When settling in on the couch next to my son for another round of getting schooled by pros playing Rocket League online, I often think wistfully of the good old days of arcade beat-’em-ups and the simpler age of gaming they represented. A few simple button commands, a one-way-only game progression, and ridiculous character designs that respawned endlessly in slightly varied colour schemes with names like “Rico” or “Hawk”. It was games like Final Fight, TMNT 2: Turtles in Time, Double Dragon and their ilk that took rolls of quarters at the arcade and, later, a rental at Blockbuster for my Sega Genesis, but really very little else in terms of skill or learning curve. If you had the time and/or quarters, eventually you were going to get through the thing.
Fight N’ Rage by Blit Works is a callback to that era of gaming that showcases all the best and worst that it had to offer.
Fight’N Rage is a side-scrolling, button-mashing brawler that allows you to select one of three fighters to embark across what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world dominated by animal/human hybrids. Your choices are the ninja guy F-Norris, the bull-headed big guy Ricardo, and the bouncy, busty female character Gal. You can hit, you can jump, and you have a special move. Different arrow plus hit combos deliver different moves, but that is really it for a learning curve. You slowly progress from one cleared screen to the next, jump-kicking guys off motorcycles, picking up apples for health, throwing knives and figuring out the patterns to defeat mid-level bosses.
It’s all pretty standard stuff. If you ever played Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis, then you will find this game to be a spiritual successor in most aspects.
The fun of Fight’N Rage is the retro design of the game, story and characters. Done in a highly pixelated throwback style, the game looks and plays like could easily have been on one of the machines at the back of the arcade tucked behind all the Street Fighters. Each character has multiple looks. with lots to unlock. Their move sets are just unique enough to make choosing from the three interesting. Again, if you are familiar with the genre, you know what to expect from each.
The story is weird, with various animal-headed baddies threatening human captives, running slaughterhouses and delivering lines of word balloon dialogue along the way.
Everything from the title and loading screens to the level with the fire coming up from the bottom of the screen is completely authentic to the genre and adds to the classic feel of the game.
Mashing those buttons
Settling in to play Fight’N Rage is where the experience started to fall apart for me. Although I have really fond memories of arcade beat- ’em-ups, they just don’t stand the test of time against the more complex and interesting games of today.
And that is coming from a guy that never passes games and thinks the Dynasty Warriors series is top-shelf entertainment.
Walking sideways and punching stuff is fun for the first level. So is counting your combos, whacking a guy with a crowbar and watching the amazing viscosity of the female character’s bouncing chest. But all that wears off as you realise this is as good as it gets. There are no skill trees or loot crates or side quests. This game is what it is and that’s it.
I didn’t play long enough to get into all the unlockables, which are earned through in-game currency, not a further buy-in or micro-transaction, but how much can there really be?
To get a further perspective on the game, I enlisted my 8-year-old son to take a 30-minute break from Apex Legends to give it a go. Begrudging as he was to sacrifice even a small chunk of valuable on-line battle time, his review is actually pretty on the nose:
“… it’s kind of weird. But it’s fine I guess.”
And, well… yeah… that is essentially my review as well.
As a trial game I got to play to review for this site, Fight’N Rage was a nice shot in the nostalgia button. It felt familiar and offered a brief window into a simpler time of gaming, one that I hold close to my heart for all the hours I spent at the arcade playing games just like this one. However, in a world where I can Game Pass my way into hundreds of titles that have expanded upon this genre and offer me a deeper gaming experience, its hard to imagine dusting this off for another go.
If you have a craving for an old school, arcade beat-’em-up, then Fight’N Rage is for you. But, if you never knew the joy that was stretching your last quarter long enough to make it to the final boss at your corner store, then maybe give this one a pass.