Review: Rival Turf! (SNES)

Two isn't always better than one

When approaching Jaleco's Rival Turf! (known as Rushing Beat in Japan), it's important to understand the context of its release. In the early days of the Super NES, Capcom duly ported over its illustrious arcade brawler Final Fight, which dazzled gamers with its arcade-quality visuals and sound. It was a tremendous achievement given the relative gulf that existed between coin-ops and home consoles, but sadly not entirely perfect: the two-player mode that made the arcade original such a hoot was missing due to memory constraints, as was the third playable character, Guy.

Despite being a praiseworthy conversion, it understandably left many fans feeling a little short-changed. Amid this storm of discontent, Jaleco launched Rival Turf! The marketing strategy was hard to fault; where Final Fight failed, Rival Turf! would succeed – it had a co-operative two-player option. Such was the importance of this mode that its presence was printed on the cover of the North American version of the game in suitably obnoxious writing, along with a laughable photo of two teenage male models attempting to look like common street hoodlums.

It's fair to say that a sizeable portion of gamers of that era, when faced with the solo-only Final Fight and the co-operative two-player Rival Turf!, picked the latter game off the store shelf after much deliberation. Sadly, although Jaleco's game allows you to beat up ruffians in cahoots with a chum, it lacks the finesse and brilliance of the game that ultimately inspired its creation.

Rival Turf! is desperately short on originality; the two main characters are painfully similar to Final Fight's protagonists, Cody and Haggar. The hilariously-named Jack Flak is nippy and weak, while the cap-wearing Oozie Nelson is a professional wrestler who is slow but powerful. Both have the usual assortment of punch combos, jumping attacks, special moves, grapples and throws – all of which can chart their origin to Capcom's infinitely more distinguished side-scroller.

The only unique element of Rival Turf's control system is the dash technique. Tapping the L or R shoulder button causes your character to move much quicker than normal (although amusingly, there's no actual running animation – you simply glide along the floor faster than usual). Teaming this with an attack results in a useful crowd-control move; with Flak it's a floor slide, while Nelson opts for the no-nonsense running clothesline.

Such is Rival Turf's cheeky plagiarism that many of the enemy sprites are obvious replicas of the ones seen in Final Fight. The biggest issue is that they're nowhere near as striking: Capcom's title uses larger characters and has a more considerable visual impact; Rival Turf's motley cast of miscreants is disappointingly lightweight in comparison, and in fact they just look plain goofy.

Rival Turf! is also saddled with some truly uninspiring gameplay. Collision detection is highly suspect and when they do connect, attacks lack visceral force; characters fly through the air seemingly untroubled by the laws of gravity and physics. Even when you're knocked down, your character falls in a way that looks limp and unconvincing, as if they've merely slipped on a banana skin rather than taken a fist in the kisser. There's no weight to any of the offensive moves, and hurling an enemy into a crowd of foes doesn't result in the same level of satisfaction as it does in Capcom's title.

Naturally the two-player mode helps to mitigate some of these problems; scrolling fighters work best when you get friends involved and the fact that it's possible to harm your ally makes things even more interesting. Sadly, even the promise of human interaction can't gloss over the shortcomings of the repetitive and downright dull gameplay.

Jaleco managed to atone for its sins to a certain extent with the superior Brawl Brothers and Peace Keepers (direct sequels to Rushing Beat that were retitled for Western consumption), but the company never really got close to troubling the brilliance of Final Fight. The same could be said of Capcom, who struggled to make lightning strike twice with two lukewarm SNES sequels.

Conclusion

Putting the salubrious charms of the two-player mode aside for one moment, Rival Turf! is inferior to Capcom's Final Fight in practically every single way imaginable. The gameplay is insipid, the characters look like they've wandered off the set of a Vanilla Ice music video and the presentation is lacklustre. This is a game that was practically sold on the fact that it allows you to play along with a friend, but in all honesty your pals are likely to shun you should you force them to endure this disappointingly feeble fighter.

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