Knuckle Bash is a 1993 side-scrolling beat ’em up arcade video game developed and published by Toaplan in Japan, as well as North America and Europe by Atari Games. It is notable for being one of the few titles by Toaplan that has not received any official port to home consoles as of date.
In the game, players assume the role of professional wrestlers fighting against the Mad Bull Group organization to protect wrestling from corruption. Knuckle Bash was created by most of the same staff that previously worked on several projects at Toaplan and who would later go on to work at one of its offshoots after the company declared bankruptcy in 1994. The team were originally commissioned on making a fighting game similar to Capcom’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior but the project deviated from its original plan and became a beat ’em up title instead. As of 2019, the rights to the title are owned by Tatsujin, a company founded in 2017 by former Toaplan member Masahiro Yuge and now-affiliate of Japanese arcade manufacturer exA-Arcadia alongside many other Toaplan IPs.
Knuckle Bash is a side-scrolling beat ’em up game similar to Final Fight and Double Dragon, where players take control of one of the available playable characters across ten stages, each one set in a different location, and fight against an assortment of enemies and villains in order to defeat the Mad Bull Group organization. At the beginning, players choose between one of tle character. Unlike other titles in the same genrewo scenarios, both of which host their own set of stages and clearing certain scenarios unlocks an extra playab, the stages in the game chiefly consist of various waves of single or few strong boss-like enemies, instead of the typical long series of weaker enemies with a boss at the end of the stage. It also completely lacks weapons or objects of any sort. Similar to Streets of Rage 2, each character has a special attack of their own that deals damage to any enemy on-screen. Players can compete in a minigame reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s “Test Your Might” segments between stages.
The story of Knuckle Bash revolves around the Mad Bull Group, a corrupt wrestling organization that profits and taints the reputation of the sport, whose wrestlers are looked upon by children as role models. Three former members of the Mad Bull Group who deserted from the organization due to their actions and labeled as traitors arranged a secret meeting at a Chicago hotel in order to contact a skillful “Ninpow” master, who is also wanted by the Mad Bull Group. On their journey, the wrestlers venture into the Battle Kingdom headquarters, where another Mad Bull Group plans to desert from the organization because of their actions. After facing multiple battle against members of the Mad Bull Group, the wrestlers manage to dismantle the organization and their victorious story was widespread thereafter.
Players initially choose from three characters at the start, while two extra characters are recruited through gameplay and any of the five characters can be switched to between missions:
- El Plancha – A luchador.
- Michael Sobut – An Elvis Presley look-alike.
- Jack Brow – A street fighter.
- Mr. Hayate – A ninja master of the “Ninpow” art.
- Captain – An american football player who defects from the Mad Bull Group.