Friday, 15 September 2017

Demolish Fist (Arcade)

At some point in the mid-late 1990s, beat em ups as a genre entered something of a drought, from which the genre's never really recovered. While shooting games and 2D platformers have plenty of great representatives from both mainstream and independent developers, new beat em ups are few and far between, and a lot of the time, they're ruined by the kinds of stupid game-killing design choices I've complained about in many, many posts on this blog before: levelling up/skill shops, negative difficulty curves, and a new one I only discovered recently: there's a game available on PS4 and PC called Mother Russia Bleeds, and the lives/continue system is so broken as to make it impossible to get a game over (as far as I could tell), rendering the game completely pointless.

But anyway, that drought. It was still very much in effect in 2003, when Demolish Fist was released, and even among the few beat em ups released about that time, this one stands out by being more traditional. Though it's entirely in 3D and you can move and face in all eight directions, the camera sticks rigidly in one position (not counting cutscenes, obviously), making the game play like a regular, old-fashioned belt scroller. And it does a great job of it, too! You walk along, beat up crowds of bad guys, pick up weapons and power-ups and a good time is had by all.

Of course, every beat em up needs to have a gimmick to make it stand out, even if it has no contemporary competitors, and Demolish Fist actually has a few! Firstly, there's a block button. It's not a massive thing, but it's still something that a lot of beat em ups don't have. Secondly, the game takes an approach to weaponry akin to Two Crude Dudes or Dynamite Deka, having tons of stuff available to pick up and swing and/or throw: cattleprods, baseball bats with nails hammered into the end, swords, electrified gloves, fuel tanks, vending machines, motorcycles, cars and so on. The final, and most unique gimmick is the vertigo system. You get a power bar that fills up from attacking enemies, like in many other games. When it fills up, you can press all three buttons to enter vertigo mode, during which you're not only invincible, but you can also attack as fast as you're able to hammer the attack button. This lasts for ten seconds or until every enemy present has been defeated, and it never gets old or stops being satisfying.

I also want to talk about this game's setting and aesthetic, which I like as much as the game itself. It's a kind of look that was used in a lot of anime and Japanese videogames around the turn of the century that I'm going to call "sunset dystopia", a world where there hasn't been any kind of cataclysmic event, but it's just kind of lurching slowly towards an eventual apocalypse through societal entropy that's just on the horizon. I guess other examples of the look would be Daraku Tenshi, King of Fighters 99, and Crimson Tears.

So yeah, Demolish Fist is an excellent game. If you're able to play it (and most fairly modern computers should be able to emulate the Atomiswave at a decent speed by now. My pre-owned laptop can manage it, even!), then you definitely should.

No comments:

Post a comment