I’ve always been surprised that Final Fight – a big hit in the arcades – never got an arcade sequel. I suppose it’s a combination of Capcom’s arcade division being busy knocking out updates to Street Fighter 2 and the SNES’s success providing a good platform for a game that Capcom could show off as being arcade perfect. That’s certainly the case with Final Fight 2, which is as just about as visually impressive as the original arcade game.
Previously on Final Fight: Belger, crime boss and leader of the vicious Mad Gear gang, pays for his villainy when Cody punches him out of a fortieth-storey window. Not a believer in the potential rehabilitation of criminals, is Cody. He also doesn’t appear in Final Fight 2, having gone on a vacation with his girlfriend Jessica after the events of the first game.
With Jessica safely outside of kidnapping range, the re-formed (as opposed to reformed, which they definitely aren't) Mad Gear gang set their sights on new abduction targets – Rena, girlfriend of Final Fight hero Guy, and Rena’s father Genryusai. Genryusai is a ninja master and Guy’s teacher, which makes you wonder how he managed to get kidnapped by some goons that look as though they’d struggle to tie their own shoelaces, never mind capturing a master of ninjitsu.
When the Mad Gear gang strikes, there’s only one person to call: Metro City’s mayor and former pro wrestler Mike Haggar. That’s exactly what happens when Rena’s sister and trainee ninja Maki calls on Haggar and asks for his help in the rescue mission. Haggar immediately ditches the business of running a city, rips off his shirt and heads off to help. I’m sure the deputy mayor of Metro City is used to this kind of thing by now.
Also involved is Carlos Miyamoto, Brazilian swordsman and friend of Haggar. I say friend, he’s Haggar’s lodger. Well, Haggar was never going to be roommates with an accountant or something was he? Even though a remake of the Odd Couple starring Haggar and a normal person who isn’t a combination mayor / warrior of vengeance would be pretty great. Carlos is something of enigma. We only really know two things about him – he loves kick’n butt and he also loves needlessly replacing letters with apostrophes.
Three fierce warriors ready for battle, then, and they adhere to the usual beat-em-up trinity of a fast but weak one, a slower, stronger one and Average Man. An alternative way of looking at it would be “Mike Haggar and two chumps,” but that’s perhaps a little unfair. Sure, scantily-clad lady ninja might not be the most groundbreaking piece of character design, but sword-wielding Brazilians who work as spokesmen for the Denim Council in their spare time don’t come around all that often. In fact, I think I’ll start with Carlos. Having a sword might be pretty handy.
Those jeans do not look they’re doing, erm, “lil’ Carlos” any favours. Hopefully Carlos can channel the pain into a deadly rage that comes crashing down on his enemies before the lack of circulation to his penis requires medical intervention.
Unlike the first Final Fight, which was confined to Metro City, Final Fight 2 is a globe-trotting adventure that sees our heroes pitch up in a different country at the start of every stage. In this case it’s Hong Kong, all poorly-maintained back alleys and equally hovel-like buildings. Not a great advert for Hong Kong’s tourist business, then, but a perfectly acceptable arena for beating large men to death with your bare hands.
As for the beatings themselves, they’re controlled in the same way as the original Final Fight. In fact, the gameplay of Final Fight 2 is identical to that of its predecessor and thus identical to most belt-scrolling brawlers. One button for attack and one for jump, repeated attacks lead to a combo, you can grab enemies and either pummel them or throw them, there are jumping kicks and, of course, you can press both buttons for a spinning desperation attack that knocks down all nearby foes at the cost of some of your health. You know how it works, and I’m happy to take an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” view on this system. There really is nothing else much to say about FF2’s combat, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The fighting generally flows at a decent clip, and it’s as satisfying as ever to throw enemies into their comrades. The warm embrace of a spinning piledriver is as comforting as it is liable to make you two feet shorter, so I’m going to have a good time playing the game – just don’t go into FF2 expecting genre-shifting innovations.
Also, check out the background – there’s Chun-Li, enjoying a bowl of noodles at a back-street food stand. The guy on the left also looks a bit like Lee from the original Street Fighter. There’s some evidence that Lee help train Chun-Li or at least knows her, although I know saying he appears here is a bit of a stretch. It’s making me wonder where FF2 fits into the Street Fighter timeline. After Street Fighter Alpha, because Chun-Li’s wearing her classic outfit rather than her athletic gear, so let’s assume that Chun-Li is enjoying some well-deserved rest before trying to track M. Bison down again.
Just in case you weren’t one hundred percent convinced that this is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, here’s an oil drum. Inside the oil drum is a cooked joint of meat, ready for eating. As I say, FF2 is not out to challenge the conventions of the genre.
There are also a few weapons you can pick up – no steel pipe, tragically – including a tonfa and a plank of wood. There’s also a knife, and when I say “a knife” I think there’s only one knife in the entire game. Perhaps that’s why Cody didn’t bother turning up for this one. I’ll be honest, the weapons aren’t especially useful, and while the extra range is nice you can put out more damage using your normal moves.
Waiting at the stage's end is, shock horror, a boss. His name is Won Won and he’s a large chap with a rather fetching bow in his hair. What he doesn’t have is a meat cleaver. He does in the Japanese version, like all good murderous Chinese chefs should, but it was removed from the Western versions presumably to prevent kids from thinking that kitchenware makes a good weapon. Planks of wood? That’s fine, but don’t hit people with meat cleavers, kids. Anyway, Won Won’s not up to much in the boss stakes so long as you keep moving, with his attacks being powerful but slow. He’s got a big sideways chop, but his favourite is the flying elbow drop.
It doesn’t look all that menacing in a still image, does it? It’s got a something of a “paint me like one of your French girls” vibe to it, with the addition of Won Won staring at his own biceps in the same way that I stare at freshly-baked pizza. Fortunately you can see Won Won’s shadow while he’s up in the air, so make sure you’re not standing there when he jumps and you’ll soon be on your way to stage two.
Now Carlos is in France. Paris, specifically, unless they’ve moved the Eiffel Tower. It looks considerably nicer than Hong Kong, even with all the bins all over the place. As ever, your goal is to beat up everyone you see. What’s not so clear is why they’re all walking around on tiptoe. The insistence of Mad Gear members on not wearing sleeves is fair enough – how else are people going to see your muscles otherwise? – but no reason is forthcoming as to why they’re daintily shuffling around like ballerinas. With their legs clamped together, too, it’s like they’ve gone out of their way to find the least stable martial arts stance imaginable short of wearing rollerskates while suffering from an inner ear infection.
Other parts of Paris aren’t looking so good. This area was sealed off with chain-link fences, but Carlos karate kicked his way through them all. The playable character in this game do have a problem with being told they can’t go somewhere, and it’s a problem they solve by smashing through whatever barricade they find. In the case of the fences it makes a little more sense, although someone still has to come and clean that up when two out of the three character are ninjas and could easily have jumped over the fence, but they do it to doors, too. None of the three have the intelligence to try the handle before bashing their way through any doors they find. A small detail, but it did start to bother me after a while that no-one ever thinks to try rattling the doorhandle before resorting to the ol’ ultraviolence.
Also of note is the punk in the green shirt. His notable features include looking very nineties and having most bizarre shirt collar I’ve ever seen. It’s like a toga held together with a belt at the shoulder, I think? Right off the catwalks of the most avant-garde fashion houses, that one. Plus his glasses make me think he looks a bit like Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo.
The Andore family make their return in FF2 – they’re the giant wrestler types, based on Andre the Giant. One of them later became Hugo in Street Fighter III. Yeah, those guys, and they’re the same punch-sponges that they were last time. They’re a threat when there are other, more mobile enemies about, but on their own they’re not much of a problem to deal with. That just makes it more annoying that they’ve got so much more health than everyone else, and that’s my biggest problem with Final Fight 2: on the higher difficulties especially, there are just too many Andores and they take too goddamn long to defeat. Later in the game some of them have more health than the game’s earlier bosses, and repetitively pounding away at them does become a slog, he said while resisting the temptation to make a “just like your mother” joke. You know what might help? If Carlos would use his bloody sword. He’ll only swing it when you use his special attack. Why even bring the sodding thing if you’re not going to use it? Ties your ensemble together, does it?
The end-of-stage of stage boss is Freddie, a military man who’s sort of an amalgam of Macho Man Randy Savage and a shaved gorilla. He’s got Zangief’s chest-hair on loan, too. Speaking of Street Fighter characters, there’s Guile in the background, watching the fight and wondering why no-one’s shooting magical energy out of their hands. I assume it’s Guile, anyway. I can’t imagine two people having that haircut. As for Freddie, he fights like a souped-up Andore, with his main attack being a dashing chest-slam. He can pick you up and throttle you, too. Freddie’s not a complex man, and neither is he a particularly interesting one to fight.
The Final Fight series’ vendetta against perfectly ordinary cars continues in FF2, with a between-stage bonus round that sees you trashing a car for fun and profit. Well, fun anyway. Okay, not “fun,” but the chance to burn off some pent-up aggression is is probably a good thing for the cast of FF2. Did you see Haggar’s grimace on the character select screen? He looks like he’s about to bite his own face in half. I understand the fires of vengeance are boiling your blood, Mike, but I also understand that you’re getting on in years and if your heart explodes it’s liable to level a city block.
It’s Maki’s time to shine now, and she’s arrived in The Netherlands, ready to continue the fight. Yes, this is Holland. I’d understand if you mistook it for Transylvania or the second stage of Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, but it’s The Netherlands. It’s the windmills, you see. That’s how you can tell.
Maki, then. She’s a bit faster than the other two but she does less damage – although her power’s not so low that you’d notice much of a difference. Her special move sees her planting one hand on the floor and spinning around with her legs out. Not much evidence of her ninja training, then. No evidence of trousers, either, which seems unfair. Guy had the same master as Maki and he gets to wear trousers. Maybe it’s like belts in karate, you’re only given trousers once you attain a high enough rank.
Here we see Maki about to whack a small fat man with a two-by-four. I wonder what page of the ninja handbook “channel your inner Hacksaw Jim Duggan” is found on. Yes, Maki is yet another videogame ninja who’s not great at, like, being a ninja, but I’ve developed a theory about that. All these ninja masters in videogames are actually failed Olympic gymnasts and circus performers who are attempting to cash in on the ninja craze of the eighties by offering “ninjitsu” lessons. Sucker in some students, teach them how to do a backflip, give them a couple of shurikens bought in bluk from that sketchy market stall the also sells bongs and figurines of Native Americans and send them on their way while you pocket their cash. It would explain a lot, honestly.
Okay, maybe this stage is set in Transylvania because the boss is here and he’s definitely some kind of Frankenstein. He doesn’t look stitched together, but there’s an unmistakeable air of “hulking corpse reanimated in mockery of the natural order” about him. Maybe Igor was out looking for suitable bodies and this massive lump of a man just happened to be fresh on the mortuary slab, saving Igor a lot of time and digging, and freeing him up do do whatever it is Igors like to do in their spare time. Something unspeakable involving electrodes and hump salve, one imagines.
Bratken’s a lot faster than he looks, and he likes to charge across the screen putting his bulk to good use. I struggled against him for a while, but then I realised what the problem was: I was trying to force it and land blows when it wasn’t safe to do so. Eventually I figured out that wasn’t helping, so I passed the time between Bratken’s vulnerable moments by beating up all the lesser minions that were cluttering up the room. Bratken mostly did his own thing, scooting around with no real aim in mind. Sometimes he got close, so I threw one of the goons at his face, which kept him busy. Then I chipped away at his health until he died. Farewell, Bratken, we hardly knew ye.
Next up is England and the train yards of London, where Maki is performing a jumping kick that leaves nothing to the imagination. She’s actually kicking this guy in the face – the fact that he has a small explosion emanating from his crotch is (I hope) entirely coincidental.
Thinking about it, Capcom seem to have a habit of including trains in English stages from the Street Fighter universe. Birdie’s Street Fighter Alpha 3 stage is also set in a train yard, Dudley’s SFIII: 3rd Strike stage is set outside a Tube station and the British stage from Street Fighter V is set inside a train station, which I’d say is enough examples for it to be a thing. I’m not sure why, though. It’s either because of Britain’s history at the forefront of railroad development during the age of steam, or the pervasive influence of Thomas the Tank Engine.
The music here’s interesting, too – a strange mixture of jazzy bass runs and Henry Mancini’s famous Peter Gunn theme, which isn’t a direction I expected Final Fight 2’s soundtrack to take, but it works. The rest of the soundtrack is okay, with nothing that particularly leaps out at me besides the first stage’s theme, which is nicely high-tempo and would fit extremely well into a Mega Man X game.
The stage continues atop a moving train. I noticed the train had the logo of a circus on it earlier. The stage boss had better not be a clown. For now, though, Maki has to deal with this rotund man who’s trying to counter her ninja skills with 50,000 volts of pain delivered via tuning fork. It’s understandable that this guy brought a weapon. He’s basically spherical, Mike Haggar could probably punt him far enough to set a new field goal distance record. You might remember that the original Final Fight also had short fat men who charge at the player, and when I say FF2 does little to differentiate itself from its predecessor that includes the thugs you’re fighting. They have different sprites, but just like in Final Fight there regular grunts, slightly stronger grunts who can block, the giant Andores and skinny men in red who dash onto the screen to throw firebombs. There are even more acrobatic fighters who were female in the original Japanese version but were changed to men in the overseas releases. Mad Gear must still have the same listing in the job centre that they used to recruit the previous batch of goons.
Oh god damn it. If I’d known how often writing about videogames would bring me into contact with clowns, I would have never started this bloody website. On the plus side, I can only associate the name Philippe with the character from Achewood, so when this clown jumped out of the box his captors had imprisoned him in all I could think was “here comes a special boy!”
Like all clowns, Philippe is irredeemably vicious and relentless in his desire to destroy his foes. His favourite method of carnage is a sliding kick, which I had a huge amount of trouble avoiding. Getting whacked by his white cane, which he undoubtedly stole from a blind person? Not a problem, I could deal with that, but when he came after Maki’s ankles with the ferocity of an angry wolverine fired from an air cannon, I admit I struggled. In the end I just had to take the hits and out-muscle Philippe, comforted by the knowledge that while I may lose some health in the process I am creating a world with one less clown in it.
Okay, I’ve made you wait long enough: it’s Haggar’s turn, and the terrifying mountain of muscle, machismo and moustache is here to clean up the canals of Venice. He’s not much changed from his appearance in the first game: he’s invested in some fingerless gloves for a better grip on Mad Gear throats, and his new lower-leg accessories are both stylish and practical, but he’s got the same moves as always. Of the three characters I’d say Haggar is the best, and that’s not just personal bias. He hits people harder, you see.
I can’t help but think that the guy in the background is going to have his holiday photos confiscated by the police as evidence.
There’s a scene where you stand in an elevator while enemies jump in to fight you, because this is a Capcom beat-em-up and one that’s beholden to its precursors at that. You know that bit in Watchmen where Rorschach says “I’m not locked up in here with you, you’re locked up in here with me”? Yeah, it’s like that except Haggar is a cool guy and not someone people mistake for a cool guy.
A familiar face appears at the end of the stage: it’s Rolento, a boss from the first game and future Street Fighter character. Okay, so FF2 calls him “Rolent” but it’s definitely Rolento. He fights in the same way, rolling around so fast he leaves a blue trail and climbing up on the background where, for some reason, he can’t be hurt even though one good shove from Haggar would send him plummeting to the ground below. He also throws grenades around, which sounds very dangerous until he does it a few times and you realise all his grenades have the explosive power of someone breathing into a paper bag and popping it. What, do you want to kill Haggar but not kill him too much, Rolento? Are you hoping the bangs will surprise and confuse your opponents, allowing you to roll to safety like Sonic the Hedgehog? I just don’t understand your plan. Come down here so we can discuss it through the means of a spinning piledriver.
The final stage is set in Japan. I have no idea why it took us so long to get here. If a ninja master was kidnapped, Japan would be the first place I’d look, but after a long European tour we’re finally here, and what a start to the stage it is. Haggar’s about to suplex this poor sod. Nothing unusual there, Haggar performs more suplexes in a day than the WWE gets through in a decade. However, he’s about to suplex this man straight onto a land mine. There are finishing moves, and there are finishing moves. Man, I love videogames.
As Haggar clobbers his way through this tranquil Japanese garden, I feel an urge to capture the moment in a way that’s appropriate to the location. Thus, a haiku:
Mayor of Justice
in flight, graceful as the swan.
Large boots bring swift death.
The new boss of Mad Gear is revealed! His name is Retu, and he’s a kabuki dancer with spinal problems. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it’s an interesting enough look. However, the fight itself is on the ponderous side, thanks to Retu’s aversion to getting hit. His most dangerous move is a Ryu-style hurricane kick, which seems to have priority over everything and makes it very difficult to get close. Even when you do get close it’s unnecessarily difficult to land a full combo on Retu, so the fight becomes a poke-and-retreat war of attrition that feels at odds with the non-stop action of the rest of the game. It’s a disappointing fight, although having Rena and Genryusai hanging in the background is a nice touch, but with enough perseverance (and the fact that the timer ticks down very slowly) eventually Retu will run out of health and Mad Gear’s latest kidnapping plot is brought to an end.
The game ends, and Haggar reflects that his debt to Guy is paid. Carlos says nothing, perhaps wondering why he’s even here. Or maybe he’s sad that in any other situation he’d have the biggest chin in the room.
Rena sends Guy a grammatically wonky letter. I’m guess she means “so we can be together,” but I’d also accept that she might be telling Guy to get himself together. Your sweetheart was kidnapped and you didn’t even bother coming back from training to help out? We’ve been all around the world, too, so unless you were training on Mars you’ve got no excuse.
You got that right, Guy.
Final Fight 2, then. I’m trying to come to a conclusion about it, but it’s a strange one. So many of the things I’ve said about it would probably put people off: it’s a rehash of the first game with nothing new added, the bosses aren’t that exciting and sometimes wading through the later enemies’ extended health bars can be a genuine chore… and yet I still really enjoyed it. Obviously I love side-scrolling beat-em-ups, and Final Fight is good enough that another Final Fight is something I’ll always want to play. If it’s simple brawler action you’re after, Final Fight 2 delivers. In summary, I like it a lot, but you might not. A lame conclusion, I know, but FF2 suffers from being the middle child between the genre-defining original and Final Fight 3, which made some attempts to spice up the formula with things like the Super Moves.
That said, did you see when I suplexed that guy onto a land mine? It doesn’t get much better than that. There's even a two-player cooperative mode.
Before I go, here’s something I haven’t done for a long time: I’m going to put Final Fight 2 through the VGJunk Beat-Em-Up Bingo process.
Twenty out of twenty-five is a high score, but it’s about what I expected. Some of these were compromises – Retu’s hideout isn’t a mansion in the usual sense but I think it was classy enough to meet the requirement, and I’m counting Final Fight 2 as two words and a numeral rather than three words. Still, I’m amazed that it wasn’t pushed up to twenty-one by the inclusion of a steel pipe. Fortunately this shocking oversight was corrected in Final Fight 3.