The 90's ushered in a new era of beat 'em ups. In the arcade Final Fight was the undefeated champion with it's massive graphics and ultra violent co-op gameplay, but it didn't stop there. Capcom were to take the same team that gave us Final Fight and make a monster but they weren't the first or only new attempts on the market and a new angle.
1991 saw what was to be the nuclear bomb of one on one beat 'em ups set off with zero restrictions. The team that made Final Fight released Streetfighter II: The World Warrior to the planet and started a global domination that lasted almost a decade. SFII took everywhere by absolute storm. Media raved about it and even console only magazines like Mean Machines did specials on the game because it was just so absolutely mind blowing. For the first time you got a selection of not one or two but EIGHT characters, each with a vast selection of moves and special moves. The game is actually so simple it's crazy, there are two modes of play. You can either go one player and work your way fighting the other CPU controlled characters or you can play against a chum who also has the choice of any of the 8 characters. The sheers depth of play from having so many characters with so many moves was almost bottomless and add to that the actual gameplay was coded to absolute perfection and backed up by some of the most stunning pixel art graphics and animation yet seen at that time along with some iconic music and crunching sound effects. Streetfighter II wasn't just a game, it was an experience and one that took months, nay years to fully master.
Sega were experimenting with next gen beat 'em ups with the release of Virtua Fighter which transported the action to a polygon constructed 3D environment but it was in 1993 that Midway release a game that 'almost' reached the heights of Capcom's flagship but for very different reasons.
Streetfighter II and Mortal Kombat kicked off the era of competition gaming which grew and grew into it's very own beast with games appearing later on in the 90's specifically designed for the pro player rather than general arcade rat and huge conventions with cash prizes held worldwide using these games as their medium but something got lost along the way as the market filled to the brim and over saturated itself like some fat crime boss who just can't stop the good life. Clones of all kinds once again appeared from all corners of the world but while the arcades were raging with the new style of beat 'em ups what was afoot back in the home?
NEXT – Part 4: Domestic Violence Part 1 - 'The Home Console Market'