One of my grievances with being a Commodore 64 owner was the sheer lack of good side-scrolling beat 'em ups in the Final Fight mould. The best ones I can think of is Renegade and Target Renegade, both of which were decent, but infuriatingly monotonous games to sit down and play.
Oddly enough, when it came to the one-on-one fighting games variety, we were downright spoiled. If International Karate or Exploding Fist weren't enough, you could also lose yourself in games like Yie Ar Kung Fu, Thai Boxing or Barbarians (if you preferred swordplay.) And while the second Street Fighter game got a terrible, terrible port, the US version of the first game turned out quite alright.
And then, there's Bangkok Knights. Poised to knock your lights out from the get-go, System 3 created a graphically impressive game featuring large and pretty well animated characters beating the stuffing out of each other. In many ways, Bangkok Knights is the spiritual successor to the aforementioned Thai Boxing; same fighting style, but with a larger variety of opponents for you to fight... or play with as a second character, because this game does support competitive play.
In my attempt to replay the game for the sake of the review, I will have to admit I cheated like a dog, giving myself unlimited life and power. Presumably, this adds to the strategy of the game; you can go in hard and fast if you like, but you need to realize this will drain your power bar, making your punches and kicks hit with less force. Whether this actually works is a bit up in the air. I do remember the game being relatively challenging, but then, enemy tactics usually consisted of your opponent running straight into your face and kneeing you in the goolies until your nostrils smelled of nuts. The control sceme borrows from games like International Karate, where your button presses coupled with stick direction chooses your attack for you; punches at the top and kicks down or sideways. You have the opportunity to choose easy control mode, which automatically turns your attacks into knee strikes or leg sweeps if your character is close enough. And while it is possible to block attacks, I'd be damned if I knew how, what with how I frantically tried the usual methods; stick back, or stick back and button pressed... or any combination thereof. Sadly, this means that I get the feeling that fights do rely a little on luck from time to time.
Also, from the third opponent and onwards, you soon fall victim to the characters' special attacks. Bambo Man whips his knuckle around over his head and sends it crashing down on your skull, reducing you to slapstick comedy accordion man, flailing his fists impotently until he grows back to full size. The downside to this -- that is, if you WANT the extra challenge -- is that sometimes, they get a little too overeager in using it, resulting in a routine where they repeatedly try the special attack, only to be foiled by you kneeing them in the happy section.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, System 3 has once again come up with a game that looks spectacular. And really, it is a game that plays rather well too, particularly in two player mode. (In which case, be a sport and let your friend at least control Bambo man, if not any of the people further up the roster.) Its main flaws are mostly fights turning into frantic button-mashing rounds, and the easy control mode does take some of the fun out of the game. And naturally, you can do better -- International Karate or Exploding Fist immediately comes to mind -- but you can also do worse. A LOT worse.
Downloads: Music, Music, Advert
|GRAPHICS - 9/10|
|System 3 really pulled out all the stops here -- the fighters are large, well detailed and moves around surprisingly nimbly without as much as a flicker or a slowdown. The stages also look nice, but doesn't quite carry the atmosphere of games like International Karate or Exploding Fist.|
|SOUND - 7/10|
|To be honest, this is not one of my favorite Rob Hubbard themes. Not even close. It's decent enough, though, and at least suits the feel of the game. The sound effects are generally good, though, and can actually be run in tandem with the in-game music, which is always a plus.|
|PLAYABILITY - 8/10|
|The game controls surprisingly well. The aforementioned easy control method takes some of the fun out of the game, though, partially because it prohibits you from learning the moves properly. Unlike the aforementioned games, Bangkok Knights lets you move your fighter all around the ground as you please at the cost of removing your ability to jump. Also, the block was a chore to get to -- I don't think I actually managed to successfully block an attack. The game is still a lot of fun to play, though, especially -- as mentioned -- when played against a friend.|
|OVERALL - 7/10|
|I look at this game, and I wonder how they managed to screw up Street Fighter 2 as badly as they did. OK, so you are unable to throw fireball attacks or do ridiculous uppercut attacks here, but in case I haven't mentioned it enough yet; Bangkok Knights is a one-on-one fighting game with large, well-defined characters that control quite well, and featuring a multiload that doesn't make you want to inflict Bambo Man's spinning cranium crusher attack on yourself. Granted, Bangkok Knights isn't precise enough to lend itself to long-time one player sessions, but it should be quite good for those short one-on-one tournaments against your friends every now and then.|