Bout 1: crash
Due to watching the promo video of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 the lines of the battlefield have blurred – what exactly were the origins behind the first beat ‘em up games? Why does Streetfighter keep to the 2D format even though we’re 3D and 4D capable now? All these questions and more will be answered.
I have always been a Sega girl from the start, my first console was a Sega Saturn and my elder brothers had a Sega Megadrive, somehow I missed the Streetfighter craze. I remember visiting a cousin’s house and playing it for the first time and thinking, this is pants, I can’t roll to the sides or evade attacks.
The first real beat em up was released 1976, Heavyweight Champ, but it was Karate Champ and The Way of the Exploding Fist which popularized one-on-one martial arts games in 1984 and 1985 Capcom’s Street Fighter won the kids over with their hidden special attacks.
The fighting game genre boomed in the 90’s due to the high popularity of arcades, not everyone owned their own console and promoted subsequently competitive video gaming. So it began to spawn more fighting games such as Virtua Fighter for my fellow Sega players, Fighting Vipers, Battle Arena Toshinden, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Blazblue and the Soul series.
Bout 2: Wham!
Finally when you could get your hands on a console the graphics were nowhere near as good as the arcades, or didn’t match the thrill of beating your buddies with a crowd of people cheering you on or watch you be humiliated. When technology advanced so did the fighters, in 1994 Sega brought out Virtua Fighter, a game that let players move on a 3D plain. Instead of just being limited to move forwards, back and players could move freely across the ring. This brought a new kind of gameplay and style which changed the face of the fighters. Sure they looked like blockheads opposed to eye popping visuals which were demonstrated in detail by the very controversial Mortal Kombat but the experience was amplified in different aspects.
Bout 3: BAM!
There are some games that didn’t survive the years, though are extremely important to the genre. Fighting Vipers used the same mechanics of Virtual Fighter and was made by a bored Sonic the Hedgehog programmer, it had a short-lived lifespan but a lot of character and pop art imagery. The game is set apart with two unique features, one of which was after considerable damage your sports armour would break off leaving characters much more vulnerable and able to take much more damage. A human shaped meter in the top corners of the screen monitors the damage to your armour. Secondly, walls surround each arena, caging the combatants in and allowing for attacks in conjunction with them (bouncing off etc). If the correct combination is hit at the round’s finale, characters can punch their opponent straight through the walls now adapted into Mortal Kombat and Tekken backgrounds.
Battle Arena Toshinden was a killer app for the Play Station One. It was one of the first fighting games to boast polygonal characters in a 3D environment, and it is credited for taking the genre into ‘true 3D’ due to its introduction of the sidestep manoeuvre. Battle Arena Toshinden was the first 3D weapons fighter, and was succeeded in spirit by Soul Edge and other games of the genre.
Final Round: Knockout!
While fighting games aren’t as popular as they used to be, companies like Nintendo have realized that people just want to pick up a game and have fun. Games with similar gameplay have been replicated with classic characters like Super Smash Bros. Now we have easy access to the internet via PC, hanheld consoles, Xbox live and PSN games like Street Fighter, Tekken, 6 and Capcom vs Marvel can be taken to the next level. Whether it is a friendly match, co-op mode or a dirty brawl, beat ’em ups are staying alive!