Review by xenodolf
"New York City has been overrun by mutants! Are you a crude enough dude to liberate The Big Apple?"
Two Crude (aka Crude Buster aka Two Crude Dudes) is another beat 'em up featured on the Data East Arcade Classics for the Nintendo Wii. While Data East's most recognized brawler is by far Bad Dudes, this spiritual sequel takes the established side-scrolling combat mechanics and injects them with a (likely unsterilized) high doze of steroids. Having only been able to previously play the decent-but-less-beefy Sega Genesis port - I was much looking forward to engaging this scuzzy "bro-oriented" beat 'em up as it was originally intended to feel in the arcade scene.
Althoeugh rife with Engrish and typical Japanese-to-English grammar confusion - Crude Buster manages to convey a plot merging the best elements of Hokuto no Ken and Escape from New York. Following a nuclear blast in 2010, NYC is reduced scarred shell of its former self and it takes twenty years for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. However, post-apocalyptic woes take a steep incline as a rogue scientist unleashes an array of biologically engineered freaks who attract the usual motley crew of raiders, punks, and amoral cretins looking for blood. The Unites States government is either too weakened from the bombing two decades prior or is simply tied up trying to maintaining a quarantine of The Big Apple to use military force - so they outsource the cleansing mission to two dudes. Unlike the 80s duo from Bad Dudes (who seem like choirboys in comparison) these "busters" were probably tossing port-a-potties through Macy's or taking a leak on the ruined Statue of Liberty before the President calls them up. These sleazy-looking barbarians are promised bags of dough if they can shutdown the gang "Big Valley" and the bio-engineer breeding their super-mutant muscle. It's nice to see less clean-cut heroes in gaming, and these gray-area punk protagonists helped establish a trend in protagonists later followed by duos like Salem and Rios or Kane and Lynch.
There were several post-apocalyptic settings in beat 'em ups released in the 80s and 90s, but I don't think any of them quite captured the sour atmosphere of rubble, rust, and ruin as Crude Buster does. Slabs of concrete and mounds of garbage litter the stages, with what little buildings in remaining in stable condition bathed in graffiti and discoloration. A fallen Statue of Liberty stares into the foreground with a glare of resounding loss, and in what is quite ironic and iconic - the World Trade stands in a small cluster of undamaged buildings toward the climax of the game. The protagonists embody the Mad Max rule of survivalist chic - with mohawks, leather get-ups, and muscles rippling across all areas of exposed flesh. The sprites for both the dudes and the enemies are above average in size, although their animation quality is only average for a 1990 game. The cast of bad guys is quite bizzare - with a freakshow included wrestlers (with platform shoes) who bring their pet snakes onto the battlefield, bomb-tossing gremlins in Satan Clause suits, midget hunchbacks, werewolves, spider-men, and a few more including a helicopter gunship you break apart with your fists.
The music in this game takes note of the gritty, sleaze-laden beats of Final Fight and does what it can to one-up Capcom's classic score. I would describe the music as a mix between 80s hip-hop backing beats and an ultra-heavy drum-orgy wailing similar to experimental-noise bands like Der Eisenrost. Although the quality isn't close to toppling Final Fight's synth soundtrack, the chaotic nature reflects the animalistic nature of the game's setting. It's a pity that it so often gets drowned out by the average sound effects (some, like the noise of the fat guys swinging pipes is just ear-grating and infinitely looping). There is some voice acting, although none of it carries the amusing cheese-factor of "I'm Bad" from Bad Dudes, and every time you get knocked down expect to hear "what a day!" over and over.
Like Bad Dudes, Crude Buster has the annoying habit of allowing enemies to exist on the same space as you - leading to pile-ups and cheap hits aplenty. Moving between tiers and platforms can be tricky, and often you can't grab an enemy or uproot a weapon as easily as you should be able to. The fighting itself seems less fluid as Bad Dudes, although more complex environments and interactive objects in the background may have complicated the existing engine to feel as such.
Like Bad Dudes, Crude Buster is a multi-tiered single-plane beat 'em up that has enemies coming at you from both sides and includes two adrenaline-oozing muscle-heads operating under the directive of the United States government. The similarities end around that point - because while Bad Dudes resembles a typical cheesy 80s action movie, Crude Buster's look and feel bring to mind a raw, low-budget urban sci-fi film in the vein of Van Damme's Cyborg. While Bad Dudes didn't have the slickest beat 'em up combat of its time, it was a faster-paced brawler where quick strikes and abiding by enemy attack patterns was the method for victory. Crude Buster's slower (but more challenging) pace is enforced by sloppier maneuvering, often relying on the improv weapons pulled from the scenery or the new addition to the formula by the way of throwing mechanics. The rough handling of the combat engine provides a grittier sense of endurance throughout the levels, leaving behind the surgical precision of fighting initially brought to focus in games like Kung-Fu Master or Vigilante to the bar-fight like havoc more in common with games like The Combatribes or Golden Axe. While this lack of polish makes the game's merits seem cheap in some light, it also brings authenticity to the fighting styles of the game's protagonists and their opponents, both of which grew up in a undisciplined wasteland where you may have to kill just to survive another day. Barbarism aside, Crude Busters still has genre-related flaws like cheap enemies (the belly-flopping fat dudes can dial in life-draining combos with their attacks), back-and-forth blow trading boss fights, and annoying things like having to mash buttons to shake off dogs latching onto your body. The lack of a desperation attack can lead to moments where you're swamped by enemies or a boss's offensive salvo and you're forced to shed blood trying to fend them off. Where as the certainly has appeal, I believe it lies more in the area of cult-fanbase than a universal classic like Streets of Rage 2 or Final Fight.
Replay value 4/10
This game features two player co-op action and I recommend you use it, as the flaws of the fighting engine are less noticeable when you have a partner to compliment your crudeness in battle. Plus, Crude Buster is the first beat 'em up to feature bro-amicable fist-bumping at the completion of a level, followed by a flaunting of the muscles cheesy enough to be part of the Jersey Shore formula. Otherwise the game is simply a single-ending, no alternate path or differentiating character brawler like you've seen and played a million times.
I would place Crude Buster on the upper crust of the post-apocalyptic urban beat 'em up niche, with sloppy and shameless face-breaking action that ignores the trim and sleek method of other beat 'em ups from that era for something fierce, jagged and.. well.. crude, instead. It is a better game than Bad Dudes and doesn't have to coast on a comedic premise for ensure good times, although the package isn't as well put together as many of Capcom or Konami's brawlers from the same point in history. Crude Buster is available on the Wii's Data East Arcade Classics compilation disc with its brother brawler Bad Dudes and a handful of other beat 'em up hybrids and is worth investing time into if you have taste for rugged midget-tossing action.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/08/10, Updated 06/29/10
Game Release: Two Crude (US, 12/31/90)
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