A solid collection of brawlers that won’t beat up your wallet.
The Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle was first announced during last week’s Nintendo Direct and released on September 18, the date on which Nintendo Switch Online went live. The bundle features seven diverse titles from the arcade-brawler genre: Final Fight, The King of Dragons, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, Warriors of Fate, Armored Warriors, and Battle Circuit. The last two games on that list have never seen a console release, which makes the collection even more special. Each game has a single save state and unlimited continues, so no pockets full of quarters needed. In true beat-‘em-up fashion, here are my lightning jab thoughts on each game.
Final Fight (1989): You can choose between three characters, Guy, Cody, and Haggar, who each have their own fighting style. The game is fairly short and doesn’t have a lot of enemy variety, but you can change characters whenever you lose all your lives. There are also weapons to pick up and a couple bonus stages to complete, including the infamous car smashing. Verdict: Medium Kick.
The King of Dragons (1991): Moving to a medieval fantasy setting, The King of Dragons has five playable characters and RPG mechanics that make it one of the stronger titles in the package. As you shoot arrows, swing your sword, or blast fire from your staff, you gain experience points that increase your health points. In treasure chests you will also find weapon, shield, or accessory upgrades that transform and strengthen your attacks and defense. In the game’s 16 short stages, you will many different enemies and unique boss fights. Verdict: Dragon Punch.
Captain Commando (1991): After choosing one of the four playable characters, you will proceed through nine stages with some really cool-looking backgrounds. One of the highlights of this game is the different weapons you can pick up, including a mini missile launcher. You can also ride around in robots that have strong crowd-control attacks. One of the weaknesses of the game is that you can’t switch characters between continues, like you can in the other titles in this compilation. I can’t imagine pumping quarters into an arcade machine to beat the final boss of this game, though. I might have ripped the joystick off the cabinet. Verdict: Strong Punch.
Knights of the Round (1991): Like Final Fight, this game has three playable characters and is pretty vanilla in terms of gameplay and brief in terms of length. There is a minor RPG leveling mechanic that affects your strength, defense, and appearance, but I find The King of Dragons does it better. One neat element of the combat is that your character can block attacks, and successfully blocking grants a couple seconds of invulnerability or opens your enemy to attack. Again, in the arcades, it would have made more sense to block strategically to preserve your health bar, but with unlimited continues I was just smashing through my enemies with reckless abandon. Verdict: Medium Punch.
Warriors of Fate (1992): Based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the fifth title in the set features five playable characters and brief cutscenes between stages that provide the semblance of a story. There is a minigame where you smash any button while rotating the joystick to eat dumplings and meat, and this alone propels the game to a top mark. You occasionally have the chance to ride a horse and trample over your foes. This game stands out for having encounters with a dozen enemies at once, but on the negative side the music is fairly lackluster here compared to other games in the bundle. Verdict: Hurricane Kick.
Armored Warriors (1994): The only game of the lot to feature mechs instead of humans, this is my favourite title in the collection. Even though there are only seven stages, each stage is divided into multiple areas, some with different objectives like completing the area under a certain time limit or flying through a side-scrolling shooter scenario. There are four mechs to choose from and each is a little different in terms of ability, but the real high point of this game is how you can customize the mechs with weapons and shells that drop from enemies. You might start out with an arm that does a simple punch, but pick up a laser sword or a drill arm and you’re really cooking. You could exchange your legs for hover jets that allow you to launch into the air to avoid enemies or tank treads that turn you into a spiky ball of death when you hit the jump button. I had the most fun with Armored Warriors, and the way that each mech has its own style coupled with the part swapping makes me want to replay this one multiple times. Verdict: Sonic Boom.
Battle Circuit (1997): The final game of the collection has a visual flair and a unique art style. The sci-fi setting and story revolve around a group of five bounty hunters that you can select from, and each of these characters is really unique. From a girl riding a pink ostrich to a Venus flytrap plant with a giant eyeball and then to a superhero-looking man who transforms into a cannon, the game’s cast is a ton of fun to rotate through. Of course, the regular enemies and bosses are just as ridiculous as the playable characters. At the end of each stage, you can spend money you have earned to unlock new moves for your characters, so there is good variety to the combat as well. Battle Circuit has more a more involved narrative than other games in the collection, and it’s wackiness definitely makes it stand out. Verdict: Yoga Fire.
For all of the games in the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, the visuals are clear and crisp, and the games look especially impressive in handheld mode. The sound effects and music are faithful to those of the arcade, but you might find them a little grating by today’s standards. There are a handful of different options for each game in turns of difficulty and number of players and lives, and a gallery of artwork to explore, but it would have been nice to see different screen filters or other visual choices. The online multiplayer is hit-or-miss. Generally, playing with one other person works pretty well, but when you get to three or four players in total, the games experience massive slowdown. Another problem with the online play is that if the host of the game leaves, everyone else is booted from the game. If you don’t really care for brawlers, the games in this collection aren’t going to change your mind. That said, there is a lot of value in the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre or those who love couch co-op games.