Once Final Fight hit big the beat em up genre truly exploded in popularity. Nearly every publisher at some point or another tried their hand at the genre, often with mixed results. Jaleco was one such publisher. Throughout their history they never did manage to create that one intellectual property that gamers would associate their name with. Bases Loaded is probably the closest but they did manage to have one longer lasting hit in the Rushing Beat series. These SNES exclusive brawlers were pretty good with the exception of this first game. Rival Turf is generic as hell and does nothing to rise above the game that inspired it.
Rival Turf is an interesting title. In Japan it is known as Rushing Beat and is the first in a trilogy of titles. Western gamers wouldn’t know that as each title was renamed and most of the associations between were removed. They all range from good to great beat em ups exclusive to the SNES with the exception of this game. Rival Turf is as generic as they come and has nothing going for it aside from a good soundtrack.
Rival Turf defies brawler conventions by offering only two characters. You have the fast but weak Jack Flack or the slow but strong Oozie Nelson. I wish I were joking with those names but I’m dead serious. Why they changed it from the relatively simple Rick Norton and Douglas Bild we’ll never know. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of dumb localization decisions Jaleco would make with the series over the next years. At least in this case its harmless and hilarious.
The game follows the Final Fight mold to a tee. Except in this case that is a detriment. Both characters have a limited set of moves. You have the standard multi hit combo, a jump kick, and a throw. At least here you can run and perform a dashing attack. Jack has slide attack while Oozie performs a clothesline that is hard to land. It sounds cool but the attack is so weak you are better off not bothering.
To some extent you can’t fault the developers for following a winning formula. Final Fight became the phenomenon it is for a reason. But most of its clones found ways to distinguished themselves. Streets of Rage had its awesome techno soundtrack and wide range of attacks. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made excellent use of its license to provide variety at every turn in both arcade games. The only real defining “feature” if you can call it that is Angry Mode. Taking too much damage activates a brief invincibility mode that boosts your strength to insane levels. Bad guys get tossed like rag dolls and slammed with massive force. It’s cool but can only occur once per life.
There is nothing wrong with being a bit generic so long as the game is good. What kills Rival Turf is its pacing. By the second level you’ve seen every enemy in the game. They may appear in different groups and color but they still use the same attacks. To an extent most brawlers suffer from this but it’s even more pronounced here. The thugs here are simply not interesting like the Mad Gear crew. The last three levels are very long which makes this problem even more pronounced. Fighting an endless procession of the same four enemies gets old fast.
In spite of the way the game drags on it Rival Turf is still easier than most beat em ups. This is surprising considering a few factors. Life restoring food is very rare and extra lives don’t come often. Certain enemies like Skinny and Musclehead inflict disproportionate amounts of damage, to say nothing of the bosses. There is only one boss (The Captain) that is so cheap you’ll probably waste one continue to get past. Yet I had little trouble reaching the end credits with the limited continues provided. Once you’ve learned how to deal with each enemy you are simply going through the motions until the end.
Outside of its music there is nothing notable about Rival Turf. There are much better titles in the genre on the Super Nintendo you should go after instead of this, including the butchered version of Final Fight. Why bother settling for a pale imitation?