Capcom’s 2018 Beat ’em Up Bundle came out of nowhere — a bit like a sly right hook. Seven retro side-scrolling beat ‘em ups from the annals of Capcom’s back catalogue, making their way onto the PS4 for the first time.
Fans of the genre will have no doubt been excited at the announcement on September 13th that they could play seven of the publisher’s best games in this niche area on September 18th. Who doesn’t like a surprise rerelease? Unfortunately, the choice of games is a little eclectic. These aren’t the fighting games that Capcom is perhaps best known for — Street Fighter being the prime example — instead, this is a bundle of the best side-scrollers Capcom could release without having to deal with any tricky licensing issues. As long as you don’t confuse the two, you’ll get off on the right foot.
So, first things first, the games in the bundle are:
1. Final Fight (1989)
2. Captain Commando (1991)
3. Knights of the Round (1991)
4. The King of Dragons (1991)
5. Warriors of Fate (1992)
6. Armored Warriors (1994)
7. Battle Circuit (1997)
If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that most people in their 20s will have heard of Final Fight and not much else from this list. As this is the most famous of them all — and nearly as old as I am— that’s not really surprising. But since the majority of these games haven’t seen the light of day since being re-released on the PS3 or even the PS2, so again this isn’t really surprising. Where Final Fight has been released on almost everything that will support it, the last two games on the list — Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit — have never seen a rerelease before now, so you’d certainly be forgiven for not knowing them.
The question, then, is whether it’s worth knowing them. The short answer is that if you’re in your 30s and you grew up on games like Streets of Rage, the nostalgia here may be worth the buy-in. You can relive the glory days of back when we thought these graphics were phenomenal, and thanks to the addition online co-op, you can fight with your siblings again (in the good way), just like you used to, no matter where they live in the world.
For everyone else — those of you under the age of 30 who haven’t touched the franchise — Capcom will probably have a hard time selling you this. Final Fight is the only game out of the seven that I can really recommend, and even that is tainted slightly by nostalgia. Captain Commando is a bizarre little game that hasn’t really aged well, The King of Dragons tries and fails to reach into the RPG space, and Warriors of Fate is a vaguely amusing but basic reskin of the same old genre but with a feudal Japan twist. By contrast, the two games that were yet to have a rerelease — Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit are so busy on-screen that it’s genuinely hard to keep up with what is flying around the screen. The intense strobe effect doesn’t help.
If you are photo epileptic or sensitive to flashing lights, do not buy the Beat ‘em Up Bundle.
If, however, you’re in the weird part of the Venn diagram where you’re a young person who wants to give it a shot, despite all odds, there are a couple of things you should be aware of. First and foremost is that these old cartridge-based games didn’t have tonnes of room for an extensive story. You can finish these games inside of an hour, and you’ll quickly realise the plot is really just there as an afterthought. Final Fight is about punching thugs in the face, not the daring rescue of Jessica, the damsel who has ties to just two of the three playable characters — the third of whom only really exists because he looks like another famous video game character.
Extended life for these games was once seen in the fact that you’d die and replay until you got good. You have finally finished the game without dying, you’d brag to your friends on the school playground. Now, thanks to infinite respawns and the convenient co-op, difficulty is not an issue, and so there’s no real replay value here beyond nostalgia. You can just button mash for an hour and be done with it.
Looking back to our first group — those already invested — there are a few extra things that may appeal that could make this worth buying. The online co-op is a big pull, obviously, but there are also Japanese audio tracks to play to if that’s your cup of matcha. The art galleries that are a staple of bundles like this is also pretty cool, so that may be worth checking out.
Capcom’s Beat ’em Up Bundle will not appeal to most people. Either you’re already a fan and already likely to buy the game, or you’re going to shrug and let thus one pass you by. The lack of modernisation beyond simple online co-op and the dearth of replay value mean that this likely won’t appeal to many — for those who it does appeal to, all I can do is suggest you wait for a price drop.