Jaleco released a trilogy of side-scrolling fighters in Japan under the Rushing Beat banner, and while all three made their way to the west, they did so under different titles: Rival Turf, Brawl Brothers and The Peace Keepers. Inspired in no small part by the success of Capcom's Final Fight, the series never really managed to reach the same level of acclaim and commercial success — largely thanks to some sloppy gameplay and generally goofy presentation.
Brawl Brothers — known in Japan as Rushing Beat Ran - Fukusei Toshi — attempts to improve on its forerunner by offering more characters and a wider variety of enemy types. As you might expect, the general idea is to beat senseless any character who is foolish enough to waltz into the proximity of your knuckles, and in keeping with the genre, there's little deviation from that core objective throughout the game's lifespan.
Like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, your character has a punch combo, a leaping attack and a special move, the latter of which depletes your health bar when used. You can also grapple with enemies and throw them across the screen. In a nod to Streets of Rage, it's possible to grab a foe from behind, which results in a slightly different attack. Double-tapping a direction results in your fighter breaking into a spring, and a press of the attack button executes a dashing attack. Finally, there's a taunt command, but this is purely for show and has little practical use.
While the range of available fighters is a welcome addition, none of the characters in the game come close to matching the likes of Cody, Haggar, Axel or Blaze when it comes to personality. It doesn't help that the characters often end up looking a bit silly in motion. For example, Hack's walking animation makes him look like he's sliding along the floor — in fact, if you tap gently in a particular direction it's possible to have him glide along the screen without moving a muscle — a totally ridiculous spectacle. This floaty control system doesn't help when you're trying to take down bad guys, and is mitigated by some particular stingy hit detection. It's possible to unleash your special attack on a large group of opponents and see it pass clean through several of them, leaving you open and vulnerable.
Brawl Brothers does have some original ideas — such as an "Angry" mode which makes your fighter invincible when they take a certain amount of damage, and the way in which life-restoring food can be picked up and carried, allowing you to choose when to consume it — but the game is so incredibly dull at times that it's almost impossible to build up any excitement or interest. The levels seem to go on forever, and although set-pieces try to spice things up — such as the first level's helicopter attack — the results are rarely effective enough to get your pulse racing. The title is enlivened by its two-player mode, but even then you and your co-fighter will grow tired after a short while.
You might assume that making a successful side-scrolling fighter is as easy as falling off a log, but Jaleco's SNES-based efforts prove otherwise. Brawl Brothers seems to tick every box — it has a two-player mode, five different fighters and a respectable selection of moves to utilize. However, the execution is all wrong. The controls feel loose and floaty, and the hit detection requires enemies to be directly in front of you to register a connection. However, Brawl Brothers commits possibly the most heinous crime for this type of game: it lacks imagination and flair, and that means that slogging through its uninspiring levels is a largely thankless task that only hardcore fans of the genre should consider undertaking.