Brawl Brothers Review
Posted by Marcel van Duyn
A marked improvement
Jaleco released several beat 'em ups on the SNES, although you may not know that three of them are actually related. Exclusively in Japan, the games Rival Turf!, Brawl Brothers and The Peace Keepers were all part of one series called Rushing Beat, but for their North American releases they were retitled, and the story and character names were all changed.
The second game in the series, Brawl Brothers still has the same two characters from Rival Turf! — Jack Flak and Oozie Nelson — though they've been renamed Hack and Slash this time around. They're joined by three new characters in the forms of Lord J., Kazan and Wendy. Of course, all of them have their own unique movesets, so experimenting to find your favourite is certainly recommended.
Upon beginning the game, either in single player or two player mode, you'll have to pick two characters to start with. No, this doesn't get you an AI partner in single player, but it does allow you to switch to the other whenever you have to continue. As you go through the game, you'll fight clones of the remaining three characters; after you beat them, the real deal (who was kidnapped) will join you and you can also select them from then on out. It's a good idea in theory, but as you can only change after losing all your current lives, it's not really very useful, especially as you don't have many continues.
The game doesn't actually have very many different stages, as you go through several different areas listed on the map before finally fighting a boss and ending it. This means some stages can be very long and drag on severely: even the first level which, of all things, ends with a maze of doorways you have to find the correct path through. The game also loves background objects that can hurt you, as they pop up very frequently and, despite usually being able to hit enemies, generally outstay their welcome.
Defeating regular enemies is also usually quite a hassle; Final Fight and Streets of Rage are generally pretty lenient about hitting enemies that aren't exactly on the same plane as you, but it's very strict here, as enemies have to be right in front of you and not even the slightest bit more towards the front or back of the stage, or you usually won't be able to hit them. They're also annoyingly skilled at taking priority with grabs, so frequently if you go in for a grab they'll grab you instead, so it may be smarter to stick with combos and jump attacks.
An interesting mechanic is that weapons aren't the only thing you'll keep in your hands after picking them up, as you'll do the same with food. This means you can carry around a full health kit until you actually need it, if you happen to come across one when you've already got a maxed-out life bar. However, you'll use it when you press the regular attack button and drop it if you get hit, so it can just as well be another annoyance on the list trying to take something around with you.
Rival Turf! looked quite dull in the graphics department, and thankfully Brawl Brothers looks quite a bit better: the characters are animated a lot better and look a lot livelier due to being slightly cartoonised. The stages are also a bit more interesting and no longer look like boring rip-offs of the first Final Fight's locations.
Brawl Brothers is a noticeable improvement over Rival Turf!, but it's still not good enough to match up to the best beat 'em ups around. It plays quite a bit better and has some more variety in terms of the stages and playable characters, but all the little annoyances stack up in the end to slightly drag down what would otherwise be a good alternative to the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage.