Beat-em-ups of the 1990s were long on action and short on story. Like Capcom's Final Fight, re-released this week for consoles. Just how ridiculous is the idea that a former pro rassler could be elected to high office in America?
Final Fight: Double Impact, a downloadable title pairing the eponymous game (starring a mustachioed politician seeking his kidnapped daughter ... and payback) with side-scrolling platformer Magic Sword, hits Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. But we've been playing arcade ROMs for years on personal computers. Should you pay $US10 to play it on a console?
C'mon, it's Final Fight: Final Fight is one of the definitive early-1990s beat-em-ups, and what you get is a straight port of the arcade original. By default Capcom skins it (and Magic Sword) with the glass from an upright arcade cabinet, including pre-distressed instruction decals lifted from the original. (You can change your viewing options, with the cabinet glass, zoomed in without it, smoothed video or interlaced). This is what Capcom does best with its downloadable titles - stoke the hell out of your nostalgia, take a playful shot at the campiness of the era, acknowledge its role in creating it, and deliver gameplay with 100 percent fidelity. It's a strategy that works more with fans who remember the series, but that's all it needs to do for Capcom to make money and continue pumping these out.
Strong Enough for the Arcade, but Made for a Console: That's not to say this is a MAME ROM sold for ten bucks. It has a few console amenities, most notably the online multiplayer. Joining up or hosting a game is as simple as jumping into the middle of someone else's game, or them arriving in yours, in progress, and teaming up against the bad guys. Just like pulling up a stool, asking "You mind?" getting the nod and putting in a quarter. The game also features offline co-op. In single-player, both Final Fight and Magic Sword add challenges that resemble the personal goals you or a friend would set for yourselves having mastered the game. Some are full trophy rewards, for the usual milestones in beating a game. Others unlock content in "The Vault" a collection of art concepts and other features from the games' histories. If nothing else, arcade classics fans, especially those who have spent a lot of time with these, will appreciate being recognised for, say, clearing an entire level without being hit.
A Pause That Refreshes: At first I was a bit peeved that there was no true pause in this game - hitting start puts the game in the background underneath a menu, and your character will stand there defenseless as the machine whales on him. But that's tempered by two things: 1) You may save your progress at any point from that menu, so if you want to beat the game, you don't have to go through it in one shot. And 2) the arcade game itself didn't have pause, so this is a shrewd design choice for something meant to recall how that game was played when it came out. If you were in Final Fight pounding on dimwits named "Doug" (great bad guy name, by the way) and had to take a dump, you needed a friend to take the wheel if you didn't want to waste that quarter. Well, same thing applies here. If you're really in trouble, just save the game and restart it from that point.
Although I didn't test this on the Xbox 360, if you have a choice I'd say go with the PS3 version for the superior D-pad control. The left analogue, while still very much useful for the game, can get a little spongy at times. I imagine it'll be the same with the 360, and its D-pad's rep is well known.
At $US10 the game is reasonably priced overall. Those with a serious jones for one of these two games will see the most value for their money. For others, it's not going to do a lot to recruit them to the experience, but then again, it's an experience that is now legally old enough to drink, so let's judge it in context. Besides, if you can't have a good time clubbing someone with bathroom plumbing and eating a Thanksgiving turkey out of a barrel, you probably weren't much of a beat-em-up fan anyway. That's OK, but don't try to be something you're not. Because Final Fight won't.
Final Fight: Double Impact was developed and published by Capcom for Xbox Live Arcade on April 14 and PlayStation Network on April 15. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points or $US9.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed both games in single-player mode, played multiplayer mode in both games.
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