensive and defensive tools are seamlessly suited to the task. With the possible exception of the proto-flamethrower, there is not a piece out of place in the original Contra. Whether you’re battling a wall with a glowing weak point or Ocular Fire, you’ve got the right tools for the job available, and it’s just a matter of you using all your skills to get there with Spread intact.

Too hot to handSo… maybe that’s my answer? Like, I can safely say that I’d rather play Mega Man than Super Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, or Castlevania, but Contra? Contra just nails it in every conceivable way, and it’s primarily because every round hole in that game has a matching round peg. I’ve been battling those Hammer Bros. for thirty years, and I still can’t find the exact solution for those dorks. Same for the Marsh Cave. Same for Drac’s Catacombs. There are chunks of those classic games I’d rather avoid, and I don’t feel that way about Contra at all.

Mega Man is a great game, but it’s also got CWU-01P, boss rematches without life refills, and far too many reasons to exploit the Magnet Beam. It also has Wily and his Yellow Devil, two (2.5?) bosses that, without the Elec glitch, are just slogs. And let us never forget Mega Man’s terminal velocity drops. Mega Man 1 has got a lot of problems, and almost all of them are fixed almost immediately in later games.

It’s all steak, but Mega Man has a lot of fat. I think I’ll stick to the lean cuts.

FGC #139 Mega Man

  • System: NES. Also available on every console generation that has ever been.
  • Number of players: There are enough color variations of Mega Man as is, let’s not add a Luigi into the mix.
  • Favorite Robot Master: Ice Man is one of the few RMs to “blow” his signature weapon, which was very popular in the NES days (BowserBrrrrrr breathes fire), but doesn’t make much sense when a number of your characters have obvious “arm blasters”. Ice Man has also always looked adorable in his little parka, too, so bonus points there.
  • Least Favorite Robot Master: Bomb Man took, what, seven seconds to design? He’s a guy holding a bomb! Awesome! Let’s go to lunch.
  • Did you know? Keiji Inafune did not invent Mega Man, he simply “inherited” the Blue Bomber from the previous project lead. He was primarily responsible for the best Mega Man games, though, so you’d be forgiven for not making the distinction. If you want to credit Inafuking with creating a character, you may look no further than his beloved Zero.
  • Would I play again? Go read the article again!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Actraiser for the SNES! Ah, I promise not to forget all the little people when I ascend to the heavens and start accidentally earthquaking civilizations back to the Stone Age. Please look forward to it!