Beat em’ ups are awesome. There’s nothing like delivering some blows to a virtual bad guy to calm a rough day. The list of great beat em’ ups is a mile long, but one stands out as a great candidate for re-release on Xbox Live Arcade: Def Jam Fight for New York. Of the four Def Jam fighting games it stands head and shoulders above its peers. Vendetta, the first game in the series, was great, but didn’t have the features New York first exhibited. The PSP version of New York, subtitled The Takeover, had a few new gameplay elements but removed all voiceovers. Finally Icon, the only current-gen title, was absolutely horrible, taking fighting far beyond over-the-top to a point where it’s comically awful.

No, there’s only one in the series that could truly make a comeback.

What should change:

Compression, compression, compression – The original Xbox version of the game clocks in at around 2.8GB, but it doesn’t use any sort of compression. It’s very common for compression to cut 30-50% from a file’s size. The movies for the game clock in at 150MB themselves, and only one would be required to truly keep the game intact, the rest are game logos (which can be converted to static images) and ads for movies of the time. Cutting fluff and compressing the rest could easily bring the game to 1.8GB or less.

Features from Vendetta and The TakeoverThe Takeover features a few new gameplay mechanics, such as being able to tackle a downed foe and attack them. The character who gets tackled has the ability to gather sand and throw it in the attacker’s face. Seems like an obvious inclusion. On the flipside Vendetta had new arenas and four silent protagonists to choose from. Maybe adding the arenas and characters from Vendetta would put the game over the 2GB limit–if so then they could be offered as DLC.

Online play – Last generation online play was largely ignored on consoles. Even the original Xbox didn’t have as many online-compatible games per release. Today there’s no excuse for leaving it out. Everyone at least wants the option of taking on friends over Xbox Live, even if they’re not a major online gamer. Sometimes you just feel the need to reach out and punch someone.

What should stay the same:

Deadly combat Man, oh man, this game had some of the best brawling of its time. It appealed to fans of wrestling games, fans of street brawlers, heck, even those you just want to beat up a buddy and trash talk. The game featured five main fighting styles, and any two could be combined into an all new style.  To top it all off there were literally dozens of weapons you could grab from the crowd. From bottles to tire irons, the weapons created that advantage you needed to come back from dear death or deliver the final blow.

Customization – For its time, Fight for New York‘s customization was nothing short of immense. It starts with several combinations of facial features, a choice of skin and hair color, and a trash talkin’ voice. Once the fighting begins you can visit the barber shop for crazy haircuts and dyes, the tattoo parlor for some ink, the jewelry dealer to bling up, or the local clothing store to pick through a massive assortment of threads. Combine that with the ability to learn two fightstyles and multiple finishing moves and no created character is ever the same.

Celebrity castFight for New York is known for its huge cast of Def Jam artists and other celebrities. Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Ice-T are just a few of the rappers that join the fray. But other celebs lend their likenesses as well. Actor Danny Trejo joins female sex symbols Carmen Electra and Kimora Lee Simmons in the rumble. The cast is varied, and each has a distinct personality and fighting style.

Tunes – Rap is an acquired taste. Like Country music, not all of us can stomach the hardcore of the genre. Still, the tracks selected for the game serve as a great soundtrack to an interactive fighting movie, and it’s not something that will bother those who aren’t a fan of the genre.

Why it would succeed:

Def Jam: Fight for New York was a unique title among fighting games. It had the ability to bring any type of gamer in to have a good time. It didn’t matter if you loved rap, if you loved beat em’ ups, or if you just loved to pound on your buddies–it had something for everyone. With the resurgence of older titles on Xbox Live Arcade and the lack of a group street fighting/wrestling game the old king could reign once again. This could easily bring 800-1200 MSP and would only cost the developer porting and licensing costs.