Capcom's Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight is an interesting game, arriving on the NES after the release of the first Street Fighter, but before its sequel hit arcades and caused an explosion of interest in one-on-one brawlers. The game's story was changed for the western release to at least try and justify the use of the name (our hero is now called Ken), but gameplay-wise this is unlike any other Street Fighter title, taking the form of an action platformer.
Ken had enjoyed great success as a Street Fighter, but due to plot requirement he turned his attention to science. Together with his partner Troy he developed something called Cyboplasm that can give people that bit of extra strength they need to stay alive. It sounds useful, but unfortunately the side-effects from too large a dose are listed as turning people “into violent, mindless supermen or, in some cases, superaliens"; one day the lab is broken into, the Cyboplasm stolen and Troy left as a pile of jelly. Ken now puts on a shiny bionic suit to chase after the killer, blasting a variety of mutated creatures across several planets – just like we all did back in that crazy summer of 2010.
As you play you make use of a variety of Ken's abilities. He can fire energy blasts, climb walls and columns, jump up or drop down to different platforms and perform a backflip to avoid attacks or just to show off. Ken's movement is controlled with the d-pad (or left analogue stick) and you have a button to jump and a button to fire. It sounds simple enough, but unfortunately there are some problems.
Ken can shoot in front of or directly above himself (as long as he's not climbing) but in order to send a blast diagonally upwards you must hit the fire button whilst pressing down. The game tries to rationalise this by having the diagonal attacks shoot from Ken's kicking foot, but it doesn't feel right. There is no way to fire diagonally downwards and the only way to shoot directly below is to press the fire button mid-backflip. The backflip itself is somewhat awkward to perform; you have to stop, press jump and - whilst in mid-air - press the opposite direction to which you are facing.
To make things even more frustrating, the game doesn't start off easy to give you a chance to acquaint yourself with these controls. The first level is a tricky one, with a constant supply of drones attacking at difficult to hit angles and the main target (a kind of flying scorpion) becoming invulnerable during its frequently deployed swooping attack. Once you have got the hang of things it's a simple enough stage to beat, but don't be surprised if initially you lose your complete stock of lives on this opening level.
This title features some brief single-screen moments throughout that give you a moment to breath, pick up a few power-ups and only throw a couple of mutations at you, but generally the game it's a tough offering. New problems with the controls make themselves apparent as you play; Ken's inability to fire up or down whilst climbing doesn't seem like much of a problem until a stage has you climbing upwards whilst attacks come at you from above and below.
The power-ups in the game include items to replenish health and increase the reach of your attacks. It's possible, by holding forward as you fire, to put some curve on your shots; the more you've upgraded the more useful this is. An orb can be collected that follows Ken and damages anything that tries to attack him whilst a Slash Kick Capsule adds a flash to Ken's backflips that can be used as a new form of attack. The upgrades to your attacks are certainly welcome, but you need to be careful as they disappear should you lose a life.
The visuals are quite good for a NES title, with many different creatures to battle including bugs, floating eyeballs and some humanoid nasties. There are five different planets (with a handful of stages) in the game, each with a different look and a reasonable amount of background detail. You begin in a city, end at a space station but along the way visit places including a sandy planet which makes good use of moving sand in its stages. There's occasional slowdown and some graphics flicker, but nothing too distracting.
There are also some decent sound effects here; we have a variety of crunches and explosions, whilst the humming sound of an opening portal works very well. The music is a suitable mix of adventure and mystery, but whines and beeps a little too much. It works well, but if you are replaying a stage repeatedly it starts to annoy.
There are a few different types of stages in the game; some are a small area that allow you free movement whilst others are larger auto-scrolling levels (both horizontal and vertical). The aim of each stage is the same, however: try not to get hit whilst exterminating the creatures. Yes they are innocent victims mutated by something he invented, but Ken doesn't have time to faff about making an antidote; he needs their energy to power up a portal to transport him to the next stage.
Preceding each main stage is a versus screen and it is the destruction of the unfortunate Cyboplasm-infected soul pictured here that opens up your transportation portal. When it does open you only have a short time to get there or you will lose a life. It's usually nearby, however, and whilst you can just miss out on getting there, there are other things in the game that are more likely to make you fail in your mission.
Getting to the end of Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight takes some doing, but as always the use of a Virtual Console restore point can make things a bit easier. First you need to master the controls, then you have to avoid getting crushed by a scrolling screen and then you have to avoid getting crushed by a scrolling screen that has decided to go the other way. Other times you find yourself struggling to get in enough hits on a constantly moving attacker before your own health is depleted. Get used to avoiding attacks and you then have to deal with the timer. It's not something to worry about in the early stages, but later on it can be tricky to take out your targets before the countdown hits zero; unlike other Street Fighter games you're not declared the winner due to your superior health.
This title varies its stages and has plenty of different things to shoot, but it's not something people can quickly pick up and enjoy. It's tough throughout and, whilst clearing a tough game can be satisfying, to a large extent the challenge seems artificial, coming largely due to design decisions taken with the controls. Get the hang of it and Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight can entertain, but mostly it just annoys.