Masters of Combat for the Sega Master System is a criminally underrated beat ‘em up.
It’s not without failings. Limited by the SMS’s 2 button controller, it has two actions: fight, and move. This limits abilities somewhat. And I’m not going to even pretend that the fighters are balanced. All four of them. Because there’s literally only four characters. But it innovates in a way that no one before it had.
The movement button was a decade ahead of its time. Angle up, you jumped up. Angle left-up/right-up, jump left or right. All pretty standard fare.
But angle forward, and you dashed and charged the enemy. Mortal Kombat wouldn’t get a run button until the third iteration of their game. Double tap forward would become a standard, but here is a game from the early 90s pulling it off. Not to mention the wall jumping on the edges of the screen.
Angle back and press move, you dodge. Dodging in an SMS beat ‘em up. Most beat ‘em ups wouldn’t get to that until the 3d era of games gave another plane of movement.
It’s impressive. It shows a lot of foresight. Good going, Sega/SIMS.