Virtual Console Wrap-up – 11/30

Once again, it’s time for your friends at DHGF to discuss the new Virtual Console releases for the week. This week is rather unique, as we’re getting not one, but two relatively rare games: The Combatribes for the SNES and the arcade version of Solomon’s Key!

The Combatribes
Developer: Technos Japan Corp.
Publisher: American Technos Inc.
Original Release Date: 1990
Cost: 800 Wii Points

Chuck Platt: Combatribes is only one of the best beat-em-up games of all time. Sadly, I have not played it since 1995 and there has been much drinking and depression since then, so the details are fuzzy. I do know that the color editor was pretty fun.

D.J. Tatsujin: It’s kind of amazing how many people do not recall The Combatribes, as it was one of the most unique brawlers for its time. “For its time” is probably the real culprit here, however, as that time had arcades and 16-bit consoles filled to the brim with “walk right, kick ass, repeat” games. I remember my first experience with The Combatribes was at a local Pizza Hut, back when every one of them had a handful of cabinets, and I still remember that experience very well. But, again, given the time of its release, I also remember a bowling alley where a Combatribes machine sat all by its lonesome as kids piled on top of each other to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I never got to see Techno’s Combatribes at too many arcades, I did rent the Super Nintendo version a number of times as a kid and a handful of years ago, I picked it up on the cheap at a local shop. Still, to this day, The Combatribes is pretty interesting.

The reason the title is interesting is because it broke the mold set by most brawlers at the time. Most games had average people that happened to know how to fight going against a large gang and encountering enemies that towered over them. The Combatribes kind of reversed the roles in regard to towering enemies, putting players in the role of one of the three Combatribes – Bullova, Blitz and Berzerker – who stand tall over the game’s standard enemies with a ripped physique and no-BS attitude. Players can just butcher the standard enemies – of course, there are your standard punches and kicks, but you can also grab them and fling them across the screen into crowds of enemies; if you are surrounded, you can press punch to grab an enemy from each side and smash their heads together; and once you have an enemy on the ground, the real fun begins. Punishing grounded enemies is a true guilty pleasure in the game as players can press punch by the enemy’s feet to grab them by the ankles and spin them around to chuck them into other enemies, they can press kick to take a flying leap and double stomp an enemy’s spine or mount an enemy and smash their face into the pavement.

As a result, the game tries to overwhelm players with large amounts of standard enemies that also begin to resort to dirty tactics and weapons to take down your character. As a whole, the game is challenging, unique and fun if you can get into brawlers and the span of levels really mixes things up – while players start on the predictable street environment, they soon find they are fighting off clowns at the circus, street hockey punks in a roller rink and deranged fighters in a stadium. By the time players are at the fourth stage, the difficulty noticeably picks up as players battle through a tower where each floor rehashes the enemies and bosses from the previous levels, which is a bit of a cheap way to extend the game, but the challenge makes reaching the top quite gratifying.

On the Super Nintendo, you definitely won’t be picking the title up for its story, but it does provide some vivid environments and large character sprites that look quite good. Tossing around the standard enemies like rag dolls is actually fairly satisfying, and there are some challenging sections of the game to master if you’re a sucker for brawlers. There are a few minor deviations in gameplay flow and presentation when you compare the title to the arcade release, but the home version does receive the standard Technos two-player versus mode, which interestingly allows you to play as the enemies and bosses in the game through codes earned as players progress through the story mode. At 800 Wii Points, though, most people can probably pass this one up. You can find the game far cheaper in cart form if you still have a Super Nintendo lying around, and if you don’t have a ton of VC downloads, there are far better ways to spend 800 Wii Points. I have fond memories of the title, but I’ll be the first to admit the game has aged quite a bit. I can find novelty in being the big guy for once and chucking enemies around into each other still makes me smile, but after more than 15 years, I can’t say most modern gamers would share that sentiment.

Mark B.: When most people think of Technos, they think of one of two things: Double Dragon and/or the Kunio-kun/River City series. Astonishingly, Technos actually DID make a bunch of games that weren’t a part of those two franchises, of which The Combatribes is one, although less astonishingly, it’s another beat-em-up. The game itself is kind-of sort-of a more interesting version of Renegade with a Warriors bent to it; you take control of one of three characters (the average guy, the fast guy, or the strong guy) and beat up a bunch of weird themed enemies in bright, colorful stages until you win or die. The combat mechanics are a good bit more fleshed out than one might expect, there’s an amusing two-player versus mode that kind of feels like a more involved version of the versus mode from the NES Double Dragon, and the game looks pretty decent, even now.

However, the game is hard as nails, because enemies WILL surround you and pummel you into oblivion and the only way to survive is to spam jump kick, more or less. The game is also quite short, compared to something like Streets of Rage or Final Fight, featuring about six stages that are maybe twenty minutes long, if you’re lucky. If you’re a huge fan of beat-em-ups and love The Warriors you might want to consider dropping the cash for The Combatribes, but otherwise it’s not really worth it.

Solomon’s Key
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Original Release Date: 1987
Cost: 500 Wii Points

Mark B.: Solomon’s Key was a wicked-hard puzzle/platformer that graced the NES back in the 80’s and is both loved and hated by pretty much everyone who’s played it. The concept is incredibly simple: you’re a wizard who can make blocks appear and disappear as needed, and you can use this ability to collect keys to new rooms and jewels to increase your score, as well as to block enemies from killing you, and time has done nothing to diminish the awesomeness of the experience. The arcade version is more or less the same game, only prettier, so fans of the NES game should be all over this game in a heartbeat.

Well, that is to say that they WOULD BE all over this game, if they didn’t buy the NES version of the game that came out almost three years ago to the day on the VC, as this version of the game is rather similar to the NES game. It also bears noting that this game is HARD AS HELL, so if you’re easily frustrated, you… might not want to invest in a game that allows you to potentially back yourself into unwinnable positions at times. If you somehow also own Tecmo Classic Arcade for the Xbox, this game is on that compilation, negating the need to buy it here entirely, though the odds of that are admittedly small. If you missed the release of the NES game, or you want to own both versions for completion’s sake, and you don’t mind playing games that unapologetically break it off in you, Solomon’s Key is pretty much a must-have, as it’s a classic game that true gamers should not do without.

Wii Ware this week features 4 different games Tales of Monkey Island: Chapter 4 (1000 points), My Zoo (500), Copter Crisis (500), and Christmas Clix (1000). So, there is definitely no shortage of new releases to choose from. Choose wisely…

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