|The YS Complete Guide To Beat-'em-ups|
|Published in the May 1990 YS53 issue|
Advanced Ninja Simulator Barbarian Bruce Lee International Karate Kung Fu Master Target Renegade Way Of The Exploding Fist
Beat-'em-ups, eh? There've been oodles of them gracing the Speccy over
the years, haven't there? So many in fact that it's easy-peasy to get your
Exploding Fists mixed up with your International Karates and end up
with absolutely no idea where you are. But not any more,
'cos here's the Definitive Guide To Beat-'Em-Ups.
Before we start, let's get one thing straight - beat-'em-ups are not boring, and if you think they are then you've got it all wrong. On the contrary, they're jolly interesting. And, rather than all being exactly the same, they're highly individual affairs, each with their own subtleties and nuances. To assume otherwise exhibits a total ignorance of the creativity and skill that go into making what has become one of the stalwarts of the computer games industry.
So what constitutes a 'beat-'em-up'?
Obviously, the beating up of one or more characters is an essential part of the gameplay. Whether this is done with one's hands or a weapon depends on the game. Purists tend to frown upon the use of shurikens, big sticks and other instruments, but it's a sad fact that in these days you're unlikely to rescue your princess without some sort of mechanical assistance. The setting is also important. The summit of Mount Yukahomo is ideal, or perhaps the imperial palace of the Dragon Master, but an oriental atmosphere is a definite must.
In its traditional form the beat-'em-up takes place on a single screen, with your opponents tackling you one at a time. Variations, however, include the scrolling beat-'em-up (with the bonus of tackling two or more adversaries at once) and the full scale flip-screen, multi-level version with add-on weapons, puzzles to solve and an embossment of up to three initials. Whichever incarnation it appears in, a beat-'em-up is not to be taken lightly. A sharp eye, lightning reflexes and an elephantine memory (for learning all those moves) are needed, along with the finest joystick available.
THE FIRST EVER BEAT-'EM-UP
"That's easy," you exclaim. "Way Of The Exploding Fist!" But you'd be wrong. The first-ever beat-'em-up, the father of them all, the seed from which all future offerings stemmed forth, and of which all others are but pale imitations, was none other than Kung Fu, from a long-forgotten label called Bug-Byte.
A very primitive construction, it had all the ingredients of the real thing (including tinkly music). The rest, as they say, is, erm... oh, well you know.
As beat-'em-ups tend to transcend all normal ratings systems, we've adopted a special one for the purposes of this guide. The categories are as follows...
The game that launched a
thousand others. Known simply as Fist to its millions of
fans, this laid the foundations for all that were to follow, and without
doubt remains the most famous beat-'em-up of all time.
While being a shameful copy of
Fist in most ways, International Karate
managed to introduce a few novel features. The main one was the 'International'
bit, which means that the game is played against a series of backdrops
representing various parts of the world. Then there was speech, which is
about as successful as always on the Speccy. And finally the bonus
Bruce Lee comes
from roughly the same era as Fist, but shows its age
rather more severely. Apart from just beating people up. Bruce has to
dash about collecting lamps and avoiding being killed by various
hazards. The game takes place in a multi-screen fortress, the object
being to destroy a wizard on the last screen.
It was inevitable that, given
the piles of money everyone else was making out of them, the cheapie
labels would have a crack at the beat-'em-ups too. And, of course, the
results were quite horrendous. With the bare minimum of moves, appalling
graphics, dreadful music and complete lack of any fresh ideas. Advanced
Ninja Simulator is about as typical a budget game as you're
likely to get.
I'm probably wrong, but I'd say
Kung Fu Master was the first scrolling beat-'em-up to
arrive on the scene, and possibly even the first conversion of an arcade
beat-'em-up. It's also absolutely terrible (and no question there).
Now we're talking. Although
there isn't a single kimono or droopy moustache in sight, and swords
rather than hands are used for carving people up, Barbarian
is easily the most agonisingly painful game ever released. There's blood
literally everywhere, with continuous slaughter the order of the day.
the Renegade series avoided the stereotypical martial
arts confrontation, and instead went for a modern-day 'street' setting.
It still comes out on top.
It's not as hard as it looks actually. Here are a few essential ingredients...
Like so many other great moves, the Roundhouse first came to light in Fist. That classic blend of balletic poetry and jaw-breaking power makes it a manoeuvre for all occasions.
The Sweeping Kick
This it the standard move for success in Kung Fu Master, and demonstrates what can be achieved just by waving your leg around in the direction of the foe.
This move is unique to the Renegade series, and can cause some alarm when you find your shoulders gripped by one baddie while another lays into you from the front. However, careful placement of elbows and feet can turn the tables in your favour.
The satisfying result of a cunningly-timed neck-chop during a game of Barbarian is the removal of the enemy's head, which can be greatly to your advantage.
(Apart from quite a few probably)
Big Trouble in Little China/Electric Dreams
Bruce Lee/US Gold
Double Dragon/Melbourne House
Double Dragon II/Melbourne House
Exploding Fist/Melbourne House
Fighting Warrior/Melbourne House
Fist II/Melbourne House
Human Killing Machine/US Gold
International Karate/System 3
International Karate II/System 3
Kendo Warrior/Byte Back
Kung Fu/Bug Byte
Kung Fu Knights/Top Ten Software
Kung Fu Master/US Gold
Last Ninja II/System 3
Legend Of Kage/Imagine
Legend Of The Amazon Women/US Gold
Samurai Trilogy/Gremlin Graphics
Shao Lins Road/The Edge
Street Hassle/Melbourne House
Way Of The Exploding Fist/Melbourne House
Way Of The Tiger/Gremlin Graphics
Yie Ar Kung Fu/Imagine
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