At first glance, it would be easy to mistake Capcom's Mighty Final Fight as a cheap cash-in of a superior arcade beat 'em up, with its chibi-styled characters and its seemingly limited 8-bit presentation. But while Mighty Final Fight may appear simpler than other entries in the series — game history buffs would be interested to know that this title was released after the SNES port of Final Fight — there is enough charm and surprisingly nuanced gameplay on display to help it stand alongside its big brothers.

Mighty Final Fight takes the basic premise of Final Fight and retells the story with a campy, winking flair. When Metro City Mayor Haggar's daughter Jessica is kidnapped by the Mad Gear Gang, Haggar takes her boyfriend — Cody — and Cody's sparring partner Guy on a fist fight through town to save her. Players choose to play as Haggar, Cody or Guy and fight through five stages, each ending with a challenging boss battle. Stage progression is quite simple and will be familiar to most gamers: fight a group of enemies, walk right, fight another group, repeat a few times, and face a boss.

Each character plays very differently. Haggar, a pro wrestler, is heavy and powerful, with hits that deal a lot of damage to enemies, but he's also slower than the rest and as a result is vulnerable before and after landing a blow. Cody's a well-rounded boxer, while Guy is a fast, ninja-style fighter. Each character is able to land basic attacks, as well as clinch with enemies, throwing them across the screen and dealing lots of damage. Killing enemies gives the player experience points, and a basic levelling system allows for larger health bars and unlocks special moves for each character.

If players are defeated, they can choose to continue with any of the three characters and still have the same level, so there's no grinding (or backtracking); there are limited continues, so after being defeated enough times you'll have to start over. Of course, thanks to the Wii U Virtual Console's restore point options, players can "save" at any moment (which takes away a lot of the challenge — play old school!).

The presentation is very impressive for an NES title. Its wacky personality constantly shows itself in hyper-stylized character models that are well-animated with great little details, such as their eyes bulging out after taking a hit. The visuals do have a fair bit of NES flicker, but Mighty Final Fight generally runs well; the audio is also excellent, with epic chiptune music that is catchy and memorable. The story usually doesn't make much of an impact in beat 'em ups, but Capcom clearly enjoyed writing the comical dialogue and silly cut-scenes. There is always a trash-talking conversation before a boss fight, and players can occasionally choose how to respond to questions like "Don't you know I'm the best?!" with "Yes" or "No."

Conclusion

Don't let Mighty Final Fight's kid-like art and style fool you. This is a challenging beat 'em up that has a surprising amount of combat complexity, and the story and art are refreshing and funny, especially compared to the gritty realism most games go for today. Gamers looking for some old school fun are encouraged to check out Mighty Final Fight — they sure don't make 'em like this any more.