Side-scrolling beat ’em ups have always been near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my absolute favourite genres of games, but also one that’s had some major ups and downs over the decades. Ever since the late ’90s, I feel there’s a fairly pervasive view of beat ’em ups as a “dated” genre; a style of game made obsolete by the transition from arcades to consoles, repetitive quarter-munchers that have no place in the current era – unless wholly reinvented for modern audiences. Personally, I couldn’t disagree with this more!
Rather than beat ’em ups becoming dated, my view is more that the genre really fell off the wagon once people started attempting to “reinvent” it instead of respectfully iterating on it – and it’s only very recently that we’ve started seeing more successful attempts at new takes on the classic template.
While I’m happy to see games like FIGHT’N RAGE and STREETS OF RAGE 4 bucking the trends of the last decade and change, the fact remains that in the eyes of many people – developers and players both – the key to making a good beat ’em up appears to be adding a ton of time-wasting cruft that dilutes the experience. But in my mind, there are simply a number of fundamental design principles that go into a quality, compelling entry in the genre. So as a PSA, here’s my attempt at outlining what makes for a good beat ’em up – or at the very least, some things I’d like to see more of them do well!
Continue reading So, what makes a good beat ’em up, anyway? →
It’s not a secret that I was looking forward to STREETS OF RAGE 4 with some trepidation after its announcement in 2018. As a huge fan of the series since the first game, having dreamt up my own fantasy sequel(s) for the better part of the last 25 years, the announcement was of course a happy surprise. But on the flipside, between questionable artistic choices and my general lack of faith in reboots of old games, I felt there was a significant risk they’d screw things up.
After trying out a demo build at EGX 2019 I became significantly more optimistic. I did – and still do – have some misgivings about the artistic direction, but going hands-on with the game convinced me that the developers had the right idea where it truly matters: game mechanics, pacing, enemy design – ie “gameplay”.
Now, having had a few months to think about and digest the final game, let me give you my full Thoughts On STREETS OF RAGE 4.
Continue reading Thoughts on STREETS OF RAGE 4: a brighter future for beat ’em ups? →
A couple of months back, seemingly out of nowhere, DotEmu announced they were bringing out STREETS OF RAGE 4 – the first new STREETS OF RAGE game in 24 years (and counting)! Like many people out there I am hugely fond of the original SOR series, and am largely positive, excited even, for this new game. But given that I am a long-time fan, you bet I’ve got some Thoughts on SOR4.
First off, it should of course be noted that this is early days still. My impressions are all based on the small handful of trailers and screenshots that have been released, and considering the game doesn’t even have an official release date yet, I think it’s fair to say that we are pretty far away from the full picture. Still, based on what DotEmu & co have chosen to show of the game, I think there’s a number of things worth commenting on.
Although SOR4 will (presumably) be the first STREETS OF RAGE game to actually hit the market since 1994, it’s far from the first attempt at bringing the series back. SOR developers Ancient themselves put together concept art as well as mockups for a 3D incarnation back in the 90’s, but this original SOR4 was infamously axed by a SEGA exec unfamiliar with the SOR brand. Continue reading Thoughts on Streets of Rage 4’s art →