Co-authored by Sam Derboo
Everyone remembers Double Dragon, the two-player side scrolling beat-em-up that featured companions using their mad martial arts skills to beat up evil gangs. But while Technos Japan was busy doing crazy things with their sequels (Backward attack buttons? Evil mummies?), Capcom revolutionized the genre with Final Fight. While Double Dragon didn’t have much in the way of depth, Final Fight made things even simpler. There’s only two buttons – an attack and a jump. There’s a special move activated by pressing both at the same time, which will clear out surrounding enemies but deplete from your health. You’ll occasionally stumble upon some pipes or knives to maim things with, but for the most part, that’s it. Stunningly, this simplicity actually worked, especially thanks to the large characters and tight controls.
Final Fight was initially going to be a sequel to the original Street Fighter (yes, the really awful one), dubbed Street Fighter ’89, but since the one-on-one gameplay had been abandoned, Capcom decided to give it a new name and start a whole new series. Final Fight tells the story of a little berg named Metro City. Metro City, it seems, is pretty much the worst place on the face of the planet, since it’s always overrun by a gang of ruthless thugs known as Mad Gear. Thankfully, the mayor happens to be a musclebound Street Fighter named Haggar who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “caucus” but does know how to smash things real good. While Haggar is pretty much the star of the series, he’s joined by several other compatriots throughout the series, including average joe Cody and ninja-in-training Guy. The other games include a variety of other mostly forgotten characters, but that’s because most people tend to not remember the SNES-exclusive titles Final Fight 2 and 3 – which is a shame, since Final Fight 3 is among the best of its kind.
So yes, perhaps us gamers have grown a bit pretentious recently. The Final Fight gamess are pretty daft, but there is an innate human urge to walk forward and smash things without prejudice, and these games are still some of the best ways to go about doing that. So if you’re ready to zone out for a bit and just cause mayhem by mashing the attack button, they’re all still plenty of fun.
Follow the harrowing, heart-breaking tale as three street brawlers (muscular mayor Haggar, ninja fellow Guy and average joe Cody) as they kill punks and discover the true meaning of love. Well, that last part is very false, but there’s lots of smashing going on. Haggar’s daughter Jessica has been kidnapped, so her boyfriend Cody and his friend Guy tag on for the ride.
The differences between the characters are not only of cosmetic nature: Aside from the typical strong – average – fast trinity, each character got his own special ability. Haggar demolishes enemies with a devastating piledriver besides his standard suplex throw, Guy can execute a wall jump kick from vertical obstacles, and Cody is especially skilled with knives, which certain enemy types drop in rich supply.
Despite a quite limited range of actions, Final Fight is simple only in concept – other than most recent games, it doesn’t take you by the hand to the finish line. It wants you to lose, it wants to humiliate you, and it wants your money. Up to eight enemies crowd up the screen and gang up on you at once, regardless if you’re playing alone or with a friend, and once someone hits you, you’re trapped in stunlock until you’re smashed to the ground. If you got the bad lock of landing inmidst a group of enemies, the life-depleting special attack is pretty much the only chance to get out of that mess. The later bosses get increasingly unfair; difficulty is achieved by exaggerated invulnerable times and moves that drain more than half your health in a single hit, while only perfect split-second timing can counter most of their attacks. The only way to stay alive more than a couple of seconds is to exploit every single flaw in the AI. You’ll find yourself spending minutes jumpkicking back and forth two Andores on either side, just because that’s the safest, slow way of taking them out.
It’s also very skimpy on lives – one credit only gets you two with default dip switch settings, and they go away fast. Only if you’re lucky, the machine operator was kind enough to enable regular extra lives for score. At least when dying the game cuts you a little slack, as all enemies are knocked to the floor immediately. In order to suck more quarters out of the player, the continue screen has the character tied up to a piece of dynamite about to explode. To save his digital life, players had to plunk more change in the machine. It’s an interesting way to elicit pity in a gamer, though it’s not nearly as nasty as the buzzsaw from the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden. All of the home ports have been compromised in various minor ways, so the arcade original this is still the purest experience, but best consumed in emulation (or your very own arcade board), where you at least get control over the optional settings.
Far and away the most amusing part of Final Fight is the bonus round where you smash some poor sap’s car – a nifty feature that made a return in the Street Fighter 2 games. Once you finish demolishing it, some random bad guy runs out and screams, in a goofily digitized voice, “Oh My God!”. The second bonus stage, a factory hall of window panes to destroy, is not quite as fun.
The initial port of Final Fight – and probably the most popular – is also incredibly butchered. A quick look at the pictures and one would think that it’s a spot-on conversion of the original, and it’d almost be right. While some of the animation has been cut, it does look quite good. And it actually plays just as well, although it oddly enough adds additional stopping points in each stage, where one must clear all of the enemies to proceed.
It’s hard to say what the biggest problem is, but one that takes the cake is that only Cody and Haggar are playable, completely cutting out Guy. Capcom took this to heart and actually released a version called Final Fight Guy, which aside from minor tweaks was mostly the same – except Guy took the place of Cody. It was released in America only through Blockbuster outlets. That’s not even the beginning of the issues. Two player mode is gone entirely, eliminating one of the biggest draws of the game. The fourth stage, the factory level where you fight Rolento, is gone entirely. Little things, like the transitions between screens (like your character bashing down a door or being captured by Andore and tossed into the ring) were deleted, too. Animation frames were removed quite liberally as well, making the game feel a bit less smooth. The SNES Final Fight was one of the first games for the system and perhaps Capcom couldn’t fit all it wanted to with limited technology and time, but it’s still incredibly slipshod compared to the ports that came after it.
The number of enemies on screen is severely cut down – only three attackers have to be dealt with at a time, and as soon as barrels start rolling on top of that number, heavy flickering ensues. On one side the limitation is actually for the better, since one is now forced to take them on alone, and the result is a much more forgiving game, even though enemies aren’t knocked over anymore when the player dies (but there’s a short respawn invincibility now). The bosses are still just as unfair, though. Continuing after losing all lives also takes you back to the very beginning of the stage (which, later in the game, is a lot), and the number of total credits is limited.
Nintendo’s content control also strikes again, as usual. Some of the bosses’ names have been changed (“Damnd” became “Thrasher” and “Sodom” became “Katana”) and other little bits of censorship are noted throughout – whiskey is no longer available as a bonus item, all female/transsexual enemies are changed into men, and the guy screaming “Oh My God!” also has his line changed to “Oh My Car!”
Final Fight CD
The Sega CD port of Final Fight – done by Sega – is actually one of the better console ports. It has all of the stuff that was deleted from the SNES version, plus an additional time attack mode that challenges you to beat up as much thugs as you can (on an all-new background) in a set amount of time. The intro has been slightly extended to show some of the enemies of the game, and both the intro and ending are fully voiced. (The actor playing Haggar in the English version sounds quite bored with his job, though.) The music has also been entirely remixed to take advantage of the CD audio. The only downside with this edition is that the graphic quality had to be sacrificed so it would work with the Sega CD’s measly 64 color palette, so it looks a bit grainy when compared to other games on the system. While it can display more enemies than the SNES version (though not as many as the arcade version), attack speed is also slowed down for some reason, in making the game actually harder in a way. There’s still some of the same minor name changes, but otherwise this used to be one of the best ways to go on consoles before the emulated releases showed up.
The home ports, by the way, restore one scene from the intro that was cut from the American arcade version, where you see Jessica tied up – she’s only wearing a bra on most platforms, while she’s in a dress in the SNES, Super Famicom and Sega CD versions. The SNES version also slightly changes the dialogue to make it sound less like she’ll be raped if Haggar doesn’t give into Mad Gear’s demands. This scene is cut entirely out of the “World” arcade version, featuring only a close-up of Damnd and loud shrieking coming from the TV.
Home Computer Versions
As with many arcade games of the ’80s, U.S. Gold licensed Final Fight to bring it to all the mainstream home computers in Europe. All of those rely on a 1-button layout (even when playing with the keyboard instead of a joystick), resulting in very awkward combinations of the fire button and directions for special and jump attacks. The normal combo thus can only be initiated while standing still. Even the most miserable of these ports manage something the SNES couldn’t do, though: They feature all three characters, and they support two player mode. The latter is pretty much required in the Amiga and Atari ST versions, as a single player has no fighting chance to get out of the constant enemy stunlock attacks. They look close enough to the arcade game, aside from a smaller color palette, a huge black bar for status information. The Amiga version has squished graphics as a result, while the Atari ST just cuts away the upper part of the screen. Both completely abolish the destructible objects from the original, and have items just lying on the street instead. Audio-wise, you got the choice between soundeffects only on the Amiga and a horrible short loop of music played in the ST version.
The C64 port seems adequate enough for the platform. It uses completely redrawn graphics with much smaller sprites, and is actually the most playable of the U.S. Gold versions. It also features a great SID music track, but only on the title screen and character select menus, in game it’s just as silent as the other 8-bit versions. Unfortunately, the game is rendered pointless by the AI’s utter lack of countermeasures for the wildly overpowered forward jump kick. It also introduces a new low of 2 enemies on screen max. As usual the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum versions are just unplayable pieces of garbage, regardless of their somewhat competent visuals.
One computer version got damn near delivering the perfect arcade experience. Only Westerners didn’t get to see any of it, as it appeared on the Japanese X68000, famous for many of the best arcade-to-home ports of the early 1990s. There’s really not much to distinguish it from the real deal, aside from not quite being able to fit as many enemies on screen as the arcade original. It also features one ass-kicking MIDI arrangement of the soundtrack.
Final Fight One
In the spirit of resurrecting a bunch of its old titles for the Game Boy Advance, Capcom actually did a good service to Final Fight One. Practically all of the things that the SNES version did wrong have been fixed – all three characters are playable, there’s a two player mode (though you need two cartridges), the scene transitions are back and all of the levels are intact. There’s also a handy save feature inbetween levels, as well as several bonus features. Beat enough bad guys, and you’ll unlock several different bonuses, including different colors, the ability to play as Cody and Guy using their Street Fighter Alpha versions, and a rapid punch ability that makes your character hammer bad guys at an insane rate. There are still some weird issues – there are now awkwardly translated dialogue scenes, but they all use terrible looking character portraits, compared to Shinkiro’s SNK-style artwork featured on the cover. The music has been significantly cut back, and the American version still has the female enemies cut out.
The original Arcade version of Final Fight has been featured on the Capcom Classics Collections for the PS2, Xbox, and PSP. There is also a version featured in Final Fight Streetwise, but it is poorly emulated with an extremely choppy framerate and not worth bothering with. The Xbox Live Arcade and PSN releases have oddly been bundled with the fantasy brawler Magic Sword as Final Fight Double Impact. These allow to chose from various resizing options and filters, and also feature a cool recreation of the arcade cabinet around a fake angled CRT look. They also add a lot of additional score and time challenges during play. With support for online multiplayer, these are now the definitive versions for home use. The Wii Virtual Console only has the SNES version, alongside its two sequels.