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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 #090 Dance Dance Revolution: Konamix

Show me your moves!I’m not one to encourage violence, but I want you to do something for me: any time someone tells you they know what’s coming next in gaming, you punch them square in the face. I don’t care if this is your friend, game dealer, or hundred year old granny, you get that negative reinforcement going, and punch ‘em right in the gob. It’s the only way people are going to learn.

Granted, I may be a little hypocritical here. No, I didn’t learn this listen thanks to a swift blow to the teeth, I learned it via the most popular pastime of 2002: Dance Dance Revolution.

Dance Dance Revolution came out of nowhere at approximately the turn of the millennium, and completely conquered the arcades. It’s almost impossible to describe to someone who didn’t live through it… Well, I suppose first you’d have to explain what an “arcade” even is… and that you used to be able to find them in these places called “malls”, which were like Amazon, but you had to walk all over the place and sometimes you got a cinnamon bun, which was a rolled up ball of dough sweetened with delightful amounts of sugar. So you’d get hyped up on your flavored dough wad, and then you’d beat your sneakers (a style of shoe popular with people capable of walking away from the computer) over to the arcade (like the mobile app store, but with a crappier return on investment, and more human interaction possibilities) to play Dance Dance Revolution (point of this article) with your friends (like your Xbox buddies, but with more mundane names, and maybe sneakers). It was an amazing time to be alive!

Alright, I know I’m being facetious, because I’m pretty sure even eight year olds can identify DDR arcade “cabinets”. Likely due to their gigantic arcade footprint, they’ve become a sort of cultural icon that appears in television shows (mostly animated) well past the point that anyone really cared about the games. It’s kind of like the amazing, super-dynamic computer GUIs that “hackers” employ in movies: shows need something that says “video games are happening”, but is still visually interesting, and isn’t just located on the living room set. Come to think of it, I want to say I’ve seen DDR (or an off-brand simulation) in a million shows, but never once have I seen anything like the iconic “mats” anywhere but directly under my own feet.

Show me some more moves!Yes, see? Here’s something the kids today might not know about: Dance Dance Revolution had home versions (many of them! There was one with Mario!), and, in order to play the game at home, you had to purchase a soft mat that simulated the hard dance pad of the arcade. Want two players? Two mats. And at a time when Playstation games averaged about $40, any extra hardware seemed like a tremendous expense (… though this may be my own memory as a broke college student overriding any actual values). It’s funny to think about the mat today, as we haven’t seen such a peripheral since, while, at the time, it didn’t seem all that divorced from the NES Power Pad, a similar device that was supposed to inspire kids to get up and exercise with their favorite games… but mostly led to everyone just crouching and playing the floor like a pair of bongos to get the highest score on the long jump. So, yes, anyone that wanted the “home experience” for DDR was in for a pretty costly investment, but shell out the bucks, and then you too… could look like an idiot in front of your friends.

That was always the other thing about Dance Dance Revolution: you looked like a jackass. The whole point of DDR was to stomp on different arrows on the mat in their proper cardinal directions. Up, down, left right: all pretty straightforward, and usually there was an up/down or left/right combination that made you jump on both directions simultaneously. It was, Dancing Machineaccording to the title and premise of the game, supposed to make you dance, but… well… let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend busting out those moves at the club. I’m sure that some people are capable of getting a perfect score while elegantly pirouetting across the pad, but my friends and I always looked like inebriated walruses flopping in some semblance of the beat. If a veterinarian had wandered into the den during Dynamite Rave, I have no doubt that one of us would have been tranqed and dragged back to the zoo to spend the rest of our days grazing with the hippos. Everyone involved, however, was completely aware of this fact, so it wasn’t like when your buddy tried to play Virtual Boy without the stand and is lost his job because his boss grossly misinterpreted what was going on in that picture. In retrospect, it seems almost like a mass hallucination: we all agreed this was fun, and, despite still having eyeballs, we let it slide that everyone involved was suddenly a flailing orangutan. And, yes, the internet had been invented at that point, so we had all the modern mocking conveniences we have now.

And this is all just a really roundabout way of saying that DDR was a singular, completely illogical flash in the pan of gaming that seemed amazing for about a console generation and a half, and then gave up forever. Nobody, once, said that the next big fad in gaming would be pretend-dancing, and, arguably, nothing descended from the DDR craze, either. Yes, today we have Just Dance and similar Kinect games that allow the player to get their workout/dance-on through following rigid, onscreen instructions, but Dance Dance Revolution always had more in common with Parappa the Rapper than wobbling along to I don't understand...Jason Derulo/Han Solo songs. Ultimately, the Guitar Hero/Rock Band fad I can understand, because everybody wants to be a rockstar. The Wii Sports fad I can understand, because everybody wants to be a professional bowler. Dance Dance Revolution, though? Everybody wants to flail around on the dance floor? Who would have expected Konami to get more attention with its stomping simulator than the game where you can turn into a bat?

So go ahead and tell me that you know the next big thing in gaming. Virtual reality? Mobile gaming? Cloud-based game sharing? If DDR taught us anything, it’s that the next big fad could be a snake charming simulation that comes with its own plastic flute peripheral, and no one would bat an eye.

Nobody knows what’s coming next in gaming, and that’s just fine. Prepare to be astonished, because that surprise? Well, it’s a little better than a punch to the face.

Note: Gogglebob.com and Goggle Bob himself do not actually condone punching anyone in the face. It is an exaggeration of an action for the sake of hyperbole, and should not actually be attempted. Violence is bad, and not just because Goggle Bob cannot take a punch.

FGC #90 Dance Dance Revolution: Konamix

  • System: Playstation 1. Incidentally, I don’t remember the specifics of how these things work, but I couldn’t get my PS1 Dance Pad to work with the Playstation 2, so all screen shots are off a PS2 just using a controller. However, I did play the game “for real” on an original Playstation 1 for this article, just don’t have a capture device hooked up to that one. I know this is something you are interested in knowing.
  • Number of players: Two, the only way to play DDR. I realize it’s an expense to own two dance mats, Good numberbut maybe you can convince your friend to buy one, and then you can share.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Konamix is the “Best of” of the Playstation era DDR games… and the only other two games were the original and Disney Mix… and no Disney songs appear in this game. Okay, so it’s a “Best of” of the various arcade editions of the time, and I swear I used to know which versions had my favorite songs, but that knowledge has long since escaped my brain (thankfully). This leaves me with barely any memory of what makes Konamix so special, aside from the fact that it came out at the end of the PSX’s lifespan, and is made redundant by every PS2 DDR release. Can that be its claim to fame? That it’s completely forgettable, and “just another DDR game”? I’m going to go with that.
  • Favorite Song: End of the Century, which, at its core, is a crazy techno/rap remix of Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee. I don’t even know how such a thing should be allowed to exist, but here it is, and it’s a pretty fun chart to actually play.
  • Did you know? Dance Dance Immolation. Have you ever heard of it? Look it up. It’s… probably not what you’d expect, but it is properly named.
  • Would I play again: I’m going to just say no. I’m not getting rid of my dance pads anytime soon (because I’m a hoarder), but, like Guitar Hero or Karaoke Revolution, that extra barrier of “you have to pull out the right toy to play” prevents me from actually doing anything, and I just wind up playing Castlevania 3 again. Sorry, DDR, I finally have a gaming area large enough to entertain a dance off, but nobody feels like getting off the couch.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… M*A*S*H for the Atari. What? WHAT?! ROB, are your circuits crossed? I don’t think that’s actually a thing. It is? Alright, guess I’ll play it. Please look forward to it!

Radical

FGC #011 Lucha Libre: Héroes del Ring

No damn ideaVideo Games owes Wrestling an apology.

If there is a form of entertainment that seems tailored to translate to video games, it’s modern day professional wrestling. Larger than life characters, endless rivalries, a different “favorite” for every fan? From Hulk Hogan to The Rock, there are just generations of wrestlers and wrestling plots to pull from for the ideal video game. Unfortunately, we’re more likely to see a video game based on Sonic the Hedgehog’s trigger happy doppelganger than a critically acclaimed wrestling game. What happened here?

Well, first of all, pretty much every wrestling game going back to the NES controls about as well as Andre the Giant’s ass. I often use Super Smash Bros. and its descendants as the standard for “competitive game with easy to learn controls”, and, if pressed, I would put nearly any wrestling game on the complete opposite side of the scale. The game that prompted this article, Lucha Libre Héroes del Ring, features fighters that have difficulty just running towards their opponents, coupled with a pathological fear of getting back in the ring. Can I get a gif of that nonsense?

What is even happening here?

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Keep in mind the opponent there is an AI, and it is having problems just keeping its avatar in the squared circle.

There’s two absolutely important things in any competitive video game: the ability to effectively and meaningfully control your team, and a clear, achievable victory condition. Most wrestling games completely fail in both objectives simultaneously, as I have yet to play a wrestling game where pinning your opponent (the most obvious, straight forward victory even your old granny understands) is anything but some weird combination of buttons, timing, and luck. Say what you will about button mashing and modern fighters, but you could win a game just by smushing the weakest attack button over and over, and, eventually, your opponent will succumb. In a wrestling game? Forget about it. You’ll spend half the match trying to properly identify the “hold” button, and failing to even realize you’ve found it because you did it too close to the turnbuckle and your athlete decided to climb the damn thing and stick his ear out for some reason. What does that even mean!?

Get it?  Nothing?  Alright.And, to be clear, I’m not saying that games with complicated controls are inherently bad, quite the contrary, I’m ramping up to praise the franchise that introduced “rotate the controller 720 degrees and then hit three buttons at once”, but there’s a difference between “easy to learn, difficult to master” and “I’d love to play this game with you, but please read this complete FAQ first otherwise you have no hope of winning.” It is almost understandable in a two player game, but when a game asks for four people to grab controllers, well, if one player has difficulty understanding the exact methods to perform simple moves, forget about it when your fourth player is Ted’s visiting friend from the country. Mario Kart is right there, and everybody understands karts, right?

But, yes, aside from impenetrable controls and victory conditions, why haven’t wrestling games dominated the landscape like Smash Bros, Madden, or other successful franchises? Pretty simple answer: fighting games have stolen everything popular about wrestling without involving any of that messy “wrestling”. First of all, and most obviously, you have a huge cast of colorful characters all wailing on each other because they believe violence is literally going to solve all their problems. Chun-Li is investigating her father’s murder through street fighting, you know, as you do. Second, you’ve got endless rivalries and team ups based on the most tenuous of reasons. Scorpion and Sub-Zero are bitter rivals, except now they’re sworn to protect each other, no, wait, rivals again, and now they’re both gonna be solo acts as Sub-Zero dons Shredder armor and Scorpion gets a part time job with the gods. And, third, the face-heel/heel-face turns are myriad. Litchi Faye Ling is formerly with a shadow organization, oh, turns out that organization is good, and Litchi has decided to join a golden faced puppet master with the bad guys… but wait! She’s only doing it all to save her ex-boyfriend who accidentally turned himself in a blob. What was that? Point is, she’s tag teaming with The Undertaker now, don’t really need to know more than that.

Throw all these story-telling elements into a blender, hit the “forever” button, and you’ve got the makings of the WWF (… not the World Wide Fund for Nature… unless you include Alex the Boxing Raptor), or whatever we’re calling Big Wrestling this week. In a way, the main reason capital W Wrestling can’t get a foothold in the gaming market is because each and every fighting game released since Street Fighter 2 has created its own league, with its own stars and stories, and the mundane, “human” world of real professional wrestling can just never compare to worlds where a chubby blonde with mutant hair can battle a robo feline with a penchant for punnery.

You tell 'em, Skeleman!And it stings most of all in a game like this. Lucha Libre Héroes del Ring is a wrestling game sponsored by a professional luchadore wrestling association straight out of Mexico. You could not get a more colorful collection of characters together in real life. The Ryu of this game is a fellow named Abismo Negro, who is a big dancing skeleton. Do you know how many games should feature dancing skeletons? The answer is: all of them. It is the entire reason Dry Bones was introduced to the Mario universe. And it gets even weirder from there: there is a character literally named Murder Clown. And he works with a guy named Zombie Clown! And Electroshock, which I’m sure conjures up images of a third rate Spider-Man villain, but, nope, he dresses like Inside-Out Boy for whatever inexplicable reason. There are pages of Wikipedia data on these guys, because, yeah, you need an explanation for why anyone would go by the alias of “Charly Manson”.

And the sad thing? No one gives a damn. It is… neat… to deal with a murder clown (sorry, should that be capitalized?), but Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe features a murder clown AND multiple guys who can shoot lasers from their eyes, sexy ninja assassins, and a former president in flying battle armor. Professional wrestling, no matter the country of origin, just can’t compete in the virtual world, where zombie clowns are usually the third enemy you blow to pieces before moving on to more interesting targets. It’s making the poor skeleman weep.

So Video Games stole everything that makes Professional Wrestling interesting, picked the bones clean, and left the corpse out in the rain to rot with its lame controls. Two generally violent mediums, and one destroys the other with nary a punch thrown. You don’t even have to wait to hear the three count.

FGC #11 Lucha Libre: Héroes del Ring

  • System: PS3 in this case, but Xbox 360 is still available… somewhere. I’m sure.
  • Number of Players: 4, and good luck getting three other people to play this game over anything else available.
  • Best Wrestler: Clearly Extreme Tiger, as he appears to be horrifying and pettable all at the same time.
  • Create-a-Character Any Good? It’s fairly limited, but you can also make an outrageous walking Christmas tree of a man to combat the likes of Super Fly, so it’s kind of a wash.
  • Did You Know? This game was also intended for Wii (okay, makes sense) DS and PSP (whoa, what?). Unfortunately, I think I accounted for about 33% of the sales for the PS3 version, so no one bothered with the ports.
  • Why did you buy this game, anyway? Dancing skeleton.
    Go Go Skeleman
  • Would I Play Again? The odds are really low. Maybe for a quick, “Hey guys, check out this nonsense.”

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Ha. If you can believe it, that stupid hunk of plastic chose Double Dragon again. I’m going to have to look at the odds of that actually happening… Second choice… Otomedius Excellent. Oh my, I suppose I have to admit I own this game…. Please look forward to it!