A side scrolling beat-em up, originally developed as a sequel to Street Fighter before the premise was changed.
The basic plot is something straight out of an 80s action flick like Commando as the daughter of the (former street fighting!) mayor is kidnapped, leaving it up to Mayor Haggar, boyfriend Cody and, er, some other Guy, to rescue her across 6 stages.
The plot is pure cheese, the villans bearing more than a passing resemblance to The Scullions from Police Academy 2 with a nod to The Warriors along the way.
But, let’s face it, the plot is just an excuse to punch a load of people in the face.
This is exactly the sort of game I think of when I recall arcade games from my misspent youth. The graphics are big and chunky with vivid colours. Detail all these years later is low, there is no motion capture here. But everything looks and feels weighty, an essential component of any fighting game.
The look is, perhaps not surprisingly, reminiscent of Street Fighter 2 but also similar games such as Turtles or Dragon Ninja. It is a significant improvement on earlier games like Double Dragon.
The 6 stages see you progress through Metro City, from the slums to the penthouse via a trip on the subway, our heroes punching their way through doors and facing off in the wrestling ring.
Games such as this are a dime a dozen – Double Dragon, Dragon Ninja, Golden Axe – all variations on the theme.
There is no great variety. You walk left to right, kicking the crap out of anyone who comes along before facing off against an end of level boss. There are three characters to choose from but there is little tangible difference. Haggar has more power moves whilst Cody and Guy’s move sets seem fairly similar but it doesn’t alter the playing style. Punch, kick rinse and repeat is the order of the day here wth the occasional throw or flying kick thrown in for good measure.
The graphical variation of each stage doesn’t fundamentally affect the gameplay. New enemies are introduced as you progress, including knife throwers, burly fat guys and a couple of pyromaniacs but they are dispatched in much the same way.
Weapons add a sizzle to the steak of the main gameplay, picked up either by destroying background scenery or from felled enemies. Again, whilst there is a superficial variation, it basically breaks down to club weapons (sword, pipe), stab weapons (knife) or projectile (throwing knife). Other items can also be found to boost either your score or your health, although sadly when I tried to pick up the dogs found on later levels I discovered that they appear to just be scenery and can’t be used as a weapon.
The chunky sprites are backed up by satisfyingly meaty thwacks as enemies are shown the error of their ways. Music is typical of arcade games of the time, synthetic background fare that is forgotten as soon as the credits roll (and be sure to watch them for a comedy ending).
Perhaps the most annoying aspect is the laugh of the Mad Gear leader that is played whenever he is on screen and that makes you genuinely want to punch him in the face.
Big, brash, simple and dumb. It won’t take you more than an hour to play through but this remains a fun title to revisit. For best effect, grab a mate, switch off your brain, pull on your ’80s headband, turn up your collar and get your best Arnie one liners ready because Final Fight is a rollicking blast of pure action flick nostalgia.