I’m going to be doing this whole favorite games of the year thing in reverse, starting with my number one and counting down. Each post will be an exploration of the games I have played this year and why they are remarkable in my eyes. Most of them will not be talked about on any end of year lists by the mainstream, but heavily influence my creation process. Also be prepared to dive into some history leading up to my enjoyment of each game as well as I do not believe at looking at games in a void.
It’s 2013 and the beat ’em up genre is on life support. There are a number of reasons why that it is, far too many for me to list here. A key problem with the genre is that at best it is usually misunderstood for what makes it great, both in people’s gap filled recollections of the games of old and overly simplistic comparisons between those games and others that bare basic resemblance. In many ways people don’t really know why they like the genre, they just know they liked it at one time and when some of them go out to create a new one, they fail on fundamental levels.
The independent games uprising of the last decade has seen a resurgence in interest in creating the brawler to some extent. At least a few games have come out and were lauded almost simply for being new brawlers that people could play with their friends on new consoles or PC. The two biggest titles, recognition wise, were Scott Pilgrim, a game that was positioned as being a lot like the legendary title River City Ransom, and Castle Crashers.
When we look at side scrolling brawlers for what makes them great at a deeper level, the classic River City Ransom holds up quite well while most newer releases, of which Castle Crashers & Scott Pilgrim are included, don’t, mostly because they seem to leave out things that made the genre great in the first place without infusing enough new ideas that actually add, and not detract, from the overall experience. That isn’t surprising to me though, as RCR was created by Technos, the team that pretty much set the standards for the beat ’em up genre (but also made Combatribes so…). Continue reading