The spirit of the ’90s is absolutely alive in all the faithful arcade-style beat ’em ups that have been coming out in recent years. Indie devs clearly infatuated with the genre have been doing it justice, and the latest attempt is Maiden Cops. Take one part anthropomorphic animal anime girl and add a few dashes of Final Fight and River City Girls and you get the idea. What has me most interested in this one, however, is how it manages to capture the essence of a slightly offbeat home port of an arcade brawler.
A demo made its way online as part of Steam Next Fest, giving us a chance to check out a few hard-hitting areas. It’s easy to see what Maiden Cops is going for from the first frame. You can choose from one of three Maiden Cops: Priscilla Salamander, Nina Usagi, and Meiga Holstaur. Each one offers your standard light, medium, and heavy style of combat. Meiga, for instance, comes from a family of fighters and is essentially your beefy Hagar. Nina is the oldest of the team but looks like a little bunny-eared girl. Priscilla has always dreamed of being a Maiden Cop, and specs-wise she’s the perfect middle ground.
Assault on Precinct Jyusan
Playing a single level — which consists of three different areas — isn’t quite enough to grasp all the nuances of each playable character. You’ll get a decent overview, though, and the 15 or so minutes it takes to complete the demo is plenty of time to introduce your typical enemy fodder and a boss. Strolling in from all sides are… more anime girls! There are tall women, small women, and even women in prison. Again, it’s tough to complain about enemy variety when you’re dealing with such a small slice.
Taking on these foes is pretty straightforward. Each character has their own melee moves and throws, as well as super moves that are good for clearing some space. There are also plenty of scattered weapons to pick up, from knives to steel beams. I occasionally had issues with picking weapons up off the ground in the demo. Thankfully, that problem never carried over to health or other collectibles. When it all comes together, the action is fairly satisfying, if just a little slow-paced. That’s where those console port vibes come into play. It often feels like you’re playing a second-hand interpretation of what Maiden Cops really is, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While I doubt it’s intentional, it is oddly fitting given the style on display.
Are we the baddies?
The demo closes out with a battle against Miranda, a Maiden Cop who’s gone corrupt. Like most beat ’em up bosses, she’s great at knocking you on your ass right as you’re about to do the same to her. While you battle her and her minions, crunchy chiptune approximations of electric guitars wail in the background. Even the soundtrack — which is absolutely fitting as brawler BGM — has that mid-’90s “I just rented this on SNES” air about it. Playing Maiden Cops is like getting a couple of days over the weekend with a well-worn copy of Maximum Carnage. I know that’s not Spider-Man, that’s an anime girl with big boobs. The comparison still stands.
Those comparisons carry over to the character animation, which seems a bit stiff in places. On the other hand, the backgrounds are really impressive. The burning buildings, the overflowing trashcans; it’s all very Konami in its prime. And even though speed is a lingering concern, the areas in the demo are relatively short and sweet. You never spend too much time in one location, so even the repetitive enemies don’t have much of a chance to wear you down.
Maiden with love
Despite a few issues and a general need to pick up the pace, it’s clear the devs have love for the genre. Pippin Games has dabbled in similarly styled throwbacks with previous efforts. Kawaii Death Desu had players taking control of supernatural idols and beating up overzealous fans. Wife Quest saw Mia heading out on a side-scrolling adventure to rescue her kidnapped husband, Fernando. Both have garnered fans of their own with plenty of positive reviews on Steam. Maiden Cops takes their skills and applies them to an even more traditional beat ’em up, and hopefully, the final package continues to expand upon what makes the demo fun. We’ll find out when Maiden Cops launches sometime in Q4 2023.
Joseph has been writing about games, anime, and movies for over 20 years and loves thinking about instruction manuals, discovering obscure platformers, and dreaming up a world where he actually has space (and time) for a retro game collection.