The Mad Gear gang are back and out for revenge. This time they’ve kidnapped Guy’s fiancée Rena and her farther, so it falls to Haggar and friends to rescue them from the gang’s evil clutches. The original Final Fight was a classic side-scrolling brawler which received two paltry SNES ports, the first of which is already available on the Virtual Console service. What let them down were a few unfortunate omissions: one of the playable characters, one of the stages, and the two-player mode. This sequel seems designed to appeal to anyone disappointed by those ports; featuring as it does three selectable characters, the boss missing from the first game and that all important two-player option.
Character designs are similar and gameplay is just as before: you walk through the stages, the sounds as you pummel various thugs – drowning out the suitably arcadey music. You have one button for attack and one for jump; using them in combination with the d-pad allows you to perform a variety of moves, and pressing them together performs a special attack – which can also be assigned to a third button in the options menu. This special attack reduces some of your health but can come in handy when you’re surrounded. Smash open crates and barrels and you may find weapons that can be picked up as well as items to replenish health or increase your points total.
There’s a slight change to the character line-up in Final Fight 2: Cody is away with Jessica and Guy can’t be bothered to halt his training to go rescue his missus (jerk), so for this game Haggar is joined by Rena’s sister Maki and random-bloke-with-a-sword, Carlos. The speed and strength of the characters varies and they have a different assortment of moves. Haggar is the same as before, whilst Carlos and Maki are similar (though not identical) to the absent Cody and Guy. Should both players want to play as the same character, this can be allowed via a cheat code.
The only returning members of the Mad Gear are the wrestling Andore family, but whilst the other characters are new their fighting styles will seem very familiar to anyone who played the first game. You have the standard walk up and jab thugs, some which jump through the air, some that charge at you, and the usual fire-starting types. There are a few differences, though: for example the charging foe (Elick) electrocutes you instead of just knocking you over. As before, the variety of enemies make the game interesting to play through but it would have been good to have some all new attacks to go with the new-look gang members.
Similarly disappointing are the bosses. End of level bad guys one-through-three are very similar: big hulking brutes with a powerful swipe that occasionally try and jump on you. OK, the second guy is more inclined to rush at you, but after defeating the third it still feels all a bit too samey. At the end of the fourth level things improve when Phillipe, a psychotic clown, smashes on to screen, sliding about the ground and smacking you with his stick. Level 5 sees the return (or debut if you’re sticking to availible VC releases) of Rolento. Curiously called Rolent in this game he is never the less the same as in the first game: speedily jumping about the place for quick attacks and later dropping grenades everywhere. Despite being described by the defeated Rolent(o) as the “most powerful” foe, the final boss you combat is in fact a bit crap. He’s another hulking brute and, whilst he doesn’t attack the same way as the first three bosses, aside from a spinning kick, he doesn’t really cause you much trouble. The only real challenge comes from the fact you have to beat a lot of underlings to get to him, so may be short on lives when it does come to the Final Fight.
Rather than keep the action in Metro City, this time around our heroes travel the globe; starting in Hong Kong then nipping of to Europe for 4 stages before finishing up in Japan. This adds a lot of variety, especially as each stage features a few different environments. For example in Italy you begin walking along the streets, kicking, elbowing and pile-driving gang members before jumping on to a boat (complete with photo-snapping tourists) to fight some more. Another stage, like the first game, sees the action moves to a train, though to make things different it takes place on top of the carriages. Despite a few cuts through abandoned buildings the locations look in surprisingly good condition considering the gangs roaming the streets. The exception is your trip to a dull, grotty looking countryside in the Netherlands where bombed out buildings and liberally scattered landmines are unlikely to have won Capcom any fans on the Dutch tourist board. There are also two bonus stages: the first sees you smash up a car (just like the first game) and the second is a quite dull one where you must walk along breaking flaming barrels [Sounds like Donkey Kong! – Editor].
The game gets gradually harder as you play and you will find later stages have more of the tougher enemies on them. There are four difficulty levels in to keep you coming back. The first two shouldn't cause you any troubles but the others can be quite tricky. There is an incentive to try the harder levels as well because the higher the difficulty level, the more of the ending you get to see. Of course most of the replayability comes from the two-player mode which, despite the arguments over who was supposed to be covering which part of the screen, increases the enjoyment from the game considerably.
Make no mistake this game will provide you with classic arcade brawling fun, especially if playing with a friend, but the feeling of déjà vu is strong. There’s a different, visually interesting, setting and two of the playable characters are new but it’s just too similar to its arcade predecessor. Had Capcom mixed things up a bit this could have been better and whilst for some the two-player option will make this more appealing than the Final Fight that's already available to Wii owners, it may be worth waiting to see what Capcom has planned for the VC Arcade. Because with the disappointing bosses Final Fight 2 is ultimately Final Fight 1 – just not as good.