Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle Review
A punching and kicking tour through the side-scrolling genre Capcom helped build.
Today, Capcom is probably better known for franchises such as Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Mega Man and Monster Hunter but the company has a rich history and has contributed much to the industry. One of those contributions is undoubtedly in the beat ’em up genre. In 1987 Capcom released Street Fighter on arcade machines which set the stage and many conventions for the fighting genre. Side-scrolling beat ’em ups emerged with titles like Renegade, Double Dragon and Golden Axe but the genre’s leap into the mainstream was helped by Capcom’s Final Fight, a game that began its development as a sequel to Street Fighter. As such it acts as a good entry point into the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle: a side-scrolling history tour through the genre.
Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle collects seven of the company’s most iconic side-scrolling beat ’em ups in one place for you to play. Each lasts about one hour and each can be played with up to 3 players with the exception of Final Fight, Captain Commando and Battle Circuit. Final Fight supports two players while the other two can host up to four.
Final Fight (1989)
The Mayor of Metro City, and former pro-wrestler, Mike Haggar’s daughter is kidnapped by the Mad Gear gang and it’s up to him, his daughter’s lover, Cody, and Cody’s friend, Guy, to save the day.
Final Fight introduces Capcom’s clean two-button system which makes it an incredibly simple entry into the genre. Players choose between the three characters and dispose of a flurry of thugs, using attacking or jumping. Press attack many times and you’ll perform a combo, while walking into enemies will allow you to perform a grab move using one of the two buttons. Pressing both buttons simultaneously will trigger a special move which does more damage at the cost of player health.
Weapons and health bonuses will spawn from destroyed barrels, crates and fallen enemies giving you better odds of getting through the six stages, each with their own boss fight, on your way to the final big bad.
Final Fight sets up essentially what is the same structure for every single game in this collection. You’ll move from left to right, fight enemies until the game tells you to continue and pick up random items/weapons, which give you points or health or experience until you reach the end of stage boss. Rinse and repeat.
The King of Dragons (1991)
In The King of Dragons you choose from one of five playable characters, on a quest to take down the mighty red dragon, Gildiss. You can choose from the Fighter, Dwarf, Elf, Cleric and Wizard, each with their own unique special attack.
The interesting thing about The King of Dragons is its RPG-like leveling system, where enemy kills score points which add to your xp bar, resulting in regular level climbs and upgraded weapon pick-ups.
The King of Dragons treads very familiar ground with its Dungeons & Dragons coat of paint. Enemies include orcs, harpies, minotaurs and wyverns. Because of this, at least in 2018, The King of Dragons ends up being one of the dullest entries in the bundle but I can appreciate the shift between this, Final Fight before it and Captain Commando after.
Captain Commando (1991)
Captain Commando sends us back to… forward to a future version of Metro City in 2026. The city is once again run by criminals and Captain Commando, our blue hero, sets out to save Earth and the galaxy along with three super companions: Mack, Ginzu and Baby Head (a really strange robot hero piloted by a baby).
This time most of the weapons are firearms and can be carried to new areas. New to this game too are mounts: certain robots can be rid of their pilots and stolen do some serious damage to the bio-mutant enemies.
The futuristic setting allows for much more interesting level and enemy design with some really cool boss fights and weapons, however, I found the playable characters to be really imbalanced, some with a clear advantage over others.
Knights of the Round (1991)
Knights of the Round returns to medieval fantasy loosely following the Arthurian Legends, giving players the choice between King Arthur, Prince Lancelot and Perceval the Knight on a quest by Merlin to take down the evil king Garibaldi.
While I found the medieval setting to once again bring only more dull environments and enemies, the animation and combat system stand strong. The game focuses on a block/parry system whereby players can block an attack by pressing the attack button and moving away from an enemy, which not only nullifies the attack but momentarily makes you invulnerable, allowing you to seize that opportunity with a devastating counter blow. Attack animations carry an anime-esque flair to them and I enjoyed taking out every foe.
Similar to The King of Dragons, Knights of the Round has a leveling system which sees players automatically equip upgraded weapons and armor.
Warriors of Fate (1992)
Acting as the sequel to Capcom’s 1989 title, Dynasty Wars, players take control of one of the famous Five Tiger Generals in an effort to fell the evil overlord, Akkila-Orkhan, who is invading neighboring kingdoms and bringing them to ruin.
The game is interesting in that it tells the story of the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, using the manga of Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a basis. However, in the Western release this theme is buried and the baddie is changed from the historical warlord, Cao Cao, to the fictional Akkila-Orkhan.
Another interesting aspect is the use of horseback fighting. Several times throughout the game, players will have the option of taking out spearmen, wrestlers, bandits and thieves from horseback, adding to players’ attack power.
Bosses, enemies, environments and animations are pretty solid and I really enjoyed the historical aspect of this title, making it one of my preferred inclusions of the bundle.
Armored Warriors (1994)
We jump ahead a few years and titles with a war between the United Earth Government and the Principalities of Raia in Armored Warriors. On an alien world, you uncover a horrifying conspiracy requiring the need to bring the planet under Earth’s control.
Players choose between four different mechs, suited for combat, range, rush attacks or absorbing damage, with an really interesting system that allows you to swap out parts of your mech while playing. This gives access to different movements and attacks, injecting the same two-button attack and clear-the-room gameplay with some excellent dynamism, forcing on-the-fly decision making and a whole lot of fun.
This system was used again in Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness, a 1995 fighting game released in Japan for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation.
Battle Circuit (1997)
Battle Circuit is by far the most bizarre game in the bundle and was Capcom’s last arcade beat ’em up. It seems as if it was conceived by several different people, at different times, in different places, all under the influence of something. It sports the same core mechanics as seen in all the other games, but has such a strange cast of characters, enemies and locales that I was constantly staring at the screen with a WTF? look on my face.
Set in an alternate future earth world, you play as bounty hunters chasing down the mad scientist, Dr. Saturn in an attempt to take back a computer disk carrying the nefarious “Shiva System”.
You can choose to play as Cyber Blue: a cybernetic hunter, Captain Silver: a Mr. Fantastic-a-like warrior able to stretch and shape himself to suit the situation, Yellow Iris: a half beast half fashion model with a whip and a pet fox, Pink Ostrich: a sentient pink ostrich with an eye-patch and rider, and finally, Alien Green: a Venus flytrap-like alien with root legs, vine arms and a giant eye.
The characters aren’t the only strange aspects of the game. Enemies include giant amazonian warriors who control flying jellyfish, hardcore biker women who attempt to run you over on the beach, wrestlers and robots. One level in particular had me fighting bad guys on floating plates, inside a pyramid, pulled through the air by dogs tied to giant forks, pawing at the darkness.
So what have Capcom added in terms of modern conveniences? Not much really. You have unlimited lives, but can change this in settings. You can choose from a few different wallpaper options for each game, save anytime and it has the option for online or local multiplayer, although I suggest local multiplayer as online is not nearly as much fun as playing with someone in the same room, nor does it always work smoothly.
While fighting games haven’t quite slid into obscurity thanks to the shift to 3D, side scrolling beat ’em ups have mostly dried up. We have seen a handful of notable titles over the years, though, such as Viewtiful Joe, The Warriors and Castle Crashers. One interesting attempt to modernize the genre that I’ve seen recently has been Royce Games’ awesome looking, still-to-be-released, Risk One’s Neck, which not only introduces high fidelity visuals but also brings in environmental interaction.
Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle acts like an interesting retrospective of the genre and Capcom’s contributions to the industry when played solo. When you have a friend along for the ride, though, the titles’ appeal still shines through. You can plan attacks, cringe at some of the outdated, homophobic, racist and misogynistic oddities of the titles and generally just shoot the breeze while blasting through hundreds of baddies looking for the weirdest, coolest boss fights and background details.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t have finished any of these were it not for the unlimited lives, but because of those, I got to appreciate the games more than would have ever been possible in arcades. All in all, I had a blast sitting on the couch, chatting with my girlfriend, drinking beers while we beat things up.
Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle
- Available On: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch
- Published By: Capcom
- Developed By: Capcom
- Genre: Brawler
- US Release Date: September 18th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "An interesting peek into the beat 'em up history and a great way to pass an evening with friends."