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Night Slashers (Arcade) artwork

Night Slashers (Arcade) review


"I’m a beat-‘em-up enthusiast. "



I’m a beat-‘em-up enthusiast.

I don’t see how anyone couldn’t be. You pick them up and you play them, and they’re action-packed. There is no plot to plod through. There is a clear enemy, sometimes a MacGuffin, some rundown settings plagued with evil, and a couple physical maneuvers to uncork upon the faces of hapless henchmen and villainous bosses. They’re pure, cathartic, not overly long, and their nature lends them an accessibility that allows them to be revisited frequently. Fire it up and go to work.

Capcom is the beat-em-‘up authority, having produced the most irreplaceable in Final Fight, perhaps the purest and best in Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and maybe the most action packed in The Punisher. I recommend Captain Commando, Dungeons and Dragons: Shadows of Mystara, The King of Dragons, and Alien vs. Predator, too; Capcom is the Scorsese of beat-‘em-ups.

And Data East is responsible for, uh…Bad Dudes. It’s not real competitive between the two companies.

Data East also created Night Slashers, clearly their best beat-em-‘up and undoubtedly capable of cracking a connoisseur’s Top 10 list, if it weren’t for the game’s unbelievable obscurity. It’s depressing that this one isn’t more well-known--its grotesquerie is topped only by Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and its action only by the Capcom holy trinity.

Night Slashers lies somewhere between C&D, Castlevania and Resident Evil. It replaces the futuristic dinosaurs and poachers of C&D with a plot where zombies and the undead are terrorizing the cities. The combat isn’t quite as clean, and the plot isn’t quite as hilarious and over-the-top--it’s like a more reserved version of the Capcom classic. As reserved as vampire hunters and vomit-hurling zombies and knife-wielding maniacs and mad scientists can be. But the parallels are so obvious as to be unavoidable.

A beat-em-‘up enthusiast can tell you one of the potentially coolest parts of a brawler is the character profile screens that pop up when the game is allowed to run on its own for a moment. The wacky characters and their silly dossiers are one of the most endearing elements of the genre.

What did Cadillacs and Dinosaurs have? Hilariously goofy/bad-ass protagonists! What does Night Slashers have?

HEROES OF THE NIGHT!!
What a horrible night to have a curse




CHRISTOPHER

Europe’s most famous vampire hunter

Uses a mixture of both western and eastern martial arts

Possesses uncanny fighting skill.



JAKE

American monster hunter

His natural arms have been replaced by cybernetic mechanisms

They call him

“ THE “
PSYCHIC
CYBORG



HONG – HUA

Asia’s most revered martial artist

What she lacks in size,

She makes up for in speed and skill.

Her specialty is neutralizing black magic.




…Wow. This stuff doesn’t quite top the utterly incomprehensible reports on the heroes of C&D, but they give them a run for their money. Jake is rocking the ‘80s hair and outrageously oversized metallic arms (“CYBERNETIC MECHANISMS”), but why he’s called a psychic, I’m not sure. And let’s be honest--this is a beat-‘em-up, and the ‘eastern and western martial arts’ that Christopher claims to wield is really just the same series of kicks he’ll utilize 300 times from the beginning of the adventure to the end. And there’s no “black magic” for Hong-Hua to “neutralize,” either. Maybe the wrong team entirely was called. These goons will clearly suffice, though.

NS has no intentions of toning it down early on--armless zombies in their trademark trousers and shirts will be limping toward you and throwing up all over you before you’re ten yards into stage one’s Hospital.

We have, then, an adventure on the order of outrageousness found in the little-known Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, with a survival-horror zombie motif in place of the prehistory-futuristic hybrid of the other. Instead of a variety of poachers and dinosaur killers, we have some hideous creatures, some in ragged clothing, others stripped of all flesh, green ooze rolling out of their mouths and down their chin; there are maniacal masked killers, hacking away with knives, and monstrous executioners, twice your hero’s height, with biceps as big as the good guy’s torsos. It’s basically an undead, more rotted play on the standard brawler cast, with the occasional cool oddball (such as the monster engulfed in flames). Knock them out with a series of blows, and watch the heads roll, the chests implode, and the guts soil the cement.

They’re not all super powerful, but Data East is downright sadistic in terms of sheer numbers: I’ve never seen this many enemies thrown at you at once--not even Final Fight tested your mettle with as many simultaneous attacks. Twirling slashers flying above your head, other psychos sliding across the screen with a sweep attack, shuffling zombies puking at you while others go for your neck, executioners leveling blows with obscenely large axes--this is the rare occasion where I might say that, at times, it’s too much. Consider it a test of your manhood.

Just as C&D had its outrageous dinosaur-hacking and other shocking scenes, NS takes advantage of its unique spectacle! Witness:

- In the hospital, shelves of zipped bodybags sit eerily in the background, motionless. You know what’s coming. . .the bags begin to shake and roll off the shelves and toward you as the frail, disemboweled corpses break free and attack!
- We’ve walked the halls of Dracula’s labyrinthine castle too many times to count, but NS shows us things we’d rather not see. In one particular corridor are individual cells with locked gates; inside each are what we assume to be the future prey of the vampire – grown men, bound and hanged by their ankles, hands cuffed, their heads bagged, struggling to free themselves.
- In the Final Fight tradition, NS offers a short break in the form of between-stage bonus rounds. Instead of busting up a thug’s car, though, our protagonist is going to pick up a zombie and hurl ‘em at a ten-pin arrangement of his fellow undead ghouls to see how many he can bowl over. A fun game for the whole family!

Thankfully, there aren’t really wasted opportunities here--Data East knows what they’ve got on their hands, and they have some fun with it.

For all the nauseating, head-exploding action between the plentiful undead hordes, however, the boss cast is a bit of a letdown, with its standard Castlevania-type ensemble offering up relatively mundane encounters. The Hospital’s psychotic scientist, boasting a pair of scalpels, allows for a noble exchange reminiscent of that benchmark endeavor, C&D

Scientist: Well my friends. . .what would you like to be transformed into? A zombie? Or perhaps a mutant? Your wish is my command!

JAKE: You won’t be transforming anybody, buddy. It would be a crime to mess with my face, SCUM!

Bravo. Unfortunately, Night Slashers isn’t able to keep up the circus-like atmosphere that somehow never quits in C&D--future encounters with Frankenstein, Grim Reaper, Dracula, and a Golem are all fairly routine and look weak in comparison to everything else offered in the eerie hospital and the elegant halls of the infamous vampire’s castle.

This is a beat-em-‘up that deserved more. It’s sort of a Cadillacs & Dinosaurs Lite, with the trademark hilarity in characters and situations that I hope for when I manage to come across a brawler I haven’t yet played. With its grisly theme and enemy cast, it avoids being merely a Final Fight knockoff. Six lengthy stages (one taking place atop an airplane!) and an at-times relentless barrage of blood-thirsty ghouls makes this one a worthy entry among the mainstay beat-em-‘ups, lacking only some more original boss encounters and some enthusiasts to acknowledge its existence. This is perhaps the greatest lost work of the genre.

Rating: 8/10

dogma's avatar
Community review by dogma (October 06, 2006)

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