Some researchers imagined it on the way out, and yet the beat ’em up genre today seems as indestructible as some of its legendary end bosses. Nearly 40 years after the release of a certain Kung-Fu Master (or Spartan X for scholars), the publisher Bitmap Books looks back on a story made of stuffing-pifs and colorful sprites.
Like a blow to the face, The Ultimate Guide to Side-Scrolling Beat-‘Em-Ups announces its ambitions as soon as it is taken in hand: with its 456 (!) pages and its three well-packed kilos, the new book from Bitmap Books is intended to be as comprehensive as A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games released last year. Its title, Go Straight, borrows directly the first level theme of Streets of Rage 2, to pay homage to the 1992 classic, as well as to its illustrious composer Yūzō Koshiro. To put a spell on the genre king of the years, Dave Cook, who signs his first book here with the British publisher, immersed himself in the history of beat’em up, made up and down (up, down, left, right, left right, B, A, but that’s another story).
The street school
Before reviewing several hundred titles, a preamble by Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the creator of the classics River City (Kunio-kun) and Double Dragon recalls the episodes of his life that inspired him to work for the genre:
At the time, shoot ’em ups were at the top, and I wanted to come up with a game that could de-stress players. When I was in high school, I fought a lot: my family