Generally speaking, beat-em ups usually start off by offering some form of motivation for walking around and beating people up. At the beginning of Bad Dudes, you are told that President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Before you first start playing Double Dragon, you are shown a woman getting carried away by punks and then you chase them. In Combatribes, this doesn’t happen.The game begins with you walking up to a group of bikers, and then you start throwing punches.
Upon seeing this, I had to wonder – what exactly was this game about, anyway?
The first thing I tried was let the game run by itself without starting it, hoping it would show me an intro the way some other games like Final Fight do. This didn’t happen. There also wasn’t any explanation of the story printed onto the arcade machine itself. At this point, I decided the best way to figure out what was going on would be to play through the game, and try to piece together the story from what was happening as I played.
Just like every tough biker gang, they have members with bandannas, dudes with leather vests, and, of course, frowning guys in purple shirts with Don Henley haircuts.
Unfortunately, this is where things get crazy. Over the course of the game, you hit the streets to fight gangs of bikers, take on military dudes as you make your way through a skyscraper, go to a stadium and battle crazed sports fans, fight roller hockey players in a weird disco/roller rink, and… well, in the 2nd stage of this game you go to a carnival and start beating on clowns and mimes.
Yes, you are seeing this correctly. Your character is smashing the face of a clown into the pavement while 2 horrified mimes look on, unable to scream. Note the look of disgust on the other guy, who was probably here with his kids. The dancing kittens in the background just add a sad twist of irony to the whole situation.
There is no plot that could make that even remotely logical. But that didn’t stop me from trying to come up with one. Listed below are three theories I had about the game’s story, and the evidence that either supports or disproves it.
Theory #1: This is one of those “We’re going to clean up the town by beating up all the criminals” games.
Popular Example: Streets of Rage
The main problem with this theory is the stage where you beat up the clowns. This is a very difficult thing to explain. Does the game take place in some insane East European country where a Clown Mob runs the drug trade? The first stage is bikers, and the next is clowns, so do the bikers work for the clowns? Or do the bikers just want you to think that?
Sometimes it’s not the gangs so much as the bosses that matter. So beating up roller hockey players and mimes still makes sense if you’re beating them up to get to a boss that is a big criminal kingpin. The boss of the bikers is, logically, a biker. The boss of the clowns is the fire-eating man from the circus. The boss of the roller hockey guys is a punk rocker with a huge sledgehammer (because punk rockers like to hang out at the roller disco and play hockey, I guess). The boss at the baseball stadium is an Indian Warrior that attacks you with a huge tomahawk (and people thought the Cleveland Indians mascot was racist). After making your way through the skyscraper, you fight a cop. The final boss is some guy in a suit. So the bosses are a circus performer, a punk, a businessman, a biker, a cop, and an Indian. Unless the crime in this city is being controlled by a Village People tribute band that got half of the members wrong, this theory doesn’t seem too likely.
The game’s bosses or the Village People?(clockwise from top left)
A cop, businessman, Indian, biker, circus performer and a punk.
Theory #2:You’re trying to rescue someone who has been kidnapped.
Popular Examples: Final Fight, Double Dragon, Bad Dudes
Likelihood: Extremely Unlikely
The biggest problem with this theory is that the game never shows or mentions an abductee. That already makes this an unlikely scenario and it’s made even more unlikely when you try to construct some kind of narrative out of the places you travel to in the game.
Is that guy trying to hit you with a wrench? What is he, the stadium groundskeeper? Why the hell are you beating up the groundskeeper?
Following this logic, the story could be that bikers kidnapped your girlfriend, and sold her to the carnival, but then she was so good at hockey that she got drafted to play on the punk rocker’s team. Now the Indian boss at the baseball stadium might… um… ok, this idea is already falling apart and we haven’t even gotten to the office building full of soldiers yet.
Theory #3: Your character likes to fight.
Popular Examples: Ryu (Street Fighter II), Boston Red Sox fans (real life)
The actions taken by your character seem to indicate that he is the aggressor in many cases, which could indicate that he is simply fighting for the fun of it. Actually, that’s understating it a bit. If you walk up to a gang of bikers and start fighting them, it’s safe to say that you like to fight. If you walk up to a bunch of clowns and start pounding on them, you’re psychotic.
Wait a second… the long blonde hair, the pastel colors on the uniform, the short, curved hockey stick… Those aren’t roller hockey punks – they’re a girl’s field hockey team!!! You’re beating up teenage girls!
Perhaps the best evidence to support this theory is the overwhelming amount of violence your character is capable of. While other titles have you knocking your foes to the ground to defeat them, this game says “Why stop there?” and lets you knock an opponent down, then get on his back and start smashing his face into the ground. You can also jump onto the back of a fallen enemy. This may seem tame compared to the head-smashing, but it becomes pretty brutal once you have a line of foes on the ground and can turn it into the world’s most sadistic game of hopscotch. Also, instead of picking up tame weapons such as knives or bats, Combatribes lets you throw motorcycles and pinball machines at people.
Conclusion: After careful consideration, I would have to say that the “likes to fight” theory seems to be the most plausible. There’s almost nothing within the game that would indicate that your character doesn’t like to fight, and it’s the only one of the three ideas that could possibly explain why you would fight clowns. Without any official word from the people who made the game, we can never know for sure, but I would say this is the most likely explanation for the events that take place in Combatribes.
After fighting all those clowns and maintenance men, its time for the final boss. The businessman is killed before you can fight him by this lady who is dressed like its still 1987. Then you fight her.