Mighty Final Fight is a mighty fine beat-’em-up
Capcom’s Final Fight is a series that needs no introduction. While there were other beat ‘em ups that came before it, Cody, Guy, and musclebound Mayor Mike Haggar’s battle against the evil Mad Gear Gang is one that defined a generation when it released in 1989, drawing droves of players to their local arcades, laundromats, and convenience stores to get their fix. Flash forward to 1993. The 16-bit era was in full swing thanks to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but Nintendo wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on the then 8-year-old NES. With millions of consoles in the hands of gamers worldwide, Capcom released Mighty Final fight. This super-deformed slug-fest may not pack all of the visual punch of its arcade and 16-bit brethren, but it’s still a solid brawler that can go toe-to-toe with best of the NES’ beat-‘em-ups.
The setup is simple: Cody’s girlfriend Jessica has been kidnapped by the Mad Gear Gang. Now it’s up to the trio street fighters, Cody, Guy, and Metro City’s pro wrestler-turned-mayor Mike Haggar, to slug their way through five stages to put the evil gang out of commission before its kingpin Belger makes Jessica his bride. It’s a familiar story for sure, though a bit more lighthearted than that of its inspiration. Still, it works, and lends itself well to Mighty Final Fight’s super-deformed visuals, which serve as as a major departure from the hardened hoodlums and crumbling slums seen in the previous game.
If you’ve ever played a beat-’em-up before, you’ll feel right at home here. Mighty Final Fight’s bare knuckle brawls are as streamlined as ever. A simple press of the B button will unleash your standard punch or kick, while tapping the button rapidly will let loose a crushing combo attack. Pressing A allows you to jump and deliver aerial attacks. Pressing both A and B simultaneously will execute a special attack that can clear crowds. However, it must be used sparingly as this attack siphons away a bit of your precious health bar. It’s as simple a system as you could hope for, but that’s not to say Capcom hasn’t done anything to reinvigorate the series with this spin-off.
The most interesting new mechanic is an RPG-style leveling system. As you eliminate enemies you’ll gain experience. Pound enough baddies to a pulp and you’ll level up, allowing you to perform more powerful special attacks. For example, after achieving level four, Cody can unleash a hadouken-like chi blast, Guy dishes out dual kicks, and Haggar can flatten foes with his mighty body splash. While these new moves are handy, the best thing about leveling up is that it automatically replenishes your health bar. It gets to the point that surviving by the skin of your teeth just long enough to gain a level and replenish your health becomes a necessity to progress in the game’s later levels.
Given Mighty Final Fight’s grueling challenge, you’re gonna need all the help you can get. Even the most basic hoodlums can chew away at your health bar in no time. This is especially true when it comes to bosses like Sodom and Abigail, who can slash and smooch away half of your health with a single attack if you’re not careful. That said, pattern recognition is the name of the game if you want to overcome these nasty adversaries. Without a doubt, Mighty Final Fight is one of the hardest beat-’em-ups in the heap. Thankfully the game never throws more than two enemies at you at a time, which helps make things more manageable (and helps keep the sprite flicker to a minimum).
While Mighty Final Fight is a blast, there are few shortcomings that manage to gut-punch the fun factor. Much like its SNES cousin, the game lacks a two-player cooperative mode, which comes as a major disappointment. After all, cracking skulls is always more fun with a friend. Sadly, you’ll be going it alone during this tour of Metro City. It’s hard to understand why Capcom chose to make Mighty Final Fight a single-player affair, and its absence is hard not to notice. Given a proper cooperative mode Mighty Final Fight could have been the must-have brawler for the NES. Another problem is that the game’s controls also feel a bit mushy and sluggish at times, which can make getting the first hit in feel all but impossible against some enemies.
Considering the game’s already steep difficulty curve and just how quickly even a bargain basement baddie can reduce your health bar to zilch, this lack of finesse can be maddening at times. So if you’re prone to hurling your controllers into the drywall, consider yourself warned. If you’re short-tempered and still insist on taking the plunge, I’ll just leave this here ahead of time. You’re welcome.
In terms of visuals, Mighty Final Fight is a real treat. As I mentioned earlier in this review, rather than attempting undertake the impossible task of bringing Final Fight’s beefy sprites and gritty visuals to the NES, Capcom decided to take things in a more whimsical direction. The end result is a much more vibrant and chibi visual style that looks good and gives the game plenty of character. Seeing the series’ iconic cast of characters, like the femme (?) fatale Poison and the hulking Andore transformed into these super-deformed caricatures is nothing short of delightful, and longtime fans of the series will love seeing these once-imposing figures deconstructed into saccharine 8-bit sprites. The game is also full of little comedic touches, like eyes bugging out of enemy’s heads when they’re punched, which really help bring the on-screen action to life.
When all is said and done, Mighty Final Fight is a really solid brawler that does the series justice. The combat is fast-paced and packs a punch, the graphics are vibrant and detailed, and the over-the-top animations are a joy to behold. And though the game largely sticks to the franchises tried and true formula, new features — like the excellent experience system — do a great job of keeping things fresh. Still, it’s a shame that there’s no two-player cooperative mode, and the spongy controls and uneven difficulty can be aneurysm inducing at times. However, if you don’t mind the challenge, Mighty Final Fight is must-play game for any self-respecting fan of the beat-’em-up genre.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: NES (Reviewed) ; Developer: Capcom ; Publisher: Capcom ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 1993