64th Street: A Detective Story
Now let's be honest here folks; beat-em-ups are enjoyable in small doses with a chum helping you in the task of kicking ass and taking names (HOLLY WOOD), but it's really whenever they have absurd stories, crazy intermissions or wacky bad guys do they get memorable. Beating up people with lead pipes is a grand old time, but it's really the extras that make them worth talking about.
For example: Streets of Rage. The second and third instalments have serious plots, advanced attacks and layers of co-operative attacks. I don't find them as cool as the first, even though it's infinitely inferior in every category but one.
MISSILE STRIKE FROM A COP CAR AS YOUR BACKUP, BABY
However, there's so many beat-em-ups that for each and every one to have it's unique gimmick is just impossible. Capcom's Knights of the Round is an inoffensive game, but there's no real defining moment to it aside from the whole King Arthur theme. Final Fight 3, on the other hand, has a mini-game where you beat up a bulldozer. 64th Street: A Detective Story, released in 1991 by Jaleco, doesn't look like much at first...
It's the story of Rick and Allen, two detectives in the troublesome times of 1939, on their 238th case: Case of the Rich Man's Kidnapped Daughter. The Japanese had swindled the entire stock of thesauruses in the country, leaving them with embarrassingly straightforward titles for each mystery.
In this case, a rich man's kidnapped daughter, and a letter from the kidnappers. Shocking stuff.
However, it is more than that! Numerous advertisements in the classified section of the untitled newspaper have secret messages printed in them, and they tend to use the same words a lot. This is a clue. A hubbabaloo of a clue! A sheboygan of a clue! And that clue is all they need to go out onto the streets and start busting heads.
Of course, you can't do that with inserting a coin. Got to look out for the economy. It's wartime, after all!
Since this is 1991, it'd be criminal to have a 2-player game without two characters at the least. So you're given command of Rick, super sleuth extraordinaire with a moustache, suspenders and the bluest shirt you've ever seen.
He's got a mean punch punch chin shove uppercut combo...
Can pull a mean jump kick...
Swings a hammer punch...
And can do a Shoryuken, of all things!
Allen, however, isn't anywhere near as cool. Sure, he's got a duncher (or a flat cap as everybody with sense or isn't Irish calls it) and some kickin' arm bands, but it's hard to forgive having a jacket that pink. Not to mention a lot of the poses he pulls are rather questionable.
Sure, he's got a mean punch punch swing and kick combo...
But seriously, that flying knee is just hilarious.
And his back kick just gives us an uncomfortable view of his bum cheeks.
If there's anything positive about him, he's got some kind of move that's almost like a Rising Tackle, but not quite.
Needless to say, anyone who gets Allen automatically gets the short end of the stick.
As usual in your typical brawler, you'll encounter strangely fashioned and abnormal characters, all decked out in the hippest of 1939's rainbow clothes. Sadly, they don't even compare to anything from Undercover Cops or Night Slashers, but there's at least one guy worth looking at.
This little short, rotund guy with a Quasimodo face and Wolverine claws. And he does Blanka's strong kick after being knocked down. Perhaps one day we will find out more about this strange villain.
Of course, there are still some great guys, but it's best leaving them until they show up. Onward!
Stage 1 - 64th Street
Once you hit the streets, the first thing you'll realise is that grabbing is the best tactic in the entire game. See, there's a gang member lounging against the wall when you begin, allowing you for an easy grab. However, you're not just restricted to throwing horizontally, but you can throw upwards as well! This means you can bust out your office windows with this thug right when you start.
That is incredible.
You're given a better demonstration as you progress past shops and parked cars; you're always given a wall, and throwing a guy to the ground does a fair amount of damage, but throwing them into a wall does a ludicrous amount; perhaps the most damage you can deal in the game. And since enemies either stand stupidly or do an attack after they get up, you can just keep on throwing them until they die.
After that brief stint in the streets, you move onto a bus. A surprisingly spacious bus with boxes, a sole passenger who looks like a member of Aerosmith and a Mohawk-bearing driver. You know what the Aerosmith fellow does? Not a lot. He walks around and tries to bonk you on the head sometimes, but you can kill him quickly by throwing him into windows a few times. Then once he's down, the boss of this stage arrives!
A purple and pink wearing buffoon with a ludicrously sized mallet starts stomping about the place and will give you a mean wallop if you get close. Additionally, knock him down and he'll hit the floor, sending you onto your ass in the process unless you jump. And that's his flaw. One jump attack will always send a foe knocked down, and he'll always hammer the ground after that happens, so keep the jumping and the kicking and he just can't stop you from pummelling his ass.
After every level you're told to PROBE NEXT HIDEOUT as more of the mystery is unfolded to you. In this case, you're attacked by more hoodlums, except you don't see it, and this isn't just a random act of violence: It's a clue-bearing act of violence!
Stage 2 - Smuggler's Wharf
Ah, the pier! All the sights of cargo ships, busy factories and people in jogging suits out to kill you. Thankfully, you are given the opportunity of a lifetime to make use of your throw, as there's no walls here. And you're on a pier. Teehee.
This is also the introduction of the little midget claw guys to the game, which is sad as the easy deaths for the enemies means they don't get to prove themselves terribly worthy. Alas, the fate of an ineffective beat-em-up henchman.
Sadly, the chance for easy kills comes to an end when you start passing fishing boats and giant cruise ships. You can the fishing ships with some mighty throws, but the cruise ones are impenetrable, and either way it just isn't as cool as throwing someone in the drink. =(
You then board the ship, which is really very boring. You can throw people into walls and boxes fall down periodically, but the most exciting it gets is when you can get one of the two items in the game: The wrench! Just wallop a guy with this DIY tool and you'll knock them for six. Fun times.
And now you're inside the ship, of all places. Has the game hit a dull spot? After all, the most you face are muscle men who can be tossed into walls until they die, and there's no obstacles. Is this the end of 64th Street and it's interesting features?
Nope, because after that is the boss, and the boss for this stage is PEG LEG SPINNING PIRATE PETE. Seriously, a pink shirted, eye patch wearing pirate who spins around the room on his peg leg. And he's got an office chair!
However, his furniture is his ultimate undoing. If you're unprepared then this guy can sock you about like nobody's business, but pin him against the desk or his wall and just keep jump kicking him until he expires. He'll always spin if you're nearby and when he gets up, so each attack just scores him in the noggin. Poor sod.
And now that you've defeated him, time for the obligatory plot twist that's sure to be
Robotic parts? Illegal robotic parts!? Great scott! That's very inappropriate for 1939. Unless it's Heavy Metal's version of the World War II era where zombies were pilots and aliens sniffed lines of coke in a Pac-Man space ship.
Stage 3 - Railroad Yard
Of course, it's the obligatory moving vehicle level, except here it's a self-propelled drilling platform with people littering the tracks. People that get skewered by the drills and then thrown onto the platform, where you can all too merrily throw them off again. It's a harsh life.
After that, you come to an impromptu stop and are forced to walk the rest of the tunnels on foot. Due to a lack of motorbike riding gangsters or moving trains or anything that could take advantage of the fact you're walking on a railway, this part is best left forgotten about.
Would you believe it's boss time already? And it's up against a bright colour garbed professional wrestler, of all people. Two of them, in fact! Following beat-em-up law, they are absolute assholes. Normally they're slow and back off from you and not that threatening but then they somersault through the air and only psychic knowledge or a gattling gun can save your ass from being mown like a lawn.
See, it doesn't help that while you can only jump horizontally, these guys can leap in any direction they want, and only a very high jump kick can get priority over that cheap move. But without just knocking them down and knowing that somersault will be their first attack, it's hard to know when you'll be clobbered. And there's no walls to pin them against, so you're on your own.
To accompany a dull level, this revelation isn't anywhere near as cool as the last one. So you saw a company logo. Super detective work in action.
Stage 4 - Secret Factory
Sure, you see secret factories in detective movies and video games all the time. Sometimes they have legitimate secrets and sometimes it's just to add a forced veil of mystery. But this one? Maybe not secrets, but it's got goddamned ninjas. Not to mention lots of windows to throw those ninjas into. Good times!
There's also boxes that rain from the ceiling and contain loaves of bread. It's like a magical wonderland, this place.
Afterwards you move into a storage bay of boxes and promptly get swamped with punks and fat people. However, raining tires and crates can give you access to the best item in the game; greater than the pen, better than the sushi, better than the bonus point cat; the lead pipe. It is a beauty to behold.
It works just like the wrench; hit someone, they fall down. Except this doesn't suck. It has range. You can stand a far distance from a group of unwell wishers and clobber them with no fear of suffering pain yourself. Not to mention that each smack sends a foe bouncing backwards like a basketball. It's amazing.
After a few more battles, you come to an area of machinery. What lies inside?
It only makes sense. It'd be silly to make such an awesome concept as illegal robot parts in 1939 just a silly red herring. The problem is that this guy will beat your ass until it's concave.
This robot has an extending fist, and aside from sometimes lifting you up and throwing you over his head, that's all he will do. And there's no way to block it. It may look like you're out of it's range, but pow, you're knocked out, bitch. If you try to throw it then you just get crushed by its weight. The most you can do is pull a combo to knock it down, move out of it's way as it punches and then back into it's path to offer punches until it's inoperable.
The worst part is that it turns out not only were these robot parts illegally shipped in, but people are being made into robots. And they're doing it willingly. I need a stiff drink.
Stage 5 - The Headquarters
What's hilarious is that immediately after you see that and then go to THE HEADQUARTERS to beat up whoever's doing this hideous scheme, you see a bunch of punks waiting outside to be made into robots. It makes beating them up almost noble. Well, nobler.
After causing a whole ton of property damage to the building, you enter and you can set about destroying even more of the environment, as well as boxes and people's heads. All in a day's work to rescue a rich man's daughter.
This is where yet another beat-em-up cliché strolls in: Repeated bosses. Just when it looks like you can proceed to the second floor, it's peg leg pirate man again! And he's been so thoughtful as to fight you at the staircase so you can keep kicking him into the wall and prevent him from getting up. What a trooper.
On the next floor you're immediately ambushed by that goddamned professional wrestler again. Since he's such a jumper son of a beehive you can't pin him against a wall, but if you go too far then the more thugs shows up and double your pain; and in the event that you enjoy pain, your pleasure. You just can't win.
Afterwards you can destroy a line of safes with your bare hands.
The next floor is just enemies with no repeated boss, but since you can grab yourself a bunch of turkey legs from the walls then it's sure to be a lead up to something big, right?
Not yet. They just drop a bunch of safes on your head.
And after fighting an unnecessary amount of lackeys and the chance to destroy priceless pieces of ancient Japanese art, they drop another pirate and pro wrestler on you. At the same time. It goes without saying that on his own, the pirate is tolerable, but to deal with them while they're both begging for attention is just downright dastardly, perhaps even bastardly. However, once the pirate's out of the way the wrestler isn't quite as bad, but it's still an unpleasant experience.
Could this be it?
An elevator ride first with some turkey to eat.
Could this be the battle now?
First a walkway with the option of picking a wrench or a lead pipe.
Could this be
Turns out the friendly lift operator is actually a kabuki warrior intent on killing you dead! And he's an absolute jerk face. The two attacks he has are a shoving slap that pales in comparison to that of E.Honda, and a really stupid hop that manages to have tons more range than it really should.
His hop is only horizontal and doesn't travel far, so it isn't as devastating as it could be, but the slap is in every direction and he'll more than happy do it before you can combo his ass, sometimes even in the middle of a combo! Not to mention that all his attacks have priority over your jump kick, and this fellow is a lot more pain than he should be.
Now it's a sky chase! That more than makes up for the millions of virtual bruises!
Stage 6 - Last Level
At least the game is nice enough to be honest about it.
If there's one thing to be positive about in this level, it's that there's a ludicrous amount of damage you can do to the scenery; every single part of the wall can be damaged to varying extents, and it almost makes up for the last level being torture. And after that, it's really final boss time!
Good grief. Two robots and this cane-wielding jerk face. So much for being epic.
The robots have been dealt with before, only now they're socking you back and forth between each other, which is less fun than you'd imagine. The head honcho, however, is very embarrassing. He wields a cane, but you can swipe it off him if you knock him down, though he'll merely leap through the air and attempt spin kicks until you drop it and he retrieves it.
Of course, this is difficult with his robots hammering you in the back every single time you turn away from them, but honestly, the lead bad guy is easy. Knock him down and he'll automatically somersault and do a spin kick. He's invulnerable in the air, so hit him while he's kicking. He'll repeat. Do your thing until he dies, and subsequently, his robots die as well. Gotta love video game logic.
Defeating him will generate the best "you won" text ever.
Yet, it's fitting. The rich man's daughter is cowering by a pillar and is perfectly A-OK.
The heroes then decide to make their exit via the blimp, which they can rightfully steal and claim it's just evidence.
Then they watch the sunset.
And that's it.
You don't find out how much reward money they get from the rich man (a lot), how they pieced together the evidence, the joys of writing up the paper work or even having the unnamed villain vowing revenge against Rick and Allen, promising pirate and robot filled vengeance as he shakes his fist behind bars.
You just watch the sunset.
Why a kabuki warrior was put in charge of making people into robots, what they wanted with the rich man's daughter (aside from the obvious answer of ransom money) and simply why the hell they wanted to make random gangsters into illegally shipped robots in the first place all remain unanswered.
Any chance of an answer is shattered by Jaleco essentially being inactive. They don't do anything of note anymore. And nothing of Rick and Allen's other exciting detective cases.
That's a pretty solid end to things, then.