As technology in gaming advances, some traits and genres become outdated and cliche. One such genre that certainly saw better days in the 90’s is the side-scrolling beat ‘em ups. But has such time past for nostalgia to set in and could we be about to see a revival for the genre?
Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups consist of the player characters constantly walking to the right of the screen and fighting waves of enemies. Punches, kicks and the occasional weapon are the only tools at your disposal to lay waste to your enemies.
With paper-thin plots consisting of kidnapped girlfriends or Ronald Reagan inviting you out for burgers. It’s easy to see why this was a genre left behind but fan bases endure and there are some exciting recent releases in the genre.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn
Speaking of paper-thin plots how about a game that saw former NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal transported to another dimension. Shaq stumbles upon a dojo which contains a portal to the Second World whilst en route to a basketball game. Once there he must battle his way to the evil mummy Sett Ra to save a young boy.
During the period when Shaq was trying to make himself a multimedia superstar, he released the video game, Shaq Fu. The game launched to mixed reviews but has retrospectively been panned as one of the worst games of all time. It did receive a cult following though, and rumours of a sequel had been touted for a long time.
In 2014 a successful Indiegogo campaign was launched for Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. The game launched in June this year once again to mixed reviews due to some spotty collision detection. It has been praised for its’ tongue in cheek humour and adherence to traditional beat ‘em up mechanics.
“I know people make fun of the first Shaq Fu. They’re like, Ha ha, it’s cute, but it’s not good enough. I think I know what they mean. It looks dated. Things have come so far since then. You know how you play video games now and they really consume you?
“With all this new technology that’s coming out, I didn’t think twice about it. I was like – Let’s do another Shaq Fu.” – Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq certainly believes new technologies can breathe new life into the genre and A Legend Reborn has sold relatively well. The game even got its’ first DLC with Barack Fu, a secondary campaign focusing around Barack Obama.
Streets of Rage 4
There is another beat ‘em up revival on the horizon though and this one’s generating a lot of buzz. In August this year, Sega announced they will be making another sequel to the Streets of Rage franchise. Yes, a full 24 years after Streets of Rage 3 fans will be getting a direct sequel in the near future.
No release date has yet been set but as one of the premiere beat ‘em up franchises, fans are excited. Streets of Rage 4 will feature a new hand-drawn art style and promises to bring technological advancements to the series.
“The idea is that we’re trying to recreate the experience, but we’re bringing more, because it’s a new installment.” – Arnaud De Sousa, DotEmu Head of Marketing.
Amongst the announced new features is the ability to regain health through combos and a ‘juggling’ system. This will allow for seamless motion between opponent NPCs, keeping the combos going with well-timed button presses.
The two playable characters will also have unique finisher moves which deal devastating damage but come at a cost to the player’s health. The new fluid approach and polished combat mechanics promise to be a thoroughly entertaining experience.
Sega is re-releasing a Megadrive Collection for the Nintendo Switch in December this year. The game was available this May on PS4 and Xbox One and features the Streets of Rage trilogy. It also features a trilogy of another of Sega’s popular beat ‘em up series’ Golden Axe.
DotEmu are yet to announce the platforms for Streets of Rage 4 but the Switch’s portability makes it a sure bet. The December release will allow fans to replay the original trilogy on the new platform helping build a target demographic for the game’s release.
Will We See Another Beat ‘Em Up Trend?
2017 and 2018 have been great years for fans of 90’s platforming mascots, a genre that has seen a resurgence. Sonic Mania and the Crash N’Sane Trilogy both sold well, with the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy set to release in November.
Trends have a way of going around and it would certainly seem enough time has passed for beat ‘em up games to have nostalgic appeal. Streets of Rage 4 looks promising and any further releases will likely depend on the success of that.
With today’s technologies beat ‘em up games are fairly easy and quick to produce so it would be a popular genre for indie studios. If Streets of Rage 4 fulfils the hype expect to see plenty of clones and revivals flooding the market. For better or worse.