Side-scroller fighting games
By Ben Sin
In many ways, the death of the sidescrolling beat ‘em up genre of games--like Final Fight, Double Dragon--was unavoidable. They were, perhaps, the least diverse type of video games possible. Every sidescrolling beat ‘em up played basically the same way, whether you were controlling a Predator or Spider-man or Marge Simpson--you move from left to right, pressing buttons to beat up an endless barrage of generic looking bad guys. At the end of the level you face a boss. Repeat anywhere from eight to 12 times and you win. When compared to the open ended, go-anywhere-and-do-anything nature of a game like Grand Theft Auto, it’s difficult to see the one-dimensional beat ‘em ups catching on ever again. But as someone who grew up in the 90s--and I don’t think I’m alone in this--sometimes, that shallow one dimension can be so damn fun.
I remember teaming up with friends and dropping countless dollars trying to get to the evil Mr Burns in The Simpsons Arcade Game, and I remember, vividly, the joy of wacking throngs of uptight suits with Bart’s skateboard. I remember the giddy “holy shit” my cousin and I screamed when we pulled off the special attack in Streets of Rage, when a police car drove up and dropped a bomb on a group of thugs who had surrounded us. And of course, I still hold dear arguably the greatest game in the genre, Capcom’s Final Fight, and the joy of bashing a car with a pipe and then seeing a thug scream “oh my car!” The home port of Final Fight (originally released for arcades) was severly limited, in that only three bad guys could show up on screen at once (along with the two players, that makes five). If a revival of the game is released today, the degree to which we can up the mayhem cannot be understated – how many thugs could fit on screen at once? 20? 50? Instead of two players – or four, in many beat ‘em up arcade games – we could have up to eight. Heck, maybe 12. We could have a full on royal rumble. Of course, gamers can usually finish side scrollers in a few hours and probably more than three-thirds of the available buttons on today’s controllers won’t be needed, but, man, it’d be a fun, if silly, ride.