♪ BGM: Northern Barramundi ♫

Our first mission is on the beach, as Team Jaws need to be kicked into touch.

This is your introduction to the grimy world of Undercover Cops- dudes fleeing as one of their bros coughs up blood.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

So, you're eased into things from the off, and at the start the only enemies are the standard Kenji and Dooby punks- these guys will get a little tougher as the game goes on, actually getting proper weapons eventually, but to start with, all they've got are their fists. Deal with them however you see fit, but this is an ideal time to either get used to the spacing for the auto-combos (get in close enough for a follow-up throw, keep a slight distance for a combo finisher attack) or rack up some Finesse Points by grabbing them, using the neutral throw-bash, then ending with a throw. You'll get stars! And stars mean points!

Just a little way in, you'll find one of the showpiece weapons of the game, the steel girder. It's embedded in the ground, so you can either tap the Attack button and lift it out (which will let you use it a few more times, but makes you vulnerable to attack) or just punch it (which weakens and makes it last less hits, but is easier to do). You can either press Attack to swing with it once, or press Attack then tap the opposite direction to swing it round and cover both sides (Matt, being the powerhouse, can swing the girder a lot faster than Zan or Rosa). However, you only get a couple of goes with it (determined by how you got it out the ground) before your character lobs it off-screen. I guess they want to play fair? A little further on you'll find a concrete pole which works the same way, but actually gets shorter each time you land a hit- you'll get less hits out of it if you punch it out the ground instead of lifting it.

Shortly after you get the concrete pole, you'll find two new enemies to fight, the long-haired Brad and the bat-wielding Makaku. These two are a tier above Kenji and Dooby, with Brad having a running jump kick that can easily catch you off guard, and Makaku who... Well, he's an asshole. The Andore Jr. of the game, Makaku is the only enemy permanently equipped with a weapon, a nasty bat that he can blindside you with so fast that jump attacks do not work- he'll get there first. He can also charge up for a desperation attack of sorts where he wildly swings at both sides. Finally, he can block your attacks, though it's not terribly effective- if you keep pummelling him, he'll drop his guard eventually. Even so, Makaku is easily the most lethal of the standard punks, so always make him a priority! Luckily you only have to fight one here...

A short section before the boss has a couple more toys to play with- some giant fish you can grab and throw (and fighting some points and health items hiding underneath), some very small steel blocks you can lob, but more importantly... A jeep. For any other brawler- like The Simpsons, for instance- lifting something heavy like this would require co-ordination and teamwork. Undercover Cops is not any other brawler, though, so you can totally lift that thing by yourself. Don't waste it on the punks- hold onto it for a second, so you can use it on...

♪ BGM: Nasty Loud Quack ♫

... Our first boss, Parcs! As with all the bosses, he's arbitrarilly renamed in the World version, so we'll be providing both but mostly refer to the Japanese name. So, Parcs (Japan) / Cue Ball (World) is a big ol' cyborg who talks loudly and uses his bionic arm to smack you. In this first phase of the fight, he's not much trouble- throw the jeep at him, then grab and throw him when you have the chance (just keep away when he's using his bionic arm, that thing stings!). Once you get him into his red lifebar, he'll stand at the edge of the screen and start roaring, so lamp him and...

He sheds his fleshy exterior to reveal he really is just a Terminator! In this form, he can now grab you with his arm and fling you around, which is more dangerous than it sounds. When you knock him back, the screen will scroll revealing a giant trash compactor in the very corner. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking 'Can you shove Parcs into the trash compactor and kill him instantly', and I say to you, 'This is Undercover Cops, so yes'. There's a little meter by the trash compactor that slowly fills up- when it reaches the top, it'll display DANGER and quickly drop down, crushing anyone in the pit when it reaches the bottom. The trick is to knock Parcs into the pit shortly before the meter empties, because not only will he try and get out if you're too early, he'll also try and throw you in. Don't let him get you first! Knock him back in! Of course, you can always beat him the normal way, but that's not as much fun, is it?

That's how we do it. I believe this one's called the Sarah Connor in 1984 Technique.

Alright, it's Assessment Day! At the end of each stage, you're given a tally of how many Finesse Points you earned and the number of bad guys you beat up, with each Finesse Point being worth $10 and enemies being given individual dollar bounties. The total is added to your score, and it's shown on the counter at the bottom of the screen. Each mission has a 'Border' amount, a par number for this counter. If your amassed points make the grade, you'll hear the game tell you "YOU'RE BAD" and get a significant boost to your health (because yeah, you don't fully heal between missions!). If you don't, you'll hear a buzzer and get a lot less.

One important change between the World and Japanese versions is the scoring system here- the World version usually gives you far, far more Finesse Points (I was averaging 20 on the first stage in the Japanese version, and 50 in the World one) but as a counter-balance, the enemies gives you a lot less money here ($500 for Parcs compared to $100 for Cue Ball). This makes it considerably harder to hit the Border in the World version, but fortunately this was changed back to the Japanese system for Alpha Renewal.

♪ BGM: Sarah Sowertty ♫

Next up is a battle with the Bloody Goddess, or as the title clarifies, a Goddess hungry for blood. Good to know.

Oh, and yeah, the song title here is what gave our little site mascot her name.

A friend suggested it might be a mistranslation of Sarah Sweetie... But we'll never know for sure.

Now... This is where it gets a little weird, version-differences-wise. The World version actually uses a completely different background here! The World version, a set of relatively well-kept traintracks right outside of some kind of factory, is on the left, and the Japanese/Alpha Renewal version, a considerably more ramshackle set of train tracks with what appears to be an overgrown, water-leaking set of buildings far, far in the background, on the right. I suppose the run-down factory fits better with the general aesthetic of Undercover Cops, but maybe Irem changed it for the other versions to add a bit of colour?

In any case, the actual stages are the same. Early on you're introduced to a new weapon, the flaming torch- you'll find them in flaming drums that you can either hurl as a weapon first then use the torches, or just punch it to get at the torchy goodness within. Either way, you get a load of them but they're only throwing weapons, so aim carefully. Also don't bother throwing them at enemies who haven't got up yet- it won't hit them! The Doobys you'll find here also get to play with these and can set you on fire, so watch out. You're also introduced to the box-carrying Brads who either have yummy treats or drop grenades and kill themselves- in either case, one hit and they're out. A little later on there's a massive pile of weapons, including a pile of steel poles, a box of grenades, a drum of torches and a motorcycle that you can totally grab and use... Although it's actually tricky to get at it- if you or an enemy gets slammed/thrown into the weapons pile or you punch the drum, it'll set of a chain reaction that blows up the motorcycle. It's one that only very, very careful players will get to toy with.

... And if you do, make sure you use it on Makaku. That dude deserves it,.

At the end, there's the old scrolling brawler cliche, a door you've got to destroy with your own power.

... But if you wait, a box-carrying Brad will eventually walk into the door and die, blowing it up for you.

♪ BGM: Chaca Chaca Move Ya ♫

In the next area, we get another scrolling brawler standby, the lift sequence!

Sadly, it's not the kind of lift stage where you can throw enemies off the lift, but that's OK, we'll be able to do that in the next section. What we do get is a new enemy type, Fox- a cat lady who is basically the Roxy/Poison of the game, specialising in jump kicks and just-barely-there clothing. And there's a lot of them here- they're the only enemy in this area until the very end! Luckily you'll eventually get a steel girder from the heavens to help you out, but the main tip here is to not let yourself get surrounded- they will swarm you if you let them.

At the very end, we get the least-seen enemy in the game, the Madca- a jet enemy who annoyingly spends a lot of his time off-screen. The Undercover Cops version of that Jet guy from Streets of Rage 2- except he's more of a mid-boss than anything else- he'll do the standard flying-about things you expect, mostly a fairly slow dash attack, as well as a strange thing where he'll poke you while you're on the ground...? Luckily, that doesn't do much. If you can get him to stop doing his dash attack though, he's actually pretty easy to take out- get under him when he's clanging his blades together (and, I think, saying 'Shinei', which is Fist of the North Star for 'DIE') and do your neutral jumping attack- no matter who you are, this will hit him and he'll probably do his clanging-blades animation again, giving you ample time to repeat until he's dead (and he dies in style, with his jetpack going out of control and exploding).

The next area is pretty simple- just a straight line filled with Foxes, and later some Brads, Makakus and Madcas- but the gimmick here is the floor is constantly crumbling behind you. Now, it's really, really tempting to throw the enemies off the edge... But the Border for the end-of-stage assessment is pretty high on this stage, and you'll get no extra Finesse Points if you give them a long walk off a short pier. It is more fun though, so it's up to you. You've got to keep an eye on the Brads that appear here though- if they get you with their flying leg kick, they'll probably knock you off the edge!... Unless you bait them into it and they throw themselves off. That's fun too. Luckily, there's only one other area with a drop like this, and that's much later.

Now it's time for the boss! Irem's localisation team got lazy and called her Fatso, so we'll stick with the more dignified Japanese name, Fransowors, a lady with a big drill and a grating laugh. Since there's no handy trash compactor this time, you'll have to duke it out properly, and Fransowors is probably the first real indication that the bosses in this game are gonna be a pain in the ass. Her main attacks are smacking you with her drill (a very fast attack, after which she'll laugh), and drilling the ground which shakes the screen and makes some Fox enemies drop in (and, from time to time, drops a motorcycle which instantly explodes). Once you get her health down enough, she'll start crying and moving around more erratically, but that's about it.

The main thing to remember about Fransowors is do not jump in. Nine times out of ten, she'll see it coming and smack you with her drill. The only exception, for some reason, is if you knock her down and jump attack as she's getting up- she's not fast enough to react to that (and this works best with Zan, from what I've seen). Your best approach is to play craftily and try and manoeuvre around her- what you want is to grab and throw her or get a combo on her that ends in a throw, as almost any more direct approach especially when she's crying, will get you on the business end of her drill. It may seem really tricky at first, but trust me, Fransowors is probably the easiest of the bosses. They only get tougher from here, I'm afraid!

See, this is what happens if you just throw everyone off the edge.

♪ BGM: Redtailed Cat ♫

Next up is Mission 3, and one of the few bits of English text is changed between the Japanese and World versions!

In the Japanese and Alpha Renewal versions, they're Moguralians. Elsewhere, just moles.

These guys definitely aren;t just moles.

Right from the off, there's two big differences in Mission 3 between the regions- the music has a completely different melody in the World version! This isn't a case of the song sounding different, the actual notes are! The other thing is a missing visual detail- there's a set of hanging lights that explode just as the stage starts in the Japanese version, but they're not in the World one. This stuff- and another we'll see later- lead me to believe Mission 3 was the last to have all its details ironed out, and some didn't make it for the World version.

Anyway, we'd better get back to the matter at hand- moles! Mutant moles! Or, as they're known in this world, Moguralians. They're pretty unique enemies as far as scrolling brawlers go- they actually explode in one hit. As long as it's a clean hit, that is- if you wake-up attack them, they'll just get knocked back, so always go for real hits. Most of this mission is just dealing with these guys and they come in three forms, one after the other- the standard ones that explode out of the ground (the explosion can hurt you, so watch out) and move around erratically either trying to punch or roll into you, the ones that just pop out the ground to lay a timed mine (they're not proximity mines, fortunately, just stay away from them when they start beeping) and the white-furred ones that walk very, very slowly, usually in a line, so you can find the right place to stand and just punch them into oblivion. After you face each of these types the first time, there's a little interlude with some Brads and Doobys (and a concrete pole) but then we get back to the Moguralians who mix things up a bit. Pretty straightforward stage, otherwise.

Watch out for the teeny-tiny moles that walk by sometimes, though- they don't do much damage but they can attack you!

As we enter the boss area, here's the other World/Japanese difference- the giant cooking pot with skeletons in it isn't in the World version yet.

The boss of this area, unsurprisingly, is also the boss of the Moguralians, Moguralian β (Japan) / Gunpuncher (World) and... Moguralian β is a dick. For a start, he can teleport by digging into the ground, and whether he's diving into the ground (and shouting "SAYONARA" at you) or popping out from it (and shouting "KONNICHIWA" are you), he'll cause an explosion that'll hurt you and stop you from hitting him. Next, his attacks- a slicing attack with a far wider reach than you'd imagine (with him shouting "HARAKIRI") and a machine-gun attack which has a little build-up- are wide-reaching and the swipe in particular will catch you off guard constantly. Much like Fransowors, you'll have to just keep manoeuvering around him and doing your best to grab him before he disappears into the ground. One thing that might help is the steel girder that shows up at the start of the fight- unearth it, then leave it when you inevitably get dropped by Moguralian β. Save it for later! When you get him near to death, he'll start diving into the ground constantly, so having the girder, even if it's only good for a few hits, will give you an advantage. That and it's super-satisfying to thwack him on the head with it when he hops out of his hole. Honestly, because of his teleporting Moguralian β is by far the most annoying boss- maybe even moreso than the final one- but do your best, OK?

Oh, and he farts after you beat him. Rude.

We'll bust up that Dr. Crayborn dude on the next page!