I love beat-em-ups only a bit less than I love console/computer role playing games. The two genres seem diametrically opposite in terms of design, and might really have been back when the side scrolling beat-em-up was a viable genre, munching up quarters in arcades and pizza parlors and Wal-Mart lobbies. But I also know that you can beat Kingdom Hearts 2 by pressing the “X” button over and over again, at least according to RockManXZ24, who claims to have done that (and he actually likes the Kingdom Hearts series), which puts it in the same vein as the more mindless beat-em-ups. In fact, I think that the recent, torrid affair between Japan and Capcom’s Monster Hunter shows the greatest marriage of the two forms. There’s no lock-on feature for combat, the games really don’t play well outside of co-op, and the difficulty can be utterly insane. At the same time, the amount of equipment and customization rivals that of Diablo 2, the champion of grindfests.
Castle Crashers is only funny until, like, the 9000th time you see it. I miss the earnest goofiness of the fantasy themed brawlers from the late eighties and early nineties.
Knights of the Round. The good thing about the recent proliferation of unlicensed Chinese game ROMs is that they developed beat-em-ups that directly imitate the better Japanese games, sometimes competently, while adapting historical events and pulp literature. Shui Hu Fung Yen Zhuan apes Knights of the Round, with similar characters, animations, enemies and gameplay. The player can hit treasure and health power-ups to split them into smaller pieces, as in Capcom’s Arthurian brawler, and the there is a balanced broadsword wielder, a speedy fighter who uses a saber, and a battle-axe brandishing tank. The characters walk from left to right, beating whatever enemies get in the way, then fighting an end boss.
The Yang Warrior Family made for an enjoyable, if mindless experience.
This is not the pinnacle of the genre on consoles, that honor belongs to Treasure’s Guardian Heroes for the Saturn. This is still a really fun game. It’s hard to believe that it was released the same year that the Dreamcast debuted and a real shame that there are so few of its kind developed these days.