Final Fight – An Overview

Recently, I decided to veer away from the myriad of  RPGs and current games I’m engrossed in so that I could expend a little energy on a couple of BEUs.  A couple of them have nostalgic meaning to me, as I mentioned way back with my review of The Peacekeepers.  There’s one that I remembered distinctly, as I used to play it with my mother years ago (for the record, she was damn good).

That game was Final Fight 2.

Based on some fond memories, I decided to dig out the old Final Fight games and play through them a bit.  The being said, anyone who has played these games knows that there isn’t a huge difference between the main entries of the series, though there are touches here and there.  Hence, here is my look at the core series for Final Fight as a whole.

As an overview, the series has plenty of entries, most of them at least respectable in quality.  There were only three that stuck to the generic Final Fight title, though entries like Mighty Final Fight and Final Fight: Streetwise are pretty well known to fans as well.  There was also some controversy back when the first game came out about a character named Poison which has been a topic of debate and misguided attempts to appease the industry and fans alike.

See, when the game was ported to Super Nintendo, the company didn’t want to depict violence against women (despite Street Fighter, for instance, having already come out on the system).  The sole females in the game, Poison and Roxy, were therefore turned into men.  When asked about this change, the response wound up being that Poison was a trans woman.  Of course, this opened up a whole other mess involving the ‘okay’ manner in which violence against trans people was being projected, but the controversy is easy enough to look up in Google searches.  Needless to say, it’s interesting to read about, and Poison now has appeared numerous times with a devoted fanbase to her story and regularly appearing in pieces of Capcom’s media, despite their now ‘ambiguous’ stance on her origins.  Some day, I may cover a bit more on this here, but given how the topic has been driven into the ground throughout the Internet and my struggle to add anything new to the conversation, I figure that given the nature of this blog’s original statement, this was worth a mention.

Now, onto the overview!

Final Fight – Super Nintendo – Capcom – 1991

            The first Final Fight was ported to the Super Nintendo in 1991, two years after it appeared in arcades.  The basic premise is simple: the Mad Gear Gang has taken over Metro City and has been committing crimes all over the place.  It’s up to you as either Mike Haggar, the new mayor of Metro City and a former wrestler, or Cody, the boyfriend of his kidnapped daughter, Jessica, to put an end to them the only way you could in that period.  That’s right- good old street justice.  Battling through areas of the city, you must rescue Jessica and rid the city of crime and the gang.

Gameplay in this game is pretty simple.  You move around the area, beating up all of the bad guys until the screen prompts you to continue on to the next area.  Each area has a boss character at the end that you must dispatch before going to the next part of the city.  You can recover life by finding food in oil drums, and when you get a certain amount of points, you earn an extra life.

The issues with this version of the game are plentiful.  The game shows its age in the clunky movements of the characters and the fact that you get beaten up pretty easily.  This is also probably a product of the port from quarter munching arcade machines to consoles.  You can find weapons, but they don’t do much for you outside of being able to be thrown across the screen, which can serve as a useful distraction, but not much else.

Another gripe is that when you lose your last life, you must start all the way at the beginning of the area you were in.  While this may not have been as awful back in the day, it’s an exercise in frustration to make it to the boss after waddling through the fighting mechanics, get killed by some cheap shots, and then being forced back to the beginning of the whole ordeal.  On top of that, while I believe you can change it, the default settings of the cartridge leave you with three ‘credits’ to blow through, which is not nearly enough.

Sadly, I have to continue with the negative on the front end of the game.  The graphics are washed out, and when there are pops of color, they seemed marred.  Certain enemies seem to clash with the levels they are in, and even power ups just don’t seem to stand out.  The enemy designs, for what it’s worth, are fun to look at, but all in all, the game is kind of boring to look at.

The music doesn’t do the game any favors, either.  It is incredibly generic.  While it reminded me of Street Fighter music, which is mostly instantly recognizable, the style of music being stretched out over an entire level rather than five minutes of intense fighting is unimpressive.  The trait I noticed in the audio was that all of the sounds come off as ‘canned’.  The shouts, grunts, and screams all seem like they were filtered through something, and while the technology was somewhat limited at the time, it seems to be even more so in this game.

As another fact before moving on, this version is fairly emaciated compared to the arcade version.  Barring the controversy mentioned in the beginning, Nintendo cut out an entire third character named Guy, who was a quicker and more agile fighter than the two that you get.  They rectified this later by making Final Fight Guy, which replaced him for Cody.  There was also no two player option, which ruined a bit of the fun involved with the game as you were forced to play by yourself.  The last bit is that an entire level was knocked out of the Super Nintendo port.  All of this, I would have to assume, would be because of cartridge limitations, but there is no evidence that I’ve found so far supporting that.  Despite all of this, the game received fantastic reviews in its time.  Now, though?  I can’t say I would give it as much credit.

Final Fight 2 – Super Nintendo – Capcom – 1992

The second Final Fight went straight to consoles, and while it had plenty of changes, story depth was not one of them.  This time, the remnants of the Mad Gear Gang have kidnapped Guy’s fiancée, Rena, and his master, Genryusai.  Maki, Rena’s younger sister, contacts Haggar to help rescue them.  With Cody and Guy out of the country, however, he calls on Carlos, a friend and swordfighter, to help him.  Maki, a master of martial arts, also travels with them, and thus, our journey begins across Eurasia.

The gameplay in this entry remains primarily the same as the first with one small exception.  Each character has a special attack that can be performed with the push of a button.  If it connects with an enemy, it drains a small bit of life away, but it can separate your character from the action for a valuable moment, so it’s a worthwhile gambit at times.

This game seems to fix just about everything that was off about the first game.  Each of the characters, for instance, feels like you’re playing as someone different, and it’s not just in their movement speed.  Maki, my personal choice, plays as a faster and quicker character with primarily punches and high kicks, whereas Haggar is a bit slower, but his moves feel like they pack more power to them.  While it makes switching between characters throughout the game somewhat awkward, it also makes you feel like when you find a play style that suits you, you’re rocking the game.

The game is also, while difficult at times, more manageable for one person to play through.  I certainly went through my share of continues, but I felt more like it was my fault than awkward processing and design.  Thankfully, rather than starting you at the beginning of the stage when you lose your lives, you start at the last section that you entered, so you don’t feel like a massive amount of time was wasted when you have to start again.

My one slight issue with the game was that the weapons you picked up still didn’t seem to be nearly as effective as just using your fists.  It’s possible that this was a perception issue on my part, but I couldn’t help but feel that if a weapon is presented to you in a game, it should have a little more of an effect than what you had before it.  On a positive note, there seemed to be more throwing weapons than the last time, so their effectiveness is still slightly better than before.

Graphically, the game is much better.  The characters are more interesting to look at, the color palette is more vivid, and it’s more enjoyable to take in all around.  There isn’t much more to say beyond that.  Everything looks as it should, and I found that, as a result, I was less bored as the game progressed than I was with the first one.

The music stands out a little more, but it is still the weakest part of the package.  It’s all general Capcom fighting fare, but it seemed to change more often.  The noises still feel canned, but they are definitely clearer and less distracting than the audio that was offered in the original game.

Thankfully, this game brings in a two player mode and is much better for it.  Let’s face fact here.  Games like Final Fight are more fun to play with a friend or two.  There also seems to be more of an attempt to put a storyline into the game, as there are small ‘cutscenes’ after certain levels.

Nostalgia aside, of the three entries into the core series of Final Fight, this one is my choice for the most pleasing title.  The game oozes with quality that the other two either seem to lack completely or just miss the mark on.  If you want to play a stellar example of this series and of beat ’em ups in general, track Final Fight 2 down.

Final Fight 3 – Super Nintendo – Capcom – 1996

Four years after the second game, Final Fight 3 found its way to the Super Nintendo.  Not surprisingly, after the Mad Gear Gang is completely wiped out by our heroes in the second game, a new gang called the Skull Cross Gang begins to make its mark on the city.  Haggar and Guy find themselves in charge of taking care of the mess along with scantily clad cop, Lucia (props for wearing Converse, though!) and enigmatic street brawler Dean (who, for some reason, can electrify his fist to attack).  All caught up?  Good.

Now, I know that I usually rate the front end last, but for storytelling’s sake, I feel like I need to speak about it first this time.  Graphically, the game steps backward.  Backgrounds and fighting areas are all up to par, but the characters and enemies seem to have become slightly less detailed.  They aren’t ugly by any means, but it’s a noticeable downgrade from Final Fight 2.  Colors remain vivid, however, and the game is still more pleasant to look at today than the first entry.

The music is still ‘meh’.  Fighting game music, on the whole, is somewhat unremarkable with few notable exceptions, but I think Capcom’s early fighting compositions just don’t do it for me.  They do their job as background noise, but I wouldn’t recognize the music from a Final Fight game if you played it outside of the game.  The canned noises are at the same state as before, as well.

What the game takes strides in is its technical aspects.  Once again, each character has a certain ‘feel’.  Even better, they have combination moves that they can perform with certain button presses.  This makes the game feel a little more like an open Street Fighter type game and less repetitive than past entries.  You can also line up to perform a super move, judged by a gauge on the bottom of your screen.  When it fills up, a certain combination of buttons will put together an often fatal series of kicks and punches before emptying your gauge to start again.  Fans of fighting games in general may be drawn to this title on that premise alone.

The third title also rectifies something I had a problem with in the past two- to an extent.  Each character has a specialized weapon that, when they pick it up, allows them to perform a more powerful combination attack than if someone else does.  For instance, if Lucia picks up a police baton, she can wave it around like a pro while someone like Dean will simply whack an enemy for minimal damage.  I enjoyed this mechanic quite a bit, as once I honed in on that particular weapon, it made picking it up more satisfying.

The last ‘step back’ that this game takes it that it still feels a little slower than that previous installment.  Again, this could be a perception issue, but I felt that if I was using anyone outside of Lucia, I was plodding at a snail’s pace.  That five or ten minutes that I was alive as any other character was somewhat miserable, though I’m sure others could find merit in the other play styles.

Oh, and you finally get female enemies.  Not that I was overly excited to beat up the ladies in contrast to the men, but I felt that equality had finally been reached in this part of the series, especially given that games like Streets of Rage did not shy away from having every type of enemy come at you at some point or another from the get go.

Overall

The entire Final Fight series, at least in the core installments, make up a cohesive bundle.  They evolve in a steady pattern with little backtracking involved, and the steps that are taken backward don’t feel like they detract from the core experience.  The games are good fun with little in the way of story to muddle up the beat ‘em up mechanics.  Final Fight may have been a basis for various other games that came out around the time, but the sequels are what make going back to the franchise worthwhile.  All of the Final Fight games are available (at least last I checked) on the Virtual Console for the Wii, so if you’re looking for a good time with some friends- well, you’ll probably want to check out the last couple of entries.  If you’re looking for an exercise in video game history, feel free to pick up the first one, too!

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