One of my first holidays without my parents was in a small fishing village. One day, I remember sitting in my pyjamas with incredible excitement because there was a new channel appearing on the TV and they were new pyjamas.
Channel 5. A fifth channel. The trailers for the channel promised me everything. In no particular order, my obsessions were cartoons, cute blonde girls with a fringe, Sonic, Mario and re-runs of Bad Influence and Games Master. I was wrong to assume these would be catered for.
So instead I went to the village and came across a haunted-looking shop. Back then, as a 10-year-old, I was never told not to trust strange men ushering me into small dark rooms at the back of a shop. But usher he did, and with him I went. In this backroom was, fortunately not a childhood trauma, but the absolute antithesis: a Street Fighter II pinball machine. I played pinball for a million hours every day like I was trying to film the origin story of Tommy. My hormones were cusping puberty so I had a fondness for when Chun-Li coyly said “Keep your hands to yourself please” when I hit one of her bumpers.
After I got bored, I noticed an arcade machine which said MIDWAY on it and most of the player 2 buttons were broken. It had only been a couple of years, but I had totally forgotten how much I loved playing these games, and Capcom’s Final Fight reawakened an obsession that has yet to disappear. At the time I didn’t have an arcade anywhere near my house, and I couldn’t drive because of my drinking problem. No, I mean because I was ten. Fortunately for today’s ten-year-olds, Capcom has released a collection of its best Beat ’em Ups in the Capcom Beat ’Em Up Bundle. If you hate ‘em’ as much as Machine Gun Kelly and you want to beat ‘em’ up, this is the place to be.
The games included are
- Final Fight
- Captain Commando
- The King of Dragons
- Knights of the Round
- Warriors of Fate
- Armored Warriors
- Battle Circuit
These games span almost a decade of increasingly surreal beat ’em ups in different genres. Final Fight you will recognise as some men on a street beating up some men but it gets more surreal. The variety includes an adaptation of King Arthur’s story in Knights of the Round, a typical ‘fuck you China’ game based in Japanese History and a lot of delightful but weird mech-based games. There’s no word for the feeling of playing as a little baby in charge of a mech and punching other mechs to pieces. I mean there probably is in Japanese, but it’s very satisfying.
The gameplay will seem very similar if you don’t like them, but from Final Fight onwards showed an incredible amount of creativity. This self-contained evolution of this almost lost style of game is enthusiastic and proud of itself. I highly recommend giving Battle Circuit a spin because it is very unusual, and the most recent, so it feels incredibly creative and advanced.
The controls barely feel aged and the music is amazing. There are a few frustrating moments, for example in Warriors of Fate when you have to rotate the arcade stick and smash a button to eat as many Bao as you can fit in your face, there is no translation to what those buttons might be on your controller, causing my Samurai guy to go hungry.
I’m glad I’d started feeling guilty for pawing at Chun-Li’s bumpers, and started playing Capcom’s Final Fight instead, it really did cement a lifelong love. I feel sorry for people trapped in Portballintrae nowadays, where they might be forced to stay inside watching Netflix and not discovering little shops where they would have a 50/50 chance of being murdered in a back room. The sticky broken buttons, the smell of the Sprite, the 20p-a-go arcade machines; it’s gone now and it was barely there at the time. With the Capcom Beat ’Em Up Bundle, we can keep the genre alive in our hearts, and spill our Sprite over our own buttons.
Capcom Beat ’Em Up Bundle (Switch)
Disclaimer: NerdSocket strongly recommends against going into the back room of a haunted shop with an old man if you are a ten-year-old boy (or girl). But if there is a pinball machine it’s fine.
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