The Combatribes is simply a pale imitation of Double Dragon without the weapons, interactive objects or long scrolling levels. Before the game begins, you can select from three male characters: Berzerker, Bullova or Blitz, who all differ in quickness, strength and endurance. Yet no matter which character you select, all move like they have weights taped to their ankles. Adding to the frustration is the amount of fighting moves you can perform, arguably the most essential ingredient in games of this type.
The number is ridiculously small and all originate from tapping one of two buttons (along with your proximity to the enemy). If you are right next to a thug you'll punch; if a short distance away you'll automatically pick him up and throw. Each of the five levels (Times Square, Coney Island, Lexington Disco, Baseball Stadium in Harlem and Ground Zero Headquarters) has approximately eight bad guys swarming around you from the start. You punch and kick each one until he finally blinks out of view and then it's over one screen to the boss.
That's right, each level is only two screens long! First a gang is on top of you (either clowns, thugs on roller-blades, punks, bikers, or soldiers), then you dispose of them and watch your character lumber over to one of the five level bosses. After you beat each villain, you'll see a short cut-scene of your player asking where to go next. You'll also receive a password you can later type to play as or against that character in versus mode (up to sixteen are waiting to be unlocked, the total amount of characters in the entire game).
One would hope that this adds to the replay value, but frankly the versus mode is anything but exciting. You still have the sluggish characters and limited amount of moves, although a new fireball is added to your list by pressing two buttons together. Now you can punch, kick, or throw a projectile! The depth is amazing...
Adding insult to injury, you can't even select from the game's five backgrounds to fight on; the three scenes available are unrelated to the main story. They do offer certain challenges that could have been interesting if the fighting engine wasn't so basic; there are ledges and hazards such as flames that can damage your character.
Unfortunately, the fighting is just a matter of rapidly tapping on a button or two until the other player dies (of boredom). So without a solid two-player game, you're left with a very short side-scroller: one that can be finished in less time than reading this review. Five simple stages doesn't cut it, making the game only worth a rental for the curious or those who enjoy a good laugh. Better to let these gangs terrorize New York -- it's not worth your time or money to stop them.
Graphics: The best part of the game. The Combatribes is filled with rich, vibrant colors and detailed scenery, although there is very little animation aside from flickering neon signs.
Sound: Merely average. Nothing that will make you turn up the volume, but nothing that will make you shriek in terror either.
Enjoyment: This game offers little in the way of fun. It's too short, there are hardly any number of moves and the two-player versus mode is weak.
Replay Value: Absolutely zero replay value. If you're bored, rent The Warriors instead and see how the game tried to copy the movie.
Combatribes is one of the most underrated SNES games from Technos, most famous for their Kunio-kun series and Double Dragon games. Similar to other 2D side-scrolling beat 'em ups, the plot is quite negligible: you and two friends must free New York City from a mad cyborg who has taken control. Up to two players can play the game simultaneously in this very entertaining beat 'em up that sets itself apart from other games in the genre in many ways.
Like other Technos classics, Combatribes is simply fun to play. It's also a very faithful translation of the original arcade version. The graphics are excellent (although people are too "blocky" for my taste), and there is a good variety of enemies (i.e. different gangs) for you to fight. The best thing about the game is the variety of attack combos and weapons you can use - much more diverse than in Double Dragon games. You can do combination kicks, punching, running attacks, head bashing into the pavement, and even swinging your opponent and throwing him at others. My favorite is the "double-head butt" which lets you bang two gangsters' heads together, if you can press the right button at the right time. Brutal, but all in the spirit of good fun of course ;)
Die-hard action fans may complain that the levels are a bit too short, but I think the interesting enemies, very detailed stage backgrounds, and a good variety of attacks/weapons more than make up for that. The game even has good replayability, since it gives you a password to unlock secret characters in the VS. mode every time you beat a level. Even with a thin plot, the game even has some nice cut-scenes that advance the story and lead to the next stage. Overall, Combatribes is a superb beat 'em up game that has sadly been overlooked by many. If you enjoy beat 'em ups, you will definitely enjoy this old game and wish it would last a little longer.
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