Tuesday, May 8

Review: Raging Justice [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Growing up in arcades in the 80s the classic beat-em-up genre is one I know well and generally love. There’s nothing quite like mashing out an hour beating down some punks and thugs, delivering damage with a variety of weapons, and then facing off against typically pretty preposterous boss battles along the way. Raging Justice absolutely embraces the genre, and is chock full of callbacks and nods to most of the well-known stars of the genre back in its prime. That said, while it has some touches of its own that help it to avoid feeling derivative just be warned that in the end this is still an arcade beat-em-up experience and thus its mileage is only good as your investment in fully exploring what it has to offer.

Obviously drawing its core fundamentals from the likes of classics like Streets of Rage and Final Fight you’ll begin every game by deciding which character to play with. Rick Justice is a bit more of a brawny grappler, Nikki Rage is more of a middle-of-the-road fighter, and Ashley King doesn’t hit quite as hard but has quick attacks that can really drive up the combo meter. Normal difficulty is pretty spot-on, proving to be challenging but not necessarily brutal, and likely tough enough that you’ll run out of Continues before beating the game without investing some time in it. Wimp difficulty drops off the challenge pretty substantially, for my tastes a bit too much, but if your skills aren’t as refined it will probably be less aggravating if you feel like Normal is a bit unfair. Challenge objectives on each level will lay out a small list of things to try to accomplish but in general these aren’t really worrying over until you master the core game and decide to come back for more. Games like this are always a bit more fun with a friend so co-op play is always a great option for putting the hurt on enemies as well.

If you’re looking to play through you’ll want to focus on keeping your life up and trying to get extra lives whenever you can. While food and 1UPs can periodically be found in breakable objects the best strategy for getting more is to try to arrest weakened enemies since they will always drop food. People who flash red and have been identified as having a warrant out for them should be your attempted focus, as arresting all enemies on the level with warrants will also then drop a 1UP. As the game wears on you’ll need all of the help you can get so if you’re able to pull this off it can be well worth your while. Weapon management can also be crucial since they can deal substantial damage, so you’ll want to try to position multiple enemies whenever possible to maximize their use. If you find yourself in a beatdown you should try your special attack as the slight health hit you take for using it can be worth pulling yourself out of a bad situation and give you a little room to work in.

Where the replay value lies is really in getting to know and understand the mechanics of the game, then applying that knowledge to compete on the online leaderboards. The combo meter plays a tremendous role in this, and once you get your rhythm of knocking people down (preferably in groups) and then kicking or punching them while they’re down you can really drive up your score in a hurry. With your combo meter more as your singular focus the style of the game shifts quite a bit and there’s a certain excitement to seeing that meter grow. You’ll likely want to make heavy use of your dash attack as it is great for knocking may enemies down and doesn’t leave you as open to them getting in a random hit every once in a while to ruin your work.

In terms of the downsides the most obvious one is that the mileage people can get out of it will likely vary. If the goal is merely playing through and beating the game the content will likely feel more limited. Unless you’re determined to return for higher scores or to try to master all of the level objectives the content will likely feel more limited. Even if you do want to try to knock everything out, though, some of the tasks put before you can be aggravatingly tough to pull off. Specifically trying to arrest people, especially all enemies with warrants in a level, can feel very much out of your control and frustrating. It’s hard enough to do just enough damage to an enemy to make them prone to arrest but since enemies are able to damage each other through a variety of means many times they end up knocking out your perp for you before you can slap the cuffs on them. Aside from that there can be some quirks with how specific mechanics play out but for the most part I lump them into being consistent with the classics they were inspired by. There are tricks to taking down some bosses quickly through timing and technique, the expectation on all fronts is that as you try different things out you’ll get to know the nuances and better roll with the punches, quirks and all.

There are enough surprises and moments of goofy fun (enemies need to beware of the lawnmower) that Raging Justice manages to both honor and at least marginally improve on the many genre classics that came before it. That said, consider when you’re going in what you’re looking to get out of it. The more of a genre fan you are and looking forward to matching up against your friends on the leaderboards the better a purchase it will be. If you’re just out to “beat it” and move on it may be a bit more iffy, though if you’ve got a friend to lay the smack down with that could also skew more to the positive on that added fun factor alone. Raging Justice very clearly was created with a specific objective in mind, and for the most part it seems to have hit that mark in spades. How wide an audience that makes it ideal for is a fair question.

Score: 7.5

  • Includes elements of many classic beat-em-ups without generally being derivative
  • Co-op play is a blast
  • Replay value is bolstered by online leaderboards if you enjoy refining your game and getting your combo on

  • If you’re simply out to “beat it” and be done you’re eliminating much of the game’s value
  • The arrest mechanic can be aggravating, especially if you’re trying to get your warrant bonuses
  • The same button being used for grappling/arresting/picking up items can be problematic at times