Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#130 – Bad Street Brawler

Here’s another accurately named game.

He’s so bad.

To Beat: Reach the ending
My Goal: Beat the game with the Power Glove
What I Did: Beat the game
Played: 7/2/19 – 7/21/19
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10
My Video: Bad Street Brawler Longplay

This is another one of those milestone posts. There aren’t too many of them left, so let’s enjoy them while we can! Not only am I going to cover Bad Street Brawler, but we are also going to talk about the Power Glove. While maybe an odd choice for a compatible title, it does bear the label “Power Glove Gaming Series” on the cart. Sadly, it doesn’t play very well as one, leading me to believe this was just tacked on and not specifically designed to work with the peripheral. Still, I made it a point to play this game with the glove and try to make sense of it for you.

Bad Street Brawler was originally named Bop’n Rumble when it released on the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS in 1987. In Australia, the game was renamed Street Hassle. This game was developed by Beam Software and published by Mindscape. The NES version was renamed to Bad Street Brawler when it released as a Power Glove compatible title in September 1989. This port was also developed by Beam Software but published by Mattel, the manufacturer of the Power Glove accessory.

The Power Glove was an officially licensed peripheral for the NES that was made by Mattel, releasing in October 1989, a month after Bad Street Brawler. The Power Glove was heavily inspired by the Dataglove originally created by Thomas Zimmerman. VGL, Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier’s company, partnered with Abrams/Gentile Entertainment to possibly adapt the glove for video games. They pitched the idea to Mattel, who eventually pitched the idea to Nintendo, making it a reality for the holiday season in 1989. The Power Glove ended up selling well but didn’t work very well with Nintendo’s back catalog of games. There were only two NES games released for it before the glove was discontinued the following year. Still, it remains one of the most recognizable gaming peripherals of all time. You could say it laid the framework for motion controls in more modern gaming, such as the Wii and today’s VR headsets. There is a very good documentary from The Gaming Historian that will give you much more information about the glove’s history.

Imparting words of wisdom as you practice.

The Power Glove is a right-handed controller that you wear on your arm attached by Velcro. A wire from the Power Glove connects to a box that has a second wire going to the NES and the third to a set of three sensors that are positioned around the TV screen. The glove contains two ultrasonic speakers that interface with the three ultrasonic microphones on the sensors by the TV. This triangulates the glove’s position so that it can detect both roll and yaw. Conductive ink in the fingers allows the glove to detect finger bends from all fingers aside from the pinky. All these inputs translate into button presses on the NES. A set of lights on the corner TV sensor translates which directions and buttons are held down. The glove comes with 14 built-in programs that you can set with number buttons on the glove. These programs map movements and gestures to NES button presses. Bad Street Brawler comes with its own program along with some special programs that can be used in other NES games. First you initialize the program on Bad Street Brawler, then you turn the game off and quickly insert a new cartridge while the glove briefly “remembers” the program during power down. The Power Glove also has the same buttons as an NES controller so that you can use the glove as a controller itself or get direct inputs while using the glove. Finally, the Center button on the glove resets the positioning in relation to the sensors during a game. The Power Glove came with a couple of detailed manuals that show how the glove can be used and which programs might work best for some games.

Bad Street Brawler doesn’t have much of a story. You play as Duke Davis, a definitive 1980s Cool Guy. He wears big sunglasses with a yellow vest and green shorts. Basically, the streets are filled with criminals and Duke wants to clean up the streets. He will beat up the bad guys and take their weapons, throwing them away in the dumpster after each stage. In this game there are 15 levels and you must clear them all to beat the game.

Cleaning up the streets of short men and dogs.

The controls in this game are simple enough … with a controller that is. Use the D-pad to move around Left or Right. Press Down to duck and press Up to jump. You have three different attacks at your disposal in each stage called Force Moves. One is triggered with A, the second with B, and the third with both A and B pressed together. You can also press Start to pause the game. Controlling the game with the Power Glove is more cumbersome. Your steady arm movements control Duke’s movements. Move the glove up, down, left, or right to move Duke in that direction. The A button move is performed by rotating your wrist left or right. This action both moves Duke in the turned direction while rapidly pressing A. Bend your thumb to do the B button move. Bend the middle finger to perform the A and B button move. (I bend all my fingers aside from the thumb for this.) If you push the glove forward toward the screen, you do a special move once per stage called the Glove Zap. This automatically defeats one enemy. From watching the lights on the sensor, I learned the Glove Zap is actually performed by pressing both Left and Right together, which makes this move impossible to perform on a standard controller and making it ”exclusive” to the Power Glove.

Each level flows the same way. You begin on the left and need to make your way to the right. Enemies will appear two at a time on screen. You can fight them or you can simply run all the way to the right. Each level has three points where the scrolling stops and you are forced to fight a couple of bad guys before continuing. At the bottom of the screen you see your health bar, the active enemy’s health bar, your score, and lives remaining. The top of the screen displays some buildings that indicate how far along you are in the stage. Every three levels there is a stronger encounter, often with a unique enemy, at the end of the stage. The music changes to signal the event. Upon victory, you are rewarded with an extra scene of Duke celebrating his win or chatting with the local media.

At the beginning of each stage, you are placed on a special screen. You can read some encouraging words from Duke as well as practice your moves against a punching bag. The Force Moves change between levels and each stage has its own set of three moves. This gives the game some variety since you can’t get comfortable with any one move. It is helpful to see what moves you get in a safe space before tackling the level itself.

You leap during some attacks which lets you dodge too.

There are fifteen Force Moves in the game broken up in the manual into three groups. The first group is called the Fast-Footwork Force Moves. The Drop Kick is a standard kick. A Sweep Kick is a low kick that knocks the enemy into the air and stuns him briefly. Trip just knocks a guy down by pulling his legs out from under him. While attacking, you duck down and can avoid some attacks. The Roundhouse Kick is a powerful move with a very long windup that leaves you vulnerable. The High Kick is similar to the Drop Kick, only Duke does a tiny hop during this kick. I like this move a lot because the hop also dodges enemy bullets.

The next set of moves are the Fist-To-Fist Force Moves. Punch is just a standard attack. The Pile Driver lifts an enemy over your head before slamming him literally into the ground, stunning him briefly. The Stooge Hit is analogous to the Roundhouse Kick. It has a significant windup but is pretty strong. The Ear Twist is such a goofy move. You grab the guy by his ears and pull on them. You can hold the move down for a little while and increase the damage. The Arm Spin acts similar to the Ear Twist. You grab an attacker by the arm and spin them around. You can hold the move for more damage, then toss the enemy behind you. It’s a nice move for avoiding combat.

The final set is Fancy Force Moves. In the Aeroplane Spin, you lift an enemy overhead, spin him around a while, and then throw him to the ground. The Body Fling is another attack that doubles as a dodge. You jump into the air and slam on top of an enemy, sending him into the ground with a brief stun. The Gut Knee is an amazing move. You grab the enemy slamming your knee into his gut. This knocks the bad guy into the air, putting you in the best position to grab him again while on the way down to land another Gut Knee. The Head Butt causes the enemy to recoil a bit on attack. Lastly, the Bull Ram does a brief dash forward and you toss the enemy into the air.

The Gut Knee is positively overpowered.

There are a few items in the game. An orange spy often appears after forced encounters. Sometimes he will drop a bomb that hurts you if on screen when it blows up. You need to either move forward quickly or hit the bomb with a low attack to disable it. The spy also can drop a heart with wings. Grab it to restore all your health. Some fallen enemies also drop a weapon. You just collect these for points later. At the end of each stage, you see a cutscene where Duke throws each item into a dumpster and gets points for each one.

You start the game with two extra lives. You can earn more lives every 10,000 points. However, you cap off at five lives and any earned beyond that are forfeited. Every death starts the stage over. You can continue twice with a fresh set of lives from the same stage you died. Your score resets to 0, but you do get a chance to enter your initials on the high score list!

This was my first time beating Bad Street Brawler. I first played the game a few years ago for the Nintendo Age contests and reached the final level, only to fail pretty hard when I got there. This is a relatively common game though I do not know if it sold as well as the Power Glove did the first year. I have had a few copies of the game through buying lots. It will only cost you around $5-$7 if you are looking for one.

If you were paying attention, I sort of gave this away already. Unfortunately, I did not complete this game with the Power Glove. Not even close. I spent about three weeks with this game with the intent of beating it with the Power Glove but the results were too inconsistent. The furthest I reached was Stage 8, which is honestly an achievement in and of itself. Most of my runs ended in Stage 3. The mix of enemies, the available Force Moves, and no healing item until the 2/3 point of the level caused me to crumble up a lot. The first time I cleared Level 3, the game locked up on me and I was forced to reset. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign to move on, but I kept at it. I had a few runs to Stage 5 and one or two to Stage 6 or 7. There wasn’t even any sign of continual improvement because good attempts were scattered among multiple Stage 3 failures. I do think if I kept at it for a long time, maybe things would have clicked and I would have figured it out. Ultimately, I did not want another Ikari Warriors situation where I spent four months on the same game. Settling on a controller clear for this game sounded just as good. I bought a Power Glove with the intent to use it for both this game and Super Glove Ball, so when I reach that game I will have to make good on clearing it with the glove.

Thank you trench coat man for this helpful healing heart.

This game is still difficult even on controller. Many of the enemies in this game are borderline unfair. A baseball bat wielding punk is a common enemy that normally isn’t hard to deal with. If I let him get close enough to hit me, I normally get whacked a few times before I can counter or escape. Skateboarders telegraph their attacks somewhat, but if you get hit it drops 40% of your health bar in one shot. Good luck if you have to fight two of them at once. Knife-wielding women are hard to approach when they start throwing blades. The worst enemy in the game is the break dancer guy. When he rolls around, he is invincible. You have to get close enough to get him to stand up but stay far enough away to hit him. Then you only get one hit in before his routine loops. Normally I try and jump over him but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I will say most stages are pretty easy. You can run past most of the level and get at least one health refill in the stage. Some Force Moves let you dodge attacks and some let you stun lock enemies where you hit them over and over before they can recover. The levels without these helpful moves are much harder to clear.

My winning run of the game was one of those magical, miracle runs. It started off well enough. Stage 12 is one of those tough levels that typically costs me several lives, but I coasted through everything else. I reached the final stage with 3 lives and both continues but then it all went downhill. The last stage is very hard. It starts off with two break dancers, and then the first forced fight is between a break dancer and a knife thrower. Most of the time I didn’t get past that part. Then you have to pass the next third of the level before you can get a health refill. On one life I scrolled away the health pickup and died shortly thereafter. It was starting to look like a failed run. On my last life of my last continue, I finally broke through. I just barely survived the first section with only two health points left, and I got down to one just before I got the health refill. I had a solid final boss fight to put this game in the books.

Avoidance is good strategy but doesn’t always work.

I would go as far to say that playing with the Power Glove worked out better than I expected. After all, I’ve heard plenty of tales over the years that the Power Glove is unplayable garbage and what have you. Some facets of the Glove worked out better than others. The directional movements were pretty much spot on. The first thing to figure out is how to position your arm in the sweet spot. For me, it was about 5-6 feet away from the TV screen in the center of the three sensors. You will have to center the glove a ton with the Center button, but Bad Street Brawler provides enough opportunities to do that without pausing. Twisting my wrist to the right worked out okay, but to twist left far enough I had to lift my elbow which was very uncomfortable. The finger bends were by far the most inconsistent, or at worst not working at all. The instructions say to make a fist a few times to calibrate the glove. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right, but I had wildly varying results that often changed mid-game. Grabbing with my four fingers worked much of the time, but bending my thumb rarely worked. Losing the thumb control cost me one entire move unless I used the B button on the glove. I only got it to work well once or twice.

I know I have not made a case for the Power Glove being feasible as a controller, but perhaps I am still optimistic. The trick seems to be finding the optimal conditions. Unfortunately, the documentation around this feels incomplete. This is my best guess at what you need to do to set it up properly, at least for Bad Street Brawler. Get your arm into that sweet spot I mentioned above: In the center of the sensor zone about 5-6 feet away from the TV screen. Press Start to get to the menu, hold your glove in position, center it, make 2-3 gentle fists, center it again, then start the game. On the intro screen, test out all your moves. Make more fists and re-center as often as needed. Now, I couldn’t get it to work consistently well so this is still not optimal. I would say, at best, I was operating about 80% as efficiently as I would with a controller. The Glove Zap is quite helpful when used strategically, closing that control gap a tiny amount. If I could get the calibration routine right, really homed in my Power Glove dexterity, and keep the glove from going out of whack randomly in the middle of a level, I could definitely see me beating the game this way. But that’s just too many factors that have to line up to make it happen, in any sensible timeframe at least.

I understand why Bad Street Brawler was selected as the first of the Power Glove Gaming Series. It is an inherently simple game. Simply walk left to right and beat up a few bad guys using rotating move sets. It’s not a great game though. The graphics are okay, but the color choices are garish are unappealing. The music is just okay. It’s a little bit catchy at times but the tunes are short loops that may become grating. The controls work well with a standard controller and poorly with the Power Glove. The gameplay, despite trying to vary things, is essentially repeating the same things. Some of the enemies, even the early ones, can cheap shot you unfairly. While it is fun and encouraged to stun lock enemies, getting stun locked yourself is frustrating. Overall, this is a below average game. It has kind of grown on me though and I do like it a little bit.

#130 – Bad Street Brawler

Posted In: Finished

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