What’s in the name of a genre? There’s something unwieldy about the term ‘beat ’em-up’, that most 80s of terms, that’s never sat quite right with me. Maybe that’s because there’s no cute contraction as there is with the shoot ’em-up, the beat ’em-up’s close cousin where you fight off hordes with bullets rather than your fists, which is now more commonly called the shmup. Maybe it’s because of the confusion that remains between beat ’em-ups and their even closer cousin the fighting game.
It’s only now, all these years after they were a thing, that a more fitting label has come to my attention, via the Japanese release of the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle that’s lovingly known as the Capcom Belt Action Collection. Belt action! It’s absolutely perfect, describing the succession of enemies there to be biffed through like it’s some ultra-violent spin on the final round of The Generation Game. Punk! Bouncer! Some dude with claws that looks like 20th Century Fox will come knocking anytime soon given his uncanny likeness to The Predator!
The Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle – sorry, Belt Action Collection – is a fine thing, with offbeat treats like Battle Circuit and Armored Warriors (even if it’s a shame that the mercurial Alien versus Predator isn’t there – maybe because 20th Century Fox got so tired of their property turning up in every other beat ’em-up of the era), but the pinnacle of the genre arrived on Switch and PS4 last month in Japan, and is getting its EU release this week. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors (or Ninja Warriors Once Again, as it’s known in Japan) is an incredible take on the beat ’em-up, full of 80s sass and muscle and with action that stands head and shoulders over its peers.