Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle Review
I prefer the name Brawler for this genre, or the Japanese “Belt-Scrolling/Belt Action” moniker. In fact, in Japan, this game is called the Capcom Belt Action Bundle which is really great.
One sentence in and I’ve already digressed.
Capcom’s Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is a $20 dollar package available on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and Steam. The Steam version launched late and quietly last week, after being delayed at the last minute for no readily apparent reason. That half-heartedness permeates the entirety of this collection. It’s exactly the level of competent that it needs to be…with two great exceptions.
When you load up the game, you presented with a very basic looking menu and the game’s sole new piece of music. The menu lets you choose Offline Play, Online Play, or Local Co-op, and then you select a game. The rest of the UI is similarly clunky, with DIP switch options and ROM settings hidden behind button presses from the game selection menu, and a font that feels about as off-the-shelf and lacking in personality as it gets.
I’m sorry to get in the weeds on the UI presentation here, but at its core this is a collection of seven old arcade ROMs that even the cheapest phone would have no trouble emulating at this point. So these little aspects matter.
The big standout in the menu system, and one of the two best things about this game, is the Gallery. It’s a surprisingly comprehensive collection of concept and key art for each game. I enjoyed flipping through these…though it’s weird that they’re not tied to game progression. Everything here is unlocked from the start.
The included games are Final Fight, Knights of the Round, King of Dragons, Captain Commando, Warriors of Fate, Armored Warriors, and Battle Circuit. Several of them are downright classics. Emulation is very solid…though completely devoid of any options for display. You can change the border around the game or turn it off…and that is it. There aren’t any blurring, filtering, stretching, or pixel doubling options. The games all run in big chunky pixel mode and while I like that, others might hate it.
It feels like no effort was put in beyond getting the games to run.
This also means that you’re stuck with the original soundtracks, which weren’t designed with today’s hardware in mind. It’s great for authenticity’s sake, but many of these games have received music remixes over the years, and none of that is present here.
Final Fight suffers the worst. I’ve always loved the music of Final Fight, but the music from the numerous re-releases sticks out in my mind way more than the original arcade tunes, which can sound a little clunky and archaic in 2018. The level opening theme, fixed in later versions to sound more dramatic, always sounds like the arcade machine’s sound chip is dying.
Each game offers one save state slot, and that’s it in the way of extras outside the previously mentioned DIP switch difficulty settings. Each game is also permanently locked to Free Play, so if you’re masochistic and want to beef up the difficulty, you’re on the honor system. This was probably the right call so that people could see all the content they paid for…but also speaks to the minimal effort put in here.
In fact, as I dutifully punched my way through Final Fight, Knights of the Round, and King of Dragons for the hundred millionth time in my life, I thought “Uh oh, I just paid 20 dollars for a collection of games that’s totally fine, but doesn’t feel quite as fun as the Capcom collection way back on PSP.”
And then I got to Battle Circuit.
All of the screenshots in this review are pictures I took of Battle Circuit.
I’d never heard of or played this game before, and I’m now convinced that someone inside Capcom was like “We should take our underplayed game Battle Circuit and put it OUT on all the newest consoles!”
“That’s market suicide,” said a rational person. “So let’s hide it under a bunch of our other classics instead.”
Do yourself a favor if you buy this: skip past all the marquee titles and go right to Battle Circuit, especially if you’re like me and never knew it was a thing.
We all already know that Final Fight is good. It has Metro City Mayor Mike Haggar, so of course it is.
But Battle Circuit has Doctor Saturn. That nefarious devil. And a guy who looks like Elvis. And weird alien lizard warriors. And and and…
It’s a delightful fever dream rendered at a high degree of mid 90’s detail. I immediately understood why it never got a wide American release, and I love every second of the game. The brawler combat is more involved than the other games in the package. You can level up your character between levels by “SELECTING YOUR UPGRADE SOFT.” And the storyline and animations are completely top-notch, in a “this team finally got to do whatever the heck they wanted” sort of a way. Only Captain Commando successfully approaches this level of delightful weirdness.
Battle Circuit is a game that would have drawn weird looks in the US in the late 90’s instead of quarters, and that’s probably why it didn’t come out here originally, but oh man I wish it had. I wish that Doctor Saturn had been in my life for the last 20 years. The graphics are gorgeously colorful and every character stands out as a unique and weird design. Each time a new enemy appears, it’s a delight. And the full stereo soundtrack is still as crisp and exciting as I’d expect out of a modern game.
Overall, this is a very basic package that functions the way you’d expect it to and has a roster of totally fine Capcom games and a true hidden gem in Battle Circuit. Because I’ve played most of these games to death since I was a kid, I almost thought I’d wasted my money, but then I found a new favorite and I was right back in.
Oh and for the record, I still really like Final Fight and Knights of the Round…though this collection also reminded me that I’ve never actually defeated the last boss in the SNES port of Knights. A defeat that haunts me to this day.