Bringing old games back as either solo releases or combined together into bigger packages is nothing new, but one of the twists to that idea that I’ve loved as of late is the attention being given to retro arcade titles (especially those from Japan). For as much as we’ve been given offerings from the NES, Genesis, or Super NES over and over, there are still hundreds of past arcade games that sit untouched and sometimes even forgotten.
When Capcom released its Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection a short while back, one of the interesting elements to the compilation was its focus specifically on the series’ arcade heritage. Capcom has a long and storied history with that side of gaming, and we’re getting another look at that legacy here in Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle.
While Capcom didn’t invent the side-scrolling beat ‘em up action genre—nor did they provide the breakout hit that kicked it into overdrive, as that credit goes to Technōs Japan’s Double Dragon—they were still a very influential company in the advancement of such games. Easily its most popular genre offering came in 1989’s Final Fight, which actually started life as a sequel to the original Street Fighter but was then shifted in gameplay style to give the publisher more title diversity. Cody, Guy, and Haggar’s attempt to both save Jessica and clean up the streets of Metro City is now legendary, but far from all that Capcom had in store for players.
Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle centers around five of Capcom’s best-known home-grown genre releases: Final Fight, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, The King of Dragons, and Warriors of Fate. While we’ve been given each in various ways across the years on home platforms, it’s nice having them all together in one spot like this. It’s also impressive just how much they hold up to this day—though, depending on your personal tastes, which holds up the most will be a matter of judgement. For me, outside of Final Fight, I think Captain Commando remains my favorite, due to its mix of enjoyable gameplay and trademark Capcom weirdness. I mean, you’ve got a baby controlling a robot dressed like a human which can then ride a bigger robot. Come on.
If the collect was just those five games, it’d be nice, but admittedly a tad unexciting. However, the two final additions to Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle’s roster are the real stars of the show: Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit. If those two names aren’t familiar to you, it’s because this is the first time that either has seen any kind of home release—and, in the case of Battle Circuit, a Western release period. Having never played either, there was a real excitement in my introduction to each, but what really caught me off guard after beating both was how legitimately good I thought they were. In fact, I think they’re probably my favorite two games in this collection, in part because each feels like the maturity of Capcom’s beat ‘em up efforts. (And they in fact are, given Armored Warriors was 1994 and Battle Circuit not until 1997, making them some of the company’s later genre offerings.)
Battle Circuit was my first stop, and it’s impressive how fresh and creative the game feels. Revolving around a group of bounty hunters tasked with taking down a variety of targets, Battle Circuit is colorful, it’s wacky, it offers some variety to break up the “beat people up, move right, repeat” gameplay loop, and players can even purchase new attacks with the money they earn. Also, Battle Circuit gives Captain Commando’s Baby Head a run for his money by introducing Pinky, a young girl who rides a sentient, eyepatch-sporting pink ostrich. There was one weird thing for me the entire time I played the game, though: I swear, in certain moments, that it feels more like a NeoGeo release than something Capcom ever would have produced. (That’s not in any way being said as a negative, to be clear.)
If it’s a shame that Battle Circuit had never gotten a proper home release before, it’s downright criminal that Armored Warriors was stuck in that same limbo. I’m sorry Final Fight, but this is the true best game of the collection. Armored Warriors kicks off with a gorgeous 2D art style and the twist of controlling giant mechs instead of normal humans (or aliens), and only gets better from there. What makes the gameplay so fantastic is that three parts of your mech—your main arm, your gun, and your bottom half—can all be swapped out with replacement pieces recovered from defeated enemies. Finding which pieces best suit your playstyle is a ton of fun, and the various combinations you can have legitimately change they way you approach fights. Combine that with stages that try to keep things fresh and a time-based system for earning bonus points, and Armored Warriors is a game that I think all fans of the genre absolutely need to play.
However, while the content in Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is definitely satisfying, the package surrounding those games falters a bit. On the plus side, all seven titles can be played either in their English or Japanese forms, there’s a nice little gallery of supplemental artwork, and all games can be played both online or off. That last point brings the first disappointment, though, as I’ve had no luck finding any games online that run without some massive slowdown. Online modes are often a crapshoot, and I’d rather have the option here than not, but finding a well-running room might be more based on pure luck than you’ll be hoping.
Also—in one of the strangest omissions I’ve seen at any point recently—there are zero display options offered up in Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle. No choice for scanlines, no CRT filter, nothing. How in the world does that happen? Capcom’s last outing, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, at least had some amount of display options, as does pretty much any other retro collection (or even singular game release) released in recent years. Personally, I prefer nice, clear, chunky pixels in my classic games, so I’m not affected by this at all, but it’s a glaring omission. The one other complaint I’ve heard from a few folks is that the games all feature some amount of input lag, but I’m going to be honest here: I don’t feel it, at least not to any level that affects gameplay. So, if you’ve seen than mentioned and been scared off, it’s really not as bad as some are making it out to be.
The value of any collection of games can be tough to judge, because sometimes we get two games, sometimes we get thirty, and sometimes we get a decent-but-not-huge handful like we’ve gotten here in Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle. For me, this is a package that feels satisfying and worth a purchase, especially given the inclusion of two games that make it feel special beyond your typical compilation. This is a great collection for fans of Capcom’s classic titles or those who love the beat ‘em up genre, and only leaves me feel wanting due to its few technical flaws. Well, that, and now (stupidly) hoping for a Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle 2, featuring Capcom’s harder-to-revive licensed titles—such as the holy grail, Aliens vs. Predator.
It can be hard sometimes to make collections for retro games feel exciting, especially if those games have been released numerous times before. Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle bucks that trend not only by having games that are still enjoyable to this day, but also by including two titles that are finally being released on consoles for the first time. A few issues mars the overall package, but not enough to put a major damper on its offerings.
T – Teen
|Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Primary version played was for Nintendo Switch. Product was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.