Pros:Fun Co-Op Gameplay, Amazing Soundtrack, Most Content Left Intact From the Arcade
Cons:Downscaled Graphics and Colors
The Bottom Line: Final Fight CD is truly one of the best beat 'em ups of all time.
Final Fight is one of the long forgotten franchises in gaming history. Originally released as an arcade title it was one of the early beat ‘em ups and was widely regarded for its co-op scenario. Capcom had their sights on the home console arena and released the title on the Super Nintendo. The problem was that they removed the game’s real selling point – multiplayer. Beating up and endless army of thugs just isn’t as fun without a friend. This is why the SNES port simply isn’t a very good game. Part 2 solved this problem but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the original edition. This is where Sega’s CD add-on console comes into play. Rather than bringing Final Fight out for the popular Genesis system Capcom instead opted to release it for the ill-fated CD unit. While the system itself has a reputation for enhanced ports and FMV games Final Fight CD was an entirely different breed. Capcom threw out what they had with the SNES edition and set to work once again to bring the arcade experience into the home. This port actually surpasses the original.
Metro City is a large metropolis with a big problem. The Mad Gear gang, an assortment of tough guys and dominatrix women, looms in the shadows and has for many years terrorized citizens with little fear. With a new mayor in office; Haggar, they’ve since been cracked down upon. The game begins as they’ve kidnapped his daughter Jessica leaving the hulking former wrestler to take to the streets along with his friends Cody and Guy to punch and kick everyone who gets in their way. All of this is told in an FMV sequence that appears when you boot up the game. While it’s hardly impressive (even by Sega CD standards) the cheesy voice acting and minimal animation are good for a few laughs.
As one of the early beat-em-ups Final Fight CD follows the formula quite closely. The action is viewed from the side as you walk left, right, up and down through multi-tiered environments while fighting off approaching foes. When you begin you get to pick from the three different characters outlined in the storyline and all have their own abilities. Haggar is slow but easily the strongest and can even carry around opponents he has picked up. Guy is quick on his feet but his attacks aren’t particularly strong. Cody is the all-rounder that most people will pick by default. The special moves are limited in this game with punches being universal, but a combination of three of these will result in a powerful blow that differs in style between the three. You also have the ability to jump and by pressing the attack button midair you can also kick. Along with this all three characters have the ability to throw enemies and by pressing both the attack and jump at the same time you will perform a spinning attack which will hit all nearby enemies. Weapons such as lead pipes, knives, and swords can be found and picked up off the ground but generally they are only useful for increasing the range of your attacks. The list of moves is a little slim, but there’s enough to keep things interesting.
Final Fight CD is a challenging affair. The screen is generally filled with multiple enemies coming at you from all angles and they all take multiple hits to take down. You can set the difficulty from the beginning and even the number of lives and credits you have by default. Your character’s life bar is displayed at the top left of the screen. In typical fashion you can restore your energy by eating food found on the ground or within barrels you can smash. When the meter is depleted you lose a life but not any progress – the game throws you right back in where you left off which is really nice. This system is in place regardless of whether or not you play alone or with a friend. While damaging opponents their life is also displayed up top which is helpful against bosses which can take many hits before going down.
The stages themselves are pretty standard – you walk from left to right bashing the skulls of various thugs and eventually facing off against a boss character. There’s not a lot of diversity here with no platforming – it’s just purely fighting. What keeps things interesting are the various set pieces. You begin simply walking through the mean streets of Metro City which is a little boring but the very next stage takes place in a decrepit subway station with one section of this level taking place aboard a moving train. Then there’s an area composed of back alleys where you participate in a cage fight at the end, and other stages such as a boardwalk and more. The changes are purely aesthetic but the various scenery keeps things exciting. Some feature environmental hazards like rolling barrels or flames that shoot from the ground.
There’s also a large variety in the enemy types. You’ve got your standard thugs that can only punch, but then there’s an Andre the Giant clone that uses his whole body to harm you, large enemies that charge at you headfirst, knife wielding acrobats, flare throwing pyromaniacs, and more. These enemies all have different attacks and some are much stronger than others. The action can become downright hectic when the screen is filled with a variety of enemies and you’re sandwiched between them all. The bosses are stronger than your typical street thugs and have different abilities. The first you encounter is pretty standard but can summon other enemies to help out. Later stage bosses can fire guns, charge at your with swords or simply try to outnumber you. There’s a nice amount of variety here.
Now it’s time to talk about the changes made to this game, at least from the SNES version, that make it closer to how it was in the arcades. The first and most substantial of these is simultaneous co-op play. In my opinion this is the only real way to experience the game. The character Guy was previously cut but now he’s fully playable. Even the missing stage makes its triumphant return in this port. Then there are the issues with Nintendo’s old ideals of censorship. Capcom had to make several aesthetic changes to appease them, but Sega cared far less in this regard. This Sega CD edition features the female version of Poison as she was in the original game. This aspect in particular isn’t a big deal for me but it is nice that Capcom’s original vision is left more intact with this version.
The only aspect of this game that has been downgraded is the graphics. The SNES version looked really close to the arcade iteration, but the Sega CD wasn’t quite up to the task. This port is noticeably less colorful and the characters appear slightly less rounded. What’s more is that everything looks decidedly grainy here, and given the superior abilities of the system I’m really unsure as to why. On another note the framerate holds up quite well even when the screen is littered with carnage. The character and background animations seem to have been improved and make use of more frames per second. The different enemies look distinct from one another, and there are a lot of details in some of the environments. The Final Fight style still shines through wonderfully with roided out characters and brightly colored mohawks – playing it now brings back memories of the early 90s. It’s definitely not ugly, but I expected more.
The biggest upgrade to this game is its soundtrack. Rather than simply port the music from the arcade version the developers instead went back and made an ‘arranged’ version of it using real instruments. Throughout the first stage you’ll hear guitar riffs that were once simple bleeps and blips. It simply sounds amazing – every single song has been upgraded in this manner. The most enjoyable track here is the Metro Subway theme which actually ranks up there with my all time favorite game music with heavy riffs and an early 90s high tempo jazz theme. The rest of the tracks range from good to amazing – there are absolutely no weak links here and because of the music alone I have a hard time imagining going back to any other version of this game. The voice overs are cheesy but seldom and enjoyable when they do pop up. The sound effects sound like they are rendered with the Genesis hardware which isn’t terrible, but the grunts and yells from the characters feature a fair amount of static. Regardless, the audio is amazing.
Controls are simple and have a very slight learning curve. Movement is designated to the d-pad while the action button (used for punching and picking up items) as well as jump, and your super move can be set to whichever face buttons you choose in the options menu. The only slight issue is that, by default, your super move is performed by pressing both jump and punch at the same time which can lead to some misfires or accidental jumps. Another ill explained move is the throw – in order to perform this move you must walk up right into an enemy and then hold either left or right and press the punch button. It seems a simple button designation would have sufficed, but this is no major issue.
This Sega CD release of Final Fight is the best version of the game, bar none. It features everything that was in the arcade (with slightly lesser graphics) but with one of the best soundtracks ever composed. Furthermore, the gameplay is timeless and this is one game I’ve been coming back to for years. The level and enemy designs are fun and just reek of early 90s gaming. As one of the best beat-em-ups of all time Final Fight CD should not be missed.
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