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Final Fight (Arcade) artwork

Final Fight (Arcade) review


"Take from it whatever preposterous character, whatever outrageous scene, whatever moment of sheer stereotypical brilliance you want. Pick a stray hammer up off the street to boost your high score! Partake in the greatest mini game ever: BREAK CAR!, where you attempt to obliterate a gang member’s wheels with a steel pipe within a thirty second time limit. Fight a never-ending onslaught of unforgettable attackers for the most just and noble of causes: the life of a pretty young girl, the livelihood of a city overrun by criminal influence. Witness the title that directly spawned The Punisher, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and the rest of the beat ‘em up revolution of the early nineties. Relish your gritty, unadulterated manhood."



In a city so big they named it the only thing they could – METRO CITY – only one larger than life figure could overturn the rampant political corruption and rid the sprawling metropolis of the infamous MAD GEAR brotherhood. So when the people elected street fighting champion and bona fide Saturday night slammaster MIKE HAGGAR leader of their municipality, they probably expected some bitterly fought battles in city council and an increase in the police force ranks. After all, the focus of his campaign was his hands-on approach to the mayoral position. Nothing less could be expected.

And maybe Mike Haggar would have taken that approach had his daughter, Jessica, not been kidnapped by the syndicate. But the Mad Gears left the muscleman-turned-politician with but two choices: cave in to their demands and become the toadie previous office holders were or maintain a steadfast approach and leave the life of his daughter in precarious hands.

They never envisioned Mayor Mike would come up with his own alternative: dial up a couple of his daughter’s friends – dimwitted boyfriend CODY and enigmatic good pal GUY – and go totally bananaballs crazy.

But that’s what he did. And FINAL FIGHT – the definitive pipe smashing, face pummeling, million man toppling beat ‘em up – commenced, bringing an entire genre to the arcade forefront.

Released in 1989, the true foundations of Final Fight were laid two years prior. Double Dragon – the game that established the framework of the beat ‘em up genre – hit the coin-op landscape in 1987, telling the story of brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee, out to take down a savage street gang responsible for the kidnapping of Billy’s girlfriend Marian (and beat up fifty guys named Williams in the process). Concurrently, a fighting game was also causing a stir. Taking a big, bold graphical approach, the stylish Street Fighter made up for its lack of polished mechanics with a visual flair yet unseen by many audiences.

A year passed and brawlers regressed; ugly efforts like Battle Rangers, Ka-Ge-Ki, NARC, Prisoners of War, and Takeda Shingen did little to progress or popularize what Double Dragon started. Even DD’s own sequel, The Revenge, felt uninspired. Its garish colors and top-heavy cast may have helped inspire Mug Smashers, but aside from upping the difficulty, it was unmistakably more of the same.

Building upon what was already out there, and combining it with the trademark appeal of another of its franchises, Capcom produced a game with two easily identifiable origins that somehow became an entity all its own. In one release, a genre that almost never got off the ground would never be viewed the same again.

When you’re an expert at moves such as the vicious BACK DROP and the devastating PILE DRIVER, rough-and-tumble, downtrodden streets don’t exactly cause your heart to flutter. Should your baby girl need rescuing, you rip your shirt off and charge headlong into the destitute slums. Though powerhouse Mike Haggar will sling a lone strap over his hulking shoulder and clobber all comers with massive meathooks, choosing brute strength is not the lone fighting approach; a master of the Ninjitsu arts, Guy relies on unparalleled speed and agility, his lightening fists and swift jump kicks equally as capable of toppling any challengers. Somewhere in between lies the all-around assault of pretty boy Cody.

Real Final Fight players don’t pick Cody.

Choose to be the fastest or the strongest and take to an unforgiving urban sprawl pervading with sleaze. Broken windows and faded, weatherbeaten bricks mark the neglected buildings in Stage One’s slums, garbage piled high outside residences that should have been condemned decades ago. A stretch sends you into the basement of one of these complexes where light fixtures flicker to reveal empty paint cans and dented oil drums, your emergence occurring on a walkway lined with looted car wreckage and rotting piles of two-by-fours. Final Fight’s backdrops are unabashed in painting the ultimate inner-city nightmare, its poverty-stricken skid row’s abjection offset even further by steel skyscrapers of uptown Metro City towering over the destituteness.

Make the acquaintance of some of the inhabitants of this wasteland: wannabe grapplers turned muggers DUG and BRED; neo-punk delinquents J and TWO P; stalwart strongmen AXL and SLASH (where did we hear those names in the eighties?); knife-throwing menace EL GADO and suspenders-wearing sumo BILL BULL. Get used to their names and tactics, because you’ll be levying this cast and their comrades countless times as they unceasingly swarm the screen in barrages of four, five and six at a time. And somehow, through a clever mixing and matching of pairings and the simple addition of a few environmental hazards, punching these same transgressors in the face never gets old. Early in the game, you’ll have to knock out three man gangs of Bred, Dug and Slash; later, as the competition gets fiercer as you near the lair where Jessica is held against her will, that simple combo will now have three El Gados and a Bill Bull joining it, a multitude of knives scattering the playing field as you struggle to hold off the slew of merciless foes.

Bursting through a suspicious wooden door in the heart of this ghost town, bodybuilding Caribbean thug DAMND poses the first boss battle Final Fight will introduce, but certainly not the last. When the dreadlocked fool’s overwhelming girth is answered by either Guy or Haggar’s fists, he’ll let out a whistle that rings over the signature arcade clamoring of the soundtrack and summon underlings to aid him in battle. What kind of pussy is this guy? Though the first head honcho encountered may fall easily, it certainly was as intense, exhilarating a battle as anything the methodic Double Dragon ever posed – just what could await in the five levels yet unexplored?

ANDORE and kin await in a seedy, perilous subway system long since shunned of public funding. The red, cheetah-print spandex sporting muscleman has become the trademark assailant of the entire genre, representing everything that is endearing about it. The unmatched physical strength! The pop-culture reference to Andre the Giant! The tongue-in-cheek humor of shamelessly dressing the most dangerous of opponents in the most arrant of awful eighties fashion! Andore clashes badly, looking glaringly out of place as flames rip through the metal grills of industrial areas where SIMONS and WONG WHO roam, and somehow, someway, it’s so brash and unapologetic it only seems right to love it.

Somehow this strongman isn’t even a boss character; Final Fight saves even more ridiculous personalities for these memorable showdowns. Stage two’s subway tracks ultimately lead to... a wrestling ring (!), where SODOM, a martial arts expert wielding a pair of katanas, lurks, looking to slice up anyone hoping to stop the Mad Gears. Over on the West Side, crooked cop EDI E. represents all that has gone wrong with the justice system in this town, spitting his gum at you (pick it up for bonus health!) before ambushing with nightstick and gun. A lift to the top of a construction site caps off with a battle against ROLENTO, a war veteran gone whacko, heaving grenades over the cramped playing field as he darts about swinging a bamboo cane. All prove to be intense, gripping trials for our warriors, and all will leave a lasting impression.

And that’s ultimately why Final Fight is the masterstroke that it is; it will leave a lasting impression.

Take from it whatever preposterous character, whatever outrageous scene, whatever moment of sheer stereotypical brilliance you want. Pick a stray hammer up off the street to boost your high score! Partake in the greatest mini game ever: BREAK CAR!, where you attempt to obliterate a gang member’s wheels with a steel pipe within a thirty second time limit. Fight a never-ending onslaught of unforgettable attackers for the most just and noble of causes: the life of a pretty young girl, the livelihood of a city overrun by criminal influence. Witness the title that directly spawned The Punisher, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and the rest of the beat ‘em up revolution of the early nineties. Relish your gritty, unadulterated manhood.

Play FINAL FIGHT like any young lad should.

Rating: 9/10

Leroux's avatar
Staff review by Winston Wolf (September 28, 2010)

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