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Are beat 'em ups on the comeback trail? They should be

Dragon's Crown Screenshot - 1142280

Remember the arcades during the late 80's and early 90's? Four-player games were the way to go. When they first started, there were only a few to choose from – Gauntlet, Sega's Quartet – but then beat 'em ups became popular, with the likes of Capcom's Final Fight and Taito's Double Dragon allowing folks to team up together. Now, those games aren't four-player-compatible, but Konami's are, and they really built a huge trend with such cabinets as The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and others. Other companies jumped in too, including Data East with Captain America and The Avengers and Sega with Spider-Man: the Video Game.

Since that time, however, four-player arcade games have faded, along with the arcade scene in general. But it's nice to see the games aren't forgotten, as several coin-op favorites like Simpsons, TMNT, X-Men and others are getting re-releases as digital download titles. And for a fairly cheap price, at that.

Xmen Arcade

But the genre is seeing even further growth than that. We're seeing some great games that help push it in even bigger and better directions. Deep Silver, for instance, made waves with The Sacred Citadel, a game that combined the thrill of old-school beat 'em ups with role-playing elements. Capcom did even better with the high-definition packaging of Dungeons & Dragons Collection: Chronicles of Mystara, which features the two arcade games in one convenient place – for $15.

Come August, though, it'll get its biggest push to date. On the 6th, Atlus will release the long-awaited Dragon's Crown, a beautiful high-definition RPG brawler featuring six characters – maybe more – as well as a terrific character-leveling system and online play for up to four people. If any game could really change the face of beat 'em ups as we know it, it's likely this one.

Dragon's Crown

And it got me thinking – is this genre about to head into a rebirth? We've already seen what Sacred and D&D did for the digital market, and Dragon's Crown is getting HUGE buzz behind it. So what's stopping companies from creating new beat 'em ups to get gamers' attention?

For instance, Charlie Murder – the latest game from Dishwasher creator James Silva – is being highlighted as one of the bigger releases in Microsoft's Summer of Arcade program, due to arrive in mid-August. The game takes pieces from classic beat 'em up titles and surrounds them with an awesome hand-drawn art style, creative characters and various weapons to choose from. It's been getting some huge buzz at events – mainly PAX-related – and it should be another big hit for Silva.

Let's not forget about Ubisoft's wonderful Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a game that takes classic 16-bit style and combines it beautifully with the comic book franchise of the same name. Since its release three years ago, it's been gathering critical acclaim and strong sales. More characters and stages wouldn't be bad to see.

Alien vs Predator Arcade Game

Make this happen Capcom!

And that's not even counting games that would be big sellers with a digital re-release. Alien vs. Predator, Capcom's licensed comic book brawler, is one worth considering, especially since previous AVP titles haven't fared as well as developers were hoping. Captain Commando and Cadillacs vs. Dinosaurs could also use consideration. And, of course, we gotta hold that candle for a re-release of Captain America and The Avengers, especially with Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel coming in a couple years.

This is a good time for the beat 'em up genre to make a return. I can see Dragon's Crown making a huge case for it and being a big underground hit, with other games being considered going into the next-generation of systems. Here's crossing our fingers that we'll see more classics – and new releases – make the rounds.

Oh, and it's not necessarily a beat 'em up, but, Konami… Sunset Riders HD? Please?

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Robert Workman
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