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View Full Version : What Makes a Beat em Up "Good" or "Bad?"


Konchadunga
01-16-2013, 05:18 PM
This is hardly irrelevant to the Turtles, because this franchise, more than any other, has prompted me to ponder this. Most people are aware of how beloved the 2-D beat-em-up games based on the Fred Wolf cartoon were, and most critics and some fans slammed the 3-D games based on the 4Kids cartoon. Some critics even allege that the unlockable original arcade game in the second 4Kids-based beat-em-up is better than the core game. Most recently, even the Reshelled version of Turtles in Time has been widely considered worse than the original. I haven't played any of the recent beat-em-up games except for the GBA game based on the 2007 movie (which incidentally, was 2-D and highly-lauded), but for those who have, and know more about them, I ask, why?

More specifically, what is it about the new games that makes them "worse" than the old ones? Are those allegations just crap? Is it just that the old ones have nostalgia on their side, and on top of that, the Fred Wolf cartoon is more beloved, or is there a more objective reason? Does a 2-dimensional plane of movement contract fights into a more on-your-toes challenge? Do the new games actually have less depth and more monotony, despite better technology and more buttons? Is catchy techno music an essential part of the essence of beat-em-ups that many modern ones don't have?

I'd like people to weigh in with their opinions on this, because it's a pretty big part of the TMNT franchise, or at least used to be. When a series has this much clout, there will inevitably be more games, so what lessons from the past, if any, can they use to do them right?

oldmanwinters
01-16-2013, 08:04 PM
One word:
Pacing

And when in doubt, just make everything "over the top."

CyberCubed
01-16-2013, 08:07 PM
Nowadays, nothing.

That kind of gameplay was only acceptable back in the 80's and early 90's. Nowadays gaming frowns upon new games like that.

Xav
01-16-2013, 08:14 PM
I don't know games like God of War and Devil May Cry are pretty popular.

oldmanwinters
01-16-2013, 08:18 PM
Nowadays, nothing.

That kind of gameplay was only acceptable back in the 80's and early 90's. Nowadays gaming frowns upon new games like that.

Lots of people did enjoy Double Dragon: Neon, which didn't shy away from poking fun at itself and its era.

And lots of people wanted to like Turtles in Time Reshelled, but they felt the "updates" just ended up watering down the product.

All that to say, I don't think the genre is dead. The industry just hasn't perfected the right way to evolve it to meet the modern day gaming expectations.

In today's gaming culture, "game over" has given way to "game save," thus eliminating much of the challenge and tension that came with trying to survive the game with limited numbers of lives and continues. And since nobody fails, they always end up completing the game in their few one or two attempts. Ergo, the second dilemma... either (A) the game is over too quickly (one hour or less) and gamers don't feel like they got their money's worth or else (B) the game developers add in superfluous content to try and artificially extend a game's length longer than it really should last and gamers end up burned out and bored by the tedious and repetitive gameplay, assuming that the entire genre must be as simple as "mindless button mashing."

Clearly, you can't charge $30-60 dollars for a well paced beat em' up these days and expect to satisfy your customers. However, the $10-ish price range is a very good goal for downloadable games, ala Double Dragon Neon.

Hopefully, we'll get to see a Battletoads "Neon" before too long.

Konchadunga
01-16-2013, 09:35 PM
One word:
Pacing

And when in doubt, just make everything "over the top."

Please clarify. More specifically, why do the old games have these qualities, and not the new ones?

Nowadays, nothing.

That kind of gameplay was only acceptable back in the 80's and early 90's. Nowadays gaming frowns upon new games like that.

So in your opinion, there really is nothing objectively better about the old Turtles games?


In today's gaming culture, "game over" has given way to "game save," thus eliminating much of the challenge and tension that came with trying to survive the game with limited numbers of lives and continues. And since nobody fails, they always end up completing the game in their few one or two attempts.

The problem is beyond that. Many Beat-em-ups weren't designed to be beaten with limited continues, they were designed to be impossible without purchased continues, or nearly so. Ironically, this bit about the arcade-style games that were quickly becoming obsolete actually has come back in the form of micro-transactions, and for a while, I thought maybe the casual game market could be a place to bring back the coin-op beat em up. Yet most of the new games making their money from micro-transactions are so terrible that they've burnt people out on this again. Zynga is on its way out, and no disrespect to the TMNT, but I won't trade this universe in which I get to watch Zynga crash and burn for an alternate where I see a treasured game genre revived.

Ergo, the second dilemma... either (A) the game is over too quickly (one hour or less) and gamers don't feel like they got their money's worth or else (B) the game developers add in superfluous content to try and artificially extend a game's length longer than it really should last and gamers end up burned out and bored by the tedious and repetitive gameplay, assuming that the entire genre must be as simple as "mindless button mashing."

I don't think it must; in fact it must not. Those games that truly are that are the ones that can't be beaten without purchased continues, so outside the arcade there's no way you can make your beat-em-ups that shallow. Giving people a variety of moves and tactics, different enemies that require different moves and different tactics to increase depth, is a great way to improve the genre, and in fact the SNES port of Turtles in Time actually did that. Even today, I still find that game a lot of fun. It's still shallow at times; drop kicks are way too spammable, but it's a step in the right direction as to how to evolve beat-em-ups.

Clearly, you can't charge $30-60 dollars for a well paced beat em' up these days and expect to satisfy your customers. However, the $10-ish price range is a very good goal for downloadable games, ala Double Dragon Neon.

Hopefully, we'll get to see a Battletoads "Neon" before too long.

You say that, but that GBA TMNT2007 game was $30, and still got much better reviews than the 3-D games made in the 2000s, so once again, why? What do 2-D beat-em-ups have that 3-D ones don't, besides nostalgia?

oldmanwinters
01-17-2013, 05:18 AM
I spent way to much time articulating my thoughts on this. I really don't have anything left to add.


You say that, but that GBA TMNT2007 game was $30, and still got much better reviews than the 3-D games made in the 2000s, so once again, why? What do 2-D beat-em-ups have that 3-D ones don't, besides nostalgia?

To borrow an analogy:
"Best looking girl in the room?"

pferreira
01-17-2013, 08:42 AM
Can't say I was a big fan of Ninja Turtles Reshelled. It seemed to suck all the fun from the original game with updating it. I actually liked the 2003 4Kids video game. I mean I have it for the PC and it seems fun to play. Less said about the unplayable platform jumping sequel the better.

Zulithe
01-17-2013, 08:47 AM
I have not played re-shelled or I'd like to comment... sadly now that you can't buy it I may never get to play it. Hopefully someday it will be emulated or re-released

What I do know is that TMNT has had more than its share of beat em up games and I'd like to see future console/PC games based on the Nick show to do something a little more interesting.

If they insist on doing a beat em up I want them to look at what Square did with The Bouncer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv5SBul_s30), that was a good twist on the format. It's a Beat Em Up with RPG elements. Looks a little clunky because it's one of the very first PS2 games, but if made today it would play pretty smooth I imagine.

Or TT games does take a chance and do a LEGO TMNT game, maybe they could add beat em up elements to it? They have been experimenting a lot with the LEGO game format lately, it could be a fresh direction for them.

***First of Two Latin Kings***
01-17-2013, 08:09 PM
To borrow an analogy:
"Best looking girl in the room?"

Aren't you just stating what should be most obvious, that this is subjective?

I haven't played any of the recent beat-em-up games except for the GBA game based on the 2007 movie (which incidentally, was 2-D and highly-lauded), but for those who have, and know more about them, I ask, why?

Which game is that?

oldmanwinters
01-17-2013, 08:20 PM
Aren't you just stating what should be most obvious, that this is subjective?


Mostly, I was just noting that all the major game reviewers and the general game playing public really appreciated the simplicity and charm of the GBA cart compared to the dull and boring movie-inspired games that were released concurrently on the consoles and the DS.

TMNT GBA was the lone bright spot of the games inspired by the Imagi film.

Shark_Blade
01-18-2013, 03:13 AM
I have not played re-shelled or I'd like to comment... sadly now that you can't buy it I may never get to play it. Hopefully someday it will be emulated or re-released


It's still available in Asia PSN where I bought it. Create an Asia PSN ID, buy a PSN card (it's available online), enter the code, download, play the game. Cherish.

It might still be available in Europe PSN but I haven't check.

Candy Kappa
01-18-2013, 03:43 AM
It might still be available in Europe PSN but I haven't check.

don't count on it

Coola Yagami
01-19-2013, 12:00 AM
IMO being simple and complicated at the same time.
Bad-ass characters, pumpin music, lots of moves, weapons and specials but without over-doing it, maybe some rpg elements to power up moves and weapons.
KEEP IT 2D. No 3D elements or platforming crap. No CGI graphics or whatever. Keep it animated, but with super awesome KOF XIII graphics. I don't know why but whenever someone tries to make a beat-em-up with 3D worlds and CGI graphics... IT. DOES. NOT. WORK. And IMO that's why the genre is dying.
Stick to what works, but pump it up.
Take a game like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, and jack up the graphics, music and stuff up to over 9000, but keep the core 2D-ish gameplay the same. I don't want to play a beat-em-up with 3D enviroments and having to worry about jumping alot of platforms with tricky camera angles.

Konchadunga
01-19-2013, 02:13 AM
A lot of critics would disagree with you about the 3-D and platforming bits. There are games that have done both and very, very well-recieved...they just don't star the TMNT.

Of the Beat-em-ups I've played, the side-scrolling ones do tend to be more fun, but honestly, they're also cheap. Enemies cheat by moving offscreen where you can't hit them, and then you can cheat by launching a flying kick right through every enemy in your trajectory. These design flaws wear out their welcome at some point, and after that point, the only real incentive I have to continue even the good TMNT games is the bosses, which have some actual unique strategy to them.

Cryomancer
01-19-2013, 03:20 AM
Seriously play Double Dragon Neon. It's only real flaw is that the backgrounds can be a little uninteresting at times. Once you actually start to get into the specifics of the fighting, you'll realize how well a modern brawler can indeed play.

Pro tip: learn to use the dodge/duck/roll moves, it's important.

Also off the top of my head, the main reason for Turtles in Time being better than Re-shelled were mostly that Re-shelled introduced (what I think is) 8 way moving and attacking, which really messes combat up. You have to aim "up and down", which only seems to add tedium and nothing much for strategy or fun. Otherwise, the new music is much more generic and the new graphics are just bland and often unsaturated, sometimes even very samey to the point where things blur together and it can be harder to see what is going on than it should be. Turtles in Time is a colorful game, Re-shelled not so much. Re-shelled also did not bother to make the game into an "ultimate" version with both arcade and SNES content, or add anything new, so it's sort of a "side-grade" and missed opportunity of a game.

Vegeta
01-24-2013, 02:10 AM
Killer music, high difficulty, special moves, varied characters and cool design all make for a good beat Em up. Streets of rage 2 is the best beat Em up of all time in my book because it does everything right. Turtles in time is great but the difficulty spikes at random times gets annoying. Pacing like someone else said is key to a well made beat Em up. If Icould have a streets of rage game with the turtles universe that'd be a nerdgasm

Konchadunga
03-31-2013, 03:48 PM
Seriously play Double Dragon Neon. It's only real flaw is that the backgrounds can be a little uninteresting at times. Once you actually start to get into the specifics of the fighting, you'll realize how well a modern brawler can indeed play.

Pro tip: learn to use the dodge/duck/roll moves, it's important.

Also off the top of my head, the main reason for Turtles in Time being better than Re-shelled were mostly that Re-shelled introduced (what I think is) 8 way moving and attacking, which really messes combat up. You have to aim "up and down", which only seems to add tedium and nothing much for strategy or fun. Otherwise, the new music is much more generic and the new graphics are just bland and often unsaturated, sometimes even very samey to the point where things blur together and it can be harder to see what is going on than it should be. Turtles in Time is a colorful game, Re-shelled not so much. Re-shelled also did not bother to make the game into an "ultimate" version with both arcade and SNES content, or add anything new, so it's sort of a "side-grade" and missed opportunity of a game.

This is an interesting set of points, and brings back memories of a game-design class I took, and important things I was taught: In order to create a game, you must place restrictions on what a player can do. In sports terms (this is the example my teacher used to describe game design), the easiest way to get a ball into a hole is to pick it up, walk to the hole, and drop it in, but there's no challenge there; hence the sport of Golf restricts picking up the ball and requires imprecise hits with a stick. In video game terms, there's the phenomenon of flight, and how much or how little you can use it depending on the game. Kirby can fly whenever and as long as he wants, because there aren't many platforming challenges in his games and many of his enemies also fly and can shoot him down, but if you put unrestricted flight in Super Mario Bros 3, you'd break the platforming challenge so much of the game is based on, so Mario has to charge a P meter on the ground to fly, and it then depletes while flying so he can't do it forever. Similarly, notice how much less of a presence the iconic Koopa Troopas have in the 3-D Mario games? It's probably because the big thrill of them, their shells that slide when kicked and bounce off walls and can kill both you and enemies, suddenly becomes all-but absent when there are more than two dimensions and the chances of them hitting something decrease.

So with regard to beat-em-ups, it is likely that the 2-D plane of movement gives things a more in-the-fray feeling. You're always, in a sense, engaged in combat with your enemies, you can't do much to evade them, so the incentive is always to keep fighting. However, I don't think it's impossible for 3-D beat-em-ups to recreate that; it just takes some extra work. I think if they could develop AI that knows how to flank players, then the suspense would be restored. Kya: Dark Lineage did that pretty well in its beat-em-up-like segments, which to my and many other people's chagrin were not a larger part of the game. I also like what I am seeing in Out of the Shadows, so who knows? Maybe we'll get a great TMNT beat-em-up again.

MikeandRaph87
03-31-2013, 05:48 PM
For me its three things. In exact order:

1.Bosses-I would rather have Rat King,Slash,and Leatherhead opposed to a rock solider other than General Traag,a made for game villian Tora,or an ally in Metalhead. Better choices in each example.
2.The scenary. Are we fighting the Foot in a landmark or on location somewhere? Those make for some great backgrounds! Somethi g to add to the traditional sewer and Technodrome levels.
3. How hard or easy the game is. I never beat the original game because is so frakin' hard.While I beat Smash Up in an hour. Beatable but not a breeze.

Cure
03-31-2013, 07:24 PM
I don't know games like God of War and Devil May Cry are pretty popular.

Those aren't beat em ups. They both have platforming and puzzle sections, so they're more action games.

CyberCubed is both right and wrong. Beat em ups can still fly, but only as downloadable titles.

mgambino
03-31-2013, 08:53 PM
I think the best way to make a good beat em up is to copy Guardian Heroes. Have a cool combat system, insane amounts of action going on at once, branching paths, and tons of playable characters.

Gokhan
03-31-2013, 10:11 PM
People hate on reshelled I personally found it great it played exactly the same as original...besides being able to move around more than just back and forth

Coola Yagami
03-31-2013, 10:51 PM
For some reason 3-D beat-em-ups never seem to play as fast as their 2D counterparts. Even re-shelled looks kinda slow and clunky in comparison. I agree with what one of the previous posters said, they need to make the enemies flank the good guys better. There just seems to be so much empty space. More walking, less fighting. And that's not what a beat-em-up needs to be. Plus, why was re-shelled so dark? In Krang's spaceship it looked like they forgot to pay the light bill. It's like they didn't finish the game and used the darkness to cover up the missing details.

shihe
03-31-2013, 11:53 PM
In today's age, I expect several additional things to keep me interested in a beat-em-up.


1.- A level up system (and learning abilities) It's the only way it can guarantee that I'll keep playing. To master every character.

2.- Loads of characters to choose from. It's not essential, but it keeps ME interested by providing me with more variety.

3.- Customization: Wether weapons, shields, pets, abilities.. Customization is the formula of love in a beat-em-up in this day and age.

4.- Offline/Online multiplayer/co-op/competitive.
Might seem like the obvious, but there are still single-player beat-em-ups, and to be honest... I don't really like them. I'd play them once and never again.

5.- Different characters = Different properties/attributes/abilities/combos. Again, variety = bliss.



A final note:
A good combo system. (Applies to all eras, actually). If a combo system doesn't work (Tmnt 3: Manhattan Project for example) then it's not good. Opponents should flinch and be stunned with each hit. If they can hit you between your combos, it's no good.



btw, favorite beat'em up ever is Castle Crashers, followed by Scott Pilgrim, TMNT:IV, Streets of Rage 2, and now Double Dragon Neon.

Coola Yagami
04-01-2013, 10:03 PM
In today's age, I expect several additional things to keep me interested in a beat-em-up.


1.- A level up system (and learning abilities) It's the only way it can guarantee that I'll keep playing. To master every character.

2.- Loads of characters to choose from. It's not essential, but it keeps ME interested by providing me with more variety.

3.- Customization: Wether weapons, shields, pets, abilities.. Customization is the formula of love in a beat-em-up in this day and age.

4.- Offline/Online multiplayer/co-op/competitive.
Might seem like the obvious, but there are still single-player beat-em-ups, and to be honest... I don't really like them. I'd play them once and never again.

5.- Different characters = Different properties/attributes/abilities/combos. Again, variety = bliss.



A final note:
A good combo system. (Applies to all eras, actually). If a combo system doesn't work (Tmnt 3: Manhattan Project for example) then it's not good. Opponents should flinch and be stunned with each hit. If they can hit you between your combos, it's no good.



btw, favorite beat'em up ever is Castle Crashers, followed by Scott Pilgrim, TMNT:IV, Streets of Rage 2, and now Double Dragon Neon.

Manhattan Project might not have combos per say... but you were able to hit the Foot twice and kill em without them laying a hand on you. TMNT II was the one where your basic attacks didn't work because they would smack you during it, reducing you to jumpkick and jumpslash the game away.

CyberCubed
04-01-2013, 11:45 PM
Short levels is a must. A lot of people don't realize how short each level in the old turtle games are.

You can literally play through each level in about 3-4 minutes depending on how long it takes you to beat the boss.

Nameless
04-02-2013, 10:13 AM
For me its how difficult is it. I still think that the NES Turtles II is the best beat-em up simply because it was hard to beat. But in the same breath not impossible. Limited Lives and Limited continues are key.

The other really big things i love about that game is there is no "Special Attack" that costs Health to use. For me this is the dumbest thing to add to beat-em ups, especially good difficult beat-em ups, because health management is paramount to completing the game. Plus i always found myself doing it accidentally costing myself health.

shihe
04-02-2013, 10:35 AM
For me its how difficult is it. I still think that the NES Turtles II is the best beat-em up simply because it was hard to beat. But in the same breath not impossible. Limited Lives and Limited continues are key.

The other really big things i love about that game is there is no "Special Attack" that costs Health to use. For me this is the dumbest thing to add to beat-em ups, especially good difficult beat-em ups, because health management is paramount to completing the game. Plus i always found myself doing it accidentally costing myself health.

I don't think it's stupid as long as:

a) It's mapped to a different button
b) It doesn't take off too muh life (two bars or three tops)


Its inclusion makes sense to me because if you get cornered, chances are you're probably going to get clobbered, and easily escape with half you health bar. But by sacrificing just 2 or 3 health points, you're out of the sticky situation.


Though to be honest, I rather have an extra attack button instead of a special one that consumes energy.

---

Regarding the shortness of a level: YES! I mean, not TOO short, but not too long either (TMNT:Arcade Attack, best example of levels too long).

Nameless
04-02-2013, 02:24 PM
I don't think it's stupid as long as:

a) It's mapped to a different button
b) It doesn't take off too muh life (two bars or three tops)


Its inclusion makes sense to me because if you get cornered, chances are you're probably going to get clobbered, and easily escape with half you health bar. But by sacrificing just 2 or 3 health points, you're out of the sticky situation.


Though to be honest, I rather have an extra attack button instead of a special one that consumes energy.

---

Regarding the shortness of a level: YES! I mean, not TOO short, but not too long either (TMNT:Arcade Attack, best example of levels too long).

I prefer to have one that uses a cool down or energy/mana type thing if they want a super tough skill.
I honestly would risk taking more damage getting out of the corner without the skill then take guaranteed damage using the skill. And in the case of the Turtles a simple jump ninja kick puts you well away from attackers meaning no getting stuck in a corner.