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Konami Beat-em-ups

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The Adventures of Bayou Billy
S.P.Y.: Special Project Y
The Simpsons

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Astérix
Bucky O'Hare
X-Men

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Batman Returns (NES)
Batman Returns (SNES)

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Metamorphic Force
Gaiapolis

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Astérix - Arcade (1991)

Dutch Arcade Flyer

Japanese Arcade Flyer

Astérix is based on a French graphic novel of the same name, starring two friends named Astérix and Obélix. It's set about way in the past, and tells that tale of the last village in Gaul that hasn't been taken over by the Roman empire. The inhabitants of the village have some kind of magic hooch that gives them super strength, or some kind of crazy crap like that. The stages seem to each have their own self-contained story, but the theme of Gauls kicking the crap out of Roman soldiers is pretty constant throughout them all. Two other significant characters from the series appear as NPCs in and between the levels - Getafix (a druid who brews their magic booze) and Panacea (a maiden from their village).

Characters

Astérix

The hero of the series, Astérix is a villager from Gaul who downs magic liquor to gain super strength. He wears some kind of hat with wings.

Obélix

Astérix' friend and companion, Obélix is the only member of his village with permanent super strength. As far as I've been able to tell, this is due to having fallen into a whole freaking keg of magic beer when he was an infant, or some other such nonsense.

The character profiles should have already made this obvious, but Astérix is for a mere two players at once. Yes, that's perfectly acceptable in the genre, but Konami are known for their four-player-or-more arcade beat-em-ups, so anything less has to be a little disappointing. Maybe that's why it wasn't nearly as successful as their other similar titles - people expected it to offer an experience that it just couldn't give them. But Astérix isn't X-Men or The Simpsons, so if you're looking for that same kind of multi-player experience then you're looking in the wrong place. Still, even though it can't recreate one of the major draws and biggest strengths of their other offerings in the genre, Astérix may be the very best licensed beat-em-up that Konami ever produced. Really.

What really puts Astérix over the top is how well rounded of a game it is. Everything that you could hope for a beat-em-up to do, it does right. Compared to the hack-n-slash-style simplicity of most of Konami's other entries in the genre, Astérix gives you a whole boatload of attacks to pull off. They actually bothered to put in a tutorial with a diagram of the controls accompanied by the heroes demonstrating each move (much like in Neo Geo games). After you knock somebody down, you can hoist them back up for four different kinds of throws. You can even charge up your normal attack into an uppercut that sends your target rocketing skyward. It's also the only Konami beat-em-up that lets you dash, which also makes it one of their most fast paced. Once in a while Getafix will send in these flasks with one of the heroes' names flashing above it. If the character in question grabs the thing, they'll run around completely out of your control (and apparently drunk?) and take down any thugs who get in their way. Another really cool thing about the game is that you can attack your teammate. It doesn't really serve any other purpose, but anybody who's played Battletoads can tell you that beating up on your friend is always an amusing distraction.

One area that Konami really excelled in when it came to beat-em-ups was level design. As opposed to the flat stages of Final Fight, their games tend to have at least a few stages that genuinely feel and play differently from the rest. Astérix is perhaps the greatest testament to that fact of them all. Its levels feel like real enviroments, rather than just simple scenery. When you're leaping from platform to platform dodging falling boulders in the Egypt level, you could almost forget what kind of game you're playing for a second. Another stage has you scaling a mountain for the entire level as you wail away on Romans on your way to the top. On your way down from the mountain, you get to ride mine carts along a series of tracks, jumping over low tree limbs and switching to other carts before yours falls off of a cliff. Between stages you get to compete with your buddy in a couple of different challenges, like a chariot race, for instance. An especially brilliant stage has you swimming around paddle boats through shark filled waters - you can both leap up on the boats and knock out the pirates or stay in the water and punch out the sharks. If not for it all being so seamlessly integrated into the game it could seem really out of place, but in Astérix it's so effortless that you'll hardly even notice.

You can expect any licensed Konami beat-em-up to accurately portray its source material, but Astérix goes above and beyond even the standard set by games like The Simpsons. The graphics are faithful to the point that they look like the graphic novel set in motion. It's all very bright and cartoony, and heavily animated with cartoon-style sight gags abound. As you're pummeling on the Roman soldiers bubbles will pop up with things like "BIFF" or "PAF" written in them, along with the soldiers' eyes bugging out and goofy looks on their faces. Plenty of the attacks are equally ridiculous, ranging from slamming your foes face first into the ground, to giving them a swift kick to the pants and sending them flying, to grabbing them by the shirt and slapping them in the face. If you hesitate for a few seconds you'll be rewarded by any one of three completely different animations of the heroes looking bored/impatient. It's an extraordinarily visually rich game overall, with enough going on that you'll probably still be spotting stuff on your second time through.

Amusing graphics, flawless gameplay, fantastic level designs, two player combat - it's all as brilliant as it is maniacal. As previously stated, the comparative lack of focus on multi-player co-op is the most obvious reason for its failure at the arcades, but the obscurity of the license couldn't have made things any easier. Konami had to have been well aware that it was going to be an uphill battle trying to get an Asterix title to go over with American or Japanese audiences, so it's entirely possible that the game wasn't even made for those markets. All of the text is actually in both French and English, so it's possible that it was only made with the franchise's home country in mind. I couldn't tell you how well it did in France, but it certainly should have gotten more attention in America than it did, because it's one of Konami's best beat-em-up games.

To read more about Astérix series of video games, click here.


Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)

Astérix (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots


Bucky O'Hare - Arcade (1992)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

The basic concept behind Bucky O'Hare - a comic book from the early 80s that was made into a cartoon in the early 90s - and I swear I'm not making a word of this up - is this: There's an alternate reality called the Aniverse, where every planet throughout the cosmos is populated by anthropomorphic creatures with Star Wars-like space faring technology. An A.I. super computer called KOMPLEX has brainwashed all of the Toads (who created the thing in the first place), and is leading them in its quest to take over the galaxy. The protagonists are the crew of a ship called the Righteous Indignation (no, really) who are out to kick the living crap out of the Toads. This lunacy apparently began in graphic novel form before being licensed for an animated series, which serves as the basis for this here arcade game. Konami also developed another identically titled game based on the franchise - an impossibly challenging platformer for NES - it's notable because it was developed by three of the guys who would later go on to form Treasure.

Characters

Bucky O'Hare

The titular character of the series. A green anthropomorphic rabbit, and the leader of the crew. He's a pretty standard space faring hero, complete with a laser gun and a ridiculous St. Peppers look-a-like costume.

Blinky

A cycloptic robot with a laser gun. Fans of the Famicom fighter Joy Mecha Fight might notice vague similarities between him and Wai or Eye from that game, but the designs are pretty different beyond their all being robots with a lone eye.

Deadeye Duck

An eye-patch wearing ex-space pirate anthropomorphic duck with four arms. What? They didn't make even the slightest bit of effort to explain this guy in the animated series, and they don't try any harder in the game either.

Jenny

An anthropomorphic cat-girl with a completely huge mane of hair. She's supposed to psychic, or something, which is vaguely referenced at one point between stages.

It's safe to say that Konami's other licensed arcade beat-em-ups can feel a bit same-y, but Bucky O'Hare plays completely differently from anything else that they've produced in the genre. Going strongly against the standards of most games of this kind, Bucky O'Hare gives each character a gun with infinite ammo. Instead of assigning a separate button to your firearm, like in Capcom's Alien vs Predator, you'll only punch if somebody's within range. Whereas if nobody's within reach then you'll fire your laser gun instead. While you can jump kick via a rather odd command (Attack & Jump at once while airborne), even your standard jumping attack just has you firing away in mid-air.

With all of the shooting going on, it can start to feel a bit like a medium paced run 'n gun. In fact, you could easily make the argument that it's somewhere in between the two genres. Further emphasizing this is the fact that each character's close range and shooting attacks are completely identical, like you'd expect from a run 'n gun game, ala Metal Slug. Furthermore, you can also upgrade your shots with laser gun icons that boost the size and strength of your blasts, which resets after you're killed - another convention of the run 'n gun genre. Another idea that may have been inspired by games like Mercs or Contra III is the limited stock of full screen bombs. You get two of these per life and, as long as you keep continuing, you get to keep any that you don't detonate, so you can stock up to some completely absurd amount. A similar idea would make it into Capcom's arcade game The Punisher that same year.

There are a few other noteworthy quirks to the game. With identical punches, shots, and bombs, you'd expect that the characters would all just be the same thing with different sprites. This would be true, save for their "gimmick weapons" (Attack & Jump at once while standing), which are each character specific. They each differ in range, duration, patterns, etc., but they really all amount to just crazy looking pyrotechnics blowing crap up. Somewhat surprisingly, you can pull these moves off all damn day if you like without it ever costing you a thing. Another weird technique is that you can slow your decent after jumps by double tapping and holding the jump button. An early stage in the game has you floating down to the ground via jetpack - you're not tethered to the ground by gravity in this level, so you can fly around all over the place. Later in the game you're put through a horizontal shooter stage where you ride around some kind of fancy vaguely chariot-looking hover craft. As opposed to the flying stage, this is a pure shooter level, so all of your attacks are replaced with long range projectiles. Both of these two stages are really basic stuff, but it's still always nice to see that extra effort put into the level design.

As is the case with any licensed Konami beat-em-up, the look of the game is very faithful to its source material. Of course that's much easier to tell with a game like The Simpsons, because everybody is familiar with the show. If you're one of the few people who actually remembers the Bucky O'Hare animated series you'll definitely be able to appreciate how accurately it's been portrayed. For everybody else, it's still a good looking game in general, with some interesting anthropomorphic character designs, huge ships in the shape of frogs, large weird looking robots, absolutely massive explosion effects, and bright colorful graphics. The music's pretty decent itself, though nothing too memorable. Digitized audio is relatively plentiful, with each character being voiced by their actual voice actor from the animated series.

Overall, Bucky O'Hare is a pretty wicked little game. It might not be as "pure" of a beat-em-up as Konami's other entries in the genre, but it is among their most original. Either way, it definitely still has a place among the many other great arcade games that they were making at the time, so go give it a shot, if you haven't already.

Quick Info:

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Publisher:

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Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)

Bucky O'Hare (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots


X-Men - Arcade, PSN, XBLA, iOS, Android (1992)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

(NOTE: While this is about the six player double-wide-screen version of the game, the screenshots shown are taken from the four player version of the machine.)

Here it is. The king of all arcade exclusive games. Why Konami never got around to porting it to anything we can only guess, but either way everybody played the hell out of this thing during its day. Just like Mortal Kombat that same year, this game alone was reason enough for many people to take a trip to the arcades with their friends. For so many people to play the thing so much in the arcades, and then never see that pay-off of a home port, well... that just sucks. A SNES version would have taken up many an afternoon for a lot of people, but, alas, it was never to be. If Konami had kept the license long enough to bring this one home, it could have been the game that sold a million multi-taps. The plot's about as brain dead as you could possibly hope for from a beat-em-up. There's this crazy evil guy name Magneto who's being crazy and evil and trying to destroy crap and take over the world. So it's up to the X-Men to beat him down. It's actually based on the Pryde of the X-Men cartoon pilot, but since it was never picked up for a full series, so this isn't initially evident.

Characters

Wolverine

Logan, aka "Wolverine", was born James Howlett way, way, way back in the 1800's. Other than his amazing slow aging powers, he's supposed to be able to heal from even the most serious wounds in mere moments. Of course that would have made him an over-powered bastard in the game, so Konami just gave him his metallic claws and stupid costume, and left it at that.

Cyclops

Scott "Cyclops" Summers is the team leader of X-Men. His eyes constantly fire laser beams whenever they're open, so he wears a goofy-ass-looking laser-proof visor to avoid blowing everything around him the hell up.

Storm

Ororo Monroe - or "Storm" - was taken in by Captain Picard as a young orphan. At least that's how it was in the movies. She can fly and has a limited ability to control the weather.

Nightcrawler

Kurt "Nightcrawler" Wagner looks like a freaking blue demon, complete with Spock ears and a damn tail. He can enter another dimension and then instantly re-enter ours in another location within his line of sight. So, basically, he can teleport.

Dazzler

Alison "Dazzler" Blair was an aspiring pop star with a completely ludicrous backstory involving beating some immortal super villain in a singing contest, or something like that, before joining the team. She can throw lasers, or whatever the hell it's supposed to be. She's also by far the least popular in the game, and she's also something of an out of date character in the graphic novels.

Colossus

Piotor "Colossus" Rasputin can change into some kind of crazy organic steel crap, which I guess is supposed to make him super strong and nigh invulnerable, or something like that. He was dead in the graphic novel's continuity, but given that we're talking about Marvel, it didn't last very long.

The overall feel of the game bears a strong resemblance to Konami's earlier arcade title TMNT. Only X-Men lets you throw your foes and attack them when they're on the ground. Otherwise it's pretty hack-n-slash-y, giving you only one basic attack and a jump kick to perform over and over again. You also get the by-then standard crowd control moves, which take the form of "mutant powers". Each mutant power is some kind of projectile/explosion/whatever that either nearly fills the screen or has full screen range and totally devastates everything in its path.

As cool as they are, the way that the mutant powers are set up is really a major pain. When you begin a life you'll have a blue dot next to your health meter. If you've got three notches or less on your health meter (out of eight) then pulling off a mutant power attack will lose you the dot. Beating a boss lets you start each life with one more dot, and as long as you keep continuing you can build it up all the way to nine mutant power attacks per life. You'll need them, too, because, in classic Konami fashion, the bosses are idiotically over-powered. If your health meter is half filled or better you can still pull of a mutant power attack, but it'll cost you a whole 3/8 of your health - meaning that there's really no way that they'll save you from more damage than they'll cause. Of course, it's easy to just not do it, but the bosses are so damn difficult, and the swarms can get so overwhelming at times, that it's just too damn tempting not to. Konami's goal was obviously to munch your quarters, and that's exactly what it'll do.

Like they did with The Simpsons before it, Konami did amazingly well at recreating the look of the material that the game is based on. Each character is based on their depictions circa the late 1980s, and the graphics look like a less detailed version of a X-Men magazine from around that period. All of the near-screen-filling, flashy-as-hell, effects-laden mutant power moves make for wicked eye candy, which just makes the pay-off that much better on the still too rare occasions that you do get to pull one off. The audio is freaking fantastic. Not only is the music great, but the game is so fast paced and excessively busy that all of the explosions and ass whupping noises form a relentless, chaotic, and LOUD cacophony that always made the machine impossible to ignore at the arcades. The bosses - and the characters during their death cries - all speak with voice samples. They generally only have one phrase a piece, which can, and does, get repetitive, but it's still very cool.

There are people out there these days who will tell you that X-Men isn't really that great of a game. That, while not bad, it's over-rated. That it's just too repetitive to stand up to other titles in the genre. Those people never got to play this game in the arcades. Its main draw is and was that some versions of the machine can be played by six people at once. Said versions have two screens set up side by side to make up a huge horizontal playing field - similar to Taito's Darius, Warrior Blade, or Ninja Warriors arcade games - and creating all of the needed room to fit six people in front of the cabinet.

I'm sure you already know that beat-em-ups are great when they're played on your own, even better with two people, and that much better with three or four. But X-Men with five other people in the arcades was worth playing for the social experience alone. So many people active at once in-game makes it impossible to take in everything that's going on all of the time, making the action erupt into pure non-stop chaos as a result. And anybody who has ever played this thing with five other people can tell you that there's never been anything else like it in the arcades. Oh sure, there are and were better beat-em-ups out there, but nothing - NOTHING - else could recreate the experience of getting six people together and blazing through a game of X-Men in the arcades. It's truly one of the most memorable arcade going experiences of all time. So consider yourself fortunate if you got to play the thing back in the day in its original form.

Quick Info:

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X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)

X-Men (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots

X-Men (6 Player Arcade)


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The Adventures of Bayou Billy
S.P.Y.: Special Project Y
The Simpsons

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Astérix
Bucky O'Hare
X-Men

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Batman Returns (NES)
Batman Returns (SNES)

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Metamorphic Force
Gaiapolis

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