Created by New Yorker Shawn Alexander Allen, and Nuchallenger Treachery in Beatdown City combines what people love about arcade beat-em-up fighter games like Double Dragon, and tactical RPGs with a genuine style boasting all the way through its 8-bit pixels. We demoed the game as it was being showcased at PAX Rising’s floor during PAX East this year, and talked to Shawn about what the game’s strategy and pace will look like at home, as well as the story beats and New York influence.
Grant: Just got a chance to play the game, it’s an arcade fighter, which reminds me of The Simpsons Arcade Game, I loved that, plays really well. The game difficulty kind of tracked, we got different endings of the game; how does it play when you’ve got the full game, how does the difficulty spike kind of ramp up?
Shawn Alexander Allen: The demo is designed specifically to make people fail – or to make them feel amazing for beating something. The last fight is probably maybe two hours into the actual game. And we…actually part of it was mostly showing an arc of characters. Because we start you fighting this guy, CT Punk, he’s just kind of the Pidgey of our game; he lowers your accuracy, he’s wiggly…hard to hit. But when you hit him, he’s very easy to beat. And then we give him a knife, and make him a lot harder and give him another person with him to kind of show that…’cause the first guy is easy, but put him with someone else and give him a weapon and he’s a lot harder. In the [full] game, you get weapons three maps into the game.
So like we try to let you learn all the characters without weapons – or a lot of the characters so like in our first part of the game like the first five levels; which is like the first group; there’s about fifty characters. But they come in different classes, and so it’s all about…because we wanted to have a game that had a lot of character to the enemies. All the enemies are very distinct but they all have different classes so you have to learn it not from just looking at them but from how they fight. And then you’re like, “Oh, it’s that person, I grapple that person; oh it’s that person, they’re gonna counter me if I grapple” etc, etc.
We actually ramp you up trying to do one on one fights a lot, which is harder for a demo area because people say “Oh well this is easy” and it’s just like, yeah, well you want that when you’re at home, but here we have to show you hours of the game in a very short amount of time so that people are like, “Oh, I see!” At older shows we’d have people play our demo for like an hour ‘cause it was just the level.
G: Oh, yeah.
S: So we wanna just give people a good sense of where the game’s going in like, twenty minutes or less, basically.
G: So then there’s different fight types and you’re learning all of those different kinda balances, the way people work out. Some of the characters had different health pools, so they can take hits or they’ll take more damage but they can deal more damage and do different things…
S: The problem with beat-em-ups generally is the enemies become too just…you’re just mowing down people. And like…I love Double Dragon 1, and I felt like in Double Dragon 1 on the Nintendo [NES], you knew all of the characters. They all had names, there were only eight of them, but you knew when Abobo showed up, things were about to get real, right? And so we wanted that in this, but to like give everyone a little bit more personality, give you some time to learn them, and then multiply that by a lot; because it’s supposed to be a city, right? So it’s like, I’m from New York, so a lot of these people are also just based on people or experiences I’ve had in New York.
G: The countering system is kind of…I mean that it’s different than in a fighting game but it’s kind of similar to that where you’re matching up people for the right type of enemy; and figuring out what types of moves that counter the other types of moves. Did you look at other fighting games to try and see would could work in that?
S: Yeah, I’ve…’cause I kind of bill this game as two ways: Double Dragon meets Fallout 3, which a lot of people are like, “Oh…what?” and then the tactics RPG beat-em-up fighting game wrestling game of your dreams. ‘Cause it’s like, basically all these games that I love. Like I grew up with, like, Final Fantasy and Street Fighter, so that’s also another way to think about it ‘cause it’s all about…or just, I get people who come back to me and they’re like, “This is what a real fights like” because if you just try to uppercut someone in the street, they’re gonna move, but if you fight them a bit, it’s gonna be a bit more difficult, like in a boxing match. So I mean, I played a lot of Fire Pro in the early 2000s, I’m friends with Suda51, who designed Fire Pro, I’m friends with Katsuhiro Harada, who designed Tekken, I’m friends with a lot of people who made fighting games and I loved…I played a lot of Street Fighter IV, and so it’s all been bleeding into my head over the years and I just, I really went back and I was like, “What are these elements of these things that I want to convey?” So there’s like, Super Mario RPG’s an influence and all these things are influences because I just wanted to make a fight that didn’t seem stagnant, but that was really dynamic. Even though there’s a turn-based element of it, one of my best friends would always say that turn-based RPGs were, like, terrible, just be like, “It’s the worst” and I’m like, “But I love them!” And I had to make a game that’s like, no, but this game is very dynamic; you’re still thinking, you’re still moving; at the same time you could stop and you’re not like, “Oh, a breath!” People are like, “What’s the next thing that I gotta do ‘cause I’m in a corner and if I don’t do the right thing, I’m done” even though time’s stopped. And I like that – that there’s still like a little bit of anxiety and at the same time the fighting mechanics make it so that people who aren’t really good at like twitchy beat-em-ups can play the game. They’re like, “Oh, I’ll take a break,” be like “what do I gotta do next” and then they feel like, smart for doing the thing.
G: The movement of the game really reminded me of the Scott Pilgrim game, like you kind of move all around on the map pretty easily but you had to focus on getting your attacks in. It was…there was no stopping. So having that tactical element really allows you to kind of analyze what you’re gonna do; that really breaks it up well. The talk about emphasis on characters, and there was a lot of dialog in between the fights, so is there a full narrative arc that goes through the city as you’re fighting different people?
S: Yeah, so the the story of the game is President Blake O’Rama, in his third term, gets kidnapped while giving…he goes to the UN to give a speech about the ongoing rise of presidents getting kidnapped by ninjas, and then he gets kidnapped by ninjas. So Lisa, who’s like the character you start the game off with, her dad is the chief of police, and the, like, dubious billionaire mayor suspends the police. He’s just like, “The police are not doing anything, I’m gonna have my police take over.” And everyone’s kind of like, “What’s going on?” So your dad calls you and says “I need you to go get your friends, and go find the President.” And so, along the way, you’re fighting people that are just on the street that are jerks to you; and you know, I kind of wanted to give people a reason to fight. Right, like in beat-em-ups you’re like, oh your girlfriend got kidnapped, and I’m like, “Well what if there’s just like, a lot of terrible things that happen to you?” Someone steps on your shoes, or someone yells at you terrible insults, or they mistake you for a homeless person. It’s like, and they don’t want to accept no. It’s like, in New York, these are all kinds of things I’ve kind of run into, we have the one with the CD guy, and when people PAX West play the game, they go “Oh, I ran into that guy downstairs.” *laughs* So, it’s kind of like…and we also wanted to have redeeming characters…so all the characters have some redeeming elements; but you still gotta fight em. ‘Cause it’s kinda like “What if you could fight the people who treated you badly on the street, but what if also you had to fight ninjas in a weird conspiracy at the government level.” So it’s kinda mirroring…like, putting just real life in weird comedy situations with like, 80’s-90’s action movie bravado.
G: That’s really exciting, yeah, it played really well. Is there any track on the release of the game?
S: We’re trying to get it out this year – no – we are getting it out this year! 2019. We were trying to get it out last year, we added some features and I recommend not doing that if you ever want to release a game. And now we’re just buttoning up stuff. And it’s coming out on Nintendo Switch and PC this year. We don’t know exactly when. But it’ll be at a time where hopefully not a lot of other stuff is coming out.
G: Get a nice window in there for you.
G: Anything else you want to say about the game?
S: Well we also just released a single for the game. There’s a theme, it’s called ‘Beatdown City, (We Gon’ Whup Yo Ass).’ It’s on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Soundcloud. I got to work with one of my favorite rappers, Open Mike Eagle, and another favorite rapper, Showyousuck, my musician Inverse Phase, and a beat maker slash musician slash rapper, this guy 2Mellow, who made music for like Rom 64 and is a sound designer in games and stuff. So I got to bring all these people together to make cool raps for the game and it’s pretty cool. It’s weird publishing music, it’s harder than publishing games oddly enough.
Shot & Edited by
Evan Griffin | https://evgriff42.wixsite.com/evan-griffin-media, twitter.com/evgriff42
2nd unit shots by Graham Allen https://instagram.com/gpallen
Reporting by Grant Jonsson https://www.twitter.com/grantjonsson
More coverage of PAX East 2019 and Beatdown City coming soon to https://www.TheYoungFolks.com
Title Music by Jackson Renaud