Berserker in the middle, with Blitz (left) and Bullova in the background.
"CYBORGS AIN'T LADIES!"
—From the print advertisement for the SNES version.
Originally released for the arcades in 1990, The Combatribes
was Technos Japan Corp.'s attempt to create another popular beat em up
franchise following the success of their Kunio-kun
, River City Ransom
) and Double Dragon
games. It was developed by most of the same staff members who worked on the arcade version of the first Double Dragon
and while it did not have the same widespread popularity as its predecessors, it did inspired a console port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System
released in 1992. The player chooses from one of the titular "Combatribes", a group of three former military men with superhuman strength who have come to New York City to rid the city of its various street gangs and criminal mobs.
The most distinguishing feature of Combatribes
is the unique variety of moves available for each character. In addition to the standard repertoire of punches, kicks and running attacks, our heroes can also push away enemies, pick up and throw them, kick or jump over a fallen foe, bash their heads to the ground, or even swing one around by his feet. The player can even pick up two enemies from opposite directions and bash their heads together. There are also large objects the player can pick up and toss, such as parked motorcycles and go-karts, as well as pinball machines. Because of the lack health items and special moves, the game is also notoriously difficulty compared to other beat-'em-ups, as health recovery is only offered between stages.
The SNES version is a relatively faithful conversion, missing a few enemy characters, the throwable objects and a few areas. However, it does add cut-scenes between stages and boss fights that fleshes out the almost non-existent plot of the arcade version, as an optional versus mode that allows player to control any character from the main game.
The Combatribes provides example of:
- An Axe to Grind: Windwalker wields one.
- Boss Rush: The final stage in the arcade version has the player fighting the previous gangs and leaders before the final boss fight. This is moved to the penultimate stage (just before the Slaughter Troops) in the SNES version.
- Bowdlerize: In the Super Famicom version, the defeated bosses are shown with bruised and bloodied faces at the end of each stage. In the SNES version, the blood were recolored to resemble sweat and tears.
- The Cameo: The dancing cats in the second stage have Kunio's face in the SNES port.
- Clean Dub Name
- Swastika, the cyborg leader of the Slaughter Troops, was renamed M. Blaster in the SNES port. His lackeys, the Executioners, became the Enforcers.
- The main gang itself was changed from "Ground Zero" to "Guilty Zero" in the Virtual Console re-release (having an organization with such a name taking over New York City would've been considered insensitive in a post-9/11 world).
- Co-Op Multiplayer: The arcade version allowed up to three players, but the SNES port is limited to only two.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer / Competitive Balance: In the 2-Player mode, each player chooses his character at the start of the game, whereas the 3-Player mode has the characters already assigned to each control panel in the following order (from left to right).
- Combat Stilettos: Martha has them and is somehow one of the fastest characters.
- Covers Always Lie: The promotional art for the arcade version has the colors of Bullova and Blitz switched.
- Drop the Hammer: Trash uses a sledgehammer and unlike other bosses, doesn't drop it at low life.
- Dual Boss: In the arcade version, Splatterhead will create duplicates of herself to match the number of people playing if there's more than one player.
- Dummied Out: The arcade version has sprites for an unused baseball player boss, presumably a planned sprite swap for the Native American "Windwalker" boss in case they needed a more politically correct design.
- Fire-Breathing Weapon: Salamander wields a torch he blows into a long-range fire attack.
- Head Swap: The three player characters. In the arcade version, there are also head-swapped variants of the Little Fish and Enforcer enemies who were cut out from the SNES port.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Gring Terror (one of the mooks in the second stage) resembles The Joker. Even more in the ad comic, where he wears a purple suit and everything. Whereas in the game he just wears a purple and white ringmaster's outfit.
- Letter Motif: The three main guys all had names that start with the letter "B".
- Lightning Bruiser: Martha, somewhat literally — she is both very fast and powerful and fights with electricity. In Versus mode, this is still true, but she has less life than average, which is odd for a final boss.
- Meaningful Name: Little Fish, the biker mook from the first stage, whose name is a literal translation of zako (the Japanese word for "mook").
- Mirror Match: The Vs. Mode in the SNES version allows two players to use the same character.
- Mooks: The arcade version featured a pair of generic unarmed mooks that appear in almost every stage (one in a t-shirt and another type in a tank top), as well as armed grunts that are stage-specific. The generic mooks were removed from the SNES port, which uses the Hate Squads (the wrench-wielding skinhead members of the Stadium Barbarians) as generic enemies instead.
- Nintendo Hard: Try beating the arcade version in one credit (especially with the health recovery turned off).
- Non-Action Big Bad: The man in suit in the arcade version. He is apparently the leader of all the gangs in New York. But just as the Combatribes corner him at the pier, he is killed instantly by Martha, who fights the players as the final boss. He was removed from the SNES port, which changes Martha to be the Ground/Guilty Zero leader.
- Portmantitle: "Combat" and "Tribes"
- Psycho Electro: Martha is stated to be one, as the transformation into a cyborg made her criminally mad. In the arcade version, Ground Zero kidnaps her and transforms her into a cyborg against her will, turning her into a weapon against her former allies. In the SNES version, Martha and the Combatribes were changed into cyborgs (the players are humans in the arcade game) by an unspecified laboratory, but Martha turns rogue and the Combatribes go on a mission to defeat her and bring her back. The opening cutscene states that someone has unified all the gangs of New York and it is revealed to be their former female cohort. Rather than return with them after they defeat all of her minions, she instead chooses to die fighting. Her last words thank them for stopping her and the ending shows them taking her body, whereas in the arcade version they simply left it lying at the port.
- Reformulated Game: While the SNES port is a bit stripped down from the arcade version, it does add cut-scenes between stages and boss fights that provide a reason for all the carnage the heroes are causing.
- Shock and Awe: Martha's attacks are ordinary punches and kicks backed with large electric arcs, being a cyborg. According to the SNES version, the Combatribes and Martha were turned into cyborgs, but the players don't have any electric-based attacks (except in Versus mode).
- Shout-Out: Martha Splatterhead, the name of the final boss, comes from the zombie mascot of a punk band The Accused.
- Act 3 has advertisements for Block Out, a game that was ported to the arcade by Technos.
- The Smurfette Principle: Martha is the sole female character in the game.
- SNK Boss: M.Blaster/Swastika, who can fly large distances and attack the player at any distance with a powerful cannon built into his body.
- Suspiciously Similar Song: The soundtrack was stolen wholecloth by the obscure beat 'em up Mug Smashers.
- Theme Naming:
- Berserker: Named after a tribe of Nordic warriors.
- Bullova: Named after a Native American battle axe.
- Blitz: Short for "blitzkrieg".
- Timed Mission: The arcade version has time limits for each stage.
- Token Minority: Bullova is the only black guy out of the trio.
- Turns Red: An inversion with some of the bosses, who lose their weapons after losing enough life and resort to melee attacks they didn't use before.
- Unfriendly Fire: Players can attack each other. In the SNES version, this can be turned off.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Oh so many brutal attacks you could perform on the mooks in this game. You could grab two of them and collide their heads together, swing them from their legs onto each other, jump and stomp on their backs, kick them while they're down, and then drive their heads into the pavement repeatedly. The arcade game has some very satisfying bloodspurts to accompany that last one.
- Would Hit a Girl: Since Martha went rogue against Bullova, Blitz and Berserker and became a cyborg, Berserker takes her down with the page quote when she asks, "You wouldn't hit a lady, would you?"
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Berserker was renamed Berzerker in the SNES port.