Konami’s beat ’em up history might not be as extensive as Capcom’s, but many of the ones that they rolled out into the arcades were often imaginative, fun, and sometimes just as crazy. One of the beat ’em ups that falls squarely into the crazy camp is 1993’s Violent Storm.
If you just watched the arcade teaser, you’d get the impression that the game was some kind of gaiden to Fist of the North Star with its post apocalyptic setting of wrecked cities, gang battles, and a handful of heroes daring to stand against evil. Arcade owners, on the other hand, got the full skinny — or at least those in the US did. The reverse page of the US flyer above laid out the story in detail with a setting taking place after World War III.
Three vigilantes, Boris, Wade, and Kyle, are on the lookout for trouble, defending the weak and powerless, when their friend, Sheena, is abducted by “RED FREDY on his purple hog”. FREDY belongs to the GELD gang whose cosmopolitan ranks include everyone from femme fatales to a boss merged with the power loader from James Cameron’s Aliens. So of course, all three set out to fight their way across GELD controlled territory to rescue her.
Violent Storm ran on the same hardware makeup that a handful of other Konami titles in 1993 did such as another beat ’em up, Metamorphic Force. Konami, unlike a few of its peers like Capcom and SNK, didn’t really standardize its arcade hardware as often as they did. The board that ran Violent Storm was set up using the always reliable Motorola 68000 CPU, but according to System 16’s museum of arcade hardware, that specific type only lasted one year. After 1993, Konami’s engineer’s moved onto something else in what some have lamented as a “what CPU have we got today” mentality which resulted in a massive grab bag of configurations over the years.
Violent Storm’s pop laden soundtrack is something that you just have to hear to believe. It’s like it went back to the 80s and channeled all of those feel-good vibes and dance nuttiness back into the early 90s making it one of the most unique, and probably one of the most remarkable, OSTs ever made for a beat ’em up matching the slapstick action to a pixel perfect tee. Its tracks bounced between pop rhythm, rap, and a piece involving boogie beat pianos and trumpets on a train. It also saw a release as a part of the Konami Amusement Sounds ’94 collection by King Records back in Japan.
Depending on its DIP switch and cabinet configuration, the game could be played by two or three players simultaneously. Each of the three vigilantes had different fighting combos.
Wade used his fists and a sweeping leg attack, had decent speed, did good damage, and was the “balanced character” for players. Kyle’s attacks all revolved around his fast kicking style but despite his speed, he didn’t excel in the damage department. Last was Boris who did great damage and was more of a wrestler type. He was also pretty slow. All three also had “desperation attacks’ which took off a bit of health but dealt damage to everyone around them with a power move. As long as they had health, they could keep on fighting. Continues kept your score and spawned players right back where they had gone down after giving them an opportunity to pick someone else.
Enemies used health bars though quite a few were pretty fragile which the game made up for in numbers. Konami’s art department also seemed to have a lot of fun in designing these thugs. One black leather, chain wielding enemy with a mop of hair covering their face was called “Gigawatt” and the usual “big man” bad guy was called…”Lollipop”. Artists had also gifted them with expressive faces registering surprise and grimacing pain, or as flattened pancakes from getting smashed with a metal press.
Then there was all of the destructive mayhem filling each of the seven massive stages with props ranging from barrels, garbage cans, and oil drums to park benches and potted plants. Heals such as turkeys and pizzas along with extra point bonuses like video tapes and pocket watches were revealed by smashing everything in sight. Enemies were also not immune to environmental dangers, or each other when thrown, and Violent Storm was overloaded with a ton of stuff to throw around and destroy.
Backdrops also had little surprises whether it was a guy sitting next to an open door on a moving train (that you can knock off) or a girl standing nearby with a pizza for no good reason. It was just that kind of weirdness that made Violent Storm’s environments stand out as some kind of slapstick, light hearted, post-apocalyptic pastel pugilistic paradise.
Violent Storm also had a short, but sweet, ending with an unexpectedly over-the-top boss fight against a boss that starts out as a kid and then morphs into a Frankenstein-like beater after tearing his throne room from the ground and putting in the eye of a hurricane. After that titanic fight, it was all good as everyone is rescued and our trio of heroes drive off into the sunset with Sheena.
As much fun as Violent Storm was, it was another of Konami’s beat ’em ups that never made it out of the arcade or was included as a part of a Konami arcade collection released later on. But if they would ever decide to roll a beat ’em up collection out, I hope that Violent Storm is makes the cut. It’s a wild, pop beat driven beat ’em up packing in fast action, a ton of throwables, comedic touches, and co-op goodness against some of the strangest bosses found in a beat ’em up. Definitely another beat ’em up gem from the arcades!