FINAL FIGHT / Capcom / SNES (1994)
Looking back on Final Fight from a modern perspective, you might wonder what the heck all the fuss was about. It seems a rather typical beat-up-the-punks game, wherein you mash the attack button over and over as waves of punk clones continually throw themselves at you through a variety of gritty urban levels, perhaps a bit more fluid and colorful than most but still nothing special. It's one of those games you have to look at in the context of the time it was released - prior to it, in the field of arcade beat-em-ups, Double Dragon was the forerunner of the bunch and this game blows that one out of the water in nearly every regard. At the time, its graphics were quite impressive, and the way that characters came out of the background and bosses would do stuff like take a break from the fight while whistling for help were new and creative touches. On the whole it was a pretty major evolutionary milestone in the development of Punch A Lot Of Ruffians games.
It was created, of course, to make money, as all arcade games are. This is a particular type of game, the type that trades on cutting-edge graphics (for it's time) and exceeding the player's expectations as to what will be seen to create powerful incentive to put more quarters in and continue with the show. There's two things you can always expect with games designed in this style - they'll almost always be cheaply difficult, and they almost always won't age very well. Final Fight is no exception to that pattern.
There's trouble brewing in Metro City, a sort of loose approximation of New York City (judging by the appearance of the Statue of Liberty in the background of Level 5). Mayor Mike Haggar, a game character that presaged Jesse Ventura's political success by nearly a decade (I still maintain it was the Predator/Final Fight vote that was key to his victory), is a former wrestler who has become Mayor of Metro City. Unlike the previous Mayor, he's a real straight arrow and against taking bribes from local street gang The Mad Gears. The Gears, upset by his crime-fighting ways, kidnap his daughter Jessica in an attempt to coerce him. This attempt backfires rather fearsomely, as Mayor Mike wastes no time in strapping on his felt suspenders and enlisting the help of Jessica's boyfriend Cody and anemic ninja Guy in beating the crap out of the Mad Gears and taking Jessica back by force.
Being an arcade quarter-sucker by original design, Final Fight is laden with cheap moments. The game often dumps just way too many enemies to handle on you at once, and there's plenty of cheap hits in store like Andore Jr.'s constant bouncing on you before you are able to regain control of the player as you get up. Though quite a cult of gamer humor has built up over the years around the goofy enemies of Final Fight, that doesn't make repetitively punching your way through hordes of them a whole lot more fun. The game had a lot of cool graphical touches that were advanced for it's time and it still looks pretty pleasant now, but that's hardly enough to redeem the incredibly repetitive and boring gameplay.
The SNES version has had quite a bit chopped out of it - most notably two player mode, and the character Guy. As you've also probably heard elsewhere, the original Japanese arcade release of Final Fight had little miss Jessica in a bra during the introduction and flashed you the majority of the underside of Poison's breasts each time you punched her in the face - in line with Nintendo of America's strict censorship policies, you can expect to not see either of these tame bits of pixelized titillation in this version. Also, you won't be chugging whiskey and beer in order to replenish your health, and some of the enemies such as Sodom have been renamed.