Fight‘N Rage

A game by Seba Games Dev for PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2017.
The beat ‘em up genre is a tough nut to crack. Even industry veterans during the heyday of arcades and 8- and 16-bit consoles had difficulty consistently creating games in the genre that were engaging from beginning to end, given the inherently repetitive nature of gameplay. A few franchises have made a lasting impression, including Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage, while many others fell to the wasteland of unmemorable brawlers.

For years, indie developers have tried their hands at this beloved genre but have generally failed to make much of an impact (as it were), since even a competent genre entry can be seen as repetitive and boring. But that is certainly not true in the case of Fight’N Rage, a brawler that is not only inspired by the giants of the genre, but also manages to play on their level with versatile and engaging combat, a variety of colorful and captivating enemies, branching paths with alternate storylines, and oodles of unlockables, including several add-ons, new costumes, and more than 20 enemy characters to use in the game’s extra modes.

The main Arcade mode can be played alone or in 2P or 3P local co-op with optional friendly fire – plus unlockable AI companions – and a Versus mode allows players to take each other on, or go up against a CPU opponent. Keeping up with modern designs, the game also offers a speedrun timer, skippable cutscenes, and infinite continues (although the final digit of your score reflects the number of continues used). You’ll still need to master the mechanics, however, as continuing can send you back pretty far, so it’s not possible to credit feed your way to victory.

The game takes place on Earth in the distant future, where a huge electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all of the technology on the planet. Since then, mutant animals have risen up and enslaved humanity. It's up to a pair of humans and a traitorous mutant to fight back and eventually take down The Boss. Playable characters include Gal, a fleet-footed kickboxer; Ricardo, a tough but slow wrestling minotaur; and F. Norris (no relation?), a ninja with a mysterious past who offers more balance in terms of speed and power.

Remember when fighting games were all about having the biggest bounciest boobs on all of the female characters? Oh yeah... they never stopped doing that... Well, Gal falls squarely into that category with unnaturally large breasts that are practically bursting from her brasier. Being a woman has also earned her a gratuitous crotch shot on the character select screen, yet we never see even one of the minotaur’s presumably giant gonads, nor the old ninja master’s withered knob. The game also features scantily-clad female opponents and some dancing girls that act as background decoration, but absolutely zero equivalent testicle cleavage.

The game offers only three buttons but allows for an incredible amount of control between the JUMP, ATTACK, and SPECIAL ATTACK buttons. As expected, mashing the ATTACK button allows the player to string together a combo, and pressing the SPECIAL ATTACK button unleashes a strong attack, and players can use JUMP to hop over enemies or deliver a single weak strike from the air. There’s also a double-dap dash, double-tap evade, wall jump, parry, and the ability to grab and throw enemies. This approximates the basic template used for most beat ‘em ups throughout the ages, but things are not as simple as they sound on paper.

First off, it’s possible to interrupt most actions at any time, allowing players to stop mid-combo to jump away or initiate a special attack. Secondly, it’s not only possible to perform a jump followed by an attack, but also a jump followed by another jump, which allows for a different type of attack depending on the character selected. Finally, and most importantly, special attacks can be initiated at any time, with different effects depending on the player’s position. This means that players can perform a standalone special attack to spin around and knock away baddies on both sides, or chain together a combo and finish it with a special attack at the end, or perform a special attack at the end of a double-tap dash for a different effect, or perform a special attack in the air to drop down and clear out multiple foes. It’s even possible to perform a special attack while being held by an enemy to escape their grip, and each of the three playable characters has a different set of moves.

These design decisions turn the usual 3-button system into a veritable instrument of destruction in the hands of an adept player. This is further enhanced by the way in which special attacks recharge. Each time a special attack is initiated, the SP meter drains, but it recharges over time. The recharge speed isn’t quick enough that special attacks can be spammed, but it is enough to allow special attacks to be used with regularity. Furthermore, when the SP meter is full, a special attack can be initiated without any ill effect. However, even when the meter isn’t full, the player can still initiate a special attack, but it will drain a bit of his health in the process, similar to the special attack design seen in other brawlers.

This design limits the usage of the special attack while at the same time giving the player the freedom to use it as needed. So, if a player becomes overwhelmed by enemies attacking from all sides, or needs to counter a particularly powerful attack, he can still use a special attack. Often, the loss of health is less than getting pummeled by powerful foes, allowing the player to use this maneuver strategically. The only time the move cannot be used is when the player has no health remaining.

Enemy behaviors require the player to use the full range of his versatile moveset by mixing in standard popcorn enemies, melee attackers with a long reach, flying foes, enemies that block most standard attacks, and highly agile baddies that can move in to strike quickly and escape your attacks if you don’t close ground. This requires players to alternate between normal combos, double-tap dashes, air strikes, and the many variations on special attacks. Per genre conventions, it is possible to pick up dropped weapons in the form of knives, swords, and pipes, but the speedy and versatile default movesets make using them largely unnecessary. Most moves and combat strategies are apparent through experimentation, but an unlockable training mode explains every possible tactic.

Enemies take many forms, with traditional palette-swapped variants, but still a good amount of variety, offering plenty of character and humor with numerous anthropomorphized animal fighters. Unlike many classic brawlers, it’s possible for the screen to be filled with enemies moving in to attack all at once, sometimes obscuring your view of the action. Players need to remain nimble in order to keep a view of their character – and there are occasionally foreground elements that purposely obscure the playfield – as getting pummeled by a group of foes can lead to a quick death. But skilled players have plenty of tools at their disposal to keep themselves from becoming overwhelmed.

Crowd control is very important, and the game offers an easy-to-use throw system that allows the player to manage gangs of enemies in any size or configuration. In most brawlers, a throw can only be initiated by grappling with an enemy, which requires getting in close (usually from just above or just below) and coming in contact with an enemy without attacking while risking being attacked yourself. Then the player waits for a brief moment while the character and enemy get into their grapple stance, after which he can initiate one or more throws or close quarters attacks.

While this form of grappling is present, it’s also possible to throw any enemy by simply performing a regular combo while pressing UP or DOWN. Pressing UP sends the enemy flying forward, and pressing DOWN sends them back, although there are a few late game enemies that can counter your attempts to throw them. This design allows players to string together a series of attacks and then toss an enemy in a chosen direction to impede an incoming attacker, without reducing gameplay speed or interrupting the flow of action.

Players are further rewarded for keeping the action going with a fairly forgiving combo system that builds up as the player attacks foes while avoiding taking damage in the process. It takes a couple of seconds for the counter to reset, and it’s possible to keep the combo going by attacking barrels or other destructible objects, some of which can be hit multiple times. Longer combos lead to higher scores.

The game also allows for some pretty serious enemy juggling, as enemies can continue to receive damage even as they fall away from one of your previous attacks. As such, you can finish a combo, send the enemy flying into the air, and then close in and initiate another combo or a special attack to do more damage… or pin him against a wall for continuous damage. If you manage to string together enough attacks beyond what would normally kill the enemy, he will explode into a pile of bones, granting the player a sizeable point bonus in the process.

Players aren’t just scoring points for the sake of points either; points translate into coins – with more coins offered on higher difficulty settings – and these coins are used to purchase the aforementioned extras and bonus items. So, even a losing game results in some reward for the player. This is good because it can take a while to master the controls and there are some boss encounters that can prove quite difficult on your first or second attempt. It’s important that players learn how to chain their combos and special attacks to stun bosses and deliver multiple successive strikes, as hit-and-run tactics are not rewarded. The game is also quite long for a brawler, and it can take an hour for a player to reach the ending on his first successful run.

The game offers numerous branching paths throughout the experience, allowing players change things up a bit on future playthroughs. Even the very first screen allows the player to run to the left or right, sending him down one of two possible story branches. Per brawler conventions, the narrative takes a back seat to the action, and cutscenes can be fast forwarded if desired. The narrative changes depending on which path(s) the player takes and which character he is using, leading to multiple possible endings.

Visually, the game looks like a high-end classic 2D brawler, although the lighting effects are considerably more advanced than what was possible back in the day, and there is some mild screen shake to emphasize powerful attacks. There are a couple of modern animation enhancements that fall outside of the classic feel, such as enemies smoothly rotating when thrown, and some stretch-and-squish animations for enemies hitting the ground. The player is given a wide array of display options to suit his desire for a classic appearance, with optional CRT overlays, scanlines, and more.

Fight‘N Rage was developed by Seba Games Dev, a one-man studio consisting of Sebastián García, who is based in Uruguay. Music for the game was composed by Gonzalo Varela, also of Uruguay.