Breaking the law in the world of Tokyo Beat Down is not a good idea. A simple dine-and-dash in this side-scrolling beat-'em-up can result in a thrashing usually reserved for the worst kind of criminal. The cops of Tokyo Beat Down are so hardcore they make Dirty Harry look like a pushover. Unfortunately, the gameplay of this bland brawler can't handle the extreme justice of their fists.
Tokyo Beat Down stars the "beast cops" of the titular city's Yaesu police station. These cops shoot first and ask questions never. You'll spend the bulk of your time playing as the flamboyant criminal kicker Lewis Cannon as he investigates a series of crimes in Tokyo. Cannon is a fierce fighter (you could say he's a loose cannon--get it?), but he isn't exactly the shiniest badge on the force, and the same goes for most of his colleagues. After a few not-so-subtle clues point to a connection in recent crimes, the cops band together to take down an old rival and his mysterious employers. The story itself isn't groundbreaking, but the completely over-the-top characters and ridiculous dialogue raise it above the average brawler story. Some of the cutscenes drag on too long and others seem to exist only to deliver a pun-filled joke, but for the most part, the story is strangely entertaining, like an episode of Law & Order with cartoon characters.
Billed as a classic coin-op-style brawler, Tokyo Beat Down is reminiscent of the simplistic side-scrollers that flooded arcades in the late '80s. There just isn't much to the TBD formula. Levels consist of moving left to right, beating up fools, and then watching cutscenes. Some levels switch it up and require you to move left to right, talk to random (and repetitive) character models, and watch cutscenes, but that's about as fun as it sounds. Good brawlers make up for the repetitive nature of the genre with a variety of enemies and combat maneuvers, but Tokyo Beat Down does not. There are a number of different character models in the game, but most of them behave identically--spamming the same move until either they die or you do. As for your move set, it can be expanded by finding scrolls throughout the game, but not by much. Guns and item pickups are scattered throughout the levels, but using a firearm is often more of a hassle than it's worth.
Tokyo Beat Down's biggest letdown is its controls. The core punching and kicking controls work fine, but the functions assigned to the shoulder buttons--drawing your gun and blocking--are unresponsive. By the time the game has registered that you've drawn your gun, you're getting punched in the face. Even if you draw your gun in time, hitting someone with it isn't guaranteed since there is no foolproof way to aim. Not being able to block when you need to means you'll die more than you should. The enemy AI is pure evil, often hitting you just as you get up or shooting you from offscreen, forcing you into a death-inducing fall cycle.
The sweet side of Tokyo Beat Down's bitter gameplay is the pretty visuals. Despite some occasionally rigid animations, the large detailed character models capture the quirky cops perfectly. The crisp 3D backgrounds are filled with layers of little details that add depth and character to the environments. As great as the levels look, they do get tiresome, since the game forces you to revisit most of them several times. The music is mostly forgettable, and the battle cries of your cops get annoying fast. This is one game that can be played with the volume down.
With a play time of around six hours (less than that if you skip cutscenes), Tokyo Beat Down still feels too long. The repetitive gameplay and sluggish, unresponsive controls make progress a chore. The crazy story and absurd characters are certainly entertaining, but they aren't worth mashing your way through hours of poor combat to see.