Final Fight is very well regarded, and its SNES incarnation says a lot about what could be done (or not done) with arcade conversions in the early 1990s.
In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.
Video game themes wax and wane in popularity, and it’s not hard to see where the prevailing trends were at any point in time, because there’s usually a game or concept that other developers riff on or develop from.
Late 70s/early 80s? Space Invaders and Pac-Man clones abound. Current generation consoles? Brown military shooters and Battle Royale games. You get the idea. Developers go where the money is, because that’s where the money is.
In the late 1980s, one game came along that defined an era’s genre and led to many imitations and spinoffs.
And that game wasn’t Final Fight, because Final Fight didn’t release until 1989 into arcades.
That game was Double Dragon, and while it built on games that came before it, there’s no doubting it defined pretty much everything that everyone else built upon, with differing degrees of success.
Which brings us to Capcom’s Final Fight.
Hey kids, it’s perfectly fine to eat cartoon meat you found IN A BIN. Nothing bad will happen.
The plot is minimal; Jessica’s been kidnapped by the Mad Gear gang to stop freshly elected Mayor Mike Haggar from following through on his election promises to clean up Metro City.
I wonder if Haggar put “I will do a jumping power bomb to random citizens” on his election flyers?
So naturally, he forms a consultation group to investigate the best use of taxpayers money in order to develop an action plan to put before the council… no, wait, he 100% doesn’t do that, instead tearing off his shirt and heading out to the streets himself, accompanied by either Jessica’s boyfriend Cody or Cody’s friend Guy.
Cody is one of the heroes, because he stabs homeless people. Hang on a minute…
As is the style with these games, considerable quantities of punching, kicking and thumping ensue. Lather, rinse, repeat. As I said, it very much was the style at the time.
Final Fight is well regarded because of its over the top style, larger than usual character sprites and excellent sense of rhythm.
In some ways, these classic beat-em-ups are more akin to a music game than a fighting game, because there’s a rhythm to the best way to play them. Get into that zone of punching, moving and jumping, bearing in mind that there’s no block button and you can do very well indeed.
This is totally not Andre The Giant with the serial numbers filed off, OK? Capcom promises it isn’t.
Final Fight for the SNES is, however, an interesting critter in its own right. Released early in the SNES lifecycle, it was often lauded as a “near-arcade perfect” port.
It’s not. The most obvious point here — and one that wasn’t missed at the time — was that Final Fight for the SNES is single player only, and you only get the choice of Mike Haggard or Cody to play as.
That’s largely a limitation of the cartridge size that Capcom opted for to keep costs under control, but it does make for a more limited solo experience.
Guy? What Guy? Never heard of him…
If you’re familiar with the arcade original there’s also a few more jarring transitions and missing segments too. Does that matter?
At the time, and bearing in mind that Final Fight was also ported to a bunch of 8 and 16-bit systems less successfully, Final Fight SNES was a pretty compelling prospect. I mean, check out what the Amstrad CPC made of it — in its own way a little miracle but considerably further removed from the arcade original for sure:
I have a deep nostalgic love for the Amstrad CPC, but I don’t think I’ll be investing my retro gaming money into building up a collection these days. Maybe that’s just me.
It’s also all but impossible to mention Final Fight and not talk at least briefly about its competition in this space, especially Sega’s Streets of Rage/Bare Knuckle. Streets of Rage brought with it two player, while Streets of Rage 2 remains the absolute pinnacle of home console beat-em-ups. Sorry Final Fight, you’re good, but Streets of Rage 2 is on a whole different level.
Capcom did some interesting things with Final Fight releases after this too. For those who missed Guy, there was Final Fight Guy — still missing the two player option but swapping out Cody for Guy and adding a few other difficulty and placement challenges — and then Final Fight 2 and Final Fight 3/Final Fight Tough as home versions only.
Final Fight then… well, it kind of falls off a cliff, quality wise, with Final Fight Revenge and then Final Fight Streetwise. Take my advice with Final Fight Streetwise. Just… don’t.
But is the SNES version worth playing today? It’s a hard one unless you have very specific nostalgic attachment. While Capcom didn’t particularly capitalise well on its success in terms of sequels, it’s a game that it’s endlessly re-released in compilations and for newer consoles in its arcade form, and that’s just a better version all things told.
Capcom’s programmers did a fine job with the conversion given the memory constraints and technology they had, but this isn’t the best way to get hand-to-hand with the thugs of Metro City.
You’ve just been beaten unconscious, but the Mad Gear gang doesn’t leave it there.
No, they CHAIN you up and let you wake up in time to see the sticks of cartoon dynamite that will shortly blow you up.
They may be a Mad gang, but they’re perfectionists, in their own way.
How to play Final Fight SNES now
If you’re after the arcade version, well, it’s available super-widely for just about every console you could care to name, excluding the Gizmondo, because why would you even think that?
My own copy of Final Fight SNES from back in the day got traded in once I’d absolutely rinsed it for, if I recall correctly, a copy of Super Smash TV. That’s a big upgrade and a game I must include as a weekly game sometime soon. But I digress.
I wasn’t doing without Final Fight goodness in the intervening years, because I had a copy of the far superior MegaCD version of the game — I did mention it was ported a lot, right? — to play on.
But the copy pictured above is actually one of the newest additions to my collection, purchased just a week ago during a sojourn to Japan. There I spotted it in the junk bins of a Hard-Off for the princely sum of 600 yen, or about $6 in Australian money. You would, wouldn’t you? I certainly did.
That also means that I’ve got the Japanese version, which means it’s the “uncensored” version. Before you get too excited about cartoon boobies or exploding heads or the like, it’s a tad more mundane than that.
Two female antagonists are replaced weirdly with male ones in the western release, there’s a dab more blood here and there, some statue breasts are covered over and there’s some odd text replacements as well.
Poison (and Roxy) were just TOO DAMNED SEXY for Western teenagers to handle. Clearly.
Not really something worth sourcing out two distinct copies for, unless you’re a Final Fight completist or something.
So what’s the going rate?
Over on the Bay of e, there’s a lot of chancers for what was a very popular and therefore far from rare game, but completed listings suggest around $20-$40 for a cart copy, $120-$150 for a boxed copy. Later titles such as Final Fight Guy or Final Fight Tough go for quite a bit more, but then they sold in limited markets and in far lower quantity too.
Are there slabbed copies that sadly will never get played again for stupid money?
OF COURSE THERE ARE.
Got a lazy $73,990.38 you’re not doing anything else with? Go ahead, buy this one, then.
If you use that link, I’d make a tasty affiliate packet, too. I really ought to stop telling people not to do this. Stupid morals.