Kurt Kalata is an ardent video gamer from New Jersey. He has founded websites such as The Castlevania Dungeon, which focuses on Konami's long running, vampire slaying series, and Hardcore Gaming 101, which gives comprehensive reviews focusing on the history of gaming. His most recent book is Bitmap Books' A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games. In addition to his own sites and books, his writings have appeared in Retro Gamer magazine, Time Extension and at 1up, Siliconera, and Gamasutra.

HG101: The Guide to Beat-Em-Ups Vol. 1 by Kurt Kalata

Are you ready for hot-blooded fighting action? Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: The Guide to Beat-Em-Ups Vol. 1 covers the origins of the belt-scrolling brawler with Technos' Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun (AKA Renegade) and the world-famous Double Dragon. Also covered are the works of Capcom (Final Fight, Captain Commando, Aliens vs. Predator, Dungeons & Dragons) and Konami (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Vendetta) as well as Sega's Streets of Rage series!


If you have fond memories of walking in one direction (usually) and hitting everything that moved, Hardcore 101's guide to beat-em-ups is right up your alley—an alley filled with goons from Capcom classics such as Final Fight and Dungeons & Dragons; Konami's legendary TMNT coin-gobblers; and more. – David L. Craddock



  • "Loved Volume One with a ton of great information, good screen shots and lots of details that I haven't read anywhere else so far; hopefully Volume Two gets released soon...In short: This is a great book for retro gamers with a faible for 'belt scrolling fighting games' such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage."

    – Amazon.com review



Technos' Double Dragon opens with a group of tough guys, members of the evil Black Warriors gang, apprehending a woman in a bad part of the city. One of them walks up, punches her in the stomach, loads her on his shoulders, and carries her away. The scene might feel a bit awkward in light of today's atmosphere in the gaming world, but in 1987, this was the way to establish the players' motivation and mission in an arcade game within five seconds. As soon as the villains leave, a garage door opens to reveal the martial arts masters (and brothers) Billy and Jimmy Lee, who of course have to rescue their would-be girlfriend Marian, beating up every hoodlum in their way.

Even though Double Dragon made major contributions to codifying the formula that became known as the beat-em-up genre, it was hardly the first game where the heroes run around beating hordes of bad guys with their fists and feet. Developer Technos had made early strides in before with Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun in 1986, a game about delinquent high school students fighting each other and getting in trouble with the mob. Fearing that the cultural references might be lost on an American audience, the game – now renamed Renegade – had the visual design of its characters and backgrounds changed to live and breathe the flair of the 1979 film The Warriors. This dystopian vision is of a near-future New York that became progressively grimier and under the control of street gangs, an image that hadn't lost its cultural relevance.