I love Final Fight. It was the very first Beat ’em Up I’ve ever played in my life and it surpasses Double Dragon and Streets of Rage in my book to this day. However, being a franchise made by Capcom means that after few years something starts to break. Why Streetwise marked the death of Final Fight franchise despite adding free roaming in 3D environment? I’ll try to explain it below.
Here’s a brief summary for people who never played any Final Fight game. Released in 1989 on SNES, it was a simple story of goodhearted street fighter Cody, his ninjutsu-practicing friend Guy and a former pro wrestler, currently a mayor, Haggar. It was a simple side scrolling Beat ’em Up where the protagonists fought against the evil street gang, Mad Gear. The game met with a positive reception and two sequels were made. They introduced new characters and enemies, but were still simple enough in their mechanics. Later on, the franchise became connected to Street Fighter, with Cody, Guy and other characters being added to the roster. In 1993, an NES remake made in Super Deformed graphical style called Mighty Final Fight was made. It was the last game of the franchise being a side scrolling Beat ’em Up. In 1999, a fighting game called Final Fight Revenge got released on arcades in Japan, with Sega Saturn port being made a year after. It was a poorly made fighting game, which failed to get a positive feedback from fans. And so, Final Fight disappeared for six more years, only to return in 2006 on PS2, developed by Capcom Production Studio 8. Needless to say, it was a double KO for both the franchise and the studio which made the new entry. Why?
Any more questions?
To Capcom’s credit, they did tone down the swearing in the final version of the game. In this one scene. Despite the negative reception of the first scene of the game, they haven’t changed dialogues for any better during the initial release and the game sounds as bad as Prototype 2 in this regard, if not worse, given that we’re talking about a somewhat legendary franchise. And if you thought of all of those edgy reboots and sequels, you’ve nailed it on the head – Streetwise is an edgy sequel to the rather lighthearted button masher you were most likely growing up with. The game introduces a new protagonist – Kyle, a brother of Cody and former Marine. Because Cody seemingly got bored years after no game to star in, he and his brother participate in illegal street fights. It all changes when one day Cody gets kidnapped and it’s up to Kyle to find him. And squash some overgrown rats, of course. Yes, you’ve heard that right.
To say that this game looks like crap is an understatement. The first thing you’ll notice while playing is not only horrible looking character models, but even worse looking environments. The cars look worse than in the first Driver game on PSX, bearing striking resemblance to overgrown cardboard boxes covered in low quality textures. As you roam the streets, you’ll notice that the camera is completely atrocious. Situated behind your back, it makes the arrows pointing where should you go next very hard to see and it often obstructs your view indoors. The other thing you’ll notice is that the game has side activities, like looking for younger brother of some random prostitute you’ve ran into in front of the brothel. All of these missions involve you going to the designated place and beat someone up. After winning the side quest, you get the money you can buy new skills and items for. What does it remind you of? I don’t know… How about Yakuza? And believe me, it definitely infulenced this game. Streetwise came out in 2006, on February 26. The first Yakuza got released in 2005, on December 8. It honestly feels like Capcom decided to make their own free roaming Beat ’em Up, recalled their forgotten franchise and handed the project over to Studio 8. And don’t get me wrong, these guys did a good job on Maximo games, which were basically a Spin-Off of Ghosts & Goblins, with more accessible difficulty and solid gameplay. Unfortunately, their take on the Final Fight franchise was worse than bad, which ended in Capcom closing the studio and never touching this franchise ever again. While Yakuza still had a ton of personality despite a pretty bad English script and voice acting of supporting characters, Streetwise does everything wrong as an entry of its own franchise.
Final Fight: Code Veronica
While the game does seem like more edgy story about street gangs at first, it doesn’t take long for Kyle to find out about the existence of the Glow – a drug turning people into zombies. Yes, you’ve read that right. This game has got mutants in it. About 5 hours into the game, you move from fist fighting mooks bearing bizarre names to fighting a zombie with minigun or gigantic skeleton-like monster straight out of Dead Space and, of course, a ton of screeching zombies. Of course, Cody got infected by Glow himself, which makes things even more complicated for our completely unlikeable hero. And yes, Kyle is a total asshole – he’s shallow, cruel and vulgar, acting like emotionless robot programmed to find his brother. As you progress through the game, you meet Haggar and Guy who serve as allies for hire (not worth it, given the game’s poor AI) and trainers at their respective gyms, allowing you to learn their trademark moves. In all honesty though, the only attack worth anything is Guy’s grab attack, which allows you to deal a lot of damage and provides one long invincibility frame. Most of attacks, like Haggar’s suplex, are basically useless, being too hard to pull off thanks to the game’s bad controls. They feel stiff and unresponsive. You can pick up weapons and even guns to help yourself, but for most of the time, your fists are the best way to defend yourself. You can simply deal more damage with regular melee combo instead of using katana, which, despite longer range, allows you to attack with single swipes. The combat is nowhere as fun as it was in Yakuza and the lack of leveling up system or brutal finishing moves takes out all satisfaction it could give.
Resident Rat: Final Fight Edition
To add some variety, the creators of the game added various minigames to prevent you from falling asleep. One of these wants you to step on ovegrown cockroaches, later replaced by rats infected with Glow. Needless to say, squashing these to the green puddles is quite disgusting, despite the bad visuals of the game. We also get a hacking mini game you will get tired of after solving it for the first time (light up all panels in three moves) and button mashing sequences which seem to be here just to annoy you, as losing doesn’t mean any penalty whatsoever. There’s also a mockery of car wrecking mini game you may remember from Street Fighter, where you need to reduce a horrible looking blocky car to even worse looking blocky car. Exploring Metro City doesn’t feel rewarding, as the streets are nowhere as lively as in Sega’s title, unless you’ll count shameless advertising. Many people complain that Bionic Commando from 2009 was a sell out because of the Pepsi vending machines and Nvidia billboards. Streetwise is even worse, given that all textures are horrible, but suddenly you come across a Slipknot billboard which is clear enough for you to read everything. And yes, the game does have a licensed OST, containing the songs of various Metal and Hip Hop artists. While I can associate Fear Factory’s Moment Of Impact with a game like this, most of the songs feel out of place though. The game does have some small Easter Eggs amongst the posters on walls, like Okami artwork in Guy’s dojo or advertisements of the fights of Street Fighter characters. Aside of that, there’s no references to the previous games whatsoever. Aside of Haggar and Guy (both horribly voiced) whom Kyle doesn’t even remember despite clearly having to meet them at some point earlier, we only get Cammy and Hugo as enemies in the arena fights. Originally, Sodom and Poison from previous games of the franchise were supposed to make an appearance in this game, but they got scrapped in the end, leaving us with this ridiculously small cast of familiar faces. The original characters, like Kyle’s girlfriend, are completely bland and forgettable. Let’s also add the atrocious escort mission where both characters you need to protect from zombies share one health bar and you’ll start loathing them along with this game.
Today on Discovery Channel – How The Hell Do I Save My Game?!
If you thought this game was bad, it gets worse. You can only save your progress by quitting the game from the pause menu. If you didn’t knew that (by getting an used copy with no instruction manual, for example), you may end up losing your progress just because you thought this game features auto save. After loading your progress, you get placed at the previous checkpoint, which sometimes leads to infuriating situations. The most known one is the infamous escort mission, where you need to get to the designated spot first to even start the escort, and if you’ll screw up, you get placed at the beginning of the area, not escort mission, meaning that you need to repeat getting to the spot again. If this was Capcom’s way of artificially making the game longer, then it failed miserably.
Poor programming affects even the fire extinguisher, when you need to escape from the crumbling building in the designated time limit. Because of the auto aim, Kyle will constantly keep turning away from the flames towards the endlessly spawning enemies, and sometimes the flames won’t go away, despite being extinguished. In other words, the textures won’t disappear and you’ll end up spraying at the air until you either die or realize that you can now go through the flames because the game glitched up again. The overall gameplay is frustrating, boring and following the story doesn’t even feel rewarding.
Final Fight Streetwise is a mess. It is a textbook case of a horrible sequel and a perfect guide how to kill your franchise in the most painful way possible. Edgy story turning into monster game, where the main antagonist is a mad priest using the drug to create his own Four Horsemen of Apocalypse to save the world makes the original trilogy a masterpiece of storytelling. Hell, seeing Cody turned into a Hulk-like monster attacking you with walls of flames makes the feeling of dying inside completely justified. The only comforting thought is that recently Final Fight characters still get a faithful portrayal in Street Fighter games, even if I’d still love to see this franchise return to its own style, or try the 3D settings again, just without the edgy, nonsensical story. Streetwise deserves the negative feedback it gets, without replayability and worthwhile unlockables, but with insulting presentation and poor visuals. The forced inclusion of monsters and the motive of the main antagonist make me think if this game is actually a spiritual predecessor to Yakuza: Dead Souls…
– Some songs from the OST
– Good for few laughs…
– …before it gets boring and frustrating
– Insulting to the fans and the franchise itself
– Glitches and poor technical aspects
Overall score: 2/10