I wanted to enjoy Shadow Force, I really did. It’s a beat-em-up put out in 1993 by Technōs, who gave the world River City Ransom, Combatribes, the venerable Double Dragon and even two enjoyable WWF arcade wrestling games. These people know how to make fun butt-kicking games. And the attract mode for Shadow Force promised a great experience, with flashy moves and thrilling combat from four very different playable characters.
However, problems with the game show up as soon as you begin playing. What isn’t apparent from a running demonstration is how tricky it is to pull off those flashy moves or, sometimes, even move your character. Shadow Force employs a fighting game-style control system with command motions entered via joystick in order to perform special moves beyond basic punches, kicks and throws. That sort of thing would be impractical in a traditional beat-em-up, as moving the joystick around would move your character, but, just like in a fighting game, you auto-faces the nearest opponent. If you’re near to an opponent, pulling away from that opponent will cause your character to assume a blocking stance instead of moving away. I know what you’re thinking: but how will I handle all the enemies attacking me from behind? The game has taken care of that part for you: Shadow Force has the most patient foes of any game ever. They will ready their weapons, poise for battle… And wait, at the edges of the screen, until you are finished with whoever you’re currently fighting and then approach, one at a time, like members of the dumbest karate gauntlet ever. Because the game provides no ability for handling crowds, you’ll never have to face a crowd. Even during boss fights, supporting minions will hang back or even run off-screen so as not to get in the way of your one-on-one battle.
If you weren’t humiliated enough by the inability to do something simple like step backwards away from someone whose intent is to kill you, then the rounds which occur between each of the game’s four stages should do the trick. During these interludes, for reasons which are neither clearly explained nor really make any sense, you’re forced to transform from your currently selected character into an enemy character of your choice, and then, with stats and moveset from that new form, fight against a single opponent—usually one of the playable characters! There’s nothing like being put in the shoes of a grunt and asked to take on a player character for a little perspective. One of these scenes comes after the game’s final boss fight, and if you fail in the transformation battle there, you get the game’s “bad” ending.
Credit where credit is due: Technōs tried something different in Shadow Force, but it just didn’t work for me. The game looks nice, and features some attractive character designs with cool moves—far more than you would normally get in a beat-em-up—but it’s too frustrating to be fun, and too drawn-out to be exciting.
From the Hot Blooded Tough Guy Kunio article for Mature Gaming. http://mature-gaming.com/news/hot-blooded-tough-guy-kunio/
Marian (Double Dragon)
I drew the sketch while babysitting my little niece, who was dealing with the cold or flu or whatever it was that knocked everyone out around Christmas 2012. I didn’t have a pic of the sprite, so I drew it from memory and purposefully turned her around to make the pose more interesting. It wasn’t 100% accurate, but still a bit scary that I remembered the pose of that sprite even through a flu-induced brain haze.
From Wikipedia: “The Combatribes is a 1990 beat ‘em Up released for the arcades by Technos Japan Corp (the developers of Renegade and Double Dragon).”
I have enough new pixel art ready for the 12th Anniversary update next week that I can show you something while still leaving some surprises.
This is a scratch-made remake of Chin Taimei from Double Dragon. Those NES game images are what I used as reference. I’d made a jumpkicking sprite edit of Chin long ago (and re-used most of the same colors) that used CvS Joe for an upper body so looked at more Joe sprites to get the size right. I’m still considering some other fixes to it, so it might be a bit better by the time the update hits ScrollBoss on the 19th.