Final Fight is a beat ’em up for the Super Nintendo released by Capcom in 1991. It’s one of the earliest titles for the system, and a port of the original 1989 arcade game. Due to the hardware limitations of the Super Nintendo, Capcom was forced to make some changes from the arcade version, however. For example, the character Guy and the Industrial Area level were both removed, and far fewer on-screen enemies (a maximum of three at the same time) were supported. Lastly, the transsexual enemy Poison and his/her palette swap fell victim to Nintendo’s censorship policies and, as a result, was ultimately replaced by a male character with the same moveset. These changes made the SNES port feel incomplete. The removal of co-op, in particular, eliminated one of the most appealing features present in most beat ’em ups.
For the uninitiated, Final Fight sticks to the usual beat ’em up formula. Your character walks through five levels, punching, kicking, and grappling enemies as he goes. Your character also has a special move that can get him out of sticky situations; however, it costs some health to perform, which prevents you from becoming dependent on the move. There’s also a mostly useless jump. Usually, you will have to defeat every enemy in order to progress further. Along the way, you will come across items that can increase your health or points, or weapons such as knives, pipes, and even swords to help even the odds. Gameplay can get a little monotonous, but that’s the case for nearly every game in the genre, and Final Fight does a better job than most at keeping things relatively fresh.
The story is par for the course, even though Final Fight is actually part of the Street Fighter universe. Mike Haggar, the new mayor of crime-ridden Metro City, decides to crack down on the Mad Gear gang. They had been operating freely beforehand, so they devised a plan to put Haggar under their boot. They kidnap Haggar’s daughter Jessica and hold her for ransom. Haggar, being an ex-street fighter, takes to the streets with Jessica’s boyfriend Cody and attacks the gang. Nothing special here, it’s just enough to provide motivation for the protagonists.
You can choose between either Haggar or Cody, which have completely different play styles. Haggar uses devastating wrestling moves and is extremely effective against bosses. However, he can get overwhelmed by the quicker enemies. Cody, on the other hand, is quicker than Haggar, but less powerful. He can also wield a knife, unlike Haggar, who will just throw it. Cody has a very difficult time against the later bosses, but is better against the hordes of standard enemies. However, Haggar’s problems with crowds are mitigated thanks to the limit of on-screen enemies — making him arguably the more viable character in this port. He also has an amazing piledriver move that will reduce the health of any enemy to half, including bosses, which honestly feels like it breaks the game a little bit.
For the most part, Final Fight is enjoyable. The game is fairly easy, except for two parts in which the difficulty disproportionately spikes. In the third level, there is a mini-boss fight that takes place within an enclosed space with two powered-up brawlers. They are ridiculously hard to beat and, even if you succeed, the level boss lurks just afterward. The second part is the fifth level boss, Abigail. He is the strongest enemy in the game, has a completely absurd health bar, and his attacks are hard to avoid. Haggar’s piledriver move is pretty much necessary in order to defeat him. The variety of enemies, with a good number of movement patterns and diverse strategies, keep the game from becoming overly repetitive. In order to further break things up a bit, the game contains a couple of fun mini-games between a few of the levels. Although each enemy has a palette swap, the graphics and sound are decent and they don’t detract from the experience. Like nearly every beat ’em up, the controls are simple and easy to pick up. Final Fight is fun, but there are better beat ’em ups out there. Still, even with its flaws, it’s a solid game.