Retro Review: Crisis Beat (Sony Playstation 1)

Developed by Soft Machine and released in Europe in 2000, Crisis Beat dropped straight into obscurity upon release over here, which is a shame- it's a flawed but generally well-executed 3D scrolling brawler with some neat ideas.

The story is total nonsense mostly because of the horrendous translation- it's about a cruise liner that gets taken over by terrorists, but trying to decipher the story beyond that is quite a task. Regardless, four characters (average joe Eiji, wrestling supermodel J.J., Russian spy Keneth who only uses his legs, and broom-wielding Feisu) have to brawl their way through legions of bad guys as per scrolling brawler standards, but in 3D. Unlike Die Hard Arcade (which feels more like a side-on scroller with 3D graphics) this game has full 3D movement, so you can face any direction... Kind-of. Despite supporting the analogue stick, you can only move in the eight cardinal directions, which is made more confusing by the fact that the camera has a tendency to take a 3/4 perspective view of the action. This rarely makes hitting your enemies a problem, though, it's just a little awkward at first- you get used to it quickly.

Beating Up Like Hell

As for the combat, it's pretty standard- you've got two attack buttons which you can mix and match for combos, a jump button, an All Range Burst (a desperation attack that saps your health), the ability to grab and throw enemies, and a dash/step button. The characters don't have huge move sets (especially compared to Die Hard Arcade) but they've got enough attacks to keep things interesting, especially since some of the combos lead into auto-throws to help with crowd control. Critically, the combat feels satisfying- enemies shudder in place upon every hit just like Final Fight, there's a fair bit of enemy variety and there's rarely any cheap hits. The exceptions are a few gun-toting enemies who sometimes shoot at you from off-screen- it doesn't happen too often, but it's an annoyance. The action is generally a bit slower than the classics of the genre, but it controls well enough to avoid frustration, and dealing with crowds actually feels a bit easier than in most 2D brawlers, mostly because you can change your direction mid-combo and hit enemies from any angle.

More interesting is Crisis Beat's take on weapons- no steel pipes or handguns in this game! Instead, the weapons come in threetypes- the knives and rods you can pick up, the sub-machine gun that acts as a one-use smart bomb, and the environmental objects like Christmas trees, windows and even the edge of the ship. Grab the object to flip it over/swing it around to cause damage to everything nearby, or get an enemy in front of it then attack them for a Lock-On Counter. Worth 5000 points (and you'll need those points for a steady stream of extra lives) the Lock-On Counter has your character punch the enemy so hard they smash whatever object is behind them, usually doing a lot of damage. It's an interesting idea that actually works quite well, since you have to choose between crowd control and heavy damage to one enemy, and this makes you think about how to use each 'weapon' depending on the situation. Some more traditional weapons wouldn't have gone amiss, though.

Leave It Out!

While it's got a solid foundation, Crisis Beat does have some flaws. For a start, while the graphics look alright for a PS1 game, the music is pretty forgettable- better put your own music on for this one. Secondly, the game's structure for two-player mode is a real pain- until you beat the game with Eiji/J.J. and Feisu/Keneth (both teams have unique starting levels, but the game's the same from there on) you can only play two-player mode in those fixed teams. It's remedied when you unlock Free Mode, but this really should've been available from the start. The most damaging flaw is that it's a bit too long-there's a few sections (mostly early on in the game, on Eiji/J.J.'s first stage) that drag on and could've done with being excised. They mostly take place on the cruise ship's exterior, with little music to speak of, and I can certainly see some gamers dismissing the game solely on these weak opening parts. After this rough start, the levels become more interesting (the shopping centre being a highlight) and streamlined, with less padding and more exciting things to throw your enemies into- it's such a shame the game starts on such a dull note, because it really hurts it in the long run.

Gameplay Footage:

You Can't Go Forward Anymore

In the end, Crisis Beat is a pretty charming game. Yes, there are better options out there for brawler enthusiasts (purists might prefer the weapons-heavy Die Hard Arcade, which doesn't mess with the camera as much, and those looking for a complete update of the genre should play God Hand) and the level design at certain points is a little dull. However, it does the job of adapting the genre to 3D pretty successfully in its own way- the action is quite satisfying when you're slamming punks into windows and explosive barrels, the controls work well (while the camera angles can be odd, they rarely affect gameplay) and the weapons system is one I haven't seen in any other game of its type. On those merits alone, Crisis Beat is a nice little game that's worth investigating.

Last Updated ( 31 July 2011 )  

Tepid Snake

Wait, what do I put in this box again? Oh, it's about me. I like playing weird and unusual games- the sort you're likely to forget about- and I hope you like reading about them because they're what I write about. And game trivia too. Please look forward to it!

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(Link to this comment) Blast Hardbody 2011-02-19 12:56
I picked this up ages ago, I always thought it was a 2D fighter (which really don't take my fancy) and just never played it.

Might have to go give it a go now.
(Link to this comment) Agent Rolf 2011-02-21 18:44
This is one of my favorite games on the PlayStation! If you like beat 'em up games, this one is a very good choice; the best brawler for the console, in my opinion.

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