Big, arcade-style sprites often make a bigger splash. Is size all important though? Or is it what you do with them that matters?
Beat-em-ups are a curious breed. Their intensive joystick action ensures you can't play for hours, while their violent theme is often cited as computer gaming's most deplorable aspect; yet still they keep on coming. Final Fight is a cracking conversion of the Capcom coin-op but is that enough?
The thick plotens
Guess what, the world's gone down the tubes again. Thugs and hoodlums rule the streets, but there are three warriors whose martial skill can set society back on the straight and narrow. You and another player can do some serious butt kicking in big sprite style.
If first impressions are anything to go by, then Final Fight scores. The sprites are huge and move with a speed which promises major league action. As one of three fighters, you're equipped with the fighting moves with which to dear the scum from the streets. Each battler gets a kick, punch and special move to do down the enemies of law and order.
The fights follow predictable patterns, as you stroll from left to right the first foes to show out are the level's losers: who are easily whipped into shape, providing a quick trainer in how to use the moves and street furniture (weapons). After a few layers of losers you go heads up with that level's boss. These guys aren't dangerous, but they are tough, and a solid series of sequential hits are needed here.
After each level you're transported to another location but annoyingly en route your man's managed to lose any weapons he had before and each section has to be beaten within a set time. The limit's generous, but it pays not to hang around searching for dropped knives or drain pipes, because this fight's a long one and losing a credit for any reason means you ain't going to see the end.
It takes no time at all to get to grips with the joystick moves because they are limited and logical. Without fire pressed, up makes you jump and left or right forces a walk. With fire pressed and the stick centred the battler
punches, with the stick pressed left or right he kicks, while down starts off the special move.
In the arcade it was the special moves that made the machine worth playing. Two of the three heroes go into a pirouetting sweep kick, flooring all opposition. While the slower Haggar (who used to be Streetfighter) lovingly hugs foes, tums them upside down, jumps in the air and smashes their head on the pavement. Silly but spectacular.
Each fighter has their own energy bar and while they're actually bashing the opponents their's is displayed too, revealing how close to death both are. Both parties have generous amounts of life energy which doesn't help the action as there is little threat. It simply makes the stand up slugging matches slow affairs.
The animation of sprites stresses speed before smoothness. Making them attack causes a swift shift of frame from their rest position straight into the attack, which while you're playing just looks fast. Watch over another player's shoulder and it begins to appear like a crazed flick book. For the purposes of the game though the system works and keeps the pace high: essential for arcade style action.
The background illustration, though, doesn't equip itself nearly as well, failing to be convincing, even when your attention is focused on the fight. Monotone is the overriding message, with simple sketches of objects and onlookers providing the backdrops.
Final Fight is enjoyable to a point, that point being where you realise that nothing new is going to happen.
It smacks of formula with the same style of attack following time after time. Each major villain has to be beaten using a specific technique, but as you have relatively few moves the experimentation quotient is low. Without this the bad guys lose the fear factor that all guardians need if they are to lift arcades to classic status.
The limitations of the arcade's overall design combined with the limits of the beat- em-up genre force Final Fight into a gameplay corner. It's one from which it cannot escape, because it does not break enough rules. Graphically the sprites are large and move fast, but this is at the expense of smoothness. The heroes seem to skate along when scrolling and the backgrounds are unconvincing at best.
A strong conversion of an average punch out arcade. Because of the coin-op's play problems the effort put into the conversion side is frittered away. It's one of the best conversions of a Capcom arcade for a long, long while but accurate copying of large sprites - the arcade's major puller - can't make for long-term computer entertainment.
Amiga Format Issue 28, November 1991, Pp.96-97