Fighting games came back. Adventure games came back. Can brawlers come back?
Sega's early-2012 game Anarchy Reigns is a modern-day rarity, a game built for one or more players to punch and kick their way through. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title from Platinum Games is a brawler, which makes it a throwback to the Final Fights and Streets of Rages that used to be among the most popular video games around.
The beat-em-up was a welcome violent variation at this month's E3, where it stood apart from all the shooters but relying on players' ability to make the game's colourful characters use crazy wrestling moves, studded bats, and... well, there are guns in the game, too. But it's definitely a brawler. And thus it is a throwback.
"If people in the industry start to make this kind of game [again] , I'll be more than happy," Atsushi Inaba of Platinum Games recently told Kotaku during a brief interview. "There must be reasons why this kind of game was very popular at one point. But when it comes to making this kind of brawling work online, there are a lot of technical problems. You need to have a lot of patience and technical excellence, which is why most studios have probably stayed away from this."
The E3 Anarchy Reigns demo on the show floor focused on online multiplayer combat, which is a twist for the genre. Most of the details of the game's action are lost to the fact that I kept playing and not scribbling in my notebook, I'm sorry to say. But the basic experience was that of an enjoyable button-mash brawl that reminded me of the absurd combat of Capcom's God Hand, though re-cast as a competitive multiplayer brawl. There were charge attacks, rage attacks, large sniper rifles to shoot someone with at point-blank range and lots of nutty wrestling moves. The game would be perfect for Platinum's Bayonetta, though Inaba declined to say whether she will or won't be in the game.
Behind closed doors, Sega also showed a single-mode that allows players to experience the game's storyline as either Max (the hero from Platinum's Madworld) or a guy named Leo. In a level called "The Wily Crocodile," Leo had to beat up guys on the deck of an aircraft carrier that was covered in crashed planes. In the Jack level, Jack had to beat up a ninja. Inaba stressed that the single-player part of the game will have a deep and serious story, but, frankly, it all looked wonderfully over-the-top to me. Consider that you're being scored in these levels on things like: "execution kills" and "killer weapon kills."
If you've seen a trailer for Anarchy Reigns you can safely predict what's coming. This is a colourful beat-em-up for an era made drab by a lack of such games. I didn't touch singleplayer, but I was delighted by multi. If you want a brawler revival, follow this one.