As I was playing the seven games that comprise the Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle, my mind went back in time. Before Battle Royale, before the Halo-killers, before even Street Fighter, the noble brawler ruled the roost. Arcades were where the pinnacle of graphics and tech lived, and beat 'em ups were the flashiest cabinets around. Years of gaming at home on eternal free play robs you of vital historical context, and this can cause some to question the genre's worth. After all, aren't these mobile game precursors, designed to rip quarters from your pocket without mercy? Some might think so, but I'd argue the genre has worth beyond that limited interpretation. Collections like this let us look back at history with a critical eye and enjoy these over the top punchfests for what they were.
Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle brings seven classic arcade games together in a gloriously modern package. You have Final Fight, the beginning of one of Capcom's signature arcade franchises. There is a pair of medieval flights of fancy in The King of Dragons and Knights of the Round. A pair of more cartoonish worlds appear in Captain Commando and Warriors of Fate. Finally, you have a pair of more modern games that were never ported home due to the late 90s aversion to 2D graphics in all its forms. That's such a shame looking back, because Battle Circuit and Armored Warriors are the gems of the entire collection.
That's not to say that the other games are bad. In fact, as long as you're open to the ingrained repetition of the genre, there isn't a bad one in the bunch. It's simply a matter of fact that most of the earlier games in this collection build on each other in iterative ways. Going back through any company's history will reveal patterns and trends to the trained eye. This Beat Em Up Bundle lays that all bare, letting even the most casual player spot shared assets and tropes.
Each of the first five games has their own pros and cons, but it mostly comes down to style. Do you want to play around with the absolute absurdity of Captain Commando's genius mech-piloting baby? Do you want to see how far Capcom will go to stretch the Arthurian legend? Or do you just want to suplex fools as Mike Haggar? Either way, you'll be pummelling goons and street toughs while eating chicken you find in barrels. It's comforting to go back to such simple gameplay in a world of AAA complexities. Better yet, having no quarters means that you can blast through an entire campaign with a friend in a single session.
While that familiarity is enjoyable, the changes made in the two most recent games in the collection are what makes them so memorable. Perhaps it's because licensing issues forced Capcom to skip several games in their catalog. Missing out on important games like Alien vs Predator and The Punisher gives you an incomplete telling of history. Even if we can't have everything, getting these later experiences shows just how varied the company's output became as the years went on.
Armored Warriors is all about gameplay variety, letting you pilot a mech with several exchangeable parts. Each new weapon changes your tactics and swapping out your legs for a hoverskirt alters things even further. Sure, you might lose your mech in the crowd on occasion, but the huge sprites and massive explosions are part of the fun. Finally, you and your co-op partners can join up Voltron-style to take on bosses. The fact that each combination of playable robots has a corresponding Megazord is mighty impressive.
Then there's Battle Circuit, the only game in this collection that I could probably write up an entire review about on its own. Adding cutscenes, an item shop, and massive production values, this is the pinnacle of Capcom's contributions to the genre. It's also extremely out of left field, playing out like an even more Japanese version of Cowboy Bebob. Your cast of bounty hunters includes a giant pink ostrich and a green tentacle monster. The first boss goes to the same barber as Rio from Shaman King. The mechanics might get a bit too complicated, but the experimentation and downright weirdness is a must see spectacle.
No matter what game you end up choosing, you'll want to stick to couch co-op. The game supports online play, in theory. When you consider what is here on launch day, that borders on false advertising. As soon as anyone joins you online, the game's framerate and music slow to a crawl. It feels as though you were suddenly loading a SNES port of each game rather than an arcade-perfect emulation. Knowing that similar arcade rereleases on XBLA have pulled this off without a hitch, it's a shame that this feature feels completely busted.
Unfortunately, once you sample its wares online and off, Capcom Beat Em Up Bundle doesn't have much else for you. There is a fine collection of art and design documents to browse through, but the extras end there. You don't get any visual filters. There aren't game specific challenges to conquer. Hell, even the achievements are just for finishing each game. This makes the compilation strictly for those already interested in beat em ups and arcade game history. While it might not convert anyone to this style of game, it's a great thing to have on modern consoles. Now, someone get a lawyer on the phone about re-upping that Cadillacs and Dinosaurs IP...
This collection of arcade favorites is a must play for historians and beat em up veterans. For everyone else, the completely busted online play and lackluster extras may be a roadblock.
- Arcade-Perfect Emulation
- Classic Brawling Action
- Great Variety of Games
- Unplayable Online
- Lack of Extras