We wanted the Asskickers to be a tribute to the beat'em up genre but we also wanted to use this opportunity to take the genre into new thematic territory.
Looking back to beat'em up classics, we were actually shocked to realize that they mostly contained a political ideology that we barely registered as children. Think about it: in beat'em ups such as Streets of Rage or Final Fight, you play the role of vigilantes who clean up the streets from thugs and other low-lives, even going as far as playing the muscular and mustached mayor himself in Final Fight!
In those games, most thugs are identified as such through the simple fact that they wear denim jackets, sleep on public benches and wear punks Mohawk (and work for local mob bosses, I grant you that). The worse case in our opinion was the treatment of women. You know a woman is evil when she is wearing fishnets, a leather cap and is holding a whip. So basically, in old beat'em ups, you are beating the hell out of punks, prostitutes, homeless people and other inner-city types.
This situation struck us as coming straight from the Reagan era in which good and productive citizens had the moral duty to clean up the inner cities from parasites and other low-lives.
If classics beat'em ups were all about the inner city menace, what or who should be the focus of a modern beat'em up? Who are the new villains? What threat would require the help of vigilantes to be thwarted? Thanks to the 2008 Financial Crisis the answer came quickly: white-collar criminals and corrupt politicians. It all made perfect sense! Three law-abiding citizens would find themselves pitted against the evil forces of white-collar crime! They would battle hordes of evil stockbrokers, dangerous fat cats, corrupt politician and drunken media executive and the occasional sleazy cop.
We saw this idea as an opportunity to experiment with satire and poke fun at the corporate world as well as depicting white-collar wrongdoers as beat'em up villains. The implication extend far beyond the narrative since this idea was the cornerstone of level design (the player literally climbs the pyramid of power) as well as the gameplay (we had fun connecting the enemy's attacks with their status and characteristics; for instance, the stock broker behaves like a evil wizard). Therefore, in the Asskickers, much of the political commentary is conveyed through the game design itself and the environment. This point was very important to us because we did not want the game to lecture the player or even having the satire and political commentary eclipsing the gameplay.
As a result, if you care about the satire, there is quite a humorous subtext to be found in The Asskickers. If not, you can still enjoy the good old-fashioned beat'em up action.
In any case, in the 90's, you were beating punks and prostitutes wearing jeans and fishnets.
In 2013, you are beating up corrupt politicians, bent cops and evil traders.
Like Bob Dylan used to sing: The times, they are a-changing...