Violent Storm (Arcade) review
"Admittedly, there are many games that I would slap under the heading of “Final Fight clone.” There are two reasons that FF is the achievement by which all other side-scrolling beat-em-‘ups are measured: its astounding quality (at least in its original, arcade form), and second, because the genre doesn’t exactly allow for a whole lot of variation, and FF just happens to be the title that most people first remember when they consider the genre. Walking from left to right and smacking the snot out ..."
Admittedly, there are many games that I would slap under the heading of “Final Fight clone.” There are two reasons that FF is the achievement by which all other side-scrolling beat-em-‘ups are measured: its astounding quality (at least in its original, arcade form), and second, because the genre doesn’t exactly allow for a whole lot of variation, and FF just happens to be the title that most people first remember when they consider the genre. Walking from left to right and smacking the snot out of every poorly dressed thug littering the sidewalks would seem easy enough to duplicate, but you’d be surprised how easy it apparently is to make it an exercise in irritation. Sometimes it is done right—Vendetta was an excellent brawler. But other times, it turns out like Violent Storm.
When I consider Violent Storm in comparison to its much beefier, healthier, manlier relative Final Fight, I see a Carlton Banks next to his hipper cousin, Will, minus the lovable dorkiness and affinity for Tom Jones. Where FF hosted the tough (but gentle!) Cody, the bone-smashing Haggar, and the vicious, quick Guy, VS boasts Wade, Boris, and Kyle. These aren’t the most frightening names you’ll ever find, and the kneepads Wade wears outside of his jeans and the retractable comb from 1987 he flaunts don’t speak much for his toughness, either. Orange-haired Boris agrees that safety comes first, sporting protective gear of his own! It’s his spandex shorts and tank top that worry me most. Rounding out our cast is Tom Cruise as Kyle, simply a much lamer version of Guy. A distinct stench of fruitiness is established before we even break into the action!
Really, you can draw parallels between FF and VS all day. Both have the ‘rescue the kidnapped girl’ cliché plotline, except in VS, it is Sheena we’re rescuing. Instead of the tyrannical Mad Gear Gang, we’re dealing with the nefarious GELD Gang! Instead of Bred and J, we’re fighting Jaxom, Tarcus, and the ultra-fat Lollypop, his rolls of lard heaving while he sails through the air as he attempts to squish the life out of you. Yes, it’s terrifying, but not in the kind of way that makes me want to play. It is as if this entire game fell to some sort of plague that causes horribly bad nomenclature and ambiguous sexual preferences. See the first stage’s boss character, Dabel, the 500-pound animal with the white pillow case over his head, wielding a spiked mallet, as an ideal example. It all really puts a damper on the ‘bad-ass’ atmosphere I hope for when approaching these projects.
You’ll be traversing a number of different areas, and some of them are actually unique. Throwing punks with tropical-bird-like hair off a moving train ain’t half-bad, but then again, the final confrontation isn’t exactly climatic, as you STORM through a dangerous MUSEUM, knocking over marble sculptures and beating up reanimated statues of some overmuscled, underdressed buff dude named MR. JULIUS! And all of this, backed by music that either sounds like good-natured hip-hop aimed at ten year olds, or stuff that sounds like it belongs on Happy Days. It seems that the best way to approach this genre is to make sure your game has a certain level of gritty toughness, and, looking at the whole picture, VS really doesn’t have that much. But that’s okay, because MR. JULIUS IS HERE TO UNLEASH TOUGH LOVE!
You know, I really do have a problem avoiding making comparisons to Final Fight, but now that I think about it, I never went around picking up dictionaries and fountain pens in that game, like I do in this one. In FF, it was stereos and hammers. I don’t know what my point really is here, but dictionaries and pens seem more conducive of a healthy learning environment than hammers and stereos, so maybe it’s really all about learning. Kids, beat up strangely-dressed thugs with neon hair named GIGADEATH, but don’t forget about your studies! Sledge, who covers himself in trashcan tops, is deserving of a pounding because he doesn’t spend time reading—be sure you don’t make the same mistake! For the sake of variety, I suppose that I can compare VS to the bizarre Knuckle Bash, which is obscenely against heterosexuality, by saying that VS isn't quite so...underweary. By that I mean there are fewer overweight men walking around in their tighty-whities than there are in other games. Well, other game.
Violent Storm has certain unique qualities—each character has one or two moves outside of the standard three-hit combo and throw, and I suppose FF doesn't have a boss character that wields a pair of man-sized pliers—but they don’t make it any easier to play. Oddball heroes beating up overly strange hooligans simply isn’t as funny as I’d hoped. The actual battles are somewhat stale, and the exchanges are lacking in any noteworthy action. Rarely are there more than three enemies on-screen at once, which negatively affects the tempo. In a genre that has been spear-headed by Final Fight for so long, VS fails to make much of a splash. It’s zany, no doubt, but not worth playing just to have fisticuffs with a guy named “Red Fredy.” I mean, this isn't even the best beat-em-'up starting with the letter V. There's not much else to it.
Community review by dogma (January 10, 2004)
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