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Final Fight (Arcade) artwork

Final Fight (Arcade) review

"Mike Haggar probably won’t remind you of your town’s mayor. The head of Metro City’s government is, to be frank, a steroid-enhanced freak of nature whose idea of bringing law to the masses involves taking to the streets, getting his hands on each individual hooligan and beating the everloving life out of him or her. "

Mike Haggar probably won’t remind you of your town’s mayor. The head of Metro City’s government is, to be frank, a steroid-enhanced freak of nature whose idea of bringing law to the masses involves taking to the streets, getting his hands on each individual hooligan and beating the everloving life out of him or her.

At times, you almost feel bad for the poor, outmatched chaps. Put yourself in the shoes of a run-of-the-mill lowlife with the unfortunate moniker of “Dug”. Minding your own business on the subway, you suddenly observe a gigantic, shirtless psychopath bearing down on you with violent intentions. You’ve no more than stumbled to your feet when he grabs you, lifts you up, leaps into the air and perfectly executes a neck-shattering piledriver. Operating on nothing more than pure muscle memory, you somehow stagger to your feet, only to see your assailant has somehow obtained a katana. Even before the razor-sharp blade of that weapon penetrates your skull, you realize your life of petty crime has come to an end in the wink of an eye.

But, stalwart player, don’t let pity cloud your thoughts! While weak and physically inept, “Dug” is a card-carrying member of the Mad Gears — a ruthless crew of thugs that has kidnapped Mayor Mike’s daughter in order to put an end to his hands-on crime-fighting habits. Not one to give into demands, Haggar takes to the street....and so, Final Fight begins.

In my eyes, the greatest of all the two-dimensional brawlers, Capcom’s 1989 arcade masterpiece struck a chord with me that Double Dragon and others didn’t. This game just did so many things right that I still look forward to busting a move on it as much as I did 16 years ago.

To start with, you had a pair of AWESOME characters among the three macho dudes available to you at the game’s beginning. The aforementioned Haggar is a power player’s dream. He might be slow as sin, but the brutality of his piledrivers, suplexes and other pro wrasslin’ moves can quickly lay waste to even the most determined foe. He’s balanced by ninja-quick Guy. While this annoying gnat can’t hold a candle to Haggar in brute strength, he can run circles around him and virtually every foe. And if that’s not good enough, he also can leap onto walls, only to catapult off them into a vicious flying kick. The third guy, Cody, is the black sheep of the bunch. Not as strong as Haggar or as smooth as Guy, his claim to fame is that he’s better with knives than his companions. Cody sucks — odds are that if you play with a friend, neither of you will be asking to be least not if you want to remain friends.

You can make a legitimate argument for either Haggar or Guy when discussing which character is the best in the game. Final Fight boasts an impressive crew of villains and bosses, some with the power to stomp a mudhole in Guy and others with the speed to frustrate Haggar. As a Mean Mike man, myself, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve decimated entire hordes of thugs unscathed, only to watch a solo “Two P” sneak up behind me and pepper me with jab after jab while I fumble vainly with the joystick and buttons in an attempt to get my man to do something....anything before that one insignificant little enemy singlehandedly slays him.

Instances like that aren’t uncommon because the enemies in Final Fight work together very well. A quartet of guys, including our old friend, “Dug”, provide the bulk of the Mad Gear army, preferring to slowly creep directly into the range of your fists of fury. However, spend too much time focusing on them and other, far more lethal members will tear you a new one. Maybe “Two P” will skitter behind you and give you a wake-up call to the back of the head. Perhaps “Bill Bull” or one of the other fat guys will bull-rush you from off the screen, bowling you over. And then there’s “Andore”, the resident ass-kicker and name-taker of the Mad Gears. Let down your guard around him and you’ll find your crime-fighter lifted up, choked, thrown across the screen and (if “Andore” is feeling frisky) butt-splashed. If that happens, you’re dead.

Get through enough of these foes and you’ll encounter the six bosses of the Mad Gear gang. While “Damnd’s” best trait is his ability to temporarily flee confrontation and the gender-confused “Abigail” is essentially a genetically-enhanced “Andore”, the remaining encounters are all memorable.

Just look at my personal favorite: Metro City’s most corrupt cop, a surly brawler named “Edi E”. As you encounter him in front of a crowd of enthralled onlookers, the arrogant bully contemptuously spits his gum before brandishing his nightstick and stalking towards you. A crew of minor thugs will enter the fight, as well, hoping to distract you long enough for the long arm of the law to grab you and unleash an onslaught of skull-crushing wallops. If you can overcome those odds and put a hurting on the big guy, things really get interesting. Deciding hand-to-hand combat isn’t his thing, the less-than-honorable adversary pulls out his gun and starts running around the screen trying to put enough distance between you and he to discharge lethal lead into your muscular frame. And if one of his associates happens to get in the way....well, sorry about your luck “Bill Bull”, but that’s life!

To be honest, Final Fight is chock-full of highlights. After clearing out a bar, you’ll be ambushed by an “Andore” and forced to survive a steel-cage, no-holds-barred handicap match against the two elder statesmen of that family of foes. What may start out an easy confrontation with a number of the game’s easier thugs turns into a grueling battle for survival as an “Andore” slams into you, while a knife-wielding “El Gado” patiently waits for just the right instant to slide his blade between your ribs. I never found this game to become stale or boring. Virtually every time I play, I amaze myself by either flawlessly getting through a problematic area....or by getting utterly manhandled and humbled somewhere that I previously always had breezed through with ease.

The only bad thing I can say about this Capcom classic is that I friggin’ hate the first part of Final Fight’s fourth level. While there are some enemies here, the focus of this short, but painful, area revolves around jets of fire that sporadically burst from the floor, searing you and your foes alike. While there's nothing inherently wrong with having a few tricks and traps in a side-scrolling brawler, some sloppy hit detection ruins things here. I’ve stood a good distance away from where I knew a flame would appear and STILL taken damage more than once — even though I was clueless as to how I could have been burned! The shortness of this area prevents it from being more than an annoyance, but if you're like me, you'll definitely wonder how such a flawed section could have made it into such a wonderful game.

And EVERYTHING else is nothing short of phenomenal. A true classic of its time, Final Fight still is able to provide more than enough fun and action for me on any given day. I’ve never played a side-scrolling brawler that I’ve even felt was the equal of this game, let alone one that threatens to knock it from its rightful spot at the top of the mountain.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (June 22, 2005)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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