Metro City has been overrun by gangs for quite some time. The elections for mayor have just been held, and the winner was Mike Haggar, a large man with a moustache that is not to be trifled with. He announced that he would not tolerate the existence of the gangs as his predecessors had, and would seek to eliminate them from the city. Mad Gear, the dominant gang of Metro City, responded to this promise by kidnapping the mayor's daughter and demanding a guarantee that he would let them do as they pleased as payment for her safe return.
Mayor Haggar took off his shirt and headed down to the gym. There, talking and training, were two allies: Cody, the boyfriend of his daughter, and Cody's good friend Guy, who was a little too good at martial arts to be anything but a video game character. The three of them then set out on their quest...the quest to kick a whole lot of ass. This is Final Fight.
The enemies in Final Fight consist of members of the Mad Gear gang, with the common thugs being the game's bread-and-butter enemies and the higher ranking members acting as area bosses. The enemies all look distinctive, be they wearing a belt covered in knives or a neo-punk getup. But why is Andre the Giant in this game? They call him "Andore" so don't act like it's coincidence. Not that I'm complaining - Andre the Giant is welcome in any video game at any time for any reason. But it's certainly a bit random, particularly in that ruby red leopard print he's got going on there.
The three characters in Final Fight all play fairly distinctly. Mayor Haggar moves slower than Nancy Kerrigan after her "accident," but he doles out massive pain with his fists, and can also slam bodies around in a number of ways. Guy is the reverse of this; he moves quicker than Rain Man can count cards, but hits like a pansy and dies from only a few attacks. Cody is the healthy medium between the two extremes, which on a thought might make him seem like the best character. It's really all dependent on your style though - if you want to just truck everything you see, pick Haggar. If you really don't want to get hit at all, be Guy. If you want to wear normal clothes, pick Cody.
As Haggar's daughter is being held on the other side of town, the game's direction consists in moving eastward across Metro City through various districts and locales. Usually there's some sense to this, with each stage being subdivided into several smaller areas that all reasonably connect to one another and provide a believable change of scenery. And then, sometimes, you simply appear in a wrestling ring with no explanation, fighting an armored, two-sword wielding dude whose name really gives you some motivation to not let him knock you unconscious.
Completing a boss fight essentially equates to ridding that section of town of Mad Gear's presence, as their leader in that area would be gone. Presumably this would mean that any of the gang's members you didn't slaughter throughout the course of the stage would either quit or run off to the next section of the game under the leadership of its boss, ready to be punched repeatedly by your fists. But this sort of speculation is probably putting a bit too much weight into the story of the game, which exists only to give some sort of loose excuse to engage in copious amounts of fisticuffs. Amen.
While every character can attack and jump, and even attack whilst jumping, they all have a special attack as well. The special attack costs health to use, with the amount of health lost dependent on the number of enemies hit with it. As such, it's primarily a tool for getting out of a tight spot, and not to be used liberally. Guy's special move is something a little too similar to Ryu's hurricane kick from Street Fighter, but it does a nice job of clearing space. Cody sort of does this flailing jump kick thing. And Haggar just sticks his arms out, screams, and spins around. Which is obviously the best of the three. High damage AND reach? I'll take me some of that.
The game's also got a lot of weapons. Most of these are found in containers throughout the stages. To be specific, you will most commonly encounter weapons inside oil drums, which is probably the least likely place they could have programmed for them.
-Exec: "We need something to hold the weapons."
-Dude: "Hrm. How about.....uh....oil........drums?"
-Exec: "Give that man a raise!"
Yet oil drums cover the landscape of Metro City, and if they're going to take up the space anyway, why not fill them with implements of violence? There are knives, swords, pipes...more knives. You know, come to think of it, Final Fight might contain more knives than I've ever seen in any other video game. Not only are they strewn about the ground everywhere, but enemies come in chucking them at you, and you can often pick them back off the ground to return the favor. Which is odd because as far as I can tell, only Cody can actually stab someone with a knife. The other two just throw it. Why are there this many knives when stabbing is out of the question?
But you know who doesn't have a problem using weapons? This guy. By this point the question starts to enter your mind about just what sort of gang Mad Gear is. Their bosses have included a samurai, a couple giants, and now...a military dictator? What? And how is he not the last boss? You'd think being the dictator and all, he'd be unlikely to be anyone's subordinate, but that's clearly not the case. And maybe that's what's angering him enough to flip around lobbing infinite numbers of grenades at you. Don't be fooled by that nightstick he's got there. I've only seen him actually attempt to attack with it once. No, Rolento is set on making you explode. Dead set.
So who is the final boss then? Who's the guy who ultimately stole the mayor's daughter and who's the guy who ultimately runs all the Mad Gear gang activity in the city? I mean, if it's not Rolento, this guy must surely be totally awesome and powerful yeah?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but you're looking forward to a fight with a dude in a wheelchair. As if that's fair. You go through this whole game killing a veritable army of knife-throwers, barrel-rollers, and Andre the Giant clones, and when you're ready to put the pain on the dude in charge, he's a cripple? How dare you make me pity my last enemy! And he's a vicious little bugger too. He takes that moment of quiet hesitation and reflection on life's meaning to whip out a crossbow and start a-firing. You know why he has a crossbow? Because he can't shoot a normal bow in that wheelchair of his. See? How's that feel?
"You want to play my sympathies, I swear I will walk laps around your chair just to show off. And then I will hurl you out of a high rise window, because that's what happens to dirty old men like you, ya understand?"
~Mike Haggar, Mayor of Metro City
Dude means business.
Bottom Line: 14/20