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by Nick Zverloff - February 13th, 2011

Knuckle Bash (ナックルバッシュ) - Arcade (1993)

American Arcade Flyer

Japanese Arcade Flyer

Although Toaplan is mostly known for their amazing shooters like Truxton, Zero Wing, and Batsugun, they tried to expand into other genres in their later years. Knuckle Bash was one such attempt. It's a belt-scrolling beat-em-up that plays much like a slower version of Final Fight - two buttons gameplay, health-draining super attacks, and so forth, although strangely it lacks weapons. While technically it does little more than ripping of the mechanics of other beat-em-ups - and doing a fairly mediocre job at it - it truly excels just because of how damned goofy it is.

The story involves a group of heroic professional wrestlers going off to quit their jobs so that they can fight a gang called The Bulls. The Bulls are a weird bunch, consisting of everything from male stripper mimes to ninjas to American football players. Their leader is a freakish fat man that wears a flayed pig head as a mask. One of the highlights are going to a football game to beat up a football player, only to find a secret trap door under the football stadium with a dungeon underneath it. At one point you fight an ancient demon in a forest, only for it to reveal himself as your manager weating a mask. Needless to say, Knuckle Bash does not take itself too seriously.

Before choosing your characters, you get two places to start - "Off to Destroy The Bull Group" or "Fierce Battle of The Four Mad Bulls". None of this actually means anything, except which set of stages you accomplish first because all stages must be completed before moving onto the endgame. Defeating either of these missions unlocks you a character.


Junya Inoue, better known for his work with Cave on Dodonpachi, Guwange, and many other Cave games, designed Knuckle Bash. A lot of the enemies wear pastel colors and the pallet is generally softer than most of his other work. Seeing that he can do something silly and lighthearted such as Elvis and a football player saving the world with wrestling moves and something as dark as Dodonpachi Daioujou shows that he has a lot of range.

There is also a mini game similar to Mortal Kombat's Test Your Might segments. It has two unnamed fighters that never appear anywhere else in the game punch each other in the face both at once. Which one is left standing is determined by who can tap the attack button fastest in the time limit. The winning player gets a health bar boost from this and the loser gets no penalty. This mini game is completely absent if you are playing solo, so it could be a reward for playing two player.

Knuckle Bash may not be good, but it gets by on being an average beat em up that is stupid and funny enough to make it enjoyable. Unlike many of Toaplan's other games, Knuckle Bash is actually very easy, especially when compared to similar games such as Streets of Rage.

Knuckle Bash never received a port to home consoles. The arcade version was published by Atari Games in North America. A sequel was apparently planned, as after Toaplan went out of business, a modified version of Knuckle Bashs arcade board was discovered. The only two noticeable differences are a new title screen and a change button. The change button lets you switch between any of the fighters on the fly, even letting two people have the same one. The change button may have been implemented for testing purposes, but if the fighters were more differentiated, it could have been a very nice new gameplay mechanic. Other than the new title screen and change button, Knuckle Bash 2 is exactly the same as the first one.

Quick Info:




Toaplan (JP)
Atari (NA)


Junya Inoue




So '80s/'90s it Hurts

Knuckle Bash (Arcade)

Knuckle Bash (Arcade)

Knuckle Bash (Arcade)

Knuckle Bash (Arcade)

Knuckle Bash (Arcade)

Additional Screenshots

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