In the late '80s and early '90s gamers gathered around arcade cabinets instead of playing from the comfort of their own homes, and one of the biggest draws in arcades of the day was undoubtedly Capcom's Final Fight. When Final Fight released for the Super Nintendo in the early '90s, some gamers weren't very pleased with it, and looking back on it a quarter century later it's easy to see why.
Final Fight served as the birthplace of many interesting characters that have gone on to appear in other Capcom franchises, most notably in the Street Fighter universe. That makes sense as well, as Final Fight was originally designed under the working title Street Fighter '89, and was destined to be a sequel to the original Street Fighter. Upon seeing the success of Double Dragon, however, Capcom decided to change direction, and thus Final Fight was born.
The arcade release of Final Fight featured three separate fighters - Cody, an American brawler, Guy, a Japanese Bushin-style ninja, and Mike Haggar, the musclebound mayor of Metro City. In this version, two players could punch, kick and throw their way through the streets on their way to save Jessica, Haggar's daughter and Cody's girlfriend, who has been kidnapped by the Mad Gear Gang.
Unfortunately for hopeful fans, the Super Nintendo port of the arcade classic turned out to be a dud in this respect. Final Fight launched with only two of its three playable characters, Cody and Haggar. The choice was peculiar considering Guy was easily the most popular character of the three among fans at the time of release. Even more perplexing was Capcom's choice not to include multiplayer - one of the arcade original's main selling points - in the SNES port. Fortunately, not all hope was lost, however. Visually, Final Fight looked just as good at home as it did in arcades. Character sprites are large and detailed and sound comes through clearly. There's very little if any slowdown present during the game, regardless of the number of enemies on screen.
If you've ever played a side-scrolling brawler, Final Fight will feel very familiar. It features a two-button control scheme, with attacks mapped to one button and jumps to the other. You can grapple enemies as well by walking into them, at which point you can either attack them or throw them into other enemies or objects in the stage. Each character also has a special move they can use by pushing the jump and attack buttons simultaneously; it does, however, come at the cost of a small amount of life. You can move up, down, left and right in the field and you can only progress further in any given stage by first clearing the stage of enemies.
As you beat down foes in pursuit of Jessica's kidnappers, items drop for you to use or consume on your way to victory. Everything from knives, swords and pipes, to the quintessential entire bone-in ham that somehow managed to become synonymous with health in early '90s games. As you progress through the game enemies become increasingly tough, and carry weapons with greater frequency. You start out in the slums of Metro City, fighting common street thugs, and travel across the city from the subways to an underground fighting ring and even a lavish high rise building. None of the backdrops are very outlandish, despite the fact that some of the enemies might be.
Even for veterans, Final Fight can pack a bit of a challenge. While some pros may be able to breeze through the game in a matter of minutes, the average playthrough for the game could last a few hours, particularly if you haven't played the game before. Unfortunately, once you've beaten the game there isn't really any reason to come back. Characters don't have individualized endings, and there's no post-game content to play. Once you've put this one down, your only incentive to go back is if the enjoyable gameplay has got you hooked enough to do it all again.
Final Fight is an excellent game and one of the defining beat-'em-ups of the arcade era. Capcom managed to deliver a visually accurate but feature-light version of the game for Super Nintendo fans. The end result is a game that's fun to play and worth a look, but disappointing in comparison to the iconic arcade unit. With no multiplayer and a limited roster, Final Fight lacks replay value to back up the initial enjoyment; if you're ok with a solo-only experience and some classic gaming, though, it still packs a bit of a punch.