Review by Dr Nemo

"Fight Music"

Everyone knows that Genesis had Streets of Rage and Snes had Final Fight, but what most people probably didn't know is that the other 16-bit console had it's own beat-em-up franchise. Well actually it's not much a franchise, being only one game and all, but since it's the only such game like this on the platform it deserves recognition. Unfortunately, it only comes off as Final Fight's underdeveloped cousin.

The first thing you'll probably notice if you play Riot Zone is its interesting sound effects. Anytime you hit an enemy or they hit you, you hear a completely unorthodox noise. The best way to describe it would be to say it sounds like someone hitting a hammer against a piece of sheet metal. Not very realistic when you consider that mutilating one's face doesn't ring like thunder. It sets a tone that the developers released a less than polished product. Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself here though. Before you can arrive at the gameplay segment of Riot Zone, you will most likely be struck with a feeling of déjà vu. The introduction of the story has a city overrun with thugs. To make matters worse, the main character's girlfriend has been kidnapped by these hoods. Obviously the soon to be hero isn't going to stand for this, so he and his best friend decide to take matters in their own hands, beat down style. Genius. The game gives you the option to control either of these two original characters. The boyfriend and finesse fighter Hawk, or his best buddy Tony, the slow muscle. {cough}Cody and Haggar{cough} Excuse me. And once the action pops off, all the usual suspects make their appearances. Yes, the skinny punks, the ridiculously fat guys, the scantly clad girls, oh and of course the ninjas, they're are all here with one common goal in mind, get mowed down by you several hundred times throughout the course of the game. And the designers even decided to get really clever in the naming of their characters, the lard balls that run at you with their bellies are named Fats. Irony of this magnitude couldn't possibly have been planned.

''Okay, so what do I get to use against this motley crew of criminals''

For the most part you will just be gnashing the punch button over and over. To mix things up as much as I guess they can, there's also throws and jump kicks (which can be abused to make the game easier than it already is) added to the mix. Being the beneficiary of complacency, it's also a given that there's a special attack that you can use that drains your life at the same time. The gameplay is easy to manage and it works though, and that's really all we can ask for. But what I didn't ask for was bland backgrounds and incoherent levels, ugh. Like many of its peers, Riot Zone suffers from the “mistransit disease”. One second you're fighting in a bar, the next you’re a dungeon, and then all of the sudden you're in a wrestling ring. I don't expect a 16-bit game's first priority to be realism, but there needs to be some conscious thought put into what's being presented. If they were trying to keep the game interesting they could have added some life or interaction to the backgrounds rather than make them absurd. And to be honest, the only things in the game that are well-animated are the bosses.

Being that the Duo is a CD-based system, you'd think it would at least have an advantage in the music department. And well, it does. The game boasts roughly 15 different tracks that sound loud and clear. And though most are a little less than aggression inspiring, the music is better than what can be found in its contemporaries ('cept Streets of Rage). The highlight of the score is the guitars that start chugging once the boss battles begin, by the third stage you'll know when it's “go time”.

''Yea, go to sleep maybe''

Alright, so the game's a little easy. Okay, granted you have hands, you should beat the game the first time you play it. And with the monotonous of it all, by the final stage you'll most likely be nauseous from fighting the same groups of enemies scene after scene. This isn't a Riot Zone exclusive problem, however, it feels amplified with the boring atmosphere and non-existent challenge. On the whole though, Riot Zone isn't a total waste. As previously mentioned, it's the only beat-em-up on the system. And if you can get enough of this type of game, then there's worse ways to waste an hour. Throughout your gaming years you’ll more than likely take many trips through mediocrity, so why not take one with a blonde bombshell like Hawk?


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/13/03, Updated 06/13/03


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