The Combatribes started off as an arcade game which came out in 1990. It was a beat ’em Up of the walk along variety released by Technos Japan.
A lot of you might not have heard of The Combatribes, but most of you are far more likely to have heard of Renegade and Double Dragon. Technos made a game called Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun which Taito converted into the game we know as Renegade (basically by removing the Japanese related stuff and changing the theme of the game to one they thought would do better over here) Technos also made Double Dragon but again Taito distributed it over here.
The Combatribes has a lot in common with these games, but you get the feeling that Technos had looked at some of its competitors and picked up a trick or two from them. When I first came across the arcade machine in a local pizza parlor I had no idea that it was in any way connected to the above games, what struck me was that it was in a nice big cab and it had three joysticks each one was for a different character. This is where it started to remind me of the likes of Final Fight a little bit.
You had the blue player Berserker, a blond-haired man in a blue outfit, he is very much your Mr Average, he has an even split between speed and strength, so in Final Fight terms I guess he is the Cody of the piece. Then there was Bullova, a black man in a yellow outfit who is all about strength but is also very slow. The third and final member of the team is Blitz, a long-haired man in a red outfit, who is weak but very fast. He is one of those characters who you’re supposed to get the first hit with and just keep peppering away at your enemy so quickly they don’t have the time to strike back.
I suppose this leaves me with two questions to address, one being now I have given you a little history how does the SNES game compare to the arcade machine, with the other being which is better, Final Fight or The Combatribes?
The SNES version of The Combatribes made a few changes to the game. Some of them can be seen as attempts to add to the game, some can be seen as ways of getting around some of the machine’s limitations and then there are the usual Nintendo reasons.
The SNES version features story sequences before and after boss battles, as well as an opening intro explaining the plot. It also has a different ending. I think all of this is just basically an added layer of polish it’s nice but it’s not the important bit.
The gameplay itself remains more or less the same, In the arcade version the characters’ health was represented by a bunch of numbers. Here it is represented by the standard life bar method. In the SNES version, the stages are also simpler, there are also enemies missing and the final boss is different. None of this is really going to matter though unless you’re a big fan of the arcade machine and played it enough to know every little piece of it.
A one-on-one versus mode has been added to the game in it you can perform standard one-on-one beat ’em up moves (Street Fighter II type-stuff fireballs and and the like with some characters). The game’s enemies and bosses can also be used in this mode. You gain passwords by playing the regular mode which you input here to unlock them. It’s no Street Fighter, the moves are a lot clunkier, and on its own I wouldn’t really rate it, but as a bonus mode a bit of knock around fun you’d have to be a bit of a Scrooge to complain about it.
The game was ‘cleaned up’ in lots of ways from its arcade counterpart. Blood splattering effects were removed. Blood was removed from cut screens and both characters and gangs were renamed to less violent names. I am also sure one of the bosses in the arcade had some sort of racist or taboo name but what it was exactly escapes my mind.
As for comparisons to Final Fight well the graphics are very different. The characters in The Combatribes are a lot smaller, the backgrounds are colourful and there’s a lot going on. The buildings look tiny but then you get to see a lot of them and a lot of neat flashing signs. The first thing people will pick up on is that The Combatribes can be played by two players, it also has all three of its arcade characters in its SNES port unlike Final Fight which only managed two of them. Both games have their selling points and I won’t take it further than that or I will give away so much of my opinion on Final Fight that my upcoming review of that will be pointless.
The control scheme of The Combatribes is simple, which means you can pick it up and play it in seconds, as far as beat ’em ups go though there is not a massive selection of moves. It also has a few issues with the fact some of the bosses can be a little bit unfairly difficult. It often seems like they can move faster than you and to put it simply at times they are incredibly cheap. So this game can be fun if you like this sort of game but it can also occasionally make you want to scream a little bit now and again.
Visually The Combatribes is a little bit mixed. I think the characters themselves look pretty darn good and are animated pretty well. The backgrounds are also quiet bright but a bit repetitive. The presentation is not too bad with nice little cut scenes.
So what about the game’s sound? Well the music in the game is pretty darn catchy and I think you could definitely claim it has its own original sound. The sound effects are also very well done.
Whether you like The Combatribes or not will depend on what kind of games you like. If you don’t like walk along beat ’em ups, well The Combatribes is not going to change your mind. If you love them then you will most likely eat this up. If you can forgive a game a few flaws and want to smash heads with a buddy then this game gets a reasonably hearty recommendation. There are far better walk along beat em ups on the system but there are also a heck of a lot worse games. I wouldn’t recommend this as the first and most important beat ’em up to grab but if you’re looking for one you haven’t tried before and you can find this then I would give it a bash.
I would score it six out of 10. If my memory is correct reviewers back in the day were a lot harsher some scored it as low as 30%. I think the highest I remember seeing it get was 65%. Maybe my opinion of it is a little more positive than others because playing it takes me back to a time in my life when I would go to the local one screen cinema, watch a film and then head to the takeaway pizza joint after to enjoy virtually kicking thugs in the head while a man made me and my buddies a takeaway pepperoni pizza – but that is one of the best things about retro games is it not? They all come from a time in the past and have all sorts of stories and histories connected to them.
From a little bit of research it looks like you would be lucky to get a cart of it for about £15. It never came out in Europe to my knowledge so you’d have to either get an US or Japanese copy, again meaning that you would need an import or modified machine or to have an import converter.