At the core of every good beat ‘em up lies a solid punch, a blow that shakes the earth and strikes with a bone-crunching smack. It has to be enjoyable to deliver knuckles to your enemies, and Fight’N Rage takes this to heart, making sure every single hit feels satisfying. It also doesn’t hurt that it has varied, intelligent enemies, an array of characters with unique playstyles, and reams of fun unlockables.
Fight’N Rage’s three playable characters are all somewhat similar in their regular strikes and throws, but with a little bit of damage, speed, and reach variety to differentiate them. Their special moves, though, are where they differ, with Gal lashing out in all directions or hurling herself into a spinning cartwheel, Norris drawing foes in with tornado kicks, and Ricardo going full Haggar/Zangief with his spinning clothesline. These are just the start, as each has multiple special attacks they can use with a tap of a button and a directional press.
These moves can make a big difference depending on what you feel you need to deal with most in the game. Many enemies aren’t stupid and will hang out outside of your reach, so Gal’s ability to rush in can help close distances to get you to that one enemy. Or, if you prefer to deal with your foes all at once, Norris may be a better bet, allowing you to pull all nearby foes in for one huge combo. If you find you’re getting dogpiled too often, Ricardo’s spinning fists will get you the breathing room you need.
These special moves come with a cost, though. Your character has an SP meter that empties every time you use one of these powerful strikes, and it takes a few seconds to recharge. This keeps players from spamming these moves to make the game too easy, but not because it won’t let you use a special move when it’s empty. You can throw these attacks any time you need, but it costs health to do them when the SP gauge is empty.
That being said, the meter is in the upper left corner of the screen – a circle that glows when you can use it. You can see this at a glance, but when you’re getting stomped, it can be difficult to take time to check it. There will be times when you end up wasting a lot of health because you don’t have time to peek at the meter while getting pummelled, or where you could have used a special move but didn’t because you couldn’t spare the second to look up from the fight.
This might not be a problem in early areas, but before long Fight’N Rage starts throwing clever enemies at you in huge groups, making it hard to find a moment to check the SP gauge. From mutant cats that can create a burst of electricity, brutish bison that charge an attack that sends them flying across the screen, whip girls who hang back just out of reach but can still hit you, and many more, the game constantly plays around with range, defensive measures, and fast-moving attacks.
Each of the game’s foes has been crafted with a clear understanding of how players tackle beat ‘em ups, too. Like to hover over top of downed foes to beat them down when they get up? Many enemies do a little hop when they rise to get them out of range. Like to move up and down the screen to force enemies to catch up to you? Many foes hang back when they catch this behaviour.
They all have vibrant, distinct looks, too. Slouching, humanoid rats in gold chains and 80’s sunglasses, well-dressed Doberman doormen, and flies with boxing gloves are all rendered in gorgeous pixel art, flowing with each attack they throw or receive. They have a delightful eighties gang movie vibe, giving the game a goofy sense of humour while also providing a quick tell on what type of enemy and behaviour you’ll need to deal with soon. They game does do a bit of palette swapping, but for the most part, it frequently offers new baddies.
Hitting those foes never gets old. Many beat ‘em ups fall apart because, eventually, it gets boring to use that same handful of attacks on foes a few thousand times. Fight’N Rage uses some bone-crunching sound design to make every punch appealing. It sounds good to hit foes, adding that meaty smack to each hit that makes it just feel great. That, and just the right amount of screen shake, makes every punch satisfying to throw on a small scale.
Music rounds off that sense of enjoyment. Rocking tunes will push you to want to slap your foes around, but Fight’N Rage doesn’t just stick to that one style of music throughout. Upbeat ska tracks and other styles make appearances in each stage, taking the player through a variety of moods.
There’s also tons of stuff to do or unlock. Players earn coins as they play, whether they win or not, and these can be used to make the enemies into playable characters for the main game, get new costumes for the main characters, or unlock new play modes (among which, perplexingly, and a little irritatingly, is the highly useful Training Mode, which teaches you new moves). There are also several different hidden routes throughout the game that affect the stages you play and the ending, encouraging experimentation with the game as well.
Fight’N Rage easily deserves a spot alongside Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, and Final Fight, offering extremely satisfying action, sharp foes, deep movesets, solid music, and delightful punches. A few minor issues with the SP gauge and the tutorial don’t take away from the fact that beat ‘em up fans NEED to jump on this one.
It also does away with multiple health bars for bosses. So that already makes it beat ‘em up of the forever.