Final Fight is one of the most popular arcade games of all time. In terms of its relevance it did for beat em ups what Street Fighter did for fighting games. It wasn’t the first in its genre but it is probably the most important. I probably spent enough money on the arcade game to buy the home port looking back. When Final Fight was announced for the SNES it was highly anticipated. While it does capture most of what made the game such a hit there were many glaring flaws that bring down its quality overall. The game deserved better.
The most immediate differences are the absence of two-player coop and playable Guy. Releasing a side scrolling brawler without coop should be illegal. I can’t believe Capcom left that out, that was one of the main draws of the game! Omitting Guy flat out sucks, there is no getting around it. While he wasn’t my favorite character personally he was incredibly popular. His absence hurts the game tremendously. To make matters worse Capcom tried to rectify this but did so in a half assed manner. Final Fight Guy was a re-release that added Guy but removed Cody instead. Seriously? And to make matters worse it was released as a Blockbuster exclusive! You can’t make this stuff up.
I will give credit where it is due, Capcom have done an excellent job translating the graphics to the SNES. With its large sprites and animation nothing else looked like Final Fight in the arcade. That has been replicated pretty well with a few concessions. A decent amount of animation has been removed and the game is less smooth. The transitions between scenes are missing. You fight less enemies at once; there are never more than three on screen. There is also heavy slowdown towards the end of the game. As this was one of the first games for the system it was impressive in spite of its faults.
Nintendo’s strict censorship policies of the time have resulted in a number of changes. Both Poison and Roxy have been replaced by Billy and Sid. Even minor religious references have been edited. The bosses Sodom and Damned were renamed to Katana and Thrasher. Even the poor bastard whose car you demolish wasn’t left untouched. Now he says “Oh my car”!
At its core Final Fight is very simple even by brawler standards. Your move set is limited to a rapid punch combo, a jump kick and one or two throws. Aside from fitting the archetypes of average, fast but weak and slow and strong there are other subtle differences between characters. Guy can jump off walls and kick enemies while Cody has the fastest punching speed. Haggar actually has an extra move or two making him the most versatile of the bunch. An assortment of weapons hidden in trash cans round out your fighting arsenal.
Even when looking at the base game content has been cut. The entire Industrial stage has been cut, boss and all. It was a very frustrating level, with rising flames and a long elevator ride leading up to its boss. The fight against Rolento was tough but really cool and sadly all of this is missing. To make up for this the Bay Area and Up Town feature extra waves of enemies. It ruins the pace of the game, is incredibly repetitive, and exposes the simplicity of the game’s combat. The missing content really hurts the game badly.
Even by arcade standards Final Fight was particularly difficult. As many as six or seven enemies would attack at once and one quarter gave a measly two lives. The home port is no slouch either. Despite the reduced enemy count it still mixes them up for a challenge. Bosses become incredibly cheap, draining more than half your life bar in a single one hit. The last two levels are especially long with far too many enemy waves for my liking. The limited continues and lack of coop mean you will more than likely try a few times to see the end.
Overall Final Fight is a more than competent port of the arcade game. However some of its most important elements were removed for an early release and it suffers as a result. There are much better ports of the game out now, leaving this as a last ditch alternative at best.