Growing up as a kid in the 80's, I have vivid memories of walking into the local arcades of the time and pumping countless quarters/tokens into those high-tech cabinets. Some of my favorite machines of the that bygone era were the brawlers. While many games focused on high scores, had GAME OVER screens, and required starting back at the begging upon defeat, beat 'em ups often awarded continuous play via simple capitalism. As a result, many stage bosses got tougher and were aptly named "quarter munchers" due to their tendency to gobble shiny Washington's from your pant's pockets and/or Mom's change purse. As a kid, I'm sure few or none of us kept track of these types of expenses, it was all about popping in as much change as we could to get an end screen and enjoy that feeling of sweet bliss that would carry over to the school playground on Monday.
My favorite brawlers growing up were Double Dragon
, Kung Fu Master
(which may barely fit this category), and Final Fight
. However, for the purposes of this article, I will only be discussing the latter.Final Fight
was probably one of the most well-known brawlers of the arcade era. The incredible graphics, large sprites, fast pace, and ability to play with a friend were features that pulled in gamers and created an environment of fun and pleasantries. I can't count the number of times someone would walk up to a cab I was playing by myself and say, "Hey, do you mind if I jump in?" "SURE!," was always the resounding response. Final Fight
offered character selection and a noticeable variation in abilities and moves, which wasn't as common in other brawlers of the time. It felt nice to pick a character, learn his strengths and weaknesses, and make it your preferred selection at startup. The game also featured food items to replenish lost energy and an array of weapons that could be picked up and used against enemies. But of all these things, the feature of Final Fight
that stood out to me most was the story and how well it was integrated into the game. No longer were we subject to an abrupt start that lacked detail (like girlfriend punched in stomach by baddies and carried off), or putting together the story via the ending, but we were treated to awesome cutscenes between chapters and bits of dialogue that furthered the story. It was awesome!
Boy, this image gives me the feels!Image from classicarcadecabs.com
I'm describing my experience with Final Fight
as a youth not only to give you an idea of how incredible that era of my gaming history was, but to also help you understand how built up I was when I heard that the game was being ported to the SNES. Imagine, a game you loved coming into your home. You could play it any time you wanted and not have to panhandle your parents during every trip to the mall or night out at dinner (yes, almost every family food joint, mall, laundry mat, and convenience store had video games back then). Then imagine calling your friend to tell them you're going to buy that game and to come over later, spending your hard-earned money on it, unpacking it, putting it in the console, and upon firing it up, not finding a 2nd player option on the title screen........yeah.......this is the same scenario that played out for many of us.
Graphically, the game was impressive, but that's about it. The controls lagged resulting in a game that was much slower in pace than the arcade version, and it just seemed like it was missing something...........hmmm.......what was it? Oh. Yeah. GUY!!! IT WAS MISSING @#$%ING GUY!!! I was completely befuddled. How could you leave out one of the most iconic characters in the game. Sure, he was the one that had the least at stake in terms of saving Jessica Haggar, but still, you can't just omit a fan favorite like that. Along with this glaring omission, the game was pain-stakingly difficult, but not to worry, I can simply keep continuing (aka. throwing in magical quarters) right? WRONG. Continues were limited and actually sent you back to the beginning of whatever stage you died on.........UGH! This purchase hadn't turned out to be the arcade experience that I was hoping for*.
With the disappointment of Final Fight
for the SNES, I turned my back on the beat 'em up genre for years until I purchased my first Sega Genesis. Growing up as a Nintendo fanboy, it was a little unsettling that the "enemy" was the console that got be back into brawlers. I'm sure all of us here know the Streets of Rage
series well, so I won't spend time praising it. Needless to say, I rekindled my love for brawlers and began to seek them out for every system I owned. It wasn't long until I realized...."Uh what? They released a Final Fight 2 & 3
on the SNES?" Sure, I was really disappointed in the first game, but I still had to find out if one of my favorite arcade games could be redeemed by its sequels.
Needless to say, Final Fight 2
and Final Fight 3
are both solid games. And yes, they both include a 2 player co-op mode! Both games are also quicker and much more responsive than the original port. There is still a character selection screen, and instead of having to select from two characters, you can actually choose from three and four respectively (some old reliables, as well as some new ones). The implementation of food recovery items and weapons is back as well, and the cut scenes and story additions are beautifully done for their time. However, it must be said that these aren't the cheapest titles for the SNES (FF2
running around $40-$60, and FF3
about $90-$120, both prices "loose" as of the release date of this article). So with cost in mind, I thought it might be nice to compare several features of the two games, so that you can make a proper decision if you ever have to choose. FIGHT!
Image from Northern Ireland Karate on FlickrGRAPHICS
In the graphics department, both games are very impressive! However, I have to give the edge here to Final Fight 2
. Instead of sticking to the confines of urban battle, FF2
ventures out of the country and features a total of six stages within Hong Kong, England, Holland, France, Italy, and Japan. The landscapes are lush and vibrant, and the character sprites look really great. In contrast, the graphics in Final Fight 3
are also very good; however, they are presented a bit less colorful and the enemy sprites (and two of the playable characters, Dean and Lucia) aren't as sharp and well-defined. Still, the overall presentation is good and it falls just below its predecessor. POINT TO FINAL FIGHT 2! PLAYABLE CHARACTERS
have a nice selection of playable characters. The former allows you to choose from three, while the latter gives you an additional choice for a total of four. The one consistent is of course Mike Haggar, who is present in all three games; I mean, can you really leave out Metro City's most bad@#% mayor? However, in terms of quality, some of the other characters are fairly undesirable options. In FF2
, the additional characters include Maki, the sister of Guy's kidnapped fiancee, and some random blue ninja named Carlos. Carlos isn't a very enticing option, since he has fairly slow base moves (a speed comparable to Mike's), but doesn't do nearly the amount of damage. On the other hand, Maki is a fun option, since she strikes quick, but she's the weakest of the three, which typically extends fight lengths and thus allows for more damage to occur.
The characters in FF3
are quite more balanced in terms of damage dealt, but again, a few characters simply aren't that fun to use. Dean is a bit slow and has moves that seem uninspired, including an odd electric fist, and Lucian attacks with only her feet, which is just bizarre and ill-fitting for this type of game. However, Haggar is as good, if not better than ever, and Guy's return to the series is phenomenal; his character in this game is by far the best of the entire series. His presence alone is enough to push FF3
in terms of character selection. POINT TO FINAL FIGHT 3.
Ah, the lush and detailed landscapes of Final Fight 2's
war-torn Holland...wait...war-torn?Image from GameFAQs
What makes a sequel truly great is it's ability to retain the basic components of the original. Both games are similar in style as the action moves primarily from left to right and enemies appear from both sides of the screen throughout. Food is still the primary staple for replenishing your character's energy and weapons are strewn throughout the game (though they seem more of an afterthought in FF3
). However, what separates the two games most is the presence of bonus stages in FF2
and the absence of them in FF3
. These destructive bonus stages are what gave the arcade original a great deal of its charm and for FF3
to completely ignore this feature is unforgivable. POINT TO FINAL FIGHT 2.NEW ADDITIONS
Though it's important to retain the feel of the original, a sequel has to have features that make it distinctive and allow it to stand on its own. When it comes to great additions, Final Fight 3
has them. Some features that stand out include the use of a "Special" meter that charges up as you pummel your enemies; once full, it unleashes a powerful attack. FF3
also includes an array of moves characters can pull off. Characters have not one, but a few types of grapple attacks, an added ground attack, a charging attack, and additional special moves pulled off in a similar fashion to those from fighters like Street Fighter II
. While sometimes added features overcompensate and muddle a game, those in FF3
are so well-integrated, that they feel natural and are a very welcome addition to gameplay. And did I mention the hidden rooms that you reveal by throwing enemies and breaking open their entrance? POINT TO FINAL FIGHT 3. STORY
Per usual, both FF2
continue the tradition of decent storylines in the series. Just when you thought the Mad Gear Gang was finished, a new leader emerges in FF2
. To enact revenge for the death of their previous boss, the gang kidnaps Guy's fiancee and her father. However, what's really odd is that Guy isn't a playable character and doesn't even have a presence in the game. Why wouldn't the person who has to most at stake be a part of the rescue? It's odd and makes me wonder not only why they didn't include him, but if they couldn't, why didn't they go with another storyline? Also, while going across the globe to battle the Mad Gear is pretty cool, it doesn't really make a lot of practical sense. And imagine the money spent on airfare....WHEW!
On the flip side, FF3
sees the demise of the Mad Gear Gang and offers up another gang to terrorize Metro City, the Skull Cross. Haggar is once again teamed up with Guy to quell this threat. They are joined by Lucia, a detective from the Special Crimes Unit, and Dean, a mysterious street tough whose family was murdered by the Skull Cross because he refused to join (which you find out in a later cutscene). This plot is laid out nicely using some beautiful cutscenes and scrolling text, and really gives the game a nice, continuous narrative to "unlock." Though the Mad Gear Gang is missing in name, Final Fight 3
still feels like a game in the series and the story isn't so much of a stretch to be unbelievable. I mean someone has to terrorize the city, right? Due to the major Guy omission and plothole in FF2
and the incorporation of some nice cutscenes, I have to award the POINT TO FINAL FIGHT 3
She's got legs. She knows how to use them. -- Final Fight 3Image from retrogamer.net
While recently playing these games, I used my 5-year-old son as my
co-op partner. Hooray for introducing kids to sweet, sweet video game violence! As an ally, he's not bad, other than the few overzealous, friendly-fire punches he lands to the back of my head... Amazingly, we were able to finish FF3
on our first playthrough and we made it to the last stage on our first go at FF2
. We played the latter a few weeks later and I was able to finish it on my last life.
To their credit, both games have the option to change your difficulty setting; an option that was not available in the original (big surprise right?). As a result, you can make the game as challenging as you desire. Each game also offers continues, which I was surprised to find out, are shared in 2 player mode (thanks for using them all co-op buddy!) While I feel that FF2
is the more difficult game, I don't feel as though it is overly taxing or feels impossible like some beat 'em ups. The challenge it offers is fair and if you don't beat it in your first few goes, you won't feel so discouraged that you'll never try again. Even though it is the more difficult of the two entries, POINT AWARDED TO FINAL FIGHT 2
Certainly, when one compares brawlers, you have to look at what I would consider the most important feature, COMBAT. A beat 'em up can have many flaws, but if the combat is bad, well, you're probably going to stay away from it unless you're a collector** Minus the poor combat of the more lackluster characters that I discussed earlier, the combat in both games is really good. Gone is the slow gameplay from the original Final Fight
and in are faster punches and more fluid techniques to pull off. However, in terms of combat, one of these games reigns supreme above all: Final Fight 3
. While FF2
is solid, FF3
incorporates so many more welcome additions to enhance your brawling enjoyment. As I mentioned previously, each character has a few throws, a nice ground and pound technique for additional damage, a chargeable special move meter, and additional d-pad rolling moves similar to many fighters of the times. While FF2
makes you feel as though you are limited to punches and a few grapple moves, FF3
provides you with a heavy arsenal of moves to mix it up.
, combat is further enhanced with the addition of a CPU partner. That's right, you can have an AI partner and even adjust their level of activity. Though they aren't often the greatest help in combat and get no continues, it's still fun to have a co-op option when you don't have a friend or family member readily available. I haven't really seen this option in a brawler before and I think it's a great addition. FF3
also has some really sweet boss animation deaths. A few extra twitches and turns, and even a "shocking" final boss finish against an electrical panel, are a welcome touch. There's no doubt that a POINT GOES TO FINAL FIGHT 3
for its superior combat and combat-related features.
FINAL SCORE:THE VERDICT
FINAL FIGHT 2 - 3 POINTS
FINAL FIGHT 3 - 4 POINTS
Though Final Fight 3
edges out its predecessor when comparing their features, to some, the price point (the fact the FF2
costs half as much) could be a big contributing factor in making your choice. Overall, Final Fight 2
is a great game and if you're a fan of brawlers and are on a budget, I don't think you will be disappointed in this choice. If you're a collector with deep pockets, or if you still happen to run across these games for cheap in the wild, be sure to pick them up. Especially if you would like to right a certain atrocity of your childhood.
Thanks for reading and happy gaming!*If you're looking for a better "arcade experience" for Final Fight, check out Final Fight CD for the Sega CD.
** please stay away from BeBe's Kids