It's fair to say Capcom was on a roll in the late '80s and early '90s. During this period it pushed out some bona-fide classic pieces of software, including 1989's seminal coin-op brawler, Final Fight. Indisputably one of the finest side-scrolling beat-'em-ups ever created, it joined a rush of similar coin-guzzling titles including Konami's four player behemoths Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons, along with Capcom's own subsequent brawlers.
Things could easily have turned out slightly differently; Final Fight was originally planned as a sequel to Street Fighter. Switching from one-on-one fighter to side scrolling beat-'em-up during development (apparently to cash in on the success of Double Dragon) meant the gameplay was too far removed from Street Fighter to consider it a true sequel, hence the name change to Final Fight. A good thing too; a few years later Capcom blessed us with the addition of the 'real' Street Fighter II and the rest, as they say, is history.
Part of the appeal of Final Fight is how easy it is to pick up and play; simply choose one of three playable characters (each with different strengths and weaknesses) and hit the crime-infested streets of Metro City. Your objective is to save the girl by beating up an entire cities' worth of cloned thugs who stand in your way. Final Fight is arcade gaming at its best. Simple, fast action combines with relentlessly long and increasingly tougher stages. It is possible to clear in a single credit, but you'll need obsessive levels of practice and patience.
An intuitive control system consisting of an attack and a jump button allows for various attacks, including punches, flying kicks and grabs. In typical video game fashion, your character can pick up food from trash cans (or the ground, yuck) to replenish energy as well as utilising found weaponry, ranging from rusty drainpipes to razor-sharp katana swords. Wonderfully drawn cityscape backdrops and an atmospheric soundtrack complete the package. No doubt there are other games that offer more moves, bigger graphics, more levels; but Final Fight is the sum of its parts and there's nothing we'd change. You know how the saying goes; if it ain't broke.
Home ports came and went over the years with varying degrees of success; from the crippled SNES version (no two player, missing an entire playable character and stage) to the triumphant Mega CD version complete with fantastic remixed soundtrack. Another of these ports is GBA title Final Fight One; available now to download from the Wii U eShop.
At the time of release, Final Fight One was seriously impressive. Seemingly an arcade game in your pocket, it contained all three playable characters, every stage and even a simultaneous two player mode via link cable. Releasing this now on Wii U seems a bit of a cop-out, especially considering Capcom has previously re-released the arcade version on rival consoles. Still, there are some reasons to check out this particular port.
For starters there are some interesting graphical tweaks here and there; the interface/energy bars clearly take inspiration from the Street Fighter Alpha/Zero series. It's also possible to unlock 'Alpha' versions of Guy and Cody to play as, along with a bunch of other secrets such as extra lives, stage select and rapid punches. Considering you aren't blessed with infinite credits (and continuing restarts the entire stage) the optional extra help is welcome. Inserted before every boss fight are text dialogue cut-scenes. While these scenes are needless they make for an interesting oddity; especially as they only ever appeared in this particular port.
Controls are spot-on; the pace is fast with no noticeable slow-down present. The display looks quite blocky on a TV screen but you'll soon get used to it; it's a touch disappointing that there aren't any options other than screen smoothing on/off to help alleviate this. Playing on the GamePad screen arguably provides better results than a TV.
The gameplay area is zoomed in compared with the original, presumably due to the differences in screen ratio of the GBA's screen to arcade original. This occasionally makes playing a touch claustrophobic; you never feel like you have enough room to move, and this is compounded by the fact that enemies often drift off-screen to avoid your attacks (and your gaze). Inadvertently alleviating this claustrophobia is a lack of multiplayer. The original GBA version facilitated simultaneous two player via a link cable; there's simply no way to achieve this on Wii U. This is made even more disappointing when during the attract sequence the unobtainable two player mode is depicted right in front of your face.
The soundtrack is a minor tragedy. The iconic hummable tunes of the arcade have been rendered in god-awful chiptune hell and are an assault on the eardrums. It's a crying shame as chiptune can sound great, so we'd put this down to the compositions rather than the capability of the system. Finally, it's worth noting that the European release of Final Fight One is the censored version; female characters Roxy and Poison become male punks Sid and Billy, along with a few other minor amends. Those who don't know the history of the game won't bat an eyelid, but purists will rightly turn up their noses - these two lady punks have arguably become Final Fight's most iconic characters.
It's very tough coming to a conclusion on how to rate Final Fight One. It's clearly an accomplished port of a classic game, and it's as playable as it's ever been. On the flip side, a lack of simultaneous two player, rougher graphics and a grating soundtrack do distract from the experience. This title made much more sense in portable form; on the Wii U, it's not quite as compelling. The SNES version - also available on Wii U eShop - has better graphics and sound, but also lacks a two-player mode and other content, which sadly means that despite having access to not one but two versions of Capcom's classic, Wii U owners still don't have a definitive port.
The issue is thus; if you're nostalgic for the arcade version, Final Fight One isn't quite the faithful experience you want it to be. If you don't share the nostalgia, you'd possibly be better off picking the better - but still not perfect - Final Fight 3, which is also available now on Wii U eShop.
Lower your expectations and you'll find an enjoyable single-player romp that's less than arcade perfect, but still perfectly playable. What was once an admirable and impressive achievement for GBA becomes a decent, yet flawed version of an arcade mega-classic on Wii U. Decent, but definitely not the version we'd like to see. Give us the arcade version please, Capcom.