The Beat ‘em Up Paradox
Apart from a decade ago when Castle Crashers released, the beat ‘em up genre hasn’t really been in vogue since the early 90s when games like Turtles in Time and Streets of Rage 2 were kicking around. Trying to bring it back is Full Metal Furies, a stout brawler with a silly sense of humor brought to us by the folks that brought us Rogue Legacy. With its versatile characters, variety of enemies and an intriguing backdrop, it maintains a steady pace throughout when most games in the genre fail to keep up for more than a handful of stages.
Full Metal Furies’ setting is loosely rooted in Greek myth but in a more hybridization of modern and ancient times. The world has been plunged into chaos as the Titans war with each other to be the sole ruler of humanity ever since the prior ruler, Prometheus fell or disappeared. The Furies, a troop of four vengeful femmes are set on destroying the Titans to restore the world as it was under Prometheus rule, as they imagine it anyway.
Each enemy Titan is somewhat convincing in explaining that they aren’t all that bad by offering warnings of a truer danger should they fall while also painting their motives in their best light. It also doesn’t hurt that they match the Furies’ dorky personalities for better or worse. The game has a corny sense of humor and is relentless in its pursuit of jokes that are complimented well by its comic strip art style. It can come across as trying too hard or over the top, particularly when a gag is accompanied by almost philosophical questions regarding the nature of a Titan’s rule or whether what the Furies are doing is even just. Regardless of these questions and jokes though, there is only one way to proceed, to beat everyone up.
True to the name of the game, you play as the one of the four Furies, either solo or with up to three friends in classic beat ‘em up style. Triss is the shield wielding leader of the group, while Alexis is a more brutish hammer wielder, Erin is a pistol toting geek and Meg is an apathetic sniper. Playing solo will allow you to pick two characters and swap between them on the fly as a sort of pseudo-cooperative mode. It’s certainly playable in this way, but it’s clear this game is geared more towards the true co-op experience.
Each character has their own unique kit, with advantages and disadvantages. Alexis and Triss are melee characters, truer to the origins of the genre, but Erin and especially Meg can take out enemies without getting too close. Regardless of the character, each has a powerful special attack, a mobility move and tech option in addition to their standard attacks, all of which seem to work well with each other allowing for some neat combos.
In addition to the fleshed out movesets, the progression helps to elevate Full Metal Furies beyond being another simple beat ‘em up. There are multiple tech, mobility, special and weapon upgrades for each character and a skill tree on top of that. Not all of the options really drastically change the way each character plays, but there are a handful that can really shake up how you approach encounters.
As important as the progression is to the game, the encounters are a bit more engaging than the traditional beat ‘em up affair. There is a pretty good variety of enemy types that will have you making the most of your movesets. Sometimes an enemy will be shielded with a particular color bubble to match the Fury that must pop the bubble before the other Furies can damage the enemy. So one player can’t carry a group all the way through the entire game, and even in solo play you’ll frequently be forced into situations where you need to switch between characters. Fights grow hectic with lots of bullets flying around, explosions and bubbles that might change without much reason or rhyme, and frankly, it’s some of the best the action the genre has had to offer in a long time.
It is however, unfortunate that there isn’t enough of a system in place to reward experimentation. Once you’ve committed your gold to an upgrade there’s no turning back, and if you end up spending a lot of points on a character and find you really don’t care for her playstyle, you kind of have to start from scratch with another. There is a discount system, but by the time you reach the later stages it doesn’t really keep up and you might find yourself having to grind a bit if you want to be more in line with the endgame enemies.
Speaking of the endgame, you might say there is a true ending beyond the standard ending that rewards you with a Nier-esque fast credits scroll. To unlock the true ending, players will have to solve dozens of cryptic riddles found largely on Rosetta Stones hidden on some stages. Many of these riddles require a level of perception and observation, that I sincerely doubt the average player has the patience to look too deeply into. They are clever in a lot of ways, but like the sense of humor, just a bit over the top.
Full Metal Furies is if anything, consistently inconsistent, a true paradox. It marries philosophy with humor, the past with the present and mindless brawling with thoughtful riddles, and it all comes together to reinvigorate a worn out style of arcade action. It might not always stick the landing with its ideas, but it doesn’t seem to be ashamed to have them, and there’s something to be said for that.