Beat 'em up

Beat 'em ups are video gamess in which players fight each other with martial arts. Along with shoot 'em ups, they are traditionally at home in the arcades, and are distinguished from wrestling, boxing and "ultimate fighting" video games, which are concerned with sporting events and often tied to a real-world sports franchise.

The term "beat 'em up" can refer to either of two similar but distinct kinds of game.

Table of contents
1 Side-scrolling beat 'em ups
2 One-on-one beat 'em ups / Fighters

Side-scrolling beat 'em ups

In this type, one or more players (most often two, but sometimes as high as six) each choose a unique character, and team up to punch, kick, throw and slash their way through a horde of computer-controlled enemies. The fighting happens in a series of side-scrolling stages, some with a powerful 'boss' enemy at the end. In the most common variation, players can move away and toward the screen as well as left and right, although earlier beat 'em ups such as Kung Fu (1984) were more likely to allow only one-dimensional movement plus jumping.

Capcom revolutionised the genre with Final Fight (1989), and continued to produce some of the most popular games from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. At the its height, the side-scroller was one of the most popular kind of arcade game (a Simpsons beat 'em up was released in 1991), but they have since fallen out of fashion.

One-on-one beat 'em ups / Fighters

In the other kind of beat 'em ups, also called 'fighters', battles are fought between two characters with various strengths and weaknesses over three bouts, with the winner either knocking out the rival, causing him to leave the ring or fairing better over the majority of the bout. The combatants are either unarmed or armed with close fighting weapons (swords, sticks, nunchaku, and so on). Fighters are competitive rather than cooperative, and are some of the most-played games in national and international gaming tournaments.

The 2D/3D difference

Fighters are either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D).

Characters in 2D fighters (Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Primal Rage) are hand-drawn/digitized and animated sprites, and can move left and right and duck and jump, but in most games they can't sidestep or move 'closer to the screen'. The player's viewpoint scrolls in various directions but stays at a fixed angle. Common gameplay mechanics are exaggerated jumps, special moves (which combine magic attacks, projectile attacks, and attacks with a markedly more exotic nature then 3d fighting games) and an "air/ground/low" attack/block system.

In 3D fighters (Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur), the characters and stages are rendered, polygon-based models. The player's viewpoint is not fixed and can rotate and move in any direction, as can the characters. In contrast with the gameplay of 2D fighters, jumping is a minor element, there are few if any projectile attacks (special moves usually consist most of punches kicks and throws with some special properties), and a "high/mid/low" attack/block system is used.

Notable developers

  • Capcom are best known for the Street Fighter (1987) series, whose hugely innovative second incarnation (Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, 1991) virtually invented the modern fighting game. They have since released a plethora of sequels, spin-offs, remakes, movie tie-ins and 'versus' games. Their most recent significant contributions to the genre are Capcom vs. SNK 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

  • Rare made an astonishing 2D fighting game called Killer Instinct. It had very nice graphics. and a unique combo style. They invented the autodoubles, the ultra (a very big combo to finish the opponent). It was released for Arcade, as well for Nintendo 64. Its sequel for Arcade is Killer Instinct 2 and its Nintendo 64 version is Killer Instinct Gold.

  • Midway caused an incredible amount of controversy with 1992's Mortal Kombat, a 2D fighter with semi-realistic sprites and gratuitous, cartoonish gore. The most recent games, Mortal Kombat IV and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, are in 3D. The Mortal Kombat franchise is the best selling video game franchise of all time, and Mortal Kombat 2 was the best selling individual fighting arcade game.

  • Namco, the creators of Tekken and Soul Calibur (1998), are the other major player in the fighter world. They are the most popular 3D fighters, but many fighter enthusiasts consider Virtua Fighter to be a 'deeper' game.

  • Sammy, a pachinko company, are responsible for the Guilty Gear series, a 2D fighting game renowned for its strange character design and unique gameplay, also featuring the highest resolution 2d graphics in a fighting game.

  • SEGA's AM2 team are the developers of the 3D Virtua Fighter series (1993), which has seen four versions. It is considered by many fighter enthusiasts to be the deepest of the 3D fighters. Fighting Vipers was a similar game by AM2 with a glam rock theme, but did poorly in the US and Europe.

  • SNK were the makers of the long-running King of Fighters series for Neo Geo consoles and arcade machines. Almost as prolific as Capcom, they declared bankruptcy in 2002. However, the company Playmore has acquired the rights to the SNK name and much of its intellectual property.

Glossary of common fighter terms

; Block : When a character is blocking, he is in a defensive state that protects him from being damaged by his opponent's moves. Usually there is more than one kind of block (most often 'high' and 'low), each of which protects against and is vulnerable to different classes of moves. In most games, blocking can be countered by a throw move.

; Combo : A series of attacks that cannot be blocked if the first hit is not blocked. The use of the term originated with Street Fighter II, in which combos were performed by hitting with one move and then interrupting its 'recovery time' with the inputs for another move (this technique is called 'buffering'). In 3d games the word combo is used more loosely, as refrencing a series of moves which execute much faster as a sequence then individually, not neciserally being unblockable the whole time.

; Juggle : A combo in which the victim is hit multiple times in midair. If a particular move is used to launch the victim into the air, that move is called a 'launcher', 'floater' or 'juggle starter'.

; Life : (Also called energy, health, or vitality) A character's life is how much more damage he can take, and is usually represented by a bar at the top of the screen. When a character's life is reduced to 0 or below, he is knocked out and loses the round.

; Ring out : Many 3D games allow victory not just by knockout or time over, but by sending your opponent out of the fighting area. A victory achieved this way is a ring out.

; Special move : A move is simply a fighting technique such as a kick or a throw. Each character will have many moves, each performed by a different combination of joystick movements and/or button presses. A 'special move' is a unique, sometimes difficult-to-perform move that often has an exaggerated or supernatural effect. Some games also include 'supers', powerful but costly special moves. In 3d games the name special move is sometimes given to moves that would normally be considered normal moves in 2d games.

; String : A sequence of attacks. Usually the term is used to refer to strings that aren't combos.

; Stun : If a character is stunned, he is in a temporary state of helplessness caused by powerful or rapid hits. This usually means the opponent is guaranteed a 'free hit'. This state is also called 'dazed' or 'dizzy'. Stun is also a more general term for a short 'frozen' state after blocking a move or performing a move that is blocked.

; Time over : Typically, players have under a minute to try to knock each other out. If time runs out before one player does enough damage to the other, the player who has done the most overall damage wins the round. This is a time over.


See also : Video game



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