It’s not the prettiest game, nor is the gameplay the most complex, but for some indefinable reason, it endures to this day as a poster child for the genre.
The plot of the game is pretty simple, but fairly involved given the strength of it’s characters.
The mayor of Metro City, former pro-wrestling champion Mike Haggar’s daughter, Jessica; is kidnapped for ransom by the local Mad Gear Gang, resulting in Haggar, Jessica’s boyfriend, Cody, and in the case of the arcade version, Cody’s gym buddy and ninja friend, Guy, taking justice into their own hands until they rescue her.
Asses are kicked, heads are busted, and wheelchair bound men are tossed out 30th story windows.
Seriously, check it out (skip to :58 for the paraplegic beat down):
Of the two characters available for play on the Super NES version of Final Fight, (Haggar and Cody) Cody was my favorite to play.
I know, I know:
“Haggar’s the coolest fucking character in gaming, he’s the motherfucking MAYOR. How could you not pick THE FUCKING MAYOR!?”
Well, because as much as I love Haggar, an as much fun as it was to piledrive the shit out of Mad Gear chumps and deliver swift justice via my ass in their faces, as a kid I vehemently subscribed to the theory that Cody was the more well-rounded, and thusly, better choice.
That, and he wore blue jeans and a white t-shirt. And we all know how cool that combo was back in the day…
The “Super Combo” by the way, consists of starting a punch combo on an enemy, and then during the second-to-last hit of the combo, you press the directional pad in the opposite direction you are facing while still mashing the attack button.
When done correctly, this will result in your character throwing the enemy behind them instead of finishing their combo, thusly giving you a few invincibility frames, as well as knocking down anyone behind you.
Remember how I said there were 3 playable characters in Final Fight?
Well, you can thank U.S. censorship, lack of confidence in the Super NES hardware, and a poor conversion from the arcade version robbing you of Guy, as well as a host of other tidbits.
For instance, the (supposedly) transvestite enemies Roxy and Poison were redrawn for the U.S. version to become the male characters Sid and Billy.
Also, many character names were changed, which I have noted later in this post, and Haggar’s daughter’s portrait was changed to show her in a dress instead of a brassiere.
I can understand most of these changes, trannies weren’t exactly socially acceptable for “family friendly” consoles of the time, but really all I was bothered by was the whole “no Guy” thing.
Blockbuster took 5 bucks off of me just so I could rent the bullshit Final Fight: Guy, only to find that in that version, Cody was removed and there still wasn’t two-player simultaneous support.
Fuckin’ bullshit I tells yah’.
It made me feel like a bad ass, like I was the toughest of all the tough guys and all the world’s problems could be solved via a few repetitive punch combos.
At it’s core, the gameplay of Final Fight consisted of little more than walking to the right, stopping to mash the games’ one attack button until everyone onscreen was dead, and then repeat until you beat the game.
I know, it sounds boring and dumb, but that’s beat ‘em ups for yah’.
There were of course, various subtleties to the gameplay that made Final Fight special.
While there were only two buttons, attack and jump, pressing both in tandem allowed the player to perform a life-draining, spin attack that was useful in interrupting and canceling overzealous enemies’ attacks.
Okay, fine, that move is in every beat ‘em up, but still, it’s worth mentioning.
My favorite element of Final Fight’s gameplay was it’s general feel.
The various punches, kicks and throws, both from the player and the enemy characters; all had a satisfying “oomph” to them that made it hard to get bored of busting heads, even after you’ve been doing the same 3 moves over and over again the whole game.
One key rule of thumb that is prevalent in virtually every sidescrolling beat ‘em up ever made, is the fact that approaching enemies from an angle, that is; from any direction other than straight-on, is always the wisest course of action.
Because the 2-D sprites were drawn flat, attacking from an angle effectively allows the player to bypass any sort of reach advantage that the enemy characters may possess, thereby severely limiting the chances of a successful counter-attack.
Final Fight took this elementary gameplay element, and made it feel just plain right.
When I swooped in at a 45° angle and slipped into an enemies’ reach to grab hold of him, it felt like I earned it.
I know it sounds trivial, but think about it in terms of say, a first-person shooter.
Most of them tend to play similarly, but it’s the one’s with the right feel, the right amount of “oomph” in the weapons, and the right amount of weight, of “drag”, when readjusting ones’ aim, that stand out from the all the hum-drum and chaff.
Well okay, 100 million dollar production budgets seem to help these days too, but you know what I mean.
The expertly crafted hit boxes and trembling, painful looking damage animations for the various characters in Final Fight, were a huge contributing factor to it’s success in my opinion.
Unlike say, any of the games in the Rushing Beat AKA Rival Turf series, whenever it looked or felt like I hit someone in Final Fight, the game always agreed with me.
Don’t get me wrong, as a kid Brawl Brothers was one of my favorite rentals, (purely as a result of Hack having a bad ass bomber jacket. Hey, I thought it was cool back then.) but compared to Final Fight, the sprites were ugly and the collision detection was atrocious.
Attack damage was probably the icing on the cake for Final Fight in terms of achieving this impossibly gratifying feel that I keep gushing about.
Attacks in Final Fight did a fuck-ton of damage, especially when the bad guys were beating on you.
Unlike the Rival Turf, or Bare Knuckle AKA Streets of Rage series, enemies didn’t swarm you and whittle you down in Final Fight, so much as they snuck up on you an made you pay your mistakes.
Taking on the bad guys in Final Fight required you to corral them in such a way as to keep them from getting your back, or any angles on you really.
Even the wimpiest of characters, Two-P or J, had a significant amount of pop to their punches that would make you think twice before letting them slip behind you.
Let me tell a little story about a nasty guy named Slash.
Slash is a mid-tier grunt in Final Fight that where’s cowboy boots, and an all red-leather biker outfit.
In short, he looked like Swayze if Swayze had no shame.
Slash appears from the first stage on, and in his earliest appearances he has a miniscule, almost laughable (given his considerable size) life bar.
Slash’s one outstanding trait in the game, is the fact that he, along with his palette swap, Axle; is the only enemy in the game that can block your attacks.
Slash only has two attacks, a wimpy kick, and a DEVASTATING double axe-handle.
Guess which one he uses ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
Slash’s double axe-handle can take you out in two hits, no foolin’.
I didn’t mind this so much in the earlier stages of the game, but there’s this one part in the LONG-AS-FUCK Bay stage, in a public bathroom, (not gay, I swear) where you are assaulted about a half-dozen Slash’s in all their red-leather clad glory (also not gay.)
Among a cast full of colorful and iconic characters, Slash stood out to me, not for his look, or his personality, but simply because I hated his guts.
Hugo Andore, the giant-fucking Andre the Giant look-alike, was tougher for sure, especially in his ‘roided out Abigail form, but aside from El Gado/Hollywood always catching me with their goddamn jumping knife attack from off-screen, I can think of no enemy in the game that consistently pissed me off as much as Slash did.
Well, except for maybe Sodom AKA Katana, he was a cheap bitch that really didn’t like it when you tried to pick up his swords.
Now that I think of it though, Simon could also be a bitch on account of his broken-ass, twenty layers thick life bar.
In case you couldn’t tell from my ramblings, Final Fight was a tough game, with tough enemies, and yet it was still buckets o’ fun.
More importantly though, the strength of it’s characters really shines through, given how easily I am able to recall each of them by name and appearance.
Final Fight was a great game that will always feel right to me, regardless of whatever advancements we may achieve in the future of gaming.
How the fuck do these Best Track in the Game posts always end up with me rambling about everything but the music?
Guess we’ll never know. Anyway, The Best Track in the Game is…
Subway Alley/Sodom’s Theme:
Final Fight’s soundtrack is a typical example of arcade game music.
You ever been to a video arcade?
They’re noisy places, aside from the chiming of the token machines and the kids cursing God for their lack of Missile Command skillz, you can’t hear shit.
In that sense, music was never the most essential aspect of the production for arcade games.
The Super NES era of gaming was one of the last ones that saw prevalent releases of arcade conversion games.
Mind you, this was back when “arcade conversion” meant “shitty, peared-down version” to console gamers, not like today where everything is “arcade perfect” or bust.
As a result, Final Fight has a distinctive, but hardly exceptional soundtrack.
It is worth noting however, that the Super NES arrangement of the music sounds much better than the arcade original in my opinion.
The tracks are appropriately dingy and gritty given the back alley street fighting gameplay.
Sodom’s Theme is one of the more uppity tracks in the game, but, once again, appropriately so.
The battle takes place in a hidden boxing/wrestling ring setup somewhere in an abandoned subway.
As you fight Sodom, the massive samurai wannabe clad in football pads and a traditional kabuto.
Oh yeah, and he has two katanas.
You of course have only your fists, (or in the case of Haggar, ass) making for an exceptionally difficult fight.
I think the completely off-the-wall and ridiculous nature of this situation, coupled with the dire circumstances as a result of the difficulty of the fight, are what make this scene, and this track, so enjoyable.
With it’s loud and grandiose nature, the music feels like a late 80′s version of gladiatorial arena music,.
During the fight, there is a massive (and hostile) crowd present, adding to the theatricality of the situation.
At times the music takes on an almost baseball anthem like sound.
Sodom’s Theme is hardly a work of art in the realm of videogame music, but for Final Fight, it’s pretty damn good.
The Bay Theme in Final Fight is pretty much right on par with Sodom’s Theme in terms of overall quality and enjoyment, however one key factor separates them in my eyes:
I got sick of listening to The Bay Theme, while Sodom’s Theme has yet to wear out it’s welcome.
I mentioned earlier that The Bay was a LONG FUCKING STAGE, and as a result, you end up listening to it’s theme music for A LONG FUCKING TIME.
True, the music changes no less than 2-3 different times, with the latter portion being an almost irritatingly energetic standout,
but for the most part, The Bay Theme always sticks with me as the theme music of the stage.
In addition to it’s length, The Bay is also an exceptionally difficult stage, which often caused me to have to continue, resulting in my having to play through the stage more than once to beat it.
In short, as good a piece of music as it is, I was simply overexposed to The Bay Theme as a kid, to the point in which it lost it’s luster before I could even be nostalgic about it.