Ok, let's Begin!
Running Battle (RB) was made by Opera House, who may have been a subcontractor of Sanritsu, and released on the Sega Master System by Sega in 1991. Other than that the music was composed by Hikoshi Hashimoto who also composed music for other Sega titles such as Battle Toads, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Dungeon Master Nexus to name just a few. It's quite surprising actually as one of the critiques apparently against RB was that it had a poor soundtrack. I suppose it could have been early days for Hikoshi but in my opinion, the music was not my greatest concern with RB. Other than that there's not whole lot else and actually I think this review will end up being bigger than the entire Wikipedia article on RB.
The plot of RB revolves around a future America and a place called the "Dark Zone". The "Dark Zone was a city like any other with hustle and bustle of humanity. Until the man, known only as "M", showed up with his demented "Soldiers of Darkness" Captain Brass, Killer the Kid, Samurai Man and Miracle man. After there arrival stories of people been massacred and terror gripping the city reaches the ears of one Sargent Brody a graduate of the National Police Association Academy. Not being able to let these killings continue Sgt Brody armed himself for a one-man crusade against M. His partner, Detective Sgt Grey, discovered Brody's plan but arrived too late to stop him. Grey found Brody on the edge of the "Dark Zone" mortally wounded. Before succumbing to his wounds Brody spoke the words "Hypnotist....M..." Grey feeling honour-bound decides that he must finish what Brody started and end the madness of the "Soldiers of Darkness".
Though RB starts with a scrolling text screen on a black background it's not as long as some games (Last Battle). RB actually presents its story pretty well with an animation sequence after the title screens end chapter dialogue moments that make reasonable sense and has a sign off end credits sequence that finishes it off nicely. This all works together to make you feel as though your part of the story throughout and has been the staple of storytelling in many a good game. The story, however, is a fairly simple avengers tale and like most early console games such as SMS, NES and Atari the game's plot isn't always completely flesh out in the game. RB though, to its credit, does have all the major beats of the story down with the manual providing an extra touch of flavour here and there. This game also has two different end credit scenes depending on one singularly important action or choice and it's quite subtle so you might miss it.
RB has power-ups, a lot of power-ups for a game of this type. You have a super-suit power-up which increases your attack power and defence. Then you have invincibility that allows you to move and attack much faster as well as take no damage. Then you have your hand revolver which comes with 30 bullets and then your rifle that's a one-shot kill but only 10 ammo. So there's some variety in there it's just a shame none of these carries over to the boss but that would probably end up making this game laughably easy. Yeah, although the premise of this is quite cool it becomes somewhat game-breaking as you'll see in the Cons. The idea though wasn't a bad one and had this game focused itself down the shoot'em up line it could have played with the arsenal a bit more.
RB does suffer from a case of repetition. The henchmen are all the same sprite just slightly palate swapped as you go through. The same is true also of the backgrounds in the gang's hideout levels, which is the largest part of the game, though the layout has been slightly changed. That said though I'd argue that RB does feel more varied then let's say, Last Battle, with the inclusion of wall turrets, laser platforms and even a hover tank. The repetition is less glaring in RB though primarily because it is a shorter game by design unlike Last Battle which did have a small amount of variety in it, just attenuated over a longer period. Yes, some times having a shorter game is the best policy and RB succeeds in this.
There are weirdly inconsistent rules that guide the enemies in RB for an instant if you programmed an enemy to jump a gap and they failed to jump it successfully then logic would dictate that it falls into the gap. Well the henchmen in RB say
"Screw that I'm just going to go ethereal and start jarringly jumping in mid-air."
This will also be the case if there stuck in a wall but if you hit them over a gap then they lose all the powers and fall, at least most of the time they do 🧐. Henchmen will also chase you, with you just out of reach, until they suddenly decide their not paid enough to jog after you and just walk the other way leaving you to your own devices. One thing which I also found funny is like Last Battle you could actually argue that the two henchmen on screen are the only two henchmen this gang has, as you never see more than two at any one time. In Last Battle, this was because each punch sent them off the screen with this one though they actually give up chasing you just to jump you a second or two after leaving the screen.
RB does have minor issues with hit detection. I say minor as it only really applies to kicking the wall turrets, for some reason it only detects the hit when your foot or fist lands centre of the turret. Several times you'll kick and sware it should have hit which wouldn't be bad if it weren't the fact that they drop the most vital power-up, the 1up. Turrets are the only enemies that drop them as far as I can determine no henchmen in my run through dropped one, either that makes me unlucky or they don't ever drop them. If you want to complete this game with a guaranteed success then you need to get used to destroying these turrets quickly as they'll give you all you need to get through the game.
RB is strangely not a beat'em up, at least not for the majority of the time. It seems as though this was definitely what the original idea for the game was since all bosses you fight are fistfights. Indeed the game has this hard selling point on the box and in the manual that the character can perform several moves depending on what you do on the D-pad, and that you must master the flying kick. I'm here, however, to tell you that this is a lie. RB is not a beat'em up it's a shoot'em up and although the flying kick is useful in getting you lives it is completely unnecessary when fighting the bosses. Throughout the game, you will get power-ups from henchmen each power-up is effectively a gun except the super suit and extra health. Once you get a gun though you very rarely run out of ammo before the next power-up drops effectively giving you infinite ammo. Now stocked with infinite ammo you invariably blow away all opposition in your path rather than using your fists to finish them. The bosses with the exception of the first boss, Captain Brass, who in my opinion is the most dangerous, and the last boss, Mr M, the simplest boss once you know the trick, all other bosses have a fairly predictable pattern. Killer Kid is useless and spends most of his battle shooting bottles over your head but because he doesn't appear to fire an actual bullet it's easy to jump behind him and punch him in the back of the head.
Samurai Man is tricker as he does a spinning jump in the air that has a minor homing ability but it's easy to dodge by walking the right way then punch him. Nine times out of ten he'll repeat the same action do the same and he'll die before you. Miracle man will try and hit you with a ranged attack just jump at him and wail on him he'll try to teleport but if he's in the corner he tends to get stuck, meaning you can just keep wailing on him. So, so far three bosses down and no flying kicks and it doesn't end there. Next is Captain Brass he is the hardest to hit in the entire game and is the most chaotic he can be punched but he has a sword this having more range. He's also too short to be hit by a standing kick or indeed a flying kick. The only success I've had is crouching down and punching repeatedly once he gets close this seems to really freak him out and he'll, for the most part, keep trying to walk up and hit you but you'll punch him first which makes him back off. This strategy works better sometimes than others as occasionally he'll just stay out of reach or will jump on you damaging you so this one's a crouch and hope situation.
Mr M now though is a different kettle of fish being inside a giant floating tank. This may have been the one enemy that the flying kick was made for as the best place to hit this tank is the cockpit above the minigun. However, this isn't necessary as the easiest way is to jump on the minigun and high kick it to oblivion. All in all, I don't think this was intended by the programmers as jumping on the minigun is a tad finicky. I can only suppose that the minigun wasn't intended as a platform but once you're there you can usually whittle down Mr M's life before he kills you, so much for giant flying hover tanks.
Nerd O Meter Rating
Low 3 out of 5
So why is Running Battle sub-par? The game itself has a strong enough idea to be an arcade classic beat'em up with a story about vengeance and justice. Though the story itself isn't particularly new it is coherent throughout the game so it definitely gets props for that. Where RB falls down is it's slightly fudgy hit detection and the fact that it's miss-sold as a beat'em up when it would have worked just as well as a shoot'em up. I'd argue in fact that the beat'em up aspect of RB seriously hinders the play during the boss fights promoting rather boring tactics to deal with the bosses such as crouch punching constantly or high kicking constantly, it's hard to call it a beat'em up if your main strategy is to one move the enemy to death. Another issue I'd have with RB is because of the amount of pickup's you get, especially after the first boss, the game kind of looses most of its challenge as you'll be pretty much maxed out on lives and probably use a gun all the way through the level. However, I don't think RB needs a lower rating for its faults it's relatively bright, entertaining game and even though it does repeat sprites throughout it doesn't overstay it's welcome being just short enough to keep your interest until the end. Do I recommend Running Battle? Yeah, it's ok if you come across it but I wouldn't spend ridiculous money on it. It doesn't really have anything fancy or technical about it, it's just a shoot'em up pretending to be a beat'em with a fairly generic cop vengeance plot in there for good measure.