Flashback: Battle Circuit, a forgotten Capcom gem

November 3, 2012

There are interesting games out there. Games with complex narratives or plot arcs, games with astounding mechanics that interact with each other in the most surprising of the ways, games to make you cry and wonder, games to ponder upon. And then you have games that are so much fun you don’t care about anything else.

The last beat-’em-up made by Capcom, Battle Circuit is not just an incredible game, it’s a riotous one, a game that exhales fun and polish through every pixel, and which I’m more than willing to call one of the best beat-’em-ups ever made.

Taking place in a comic-book-like world of supers and comedy, the game doesn’t start with an explanation. After selecting one from such diverse characters as a sentient ostrich, some kind of cat girl or just the heroic cape with electrical powers you are directly dumped into the action, fighting a brain-swelled supervillain and his adorable green slime as the self-destruct timer goes down at an incredible speed.

It’s not until later that you know why you are fighting crime. After getting the evil Dr. Saturn and being congratulated by your cheerful boss, a man who may very well beat Monkey Island’s Stan in the arm-waving department, the promises of cash and riches soon lead you to fight an Elvis impersonator in his Disco of Crime, all in an attempt to retrieve a data disk containing the key to every single computer in the world. Just another Tuesday.

There’s no other reason for all this other than fun. Every character, every attack, everything in this game is done not to impress you, but because the designers had a blast creating them. They were already on top of their game, they went from Final Fight to The Punisher and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and they wanted to go out with a bang.

It’s the kind of game that only they could have made. While many games have an amazing style, it’s often just sugar coating, it doesn’t sink into the actual mechanics and there’s often quite a big difference in quality between both. But Battle Circuit does it effortlessly. The game isn’t even built around it, it’s just so well made that you can’t tell where a part of the game ends and another begins.

Even though I’m normally the kind who still doesn’t know how to parry ten hours into a game, all the controls instantly made sense to me. Without having to check input lists I was pulling out all the special moves. It feels natural to move the joystick to do the attacks, and if I can do them, no seasoned brawler fan will have a problem with them.

And there are a lot of them. This isn’t a two-attack game; there are enough tools and variations to keep everything interesting without needing to spam the same attacks over and over again. You can collect coins after beating up enemies and use your gains to buy new attacks, health refills or other special items, which lets you compensate for mistakes and tweak the character to your liking. It’s actually vital for good play, because you need to reach a certain score or number of upgrades to see the real ending and fight the final boss. The game grades you on every stage based on your completion time, giving you another reason to go back and play this amazing game again.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Battle Circuit was never released for any home consoles and the arcade game itself can be hard to find, relegating it to an obscurity it doesn’t deserve.