Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Review: Final Fight Double Impact (360 & PS3)

Two retro themed reviews in as many weeks, eh, not something you’d expect from a site calling itself IQGamer. However, I thought that it would be a nice alternative from the sometimes non-stop barrage of technically charged writing which can usually be found here. Also both titles were not only recent releases available on either Nintendo’s, Microsoft’s, or Sony’s online networks, but also franchises which we at IQGamer have fond memories of. So it made complete sense to cover them. Of course we’ve still managed to put in a little technical charm here and there, so overall it’s not without relevance.

Our latest retro escapade takes us back into Capcom’s world of street pugilism and swords and sorcery for Final Fight Double Impact, an XBLA and PSN release of both the original arcade version of Final Fight, and a little known title called Magic Sword, which explains the swords and sorcery bit.

The collection not only features both titles replicated arcade perfectly, minus unfortunately the original rendering resolution, but also comes complete with various display modes and online network options bulking out a rather basic arcade package.

When you first start up the collection you are presented with an online mode by default, it’s actually the standard mode of play just like in a real arcade. Although you can obviously start off by playing a game by yourself another player can randomly join in at anytime, just like if they were to plunk in a couple of pence into the local arcade machine. If you’re not a fan of this wholly arcade free-for-all nature at hand, then you can customise the game to allow for a single-player only experience. Or matches via invites only, like a private game session just for friends.

The arcade experience is pretty cool either way you slice it, and makes the package really feel like a proper arcade conversion in the home.

Another thing, which does just that, are the opening menu screens you are presented with for both games, which show off the games original arcade cabinet along with some artwork created for this XBLA and PSN release. When you go to play the game for the first time the camera zooms in on the cabinet with the screen becoming the central 4:3 picture, and the artwork on the cabinet becoming the boarders that usually fill out a widescreen picture for these old titles. You can of course start playing right away, with the screen warped like an old arcade CRT monitor and the game upscaled within that screen. In addition this mode also creates scanlines and a fake monitor glow to make it look like your playing the games through a camera filming the action or something.

Whilst being pretty cool, it is possible to select a whole range of image options to change the way these games look; from soft focus upscaling, to a nice sharpening effect much like in the XBLA and PSN release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, or even have the visuals untouched in what can only be described as a basic pixelated upscale. Personally, the full-screen ‘original’ option looked the best on my Plasma screen, and on my old Sony CRT (240p/480i native) in 480i looked the most faithful, although for LCD screens the games ‘sharp’ scaling option would clearly look better, as it does also on progressive scan HD CRTs.

Unfortunately there is no option to play either game in the original 240p resolution supported by standard def CRT TVs, and the Nintendo Wii for VC games. Neither the 360 nor the PS3 can output something that low, with PSone games on the PS3 via scart being interlaced out at 480i instead, just like what happens here with Final Fight DI. It’s not a major issue, but purists like myself will certainly feel like they’re not getting the entire experience as it should be.

Like with most Live and PSN releases of classic titles, there is an unlimited save anywhere option along with infinite credits also. This does take away most of the challenge from the game seeing as you respwan at exactly the same point in which you died when you choose to continue. It would have been better to have started off with something like five credits and having to earn more via playing the game repeatedly instead of giving infinite lives by default.

Alternatively it would a been a good idea to grant the option of infinite lives, but with fixed respwan points through the levels, making you do a bit of backtracking when you die. This wouldn’t have been ‘as in the arcade’ though, so it’s understandable why the option isn’t there. Also in Final Fight, it’s pretty damn clear as day that certain parts of the game was designed intentionally to suck up the last of any spare change you might have had. Not something that bodes all that well for a home conversion.

In terms of the games themselves, the first one on this collection, Final Fight, needs no explanation. It’s a side-scrolling 2D beat’em up, in which you walk along a path both horizontally and vertically through varying locals punching, kicking and smashing your way past a range of thuggish enemies, and tough end bosses. Weapons can be picked up and used, such as lead pipes, swords, knives etc, and health is obtained via eating turkey legs scattered around on the floors on each level. It’s basically just like Streets Of Rage or Double Dragon, but with a different cast of characters and better graphics.

Magic Sword on the other hand, is slightly different. The game is a weapons and magic based platform action game, stroke beat’em up, owing more to the likes of Shinobi than SOR or Final Fight. Using your trusty sword, you slice and dice through various enemies such as dragons, the undead, mummies etc, whilst throwing a few magic fireballs to even up the odds. As you progress along any one of the game’s 51 stages you pick up keys that free the many prisoners to be found locked away in the game. After they have been released they join you on your quest, helping out in taking out the hordes of monsters that lie in wait. Each of these prisoners has their own unique abilities useful against certain types of enemies, however you can only have one in your party at any given time, the last one that you freed.

It’s Magic Sword which proves to be the most interesting game of the collection, not least of all because this is the first time that I’ve played it – a rarity seeing as I’ve played most Capcom arcade titles released over the years - but also because Final Fight is a game that has been seen far too many times in the past, and Magic Sword is a refreshing discovery of an old style gameplay design so popular back in the 16bit 2D era. Both are completely worthy or your attention, Final Fight is still an excellent scrolling beat’em up, though not as accomplished as the last two SOR games, and Magic Sword is something different, but nicely familiar all the same.

Final Fight Double Impact is one of the best XBLA and PSN releases of a classic arcade or home title. A wealth of display options are available to suit the majority of tastes (again, sorry purists no 240p), along with a fully customisable online mode and a unique approach at recreating ‘that’ arcade atmosphere from some twenty years ago in your living room. Sure we have seen one of the games a little too much in the last ten years or so, a bit like with Street Fighter II on those many retro collections and VC releases. However this ranks up there as the most complete conversion yet, and comes packaged with another great title lost in the history of time, available for the first time at home.

If you’re looking for the definitive home conversion of Final Fight, and are intrigued by the inclusion of the unrelated Magic Sword, then this downloadable release is certainly worth picking up. Purists like myself might object to the lack or original resolution support, whilst everyone else will be more than pleased to see a fan favourite given so much care and attention. Playing side by side with a friend, or over Live or PSN, on games like this is a rarity, and one which Final Fight Double Impact does so well.

Resolution and slight display issues aside, there’s no reason not to recommend picking this up. Both games are as fun to play as ever, and the co-op online system is a great inclusion. More retro re-releases should be produced with this much thought and attention to detail in mind.


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