It was a mistake to come back to Metro City, Guy realised. With the Mad Gear gang defeated he'd hoped for a pleasant day where he could catch up with people, but instead he finds himself in a tricky situation. Stood in the Mayor's office, he's trying desperately not to comment on Haggar's ridiculous ponytail. He can't take it any more, but just as he opens his mouth to offend his friend there's a stroke of good luck when a riot breaks out. The Mad Gear gang may be gone, but the Skull Cross gang that has taken their place are just as unruly. Joined by detective Lucia and mystery man Dean, Guy and Haggar head off to kick some bottom as Final Fight 3 begins.
The first Final Fight and its sequel played very similarly, but Capcom made some adjustments to the formula for this game that made even the returning characters feel fresh. Each of the four playable characters has a range of regular moves (punches, kicks, throw, elbows) that are performed using various combinations of the d-pad/control stick and attack and jump buttons. As before there's also a special attack that depletes a little of your energy meter but helps you out if surrounded by thugs. In addition to this each character has a special move performed by using a fireball motion, with Lucia and Dean also possessing a second special move.
As well as those ways to smack about the criminal element, a double tap forwards will make your character run, opening up the possibility of further attacks such as a combo from Guy or Haggar's running clothesline. Holding either of the shoulder buttons will keep your character facing forwards; it's not used often but it does give you the chance to retreat from a miscreant without turning your back on them. The most devastating attack in your arsenal is your character's Super move, unleashed after building the super meter from your regular attacks. You only have a limited amount of time to perform the move once available but it's very useful when faced with dwindling energy and a tough opponent. The input command varies from character to character, but you can always bring up the electronic manual if you're unsure what to do.
At times it feels needlessly complicated, but these new elements work well and make Final Fight 3 fun to play through. Of course Final Fight games provide even more fun in two-player mode, but as is the norm for these SNES on New Nintendo 3DS re-releases the regular two-player mode is unavailable. An alternative is provided in the form of "Auto 2P Play" where the CPU controls the second character to give the illusion of playing with a friend. Partnering with an A.I. is not quite the same as teaming up with a human companion, however:
"I've got these HAL. Go punch that other guy in the face."
"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
"Well at least stop kicking me in the gut!"
"Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye."
Even when playing Final Fight: Double Impact online with no communication with the other player, you quickly come to an unspoken understanding of who is doing what, but here your CPU-controlled companion favours doing its own thing over the well being of your, or even its own, character. This leads to a strange way of playing as you spend as much time staying out of your partner's way as you do fighting off gang members. Another problem with this mode (and regular two-player were it available) is the slowdown which constantly occurs during a playthrough. Get a few hooligans on screen or smash part of the destructible scenery and there's a noticeable dip in performance; at its worst seeming like you've activated the Slow VFX Power in Viewtiful Joe.
Luckily the game still works well as a single player experience, with each character handling differently and giving you lots of different techniques to try out. There's a range of goons with different fighting styles you must learn to deal with - some have moves similar to the Mad Gear members of the previous games, but others are new. There are branching paths throughout the game, allowing for different routes through the levels to see different sights and indulge in different fights - sometimes even skipping the boss character. There are six levels during a playthrough, but seven in the game; the fourth level differs depending on what you did in the third.
The game has a new visual style that's halfway between the look of the previous Final Fights and the Street Fighter Alpha series. A little more cartoony than the first two games, it lacks some of the grit but still works well with a variety of locations visited throughout the city. The various hoodlums have different designs too, and whilst some of the designs look a little strange, they help add some visual variety to the beatings. The only returning foes are the family of Andore giants, although the new character designs (incorporating chains) makes them less Fezzik-like in appearance; in fact they have a slight Frankenstein's monster look about them. Special mention should also be made of Mayor Mike Haggar, who has decided to squeeze into some very tight shorts. It's a strange decision for him to have made, but it does go someway to explaining his strange walk animation.
There are four difficulty settings in the options menu, although the first two should only really be used if you're looking to practice your moves. There are six possible endings in the game depending on the character you're using and the route taken, but they are not actually that different from one another. The multiple routes and choice of characters adds some replayability to the game and it works well in small bursts when travelling. You may not have time for a full level but the trusty suspension and restore points are here to break up your play as needed.
If you are looking for a game to download to your New 3DS that offers classic sidescrolling brawling action you should probably get 3D Streets of Rage 2, but if you really want a Final Fight title as well then number 3 is the one to go for. As always the two-player mode is unavailable, and although there is an alternative provided it's really not the same as playing with a friend. On the plus side there's a lot to entertain the solo player with four playable characters to choose from, and the branching paths make for differences on subsequent playthroughs. The range of moves and special attacks mean it doesn't offer the simple straightforward fun of the earlier titles, but there's plenty of entertainment to be had from beating up the various villains with your numerous attacks. All in all Final Fight 3 is a good choice for those seeking quick fighting thrills when out and about.