Back in the day, Final Fight was easily one of my favorite arcade games. My local theater had a copy, and I remember many a Friday night spent with a roll of quarters and a few buddies as we brawled our way through Metro City, the game's fictitious setting.
Soon after, the game made the jump to Super Nintendo, and I could get my beat-em-up fix at home. Unfortunately, the home version was never quite as good as the arcade original (which was a common thing at the time). As time passed, Final Fight was slowly pushed aside, first by the 2D brawlers like Street Fighter and then by even more advanced fighting games. Final Fight's time had passed, and it seemed destined to be little more than another footnote in the encyclopedia of gaming history.
Luckily, though, with the arrival of the Game Boy Advance (GBA) and the trend toward re-examining our gaming roots, Final Fight is once again backthis time on the GBA—and looking better than ever.
Not much has changed since Capcom's initial release of the game over a decade ago. The story, wherein a street gang kidnaps Metro Citys newly elected Mayor Mike Haggar's daughter, is unchanged. Players will initially choose from one of three characters: Haggar, who's formidable strength makes up for his slow speed; Guy, the martial arts master; and Cody, who's probably the most balanced of the three. As the player kills more enemies, other characters become available as well.
After that, the player hits the streets of Metro City, a crime-infested urban wasteland if ever there was one. You'll battle an endless stream of street scum before fighting each area's boss in order to advance the laughably simplistic story. Play with enough skill and eventually you'll fight the big boss himself, save Haggar's daughter and bring peace to the city. Ah, the good old days of gaming—when simplistic stories were the norm.
Final Fight One is sure to inspire a wave of nostalgia in those of us old enough to remember when it was a cutting edge game, but younger gamers, weaned on the more action-oriented and graphically intensive games of today, might be let down. The game is essentially a side scrolling beat-em-up. The characters move from left to right across the screen, attacking a horde of bad guys who'd just as soon see them pushing up daisies. One button handles the majority of the offense, which mostly consists of one combo repeated ad nauseum. In addition, each character also possesses one super move, which is activated by pressing the shoulder button. The gameplay might have been impressive back in its day, but its incredibly basic by today's standards.
Another aspect that really dates the game are the enemies the player will encounter. There's very little variety in the thugs in Metro City, and most of them are just palette-swapped versions of other bad guys. No wonder the cops can't do anything about crime in the city—everyone looks alike.
In Final Fight One's defense, this is supposed to be a retro title, not a remake or an updating. Because of this, most gamers go into it knowing what to expect. As far as staying true to the original goes, the game does an excellent job of bringing the arcade experience to the GBA.
In many ways, this handheld version of the game is superior to the old SNES cartridge. The controls are tight and responsive, the graphics nicely drawn and detailed, and theres none of the slowdown that marred the original cart. A few minor tweaks have been made (one of the female gang members has been replaced by a male counterpart), but other than that, its a faithful rendition of the arcade version.
While the gameplay and set-up are the same, Capcom has added some things to the cartridge to increase replay value and bring the game into the 21st century. The GBA version has a nice save feature, which saves automatically after each level. Thanks to this, one doesnt have to play through the entire game in a single sitting.
In that same vein, two players can play simultaneously thanks to the cart's link cable compatibility. The old SNES cart was a single-player game only, so this is a nice addition.
Also, killing certain numbers of enemies can unlock secrets hidden in the game, including the optional characters. Because of this, hardcore fans will want to keep playing even after the game is beaten.
Its been over a decade since Final Fight was originally released. Games have changed immensely during that time span as technology has increased. Despite this, the game is still fun. It may not be flashy, the gameplay might be incredibly unsophisticated and repetitive, and the whole game is certainly showing its age—but its still fun. And, no matter what anyone says, I still think it's light years better than Square's The Bouncer.