GameSpite Journal 10 | Final Fight

Final Fight | Dev.: Capcom | Pub: Capcom | Genre: Walk ‘N Punch | Release: Sept. 1991

Final Fight is the ultimate arcade brawler. It wasn’t the first, or even the most influential -- the former is debatable, the latter is pretty likely Double Dragon -- but it was easily the king of the genre when brawlers ruled the arcade. Before Street Fighter II, arcades were dominated by games about walking to the right and beating up waves of identical drones. And none were hotter than Final Fight. On Super NES, though, Final Fight is less notable for what it was or what it did than what it wasn’t.

For starters, it wasn’t arcade-perfect -- not by any stretch of the imagination. In an era where consoles lived and died by their ability to bring arcade-quality graphics and content home, a compromised port was downright crimial. Final Fight was one of the first releases for Super NES, so great expectations were riding on its shoulders -- expectations it utterly and completely failed to meet. Yes, it looked great; its huge sprites and detailed backgrounds were impressive to behold.

But that’s where the good times ended. Everything else about Final Fight on Super NES reeked of compromise. Some of the changes inflicted on the game were minor quirks demanded by Nintendo’s localization standards: Sword-wielding wrestle-boss Sodom became “Katana,” because his name called to mind either a religious allusion or anal sex, neither of which were cool in Nintendo of America’s book. Street tramps Poison and Roxy were redrawn as males (or, in Poison’s case, had her gender reassignment surgery revoked), maybe because it’s not nice to punch ladies, or perhaps because even the hint of the existence of prostitution had to be quashed to maintain Nintendo’s Disney-esque illusion of the world intact.

Still, these were ultimately superficial revisions, and nothing that hadn’t been seen in other Nintendo games. But Final Fight suffered from several other changes that inflicted a far greater sense of compromise on how it actually played. For starters, the playable roster of characters was reduced from the trio of Cody, Haggar, and Guy to just Cody and Haggar. One assumes this was a reflection of unavoidable space limitations in those early Super NES cartridges -- in addition to Guy, an entire level of the game was dropped as well -- but one questions the wisdom of canning what was arguably the most popular of the game’s cast.

Even worse, the game’s two-player functionality was completely dropped. This had some precedent, as Double Dragon had been reduced to a single-player experience on NES, but in that instance Tradewest had made extensive changes to the game to ensure it remained interesting for solo play. Capcom did very little to update the home version of Final Fight, and in the process revealed the ultimate truth of the brawler genre: They’re actually not much fun unless you play them with a friend. As a single-player experience, Final Fight is repetitive and shallow. With a second player, it’s also repetitive and shallow, but there’s enough back-and-forth interplay and teamwork to keep things entertaining. The reduction of an entire character and a full level further stripped down the amount of fun that could be wrung from the game.

It was a huge black eye for Super NES, especially when Capcom was able to produce an amazing version of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts for Genesis and a far superior Final Fight port came to Sega CD. Even the Blockbuster-exclusive Final Fight Guy (which swapped out Guy for Cody but didn’t reinstate two-player mode) couldn’t redeem the game. Capcom would eventually redeem itself with its exquisite home rendition of Street Fighter II, but in those early days compromised ports like Final Fight and Gradius III gave arcade fanatics reason to question the appeal of Nintendo’s purported powerhouse.

By Jeremy Parish? | Nov. 13, 2011 | Previous: SimCity | Next: Drakkhen