Ok hardcore video game purists. I have been playing video games since the NES was churning out titles. But prior to 2014, I never played any version of the original Final Fight or its sequels. I know, sacrilege. But better late than never and this fact will help me review the game without comparing it to other iterations. For the $10 it goes for nowadays, is it worth your gaming dollars?
Metro City has been more known for its crime than anything else. Simply put, decent people shouldn’t live there. At the heart of the problem is the rampant gang activity. The Mad Gear gang is the most powerful of these groups, and the newly elected mayor, Mike Haggar, looks to clean up the city. After failed bribery attempts, the Mad Gears kidnapped Haggar’s comely daughter Jessica. This was a huge mistake for the Mad Gears because Haggar and Jessica’s boyfriend Cody have taken to the streets to personally dismantle the gang and rescue Jess.
Controls and Gameplay
Controls are very simple which is always a key factor in quality beat em ups. Your hero will punch with the Y button, jump with the B button, and grab an opponent when close and pushing the control pad in the direction of the enemy. More advanced moves such as jump kicking, throwing, and super moves can be accomplished with a combination of the previously mentioned buttons.
You go through 5 stages ranging from the obligatory street slum stage to a fancy hotel/skyscraper stage beating up gang members along the way and fighting a boss at the end of each stage. Some stages even feature a mid-level boss you have to contend with as well. Is it just me or does stage 4 seem really long?
During your rescue trek, you’ll encounter power-ups that will help in your journey. The most important of these is food, which will replenish your health and by how much depends on the food item. Other items like necklaces, diamonds, hats, etc, will increase your point total. Points are vital too because every 200,000 of them will give you an extra life.
I like the fact you can pick up stuff like lead pipes, knives, and samurai swords (who leaves random samurai swords laying on the street?) to level the playing field against your enemies.
The game can get challenging and the standard allotment of 5 extra lives doesn’t seem like enough to get through the game. So here’s a pro-tip: At the title screen, hold L and R at the same time while pressing start and an options screen will appear giving you several fields to modify like difficulty and lives for example. Crank that baby up to 9 lives and get to work!
A common thread I see in the beat-em up genre is cheap A.I. I just loathe the fact enemies love to sneak behind you and sucker punch you with your back turned. This game is no different. These guys already have the advantage, it’s three against one for goodness sake. Just fight like a man face to face! I can’t tell you how much energy and lives I lost due to this cowardly tactic. And it’s definitely the singular most frustrating aspect of Final Fight. Even most of the bosses will call in for backup and gang up on poor Cody and Haggar.
Speaking of gang, when you hit members of the Mad Gear gang, their personal name and life bar pop up. Some of the names I’ve seen are hilarious. Two P, J, El Gado, Dug, Bred? Are you kidding me? I can’t imagine getting much street cred from kooky names like these.
I almost forgot to mention there are two bonus stages in the game. In one stage you have to destroy a car and in the other you break some glass. If you ever played Street Fighter II, you will know what to expect here.
I’ve played quite a few beat em ups in my time and after playing this game, I get the overall impression of a very run of the mill title. And this really isn’t surprising. The arcade game came out in 1989 and this port two years later. Final Fight is one of the pioneers of the genre heading into the 90s. So the fact I feel the game is archaic after playing so many beat em ups that came after it is an apt description of the situation. Brawlers that came afterwards built upon the foundation Final Fight and its predecessors laid and added enhancements to the formula.
So what we have here is a truly plain, vanilla, launch title that lacks refinements seen in other games of the same genre, but what some people would call a classic. Now don’t get me wrong. I can see how this game could appear totally awesome back in 1991, especially for the folks coming off a NES. But match it up against certain other brawlers on the Super NES or even Genesis and it pales in comparison. That doesn’t make it a bad game though. It just came before the others.
Graphics and Sound
When I first saw pictures of Final Fight back in 1991 in magazines and how they compared the game’s sprites to sprites in NES games, I was like damn!!! I gotta get a SNES. Today I’m still impressed with the size of the characters and it’s the biggest strength of the graphics department. Other notables are the background details like the numerous people in the background watching you fight, broken windows and graffiti on the train doors and posters on the walls.
Music isn’t a strength of this game, but a couple of tunes stick out in my mind, namely the tune in the final stage. The rest are rather meh. Sound effects are adequate. I’m grateful for the voice over work when someone dies or the grunts Haggar and Cody make when doing some of their moves. Sometimes though voice overs and sound effects get drowned out by the music which was off putting at first because I didn’t know what was going on. I initially thought my SNES was about to clunk out.
Final Fight is a solid beat em up. Quite honestly it’s barebones when you want to compare it to similar games in the 16-bit era. But the the characters you control are quick, responsive and the gameplay is not broken. The overall experience is enjoyable even though there’s some terrible slowdown in various points in the game, the A.I. can be pretty cheap, and the all-important 2-player coop is sadly missing.
Can I recommend Final Fight for the SNES in 2014? There’s a better option in Capcom Classics Collection volume 1 with a nearly arcade perfect version available for Playstation 2 or the original X-box. I’d go for that instead.
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