Posted by boyo on Aug 13, 2010 20:24 (Aug 13, 2010 20:24)
Imagine if Double Dragon’s Billy Lee was really pissed off and on steroids. And possibly crack. With two of his mates coming along for the ride into a desperate neighbourhood. Did we mention the steroids? Did we mention… SODOM???!!
In 1986, Final Fight was as close you could get to the gritty, urban realism of the American ghetto. Mayor Haggar (just before he went and joined Van Halen presumably) had just found out his daughter had been kidnapped by Mad Gear (now know as Blazing Squad) and he was going to take the law into his own fists to get her back.
This game spawned about five hundred further side-scrolling beat-em-ups from those imaginative folks at Capcom but this remains the most iconic, and best loved (although Alien Vs Predator gives it a good run for it’s blood money). Sure, the plot was nothing to write home about but the action totally hit the spot.
Traversing through slums, parks, tube stations and a wrestling ring whilst delivering ‘the beatdown’ to ‘punks’ is still enormous fun today. Add to that the three distinct fighting styles of the playable characters and you’ve got the most complete fighting game of 1986, featuring an enemy likely to bum you into submission, set in a city run by a wrestling mayor.
So it was horribly inevitable that Capcom would one day release a true follow-up on the Playstation 2 and now its here and it’s everything you expected and less. Well… kind of.
The action is set in present day Metro City which is even grittier than before. Twenty years of gangsta rap, drug-dealing and bad governorship from Haggar have seen the neighbourhood go to the dogs and gangs now control the streets.
Haggar’s buddy, Cody, is back after spending time in jail and has been knackering his knees bare-knuckle boxing to pay the rent, so things aren’t looking up for him. His only ray of hope is his younger brother, Kyle, a talented fighter with something of a future.
The game begins with Kyle in a one-on-one pit fight before Cody mysteriously disappears and rumours start surfacing that he’s started fighting again, using a deadly new designer drug ‘Glow’ to improve his chances. Kyle hits the streets of his local neighbourhood asking questions and punching anyone who gives him wrong answers.
For a while Final Fight: Streetwise actually impresses. The fighting engine is competent, with a nice range of attack and defensive moves, including counterattacks and specials that can be bought down at the local gym. Taking on a five-strong gang of street urchins becomes an intuitive process that nonetheless requires a modicum of good timing and skill to evade attacks.
Away from the fighting itself, there’s a host of characters to meet, areas to explore and sub-games to partake in (none of which are particularly troublesome or wearing) which gives Streetwise a nice, fleeting Shenmue feel.
Capcom pulls some punches when it comes to the presentation which is something of a let down. The main menus feel clunky and cheap and some poor character models and animation ruin the otherwise passable graphics. Of course, this being 2006 means that the now-mandatory licensed soundtrack will delight or offend in equal measure depending on your taste (or lack of) in music.
The story of the game also references the original Final Fight wherever possible with old favourites turning up such as Guy and Andore which is a nice touch, though the frankly awful port of the arcade original is crushingly disappointing. Considering that Capcom have recently released Final Fight as part of their Classics Compilation, the lack of reverence in this port is staggering but the old playability and charm remain if you can forgive the sloth-like speed and sub standard graphics.
So, where does it all go wrong? Well, without giving too much away, Streetwise runs out of steam roughly three-quarters of the way through. The story, fighting and exploring all give way to a sequence of boss battles so uninspiring and frustrating that you’ll hardly believe that this product was released by the same company that gave us Resident Evil 4.
If you like the idea of sequential boss battles with enemies that frequently reappear with full health after you’ve killed them and boast an array of cheap, unblock able moves then this is the game for you. They can be defeated, but the effort and frustration it takes to finish the game rubs away the shine from what is a fairly decent sequel. It smacks of a cash-in and if it wasn’t for Resi 4 and the likes of Viewtiful Joe then I’d already be mounting my own Final Fight mission over at Capcom HQ…