Final Fight
  • Genre:
    • Beat 'Em Up
  • Developers:
    • Capcom (ARC/SNES/X68)
    • Creative Materials (C64/AMI/ST/CPC/ZX)
    • A-Wave (SCD)
    • Sun-Tec (GBA)
  • Publishers:
    • Capcom (ARC/SNES/X68/GBA)
    • U.S. Gold (C64/AMI/ST/CPC/ZX)
    • Sega (SCD)
  • Released:
    ARC
    • 1989
    SNES
    • JP 12/21/1990
    • US 11/10/1991
    • UK 12/10/1992
    C64/AMI/ST/CPC/ZX
    • 1991
    X68
    • JP 07/17/1992
    SCD
    • JP 04/02/1993
    • UK 04/04/1993
    • US 05/03/1993
    GBA
    • JP 05/25/2001
    • US 09/26/2001
    • UK 09/28/2001
Score: 80%

This review was published on 10/14/2017.

Final Fight is a side-scrolling beat 'em up or brawler video game created by the creator of Mega Man, Capcom. It was originally released as a coin operated arcade game in 1989, but plenty of ports were made. The first and most popular port is the one for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out in Japan on December 21, 1990, North America on November 10, 1991, and Europe on December 10, 1992. A revised edition of the SNES port, called Final Fight Guy, was released in Japan on March 20, 1992, and North America in June 1994. In 1991, U.S. Gold published a bunch of ports developed by Creative Materials for home computers in Europe, like the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum. The Sharp X68000 received a port in Japan on July 17, 1992. A-Wave developed a port for the Sega CD called Final Fight CD, which Sega published in Japan on April 2, 1993, Europe on April 4, 1993, and North America on May 3, 1993. Sun-Tec later developed a modified version of the game for the Game Boy Advance known as Final Fight One, which came out in Japan on May 25, 2001, North America on September 26, 2001, and Europe on September 28, 2001. The existence of all these ports is proof of Final Fight's incredible success.

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The beat 'em up genre practically came into existence with the release of the highly successful and popular Double Dragon arcade game, originally created by Technos in 1987. However, despite being directly inspired by the Double Dragon series, particularly Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Final Fight is the more influential game. Shortly after the original Final Fight came out, countless clones followed. While born in the late 1980s, the true era for beat 'em ups was the early-to-mid 1990s, as that was when they were most prolific. It only takes a cursory glance at the majority of beat 'em ups released in that period to see the influence Final Fight had on the genre. Sega was one of the first companies to copy Final Fight with its excellent Streets of Rage series, the first game of which came out in 1991. Why were there so many imitators? Well, that's because Final Fight is pretty darn good.

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Initially, Final Fight went by the title of Street Fighter '89, because it was intended to be a sequel to the original Street Fighter arcade game that Capcom released in 1987. Because it completely abandoned the one-on-one combat of Street Fighter, Capcom decided to rename Street Fighter '89 to Final Fight and make it an entirely new series. Some references to Street Fighter were still left behind, though, and the same development team that worked on Final Fight later went on to make the real Street Fighter II. Also, several members of the production staff are big fans of a 1984 film called Streets of Fire, so they based many elements of Final Fight on that movie. One of the game's playable characters, Cody, is even inspired by the movie's protagonist, Tom Cody. Inspiration also came from the music industry, as many of the game's characters are named after rock musicians from the 1980s, such as Axl Rose, Slash, Gene Simmons, Sid Vicious, Billy Idol, King Diamond, Roxy Music, and Poison. Those are all the interesting factoids I have about this game's development.

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As the intro reveals, Final Fight is set in a fictional city in the United States named Metro City. Due to its alarming rate of crime, Metro City had been ruled by violence and death for many years. That all changed when Mike Haggar, former pro wrestler turned politician, became mayor of the calamitous city. Under his governance, Haggar managed to suppress the city's crime rate to its lowest point in history. The citizens of Metro City were thankful for Haggar's hard work in curbing crime, but there was one gang that wouldn't go down so easily. Led by a crooked businessman named Belger, the gang known as Mad Gear attempted to bribe Haggar for his cooperation, but he refused. In response to this, Mad Gear abducted Haggar's beautiful daughter, Jessica. Enraged by these turn of events, Haggar decides to take on the Mad Gear himself. To aid him in his fight, he recruits Cody Travers, a proficient martial artist and Jessica's boyfriend, and Guy, a ninja-in-training and Cody's good friend. Together, the trio intends to completely eradicate Mad Gear and rescue Jessica.

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Double Dragon was a fairly simple game, but Final Fight simplifies things even further. There's a joystick that allows you to smoothly walk in eight directions on the ground, a button for jumping, and another button for attacking. If you attack while jumping, you'll do a jump attack! Even though you can walk upwards and downwards, you're restricted to attacking left or right. As far as the controls go, that's about it, but there are a couple of other things you can do that may not be immediately apparent. Rapidly attacking an enemy or group of enemies multiple times in a row will execute a powerful combo, which is what you'll primarily be doing for most of the game. It's also possible to grab enemies by simply walking into them. Upon grabbing an enemy, you can either throw them into other enemies by pressing a direction coupled with the attack button, or pummel them into submission by hitting the attack button by itself. Pressing the jump and attack buttons at the same time triggers a powerful spin attack that knocks down surrounding foes, but saps some of your health in the process. The simple controls make for a very intuitive game, which naturally fits the pick-up-and-play nature of arcades.

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There are three playable characters: Mike Haggar, Cody Travers, and Guy. While the basic controls are mostly the same for all of them, they each have different attributes. Haggar is the slow and strong type, Cody is well rounded, and Guy is fast, but weak. Their combos and throws are also a little different from one another. More importantly, each character has a special move or technique that's exclusive to them. For instance, Cody is able to use throwing knives as melee weapons, Guy can do a fancy wall jump kick, and Haggar has a pile driver move that would make any professional wrestler jealous. Additionally, a second player can jump in at any time for some cooperative action, but they must control a different character from the first player. On top of that, the two players must be careful not to hit each other, because friendly fire is possible. Despite that slight setback, playing with a pal is highly recommended, because it's highly entertaining.

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While the core mechanics are disgustingly simple, the game makes up for it with cool set pieces and solid enemy design. The environments are primarily urban, featuring slimy slums, worrisome warehouses, shady subways, frightening factories, and more. The enemies fit the urban theme in that they're mostly street toughs and gangsters. In addition to the life bars of you and your potential pal, the health of enemies is also visible, which is quite handy. Besides the baddies, there are many breakable objects in the environment that you can demolish with your bare fists, like trash cans, barrels, tires, signs, and phone booths. These breakable objects frequently contain items and weapons within them that you can pick up, like food that replenishes health, and led pipes that can be used to attack enemies. Weapons are merely temporary luxuries, however, as they vanish after a while. Every few stages, you'll get to play an amusing bonus game where you wreck a car or break windows for points. The car wrecking bonus game later appeared in Street Fighter II. There's not a whole lot that makes Final Fight tick, but zoning out and smashing everything that gets in your way is rather cathartic.

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One issue is that Final Fight is the very definition of a token taker. Up to nine or ten gangsters can gang up on you at once, and this becomes a regular occurrence later in the game. Speaking of later in the game, enemies in more advanced stages tend to do copious amounts of damage with a single blow. Worse still, every hit stuns you for a brief moment, and enemies exploit this weakness quite liberally. Sometimes, a single hit will lead to you being stunlocked to death. Whenever this happens, it feels incredibly unfair. You can also stunlock enemies with your combos, but that's easier said than done. As a result of that, most fights come down to who is able to stunlock who first. There are also time limits to prevent you from being too defensive, but you'll likely die or kill everything way before the timer runs out.

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The SNES port may be the most popular, but it's far from the best. Aside from the slight graphical downgrade, the SNES port removes support for two players, Guy as a playable character, the industrial stage, and countless animations. Further, the English localization got censored; all references to alcohol were removed, the "Oh! My God" vocalized line during the car smashing bonus game got changed to "Oh! My Car," all blood has been omitted, and the female and transsexual enemies were changed into men. The only good thing about the SNES port is that it limits the maximum amount of enemies on the screen to around two or three, making things marginally easier. As its name implies, Final Fight Guy reinstates Guy as a playable character, but it does so at the cost of Cody, and everything else is still missing. Final Fight CD restores most of what was removed from the SNES port, plus it has an arranged soundtrack, some voice acting, and an exclusive time attack mode. However, the graphics are worse, and it's still censored. Most of the computer versions are awful, but the X68000 port is an astonishingly faithful conversion. Final Fight One isn't a bad conversion, either.

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Having inspired almost every beat 'em up made in the 1990s, Final Fight is a significant game for the genre. Is it actually good, though? The answer is a definite yes. Sure, it certainly has been surpassed by other games over the years, but Final Fight was a hallmark title back in the day and it's still pretty good today. This is especially true if you play the original arcade version with a friend, which is admittedly hard to do in this day and age. It shouldn't be, though.

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