The 17th Volume #2: Punch Drunk
Written by Worm Mad
Hello. Yeah, it's me again - ready to spout more words of proverbial wisdom. Anyway, this month, I'll be comparing two classic fighting games from the Amiga era. In the red corner is Capcom's genre defining beat-em-up, Street Fighter II. In the blue corner is Team17's very own fighting game, Body Blows. Anyway, the stage is set so let battle commence!
Let's begin with Street Fighter II. Commonly regarded as the inventor of the modern beat-em-up1, Street Fighter II featured an impressive range of characters from the powerful glory of Blanka to the stretchable simplicity of Dhalsim. Although, some flaws were evident, such as a bug which caused the screen to become obscured by coloured pixels and the easy-difficulty level of completing the game with certain characters2, the core game was as solid as a rock and has not been bettered before or since. The clever use of character storylines was initialised superbly so that rather than fighting for some random reason, you actually had a purpose (e.g – avenge Chun Li's father's death) and were rewarded with a unique and interesting plot-enhancing ending each time you completed the game with a different character. Other great moments of Street Fighter II were the bonus-games that occurred between major fights. These varied from destroying a car to knocking down explosive barrels and were fast-paced and exciting to play, adding variety to the game. Disappointments such as the inability to play as the boss-characters were ironed out in future releases and did not detract from the original game experience. All in all then, Street Fighter II was a brilliant genre-defining game. But how does Team17's fighter shape up alongside it?
The answer is, regrettably, not well. Body Blows, released in 1993 for Amiga and PC, was ultimately a resounding disappointment. Despite the range of characters provided to fight against, the choice offered for the player to play as was limited to four3. What's worse is that none of the characters in the game had any real personality. Instead, they seemed like a collection of walking clichés and rip-offs of Street Fighter characters. Also, the special-moves of the game were dull and uninspiring affairs. One of the games' only saving graces was the vibrant variety of locations – each creating an excellent sense of personality and style. From a towering office block to a martial-arts style dojo, these were diverse and well designed, giving the game a curious film-like quality.
All in all, the manner in which Body Blows appeared, only a year after Street Fighter II, seemed like a simple example of a games company trying to cash-in on another company's success4. But then, who could blame them? After all, wasn't everyone jumping on the beat-em-up bandwagon at that time? Well, yes, but this doesn't excuse Team17 for making such a disappointing title. They should have tried something a little different rather than attempting to mimic the success of previous fighting-games. Had they done this, Body Blows may have been a far more impressive fighter. As it is, it's just a washed up has-been with a glass jaw.
1 In other words, the one-on-one bout. Prior to this, most fighting games had been of the side-scrolling mass-brawl variety.
2 Dhalsim was ludicrously easy to win with in the original Amiga version. All you needed to do was his low punch repeatedly and nobody would be able to touch you (due to his stretchable limbs).
3 Although, this was apparently fixed in a later version of the game.
4 Ironically, Team17 are critical of "Hogs of War", a painfully bad rip-off of "Worms" but fail to recognise the manner in which their very own "Body Blows" ripped off "Street Fighter II".