Capcom’s beat ’em up blitz was bolstered by Knights of the Round in 1992, a medieval beat ’em up loosely based on King Arthur and his Knights of the Round table. Like Final Fight in 1989 and The King of Dragons in 1991, it allowed three players to simultaneously join the fun in smashing their way through mobs of bad guys.
It ran on Capcom’s CPS-1 arcade hardware which was their attempt to try and curb costs by creating a standard with which arcade operators could simply swap games on instead of having to buy an entirely new setup every time. It used Motorola’s long lived 68000 16/32-bit CPU coupled with Zilog’s popular Z80 (which also provided the brains for a wide number of electronic devices including Sega’s Master System). Handling the sound was Yamaha’s YM2151 and OKI’s OKI6295 voice synthesis chip. The CPS-1 was a powerful piece of kit back in the day and was what powered a number of Capcom’s greatest hits such as Street Fighter II and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.
One interesting change for Knights of the Round was that it incorporated what became more popularly known as a “suicide battery”, an anti-piracy measure Capcom trickled into a number of CPS-1 setups before incorporating it in the CP System Dash (basically an updated version of CPS-1) and its successors, the CPS-2 and CPS-3.
Decryption keys were stored in memory powered by the battery which were needed to run the game. If the hardware was tampered with somehow disrupting the power, the keys would be lost rendering the setup useless until the system was mailed back to Capcom to restore it. The batteries also had an estimated life of only five to six years making it almost a required thing to send it back, but there were ways to replace the battery before that happened.
Compared to its predecessor a few months earlier, The King of Dragons, Knights of the Round was something of a bigger step up in production quality. Sprites were bigger and more detailed with armored foes fixing their visors to the clanking chain guts of a giant iron golem. Bosses were also bigger and meaner, backdrops had more fluff to look at, stages were fewer (only seven) but they were longer, and overall, it just felt more interesting to play.
Enemies took the form of generic foot soldiers to magic tigers, wizards, hulking brutes in armor, and horse-riding foes. Players could even steal the horses, Golden Axe style, and ride around swinging their weapon, reaping enemies left and right for as long as they could.
Players, despite whatever spot they take on the cabinet, can go in as one of three heroes each with their own strengths and weaknesses — all-rounder Arthur, mighty Percival, or quick Lancelot. Levels are earned via scoring with lots of treasure loot lying around and enemies to beat down.
One interesting thing about the big icons for the loot and food drops is that if you hit them, you can actually break them down into smaller pieces which makes it handy to share things in a co-op environment especially if someone needs a smidgen of health or if you don’t want to be all greedy and hoard all the shineys.
Leveling up also changed the look of each knight, giving them stylized armor in addition to toughening them up. In The King of Dragons, only your sword and shield changed after picking up new versions.
The attract-mode had a short cinematic showing a capsule version of the Arthur legend as he pulls the Sword from the stone and discovers his destiny. With the help of Lancelot and Percival (or simply as any one of these knights solo), they go off to crush evil and heal the land by recovering the Holy Grail, at the end of which is an extensive ending to enjoy with a list of credits showing off all of the characters in the game. After that, that’s it — no harder difficulty level, just “the end” like The Punisher and The King of Dragons.
A solid port of Knights came over to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System like The King of Dragons did, arriving in 1994, with 2-player co-op. Later, it was included in the same Capcom collections; volume two of the Capcom Classics Collection for the PS2 and Xbox and Capcom Classics Collection: Reloaded for the PSP…both in 2006 for North America. Another arcade classic beat ’em up from the pages of Capcom.