Fightin’ & Ragin’
By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Released on Dec.3rd, 2019 on PlayStation 4. Available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Developer: Seba Games Dev/Blitworks
FightN' Rage is a loving portrayal of the 90's side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre, and boy does it live up to its predecessors. In a world of mutants, humans are treated as playthings. Gal, Ricardo, and F.Norris have had enough and are taking the fight straight to the mutants' big, bad boss. The three main characters represent the typical genre archetypes; Gal is the oversexualized female who focuses on speed; the Haggar-esque Ricardo is the slow, hulking brute that relies on strength and endurance above all else; F. Norris is the dude stuck in the middle of both extremes and is usually picked when your friends quickly selected the cooler characters before you had a chance.
Arcade Mode is where you'll be spending a lot of time, even though a single playthrough can be fairly short: I beat an Easy Mode run in an hour and change. One of the factors for replaying the game multiple times comes in the form of branching paths and multiple endings, which also depends on which of the three characters you are using. Although it is a short game, I'm a bit peeved that there is no save function whatsoever; either you beat it or turn it off and start over at the beginning next time. If you're strapped for time like I often am, it doesn't feel good to waste your time if you need to leave mid-game. Another small gripe of mine is the inability to swap characters at the game over screen, but that's understandable considering the way the selected character factors into the branching paths/multiple endings.
When you first boot up FightN' Rage and get to the main menu, you may be surprised at all the ??? options. Head on over to the Extras Menu because there's lots of stuff to unlock using coins. Earn coins based on your score when you are either defeated or you beat the game (guess which will probably happen first). You can find a variety of extra modes (such as an Easy Mode and Training Mode), along with a variety of new costumes for each main character, plus new characters that are exclusive to the Battle Mode. It should be noted that certain conditions must be met before unlocking the option to purchase certain extras. That’s right: you need to “unlock” them before you unlock them! Easy Mode becomes available for purchase after getting a game over, while Battle Mode characters need to be beaten a specified amount of times in Arcade Mode. Unlocking everything certainly takes a lot of effort, giving completionists something to aim for.
When looking at the basic gameplay, FightN’ Rage is, well…basic. There’s one button to attack, another to jump. You can dash and evade back and forth and vertically. You can find the occasional weapon lying around to give you a temporary advantage and food items to restore health. What really separates this game from the pack is the versatility of the combat that allows you to combo the ever-loving heck out of the badguys. Hitting the attack button in succession hits the enemy with a combo. Holding the up or down directional button before the final attack lands and you’ll throw the enemy in front of you or behind you. Pressing down up attack launches a type of uppercut to send an enemy airborne. Pressing the circle button unleashes a special attack, which has a different effect depending on whether you’re jumping, moving, or standing still. This move can be unleashed when your SP gauge is flashing. It can be used without a full SP gauge but it depletes your health instead, a common move in the genre that uses these special types of enemy clearing attacks. Because the transitions are so smooth between moves, you can really wreak havoc. Let’s use Gal for an example. My go-to combo is using her special to spin-kick into an enemy; unleash a full basic combo; then blast them away with an uppercut. Another example to show how slick the moves can be is when I dash attack right through an enemy and am still able to turn around and hit him with a combo and throw him into another pile of enemies before he even hit the ground. It’s simple to pick up and satisfying to master.
And speaking of the things you’ll be beating mercilessly; I love the enemies. The game refers to them as mutants but they’re basically anthropomorphic animals with a gimmick. There is quite a variety, too. You’ll run into wolf dudes; buff roosters styled like Muay Thai fighters; piggies that come at you like Sumo wrestlers; Grungy gold-chain wearing rats with knives; ninja crows; and more! My personal favorite is General Tiger, who not only looks a certain angry despot from Street Fighter; he also does his weird standing-slide attack as well. I love when games like this put extra effort into their enemies instead of a handful of generic stock types with a minor palette swap.
The best way to describe the soundtrack is "fucking rad". Sitting there trashing droves of enemies while a high-speed, wailing guitar riff-heavy track screams at me from the speakers makes me want to mash my controller buttons until they explode just like your enemies when you get a critical hit finish. There is more to the soundtrack than power riffs, however. There are a smattering of other low-key tracks, even a jazzy keyboard bit for when you're battling the mutants in one of their nightclubs. There are plenty of visual options available so you can choose whether you want a retro-looking experience or something more modern. I like how you have the option to set either a CRT monitor OR CRT TV Screen. It's not a huge difference but it's cool to see. You can also mess around with the Raster and the color saturation. These options effectively allow you to tweak the picture to give you an authentically retro visual experience. Do your tastes lean towards a more modern look? Just set the HDR option to high, turn off the CRT, and hit the clean option in Raster mode and it cleans up quite nicely! The audio and visuals combined make me feel like I'm back in the golden era of arcades, plunking down quarters at my favorite beat 'em up cabinet, which is a testament to the love that was put into FightN' Rage by its developer Seba Games Dev.
If you’re a fan of the genre, there really is no reason not to play FightN’ Rage, aside from the fact that it can be hard as hell. Some encounters towards the finale made me want to break my controller in half in frustration. That aside, if you’re in the mood to smash, dropkick, bodyslam, or any other form of pulverizin’, FightN’ Rage is the best way to sate your bloodlust.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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