Mention "Sega" and "beat-em-ups" in the same sentence, and most people will think of Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, or Die Hard Arcade / Dynamite Deka. But like most companies, there were a handful of other entries that fell through the cracks, either due to poor circumstances or just regular old mediocrity. Sega's Arabian Fight falls into the latter category, although it does have its good points.
Arabian Fight is about, as one might surmise, fighting Arabians. You take control of one of four characters to smash your way through Middle Eastern markets, pirate ships, pyramids, castles, and secret underground volcano lairs, all while pummeling the snot out of demons, pirates, mummies, skeletons, fat fire breathing ruffians, and other beasts. There's even a ride on a magic carpet, although sadly, you can't knock off enemies off into the sky. Eventually you'll meet up with the lead bad guy, a evil magician named Sazabiss, who's kidnapped the Princess Lurana. The Persian backdrop is an interesting change of setting, even if it leads to some confusion with Taito's similarly titled (and similarly themed) Arabian Magic.
Arabian Fight also offers four player simultaneous play, with four different characters. There are only two buttons - punch and jump - and the movesets are fairly limited. Each character has a special crowd control attack activated by pressing both buttons simultaneously. Like Golden Axe, you can obtain screen clearing magic spells, activated by magic lamps. Unlike Golden Axe, these spells are not character specific, and it depends on the type of lamp you've grabbed.
Hey, it's Sinbad's Taiwanese ripoff cousin! Sega could've just gone all the way and just called him Sinbad - it's not like the author of 1,001 Arabian Nights was going to sue them.
Every since Tyris Flare in Golden Axe, beat-em-ups are legally required to have at least one hot chick. (The original Final Fight, strangely, did not, but the sequels brought things back into line.) Ramaya fulfills that quotient here.
Another turban clad dude, although this time with dark skin and a beard. He's a bit stronger and bulkier than Sinbat.
Arabian Fight might be the most technically ambitious 2D beat-em-up ever made. Ever since Renegade, beat-em-ups have used a slightly isometric perspective to give the playing field a sense of depth. Arabian Fight takes this to the next level by utilizing sprite scaling, so when characters walk into the background, they actually get smaller. As they reach the foreground, they're absolutely huge. The characters are easily of comparable size to SNK's Art of Fighting, which is pretty much unheard of in any beat-em-up. The backgrounds also utilize a cool parallax effect as you walk back and forth, which again, greatly enhances the 3D effects. These effects were utilized in a more restrained manner in Treasure's Guardian Heroes for the Saturn, although that game featured three different planes you could jump between, while Arabian Fight lets you walk up and down freely.
The graphical dazzle doesn't stop there. Enemies will routinely appear in the foreground, represented by full size illustrations, and then jump onto the playing field, where they change into a standard pixel drawn sprite. Similarly, you can chuck characters right into the screen - similar to the move in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time - although, again, with the use of full res illustrations, it looks substantially less pixellated. Whenever you use a special attack, your character jumps out of the playing field and right into the screen - again, represented as a fully animated drawing - as they spin around and release havoc on the enemies. Some of the boss death scenes show some cool closeups, and the intermission cinemas between levels are equally as cool. When you run out of lives, your character is knocked forward, as your character lies unconscious right before your eyes as the continue timer counts down. It's all quite impressive to watch, even though the artwork is heavily dithered and lacking in color.
The problem with all of this visual excess is that fighting action itself is kinda terrible. If you have four players on the screen at the time, in addition to the half dozen or so enemies - remember, everyone is roughly 2/3 the size of the screen when they're in the foreground - then it becomes nearly impossible to make out any of the action. And even though the sprites are quite well detailed, the animation is appalling - at best, it's choppy, but at worst, some of the frames just look massively retarded, especially the enemies. There aren't even any weapons or much in the way of variety. The hit detection is similarly sloppy, and the whole affair comes off as sadly amateurish - quite a disappointment from an industry veteran like Sega.
The music mostly consists of a variety of world music, which suits the setting but doesn't necessarily suit the action. The only decent theme is a guitar driven track late in the game, but the rest is either annoying or forgettable.
Arabian Fight was released in January 1992, during that awkward period when 16-bit consoles weren't powerful enough for most accurate arcade ports, but well before any of the 32-bit systems were released. As such, Arabian Fight only saw distribution in the arcades. Perhaps Sega realized that it would need a drastic retooling of the controls in order for it to survive in the home market, while the impressive graphics were enough to keep it afloat in the arcades. Beat-em-up fans should check it out, if only for a level or two, just to see how cool it looks in motion, stupid animation notwithstanding.