This game is a scrolling beat 'em up. The objective is simple: enemies will come onto the screen and you need to defeat them. Clearing one wave of enemies lets you move on through a level where you'll encounter more thugs. At the end of each level there is a boss who must be beaten to move on. Use every move at your disposal (see the characters page for how to do them) and weapons you can find to defeat your enemies. You can tell how much health an enemy has as when you start attacking them their life bar appears beneath yours.
Depending on who you play as, you can sometimes find weapons to use. Cody will find knives -he can stab enemies with these when close to them, or throw at long range. Guy can pick up a limited supply of shuriken, which he can throw at enemies. Haggar can pick up a mallet, which he can use to bash enemies and knock them over. To pick up a weapon, stand over it and press the attack button. Then press the attack button again whenever you want to use it.
As you defeat enemies, you will gain experience points, which are shown in the bottom right corner of the screen. By gaining enough EXP, your character will level up, letting them become stronger and eventually learn a new technique (again, see the characters page for more info on those).
If you are surrounded by enemies, press the attack and jump buttons together to perform a special attack. Special attacks will hit enemies either side of you, but at a price: you will lose a little bit of health whenever you use one.
If you run out of lives, the continue screen will be shown and you can choose to continue or not. If you do continue you'll be given a short amount of time to select a character. The game gives you 3 credits, with each credit giving your 5 lives. Continuing will start you at the beginning of the current round you were on.