By Michael Mygind
Released in 2006 by Capcom for the Xbox and PS2, Final Fight: Streetwise aimed to bank off the trend of 3D sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto and its many copycats while trying to strike a nostalgic chord with fans of its definitive beat-em-up series, Final Fight.
The story centers around pit fighter and newcomer to the series, Kyle Travers, whose brother and Final Fight mainstay, Cody, winds up missing after being released from prison. Add various gangs, a religious fanatic and a new street drug called “glow,” and you have Final Fight: Streetwise. The story is weak and the voice acting is laughable. Where the story does shine is the inclusion of familiar characters from the original series such as Cody, Haggar and Guy.
Despite the inclusion of “Final Fight” in the name, this is not the 2D Metro City that you remember. It follows the trend of 3D sandbox beat-em-ups. You’ll be given clues as to finding Cody’s whereabouts and will go on various missions in numerous locations to progress. Mixed in for variety are mindless mini-games, such as arm wrestling a clerk at an adult theater to ridding businesses of giant rats or cockroaches that are drawing unwanted attention from the health inspector. Another mini-game involves deciphering an infuriatingly difficult slide puzzle to help a tattoo artist come up with a new design. The classic car destruction mini-game returns, but isn’t as satisfying. While some of these are optional, most stand in the way of progressing the story and tend to pop up multiple times throughout the story mode. These do add variety, but also add a sense of mindlessness to a game that is already based on button mashing. The missions, however, are well paced and don’t drag on for too long. In one part of the game, you are tasked to escape a burning dojo. This requires you to put out fires with an extinguisher to progress while fending off enemies before the clock runs out. After four tries, I was able to squeak by with 12 seconds to spare. This was satisfying and added some welcome challenge to the game.
The game’s fights are the strong point of the story mode. You’ll be taking on opponents one on one in sanctioned pit fights and in mobs of up to seven enemies at once on the streets. One of the pit fights even features a random cameo from Cammy of the Street Fighter series. Attacks range from fast/weak striking to strong/slower striking to grapple moves. My one major gripe is the jack of jump attacks. In the area of power-ups, you are able to pick up weapons that range from knives to bats to handguns and more. When you’re down on health, you can always rely on that hamburger laying on the street or various food items that can be purchased in liquor stores. You are also given “instinct”, which is a fillable meter that allows you to counter moves and make more powerful attacks. This is refilled by defeating enemies or finding/purchasing energy drinks, sodas and alcoholic beverages. As you progress, you will earn and find cash that can then be used to learn new moves or enhance your attributes such as health and instinct capacity and the amount of damage that you can inflict.
Control-wise, the game handles well during fights, but the right analog sticks’ camera angles can often be wonky in tight areas such as alleys and narrow hallways.
Visually, it’s a mixed bag. There’s plenty of texture in the environments and various businesses tied to the story help make the different stages more than just bland cityscapes. The character models however, are very limited. You’re going to see the same hooker, generic cholo, business man, sleeping bum and guy in a puffy coat a lot. Strangely enough, when you’ve gained enough credibility in a certain part of Metro City by completing missions, these characters will literally chase after you just to compliment you on a recent pit fight victory or give a random compliment such as “You’re off the heezy fo sheezy!”
As noted, the spoken dialogue in the game is a joke. The game’s soundtrack is a mix of instrumental hip hop and original songs from hip hop and metal artists including Mos Def, Shadows Fall, MF Doom, Otep, Slipknot, RZA, Fear Factory, Soulfly and various others. As you progress through the story mode, you will unlock new songs to the playlist, which you can switch between at any point. Music videos for some of these videos can also be unlocked and viewed in the “Bonus” area of the main menu.
Up until this point, this game must sound pretty mediocre…and it is. But, the one saving grace and reason to play through the story mode is the Arcade mode. Arcade mode satisfies old fans of the series with a traditional style Final Fight mode that has you serving up street justice through fixed view 3D areas alone or with another player. The main character, Kyle, is available as well as series staples Cody, Haggar and Guy once they’ve been introduced into the story. As the story progresses, you will gain new levels for arcade mode. The fighting remains the same as in story mode, but holding the weak and strong attacks will trigger your special move. Just like in the original series, this clutch move is strong, but will drain your health. The weapons and health power-ups from the story mode can also be found. The use of a single camera angle as you move horizontally or diagonally along each stage works perfectly and helps add a new twist on the old formula of the 2D beat-em-up. Taking on a wave of seven thugs at once as you move through this fixed view is satisfying, and almost reminds me of the infamous hammer fight scene from Oldboy, which was influenced by classic beat-em-up games. If this mode doesn’t do anything for you, then you can always play the original Final Fight arcade game alone or with a buddy, accessible in the “Bonus” area. The lack of sound effects and some lag prevent this from being an arcade-perfect port. However, it was included and that has to be appreciated regardless. In 2006, HD remakes of retro classics weren’t all the rage like they are now. So, it’s refreshing to see them try a different spin on the original formula before it became common practice.
In a nutshell, this game is a conundrum. Where it lacks in the areas of story and originality, it has enjoyable fights against large groups of opponents at a time and has a good pace for missions. However, the star of the show is easily the Arcade mode with the ability to play some pseudo-old school beat-em-up action with a friend. It’s just a bummer that it is not unlocked in its entirety from the start. So, should you play it? If you have an open mind and enjoy beat-em-ups in general, it just might be worth your time.