Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw is Below the Standard
The core gameplay hasn’t changed from the previous titles. Players still take control of a fuzzy fighter and battle their way to the Dali Llama, Kendo Coyote is still slower than grandpa wearing cement undershorts and Foxy Roxy is still hot in the kind of way that makes you ashamed you noticed. What’s so frustrating here is that Gametek had the chance to make the 32X version of Brutal a great game by fixing the imperfections of the previous ports and expanding on the best features. Instead they gave us two useless new characters. In fact, little else has been added to this “upgrade,” which turns out to be Above the Claw’s most fundamental flaw.
On the plus side, the graphics are better than ever. The characters are animated well, and they’re a joy to watch in battle and the lush, detailed environments help add some much-needed flair to the experience. However, many locales are missing some of the clever touches found in the original Brutal game, Paws of Fury. Take, for example, Leon the lion’s old bridge stage, where players can fall off the edge mid-battle if they aren’t careful. For some reason, this and other fun details were removed from Above the Claw. Also, the music that was such a draw for the Sega CD game has been ill-treated to say the least. The new jams have still got that Brutal-ish jungle beat, but there are only three or four tracks in the entire game. Each lasts approximately six seconds and is looped indefinitely, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the mute button on your TV set a few minutes after plugging in the game.
The sounds don’t fare much better. All the characters make the same yelps and “hy-yahs,” leading to a very generic aural experience. In another small but annoying omission, Leon no longer plays his guitar riff during his Power Chord attack, killing the move’s humor.
There are six different attack buttons – three kicks and three punches – but they often produce the same punch or kick animation, just faster or slower depending on the strength of the button pressed. There’s little reason to use anything but the most damaging attacks, making the Street Fighter style controller layout unnecessary.
As far as the two player mode goes, there’s not much too it. With only 12 selectable characters (and seven that are any good), the two player battles don’t stay fresh for long. As a sort of counter to this, the programmers added Island Conquest, a board-game like mode that has both players battling for the supremacy of Brutal Island. It’s a nice addition, but ultimately, it isn’t much different than the standard versus mode.
Despite its problems though, some fun can be had with Brutal: Above the Claw, if only because the concept of anthromorphs beating the tar out of each other is undeniably cool. But the fun quickly wears off, and players are left with a shallow, button masher’s dream of a game. If you were hardcore (or crazy) enough to get a 32X, there’s a good chance you own a Sega CD unit as well. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and seek a copy of the superior Brutal CD; it’s defiantly a cut above the others. Regardless, Brutal: Above the Claw is more entertaining than the Genesis and SNES ports, and is a fine game to fill an afternoon, but that’s about it. If you see it for a few bucks, pick it up and daydream about the awesome game it could have been.