March 1, 2023.
My initial opinion of Fight’N Rage was a mix of polar opposites. On one hand, I loved the way the front-end mimics what you see on your old cathode ray arcade cab upon bootup, and the graphical trickery that looks like you are peering into a vintage coin-op. But then the action kicked off and I was left thinking whether I really wanted to play yet another entry in the seemingly endless recent slew of retro-aesthetic belt scrollers. With the Capcom collection already gathering some of the all-timers onto one package, the stellar Dotemu offerings and all manner of other indie titles available, I felt a little burned out at the prospect.
But then the blighter began to open up to me bit by bit, revealing a deep moveset, a staggering amount of original design choices, and a thumping soundtrack, and I was once again hooked in the same way those old arcade games would entice me, and then chomp down all of my pocket money as a kid.
Originally appearing on Steam in 2017, this is, incredibly, the work of just one man – the very talented Sebastian Garcia, who hails in one of my bucket list global destinations, Uruguay. It has subsequently been ported to all of the home formats over the ensuing years, finally landing on the most recent consoles now. As I have alluded to, it is initially deceptive, presenting a familiar setup we have seen time and time again.
The characters are all derivative, but it doesn’t take long to fall in love with the anthropomorphic mutant animal designs and the sheer amount of humour that runs through everything. To begin with you have access to an arcade mode, and three selectable combatants. F. Norris is the all-rounder, and closely resembles a cross pollination of Guy from Final Fight and the Shotokan dudes from Street Fighter. He combines a steady mix of average power and speed and is the best choice for novices.
Ricardo is the slow moving, wrestling-inspired tank and plays the same role that Mayor Mike Haggar does in Metro City. He has the most potential for absolute carnage and is by far and away the most powerful, but this comes at the price of his crushingly low pace. Rounding out the trio, Gal is a hybrid of familiar female fighting tropes, a kick ass blend of the likes of Mai, Chun Li, or Athena; she is nimble and has the quickest and most combo-able moveset, but is the least impactful of the three.
Unlike the games that inspired Garcia’s creation, the heroes of Fight’N Rage have far more than a handful of basic attacks and a special. There are lots of different abilities on offer, including specials, parries, throws and even secret attacks that you have to discover. Specials can be executed either when you fill up a gauge by attacking or parrying, or in the traditional belt scrolling fashion of a small depletion in your vitality.
The action in Fight’N Rage gets properly hectic with a huge number of foes on screen at times and some insane bosses – and until you master the combos and nuances of each character you will struggle. But like the best of the genre, it is fair, and you can legitimately beat it and beat it well if you attain mastery of the techniques and the enemy patterns. My only bugbear – and this can be said of literally any fighter – is the inclusion of an irritating variation on the hoverboard/speedboat/vehicle level. I don’t like these, I have never liked these, and just want to get on with beating people up.
With its rip-roaring soundtrack and genuinely impressive retro-future graphical style, Fight’N Rage is also a treat for the eyes and ears. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the (optional) scan-line/CRT filter effects and depth of field view may be the very best I have seen on a game of this type, even knocking the Capcom Arcade presentation into a cocked hat.
Playing through the game earns you performance-based in game currency which can be spent in a number of interesting ways. There are handy cards that reveal how to pull of some of the combat techniques, new costumes for your heroes, and the superb addition of being able to gain control of the enemy characters to use for yourself. Best of all there is an unlockable tutorial mode where you can really learn the ins and outs of the game and earn some cool belts. Oh, and if you get a hankering for the days of Billy and Jimmy having a tear-up at the end of Double Dragon, you can also open a PvP mode which is a fun inclusion.
With hindsight, Garcia was actually ahead of the curve in terms of developing a swish take on a retro idea. This predated Shredder’s Revenge and Streets of Rage 4 yet includes a number of ideas that were present in the recently lauded efforts. It would be something to see him get hold of a similarly beloved property and have a crack at it.
Deep and enjoyable scrolling action
Looks and sounds amazing
Tonnes of content
One level sucks
With its rip-roaring soundtrack and genuinely impressive retro-future graphical style, Fight'N Rage is a treat for the eyes and ears.