Could Team 17’s Beat ‘Em Up Reign Supreme? Body Blows for Commodore Amiga Reviewed!

Regular readers to this site will know that I recently reviewed the conversion of Street Fighter II for the Commodore and found it, shall we say, somewhat lacking. Amiga owners desperate for a decent slice of beat ’em up action were going to need to look elsewhere.

Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be too far, as it happens. Team 17, a heavy-weight in the Amiga game development scene, would soon be weighing in with their own tournament-based fighting game for OCS and ECS Amigas. I am, of course, referring to Body Blows, the first game in the franchise and a unique IP of Team 17’s own creation which clearly aimed to capitalise on the popularity left in Capcom’s wake with the release of Street Fighter II.

Body Blows follows a cookie-cutter approach to the tournament fighting genre (although this is no bad thing). It includes a diverse range of fighters with their own individual strengths, weaknesses and special moves, as well as variety of arenas within which to fight. There are also various game settings that allow players to tweak the experience to their own tastes, including round timer length, AI difficulty and maximum damage inflicted by characters.

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The game features a variety of game modes that include ‘1 Player’, ‘2 Player’ and ‘Arcade’. The first two modes allow players to play as any of the characters from the roster in tounament mode, although you won’t be able to view the game’s true ending. For the full Body Blows experience, you will need to choose ‘Arcade’ mode. This restricts you to a choice of 4 characters from the maximum 9, but also allows you to fight the ultimate end-game boss and discover his chilling secret.

As far as graphics and presentation are concerned, Body Blows is right up there with the best the Amiga has to offer. Whereas the characters in SF2 suffered from being redrawn to a different scale and looking washed out because of palette issues, Body Blows does not suffer in these regards. Each of the 10 fighters in the game is drawn beautifully, with as rich a set of colours as the OCS palette would allow, also being highly detailed to boot. Whilst it might be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s probably not too far from the truth to say that each of the individual fighters has more frames of animation than the entirety of SF2 combined!

Nik sticks the boot in

Equally impressive is the opening title music created by Team 17 regular, Allister Brimble. This thumping dance track really gets the blood pumping, featuring original samples beyond those typically found in the ST-01/ST-02 sample sets. The rest of the in-game music was created by Danny Burke and also of a high standard; my favourite of these pieces is probably the ‘Ninja Cavern’ stage. The sound effects are equally impressive, although I suspect that movie buffs might recognise a lot of the digitised speech and thumping sounds as being sampled from popular martial arts films (they get a lot of mileage out of Enter the Dragon for sure!). The use of these samples is as blatant as they are cheesy, but it still makes it an awful lot of fun!

I recently played the game through to completion and I’m happy to report that it is an awful lot better than the Amiga version of Street Fighter II (although I’m not sure how it could have been any worse). Taken in the context of it’s own merits, I would agree that this is has the potential to be a fun fighting game. It has an extensive roster of characters that fit the usual fighter archetypes, excellent graphics and sound, and it even has a control scheme that was designed specifically to accommodate the Amiga’s solitary fire button. All things considered, it should be an excellent game, but the fact remains that I can’t help but feel somewhat ambivalent towards it.

Hadok….sorry, wrong game!

The character I chose to play was Nik, an obvious facsimile of Ryu/Ken, adorned in washed-out denim, baseball cap and possessing the ability to throw fireballs – always a bonus! The mistake I made was that I expected the game to mirror Street Fighter II in terms of feel and gameplay mechanics, but it doesn’t – it’s actually very different.

Part of this is down to the control scheme, something I was ignorant of before I started. To their credit, Team 17 addressed one of the biggest gameplay issues that affected SF2, that being the limited number of buttons available on your regular Amiga controller. Your fighter’s movement is mapped to each of the 8 positions on the joystick, with additional moves requiring a combination of directional movement and button press. Whereas SF2 required the buffering of input to detect whether a special move had been executed, Body Blows sides-steps any such issues by requiring a single direction and button press to be maintained in order to execute any of the moves in a fighter’s repertoire. On top of this, a final special move can be activated by keeping the fire button depressed, then releasing it when the power gauge (top left of the status bar) reaches the top.

I played several rounds of the game and was beaten to a paste by the CPU each and every time. It took me some time to work out exactly what the problem was, but, after some head-scratching, I think that it’s predominantly as a result of the action being nowhere as fluid or free-flowing as Capcom’s game. Whilst you can pull off special moves, somersault and pull off all the same kind of moves, there’s a framework of rules and mechanics working behind the scenes in Body Blows that handicap the general flow.

Kossak becomes a human mole machine!

Take, for example, the fact that when a character gets knocked down the game suddenly deactivates the fire button, preventing you from executing any attack moves whatsoever. It took me a few sessions to realise this was the case, mainly because it continues to allow players to move around as before, just that you can no longer attack. In SF2, players would have the choice of pressing an attack when they know that their opponent is at a disadvantage, loosing off a volley of kicks and punches that would instantly put the opponent on the back-foot by forcing them to perform a crouching block, or letting loose a fireball or ranged attack deliberately timed to hit the opponent as they stand up. In Body Blows, it’s almost as if some kind of invisible referee just called a time-out to allow the fallen opponent get back on his/her feet. I can only assume this feature exists to protect an opponent from being beaten to a pulp, but I found this to be really off-putting to say the least, not simply because I couldn’t work out why it was occurring, but because it curtails the whole fun of the fighting experience.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the game is far to eager to knock the fighters down in the first place. Getting hit with the merest tap whilst mid-air will send your character plummeting to the deck, as will many of the character’s special moves (I seemed to have chosen the only character who didn’t possess this ability). Since the characters spend most of the time rolling around on the floor, you’ll find the gameplay feels somewhat staccato. This isn’t helped by the way the characters shuffle across the stage floor in steps of predetermined size; it feels almost as if the screen has been divided into a grid and the character’s movements are constrained to moving between various grid cells like a piece of a graph paper.

Don’t mess with Mike

The list of annoyances doesn’t stop there! As the game progressed, I had a sneaking suspicion that the amount of damage that my character was doing (relative to my opponents) was decreasing with each successive fight. It didn’t matter what I did, every opponent was seemingly able to hit me harder than I could hit them, and take increased levels of damage into the bargain. I may have been imagining things up until the final boss, but then it becomes quite obvious that he does do more damage and is complete damage sponge! All of this results in a gameplay experience that encourages players to crouch-block and chip away at the opponent’s health, rather than try and formulate any other kind of strategy.

I also encountered problems with certain moves in my character’s set that were often ineffectual. The distance of travel and hit-box for the character meant that certain moves simply didn’t register contact against the opponent, despite standing right next to them. Letting loose a combo of kicks and punches is also a pretty hit and miss affair since there appears to be an internal cool-down between when one hit has been registered and when the game will register another.

The final boss, Max

Whilst doing some research for my review, I couldn’t help but raise an eye-brow at the final score awarded to the game by Amiga Action magazine (my magazine of choice back then), a staggering 92%. Their review specifically criticised the Amiga conversion of Street Fighter 2, stating that you “may as well flush your copy of SFII down the toilet“. Bear in mind that they had awarded SF2 a ludicrous 90% only three months prior in their January ’93 edition! If you would like to see just how fickle the mainstream gaming press could be, I fully recommend that you check out the full review here, courtesy of! As a point of reference, If it were up to me, I’d be awarding this game somewhere in the region of 75% to 80%.

Ultimately, Body Blows is a difficult game to summarise. The presentation is amazing and, if you play by it’s rules and learn to roll with the punches, then there is some enjoyment to be had. My personal experience, however, was that the gameplay is too rigid and too fussy to be comparable to Street Fighter II in any real sense. If this was the game that you had pinned your hopes and dreams on to make up for travesty that was Street Fighter II, then I suspect that you would have been left dreaming a bit longer.

Author: Alec
PC gamer, C64 fan, Amiga advocate, creator of longplay retrogaming videos on YouTube, occasional wordsmith - follow me on Twitter

4 thoughts on “Could Team 17’s Beat ‘Em Up Reign Supreme? Body Blows for Commodore Amiga Reviewed!

    1. Deep down, it’s game that’s best enjoyed for what it is :) I’ll take a look at some of the sequels and maybe the AGA version at some point to see how they compare.

  1. Played this when I was 8 or something. Blown away by the graphics and music. 4 discs! But yeah, the gameplay could have been better. Nice review man!

  2. Great review! I’m actually playing this game and I was wondering is there was a problem with my joystick… Thanks for everything. I liked that game when it was released but honestly, how can anyone prefer to play BODY BLOWS instead of SF II on Super Nes now? ^^

    Once again great review.
    Oli (Amiga lover)

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