Thursday, April 15, 2010

AA Look - Final Fight Double Impact

I'm really not sure what to make of this one. This is a compilation of Capcom's beatemup classic Final Fight as well as their action-adventure classic Magic Sword. Sure they're both by Capcom but these two games don't have much in common. I'm not even sure what Double Impact is supposed to mean? It's not a sequel or a remake and the only thing double about this set is you get a second game. Yep this is one of the worst intros I've ever written.

First off let's get the important stuff out of the way. Proper Games did an excellent job porting both titles. The online play uses GGPO and it's superb. Even on my lousy connection I didn't have a single instance of lag in any of my games and the response time is excellent. Why GGPO isn't being used for more arcade ports is almost as astounding as the quality of the online play in this set. The video options are solid though I prefer the "arcade" setup which uses scan-lines. A filter is still applied which is kind of a nuisance but otherwise both games have rarely looked better. The lack of customizable controls is a bummer. They're fine if you're used to using a 360 or PS3 stock pad but if you roll with an arcade stick like me it takes a few minutes to get used to. Yeah it is nitpicking but c'mon, it should be a standard feature in any compilation.

With that out of the way let's talk about what's important to me, my opinion of the games. You may have read my thoughts on both games in the past but this time I'm going to make a fresh start and attempt to drop what I originally thought of them. A lot of the time just because I take a "look" at a game doesn't mean I'm done with it. If companies put forth the effort to re-release a game I figure that the game in question is deserving of another look.

In short let's just say I gave the original Final Fight a lot of criticism it didn't really deserve. I wrote it off with something like "Oh well the later Capcom beatemups are better so skip this." and that's just not fair. Just because sequels or newer games in the same vein doesn't mean the originator is no longer worth playing. Bubble Bobble for example is still a great game despite the countless sequels Taito has done for it and Final Fight is no different. Immediately you've noticed that I just called Final Fight a great game, shame it took me about twenty years to finally say so.

The storyline is classic. Mike Haggar is a former pro-wrestler turned mayor who just wants to clean up his city. Some gang known as the Mad Gear isn't too fond of that so they capture Mike's daughter Jessica. At this point I should mention that one of the things that always bothered me is that in one of the intros it shows Jessica in hr bra. To me this sends the message that Mad Gear did more than merely capture Jessica. I'm not 100% sure what the implication was there but it leads to the same result. Mike calls in Jessica's boyfriend Cody and his friend Guy to help him clean up the city personally. As far as beatemup storylines go this isn't exactly original but who cares? It's the perfect excuse for a few guys to get together and beat hundreds of thugs to death.

One thing that still stands out to me while playing this game is that it is a brutal affair. There's not a lot of blood or anything but the deep bass and the powerful noises from bodies hitting the pavement have so much more impact than a lot of games these days. Even with the technology to make someone explode and throw their guts across the screen most games made today just can't quite get the feel of Final Fight's attention to brutality. The enemy count is also something to behold. Off the top of my head I can't think of any beatemup 2D or otherwise that has quite as many enemies on screen as Final Fight. Okay maybe there's Capcom's own Aliens Vs Predator but even then that was probably just a swarm of aliens and they didn't do much except wait around to get blown up.

In the past I talked about a game called Denjin Makai 2. That is a beatemup with loads of moves and all kinds of tricks to string together killer combos. With Final Fight you don't get any of that. Personally I think it's great as it works so well with this game. The stylish kinds of beatemups can be fun but to me the genre should always emphasize a lot of the technique we usually see in fighters. You have a limited set of moves and the enemy has a limited number of ways to react to them. It's a matter of knowing what move to perform on which enemy which will not only lead you to damage them but to also keep yourself from getting damaged. There are a few moves that can be done neigh-infinitely on an enemy but for the most part they're bugs and besides that they're mostly useless when there's more than one enemy on the screen.

Final Fight works because it makes the most of the necessities. There are only a handful of enemy types and not that many moves to pound them with. The variables to consider are fairly minor aside from weapons like knives, pipes, or swords, or the possibility of rolling barrels. Still with the thirty or so minutes it'll take to get through this game you'll find that every aspect of this game will be properly handled to the best of its ability. In each encounter you have to consider the combination and number of enemies, how much health you have, what weapons are available, and if there's food where is it placed so you know where to be when health gets low. From there you have to decide which moves you can do and go from there, reacting to everything as you see fit. There's nothing in the way of evasive options so unless you know what you're doing you will take a hit.

Last time around I complained that this game didn't use enough telegraphing. Oh it's there alright. Just consider every enemy that's still breathing as an immediate threat. These guys are merciless as they love to surround and if they get even one hit in they can stun you and chip away half or more of your health. You can break out of this with the health-draining special attack and a lot of playthroughs are going to be exactly that. You'll punch people around for a bit, get surrounded, do a special, eventually die, and before you know it you've blown about ten continues to get through this game. It's still one of the tougher beatemups around cause despite the generous amounts of food and the fairly frequent extra lives it doesn't take much to get killed. Succeeding in this game isn't some overnight thing where you read some guides, watch some videos, and then you're one-life-clearing the game. With Final Fight if you can use one less credit in your next plathrough you're making progress. Minimizing damage taken is how you eventually grow to master this game. There's no fancy combos or skillful techniques that you can show off with so all you can do is play smart as well as aggressive in order to get better.

It's still an unfair game all told. The mechanics aren't quite 100%, enemies can hit you while you're on the ground, and the damage-scaling is rather wonky. The best response is to play unfair yourself. There are lots of tricks that can be abused that while they won't earn you your black belt they will keep you alive. Cody's ability with a knife is not something that should go unnoticed for example. He's fast and stabs very quickly, which means he can knock someone down and then just mash away with the knife and there's no way they can counter. Cody also happens to have an infinite though I'm not sure in this version. It's something to the effect of two punches, turn, and then two punches again. This somehow keeps him from going into his attack string that knocks the opponent down, thus leaving them stunned infinitely. Funnily enough this infinite was sort of carried over into one of Cody's super moves from Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Today Final Fight holds up as one of the best in its genre and though for awhile I probably would have loved to say otherwise I can clearly say that this game deserves any and all recognition as a classic. Even after two decades it's great fun and a constant source of challenge.

Unlike Final Fight I've always loved Magic Sword. If you were predicting the ol' switcharoo I hate to disappoint but I still love Magic Sword even now. Okay maybe I don't love it quite as much but I think it's still deserving of it's status as a great arcade game.

Great evil, two guys wanting to fight it, massive tower, souls of allies, and a bunch of monsters die. If you expected anything else out of this storyline just make some stuff up about Freudian metaphors or some nonsense about the great evil actually being good. The goal is in getting to the top which is about fifty stages in length but no worries it shouldn't take much more than half an hour to do so.

Both of the main characters have a weapon they can swing and the ability to run and jump. They also have a health-draining special attack and their weapon charges in power if they can keep from swinging it for a little awhile. What further differentiates these guys is theirs or your choice in allies. All of the allies are stuck behind locked doors throughout the tower and they will add your strength to yours if you pick them up. They're certainly important to have because their range greatly exceeds yours and if need be they can shield you from attacks at the cost of their health.

This game isn't particularly difficult but I think it has more of an understated level of challenge. There's a health meter and it's fairly generous with an almost constant supply of food to be found. Trouble is staying alive isn't as easy as one would think. There's a time limit of sorts in that the player's health is always draining. You can go several stages without taking a hit but there's nothing to be done about the rapid loss of health so when the time comes that you do take a hit you will die because you were down to your last bar. Most of the time you take damage because you were surrounded by enemies. It seems like the perfect time to use your health-draining special but what do you know you don't have enough health to use it.

Surviving this game revolves around food. Unfortunately food unless you're willing to learn how to hoard you're probably not going to beat this game without continuing anytime soon. Yep as opposed to Final Fight where it takes constant playing to master the way to succeed in Magic Sword is through reading up on some tricks. There's a handful of areas where certain enemies are bound to drop food. With the proper power-up the chances of grabbing this food can increase several times over. Since some areas seem to provide near-infinite numbers of these enemies you can expect to collect as much food as long as time persists(there's a second time limit you're very unlikely to see as it's based on the current stage).

That's not to say this game can't be beaten without gorging oneself. This just seems like the safe way out and it'll effect your score since carrying the power-up that increases item drops means not holding the power-up that doubles score. Whether this means allowing for a clear balance or simply getting to the point where one doesn't take damage at all well that's up to them.

In any case this is still an exceptional game despite that it can grow a bit repetitive. With fifty stages I guess this is to be expected but I'm sure something could have been done about fighting the same boss multiple times. The balance of the allies is also all over the place though I guess that it works in favor of replay value as you can take different characters to different areas to see if one works better than the other. It's nice to have a bit of a strategic approach every now and then though with some characters(like the Amazon or Giant with their pitiful range) I wonder what the point is in lugging them around. Still maybe I just need to play the game more to see where they're useful.

All in all it's a strange title to include along with Final Fight as I would have suggested maybe another beatemup or whatevs but eh no matter it's still a solid game that's worth multiple playthroughs and like almost everything in life it's more fun with a friend. So yeah I totally recommend this compilation. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense but two fantastic ports is worth the money I figure.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I've never played Double Impact so I look forward to trying this.