After a lengthy hiatus, it's time once again for another Co-Op Classics. In this feature, we cover the great (and often not so great) co-op games from the past, with a special emphasis on arcade games. Today, we are taking a look at an obscure game that is unique enough to get the spotlight as a Co-Op Classic: Capcom's Battle Circuit.
In the 90s, Capcom was most famous for one thing: Street Fighter. The fighting game reached its zenith in the mid 90s, and Capcom was at the top of the heap. However, for fans of co-op action, Capcom was also the gold standard. The side scrolling brawler was another Capcom specialty. Consider the track record: Aliens Vs. Predator, Final Fight, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and both of the Dungeons & Dragons beat 'em ups. That's some serious brawler cred right there.
Battle Circuit was the last of the side scrolling punchfest from Capcom. That, in and of itself, makes the game very unique. Making it even more unusual are the colorful characters, deep combat system, and upgrade paths. Plus, it was never released in North America, only being available in Europe and Japan. This unfamiliarity with Battle Circuit only adds more charm to the game play experience.
Though you might not surmise it from the name, Battle Circuit is about a group of super hero-like bounty hunters. The five playable characters are incredibly diverse, and play totally differently from one another. Cyber Blue is your typical cybernetic, electric powered hero. Reminiscent of Plastic Man, Captain Silver shapes his malleable body into all manner of crazy combinations. Yellow Iris, an acrobatic yellow fashion model, rushes into battle with a fox sidekick. Pink Ostrich is... well, a pink ostrich. Oddest of all is Alien Green, a sentient carnivorous plant. I daresay you will not find a game with a more unusual roster of playable characters.
Also unusual is a robust upgrade system. As players beat baddies in Battle Circuit, coins of various denominations appear. Once collected, these can be spent after each level to purchase powerful new special moves or power ups. Here, the fighting game expertise of Capcom shows through, as many of these special moves use motions and button press sequences like those of Street Fighter. They can be tough to pull off, but are devastatingly effective when you do. I particularly enjoyed Yellow Iris' Aerial Upper, a triple punch, pictured above.
There's a lot to like about Battle Circuit. The characters are zany, the action is fast and fulfilling, and the combat system has serious depth for the hardcore gamer, but is just as enjoyable for button mashers. It's a shame the only way to play it today is via emulation. As a swan song of sorts for Capcom, you can tell that an extra level of care and attention went into the making of this Co-Op Classic.