As soon as the other Capcom beat-em-ups hit the arcades (which was at the very beginning of the '90s), Final Fight felt stale. Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, Punisher, Captain Commando and Warriors of Fate respectively handle much better and are joy to play even after all this time. Not to mention Alien v Predator, Armored Warriors, Battle Circuit...
That said, what do we have here? Primordial beat-em-up made far longer and thus faaar more boring. A real yawn-fest and a true chore to play-through, Street Fighter '89, though gameplay-wise quite true to its source, is so repetitive that soon into your first game you'll be able to figure out the unmistakable pattern in which enemies are about to re-spawn and where. Midway through the stage two, it's always: a) charging fatties; b) barrels; c) Andore family; d) assholes with Molotovs. Just make sure to have your finger on your special attack button ready as you progress through the idle scenery and you'll most certainly reach the last stage on your first try. If you don't get bored to tears, quit the game, delete it and never ever think about the Final Fight and any of its trillion fangames again, that is. Which is the most likely scenario.
Time was not kind to the og Final Fight and therefore re-making it, re-imagining, or whatever you want to call these homebrews, is no more than an exercise in futility. Two stars for the effort. The experience itself was... well, awful. Really no point in sugarcoating it.
How many Final Fight fangames are there just from this community? Twenty, thirty? Probably more than that.
Most of them share one deal breaking issue: They simply don’t feel like Final Fight. Earlier attempts were just too primitive, lacking the basic features of what (if we’re honest with ourselves) was a very bare bones game. In mechanical terms the original Final Fight was a step down from the Double Dragon series that inspired it, so failing to include its gameplay features is an instant “pass” in my book. Later attempts tend to go too far the other way, adding tons of mismatched material that doesn’t fit aesthetically or mechanically. We don’t need nuclear catastrophes, 30 hit juggle combos, or a 5000-pixel wide play area. We just need an offering that gets the fundamentals right while adding enough modern touches to freshen things up a bit.
Machok’s Street Fighter 89’ is just that offering. Quick note about the name – Capcom originally envisioned Final Fight as a sequel to Street Fighter before it became an entirely new project. Years later the two universes were officially merged.
As for the game, it just feels right. Machok clearly did his homework getting the mechanics down pat. Backward jumping, instant throwing from combos, and even the infinite combo glitch all made it in. Individual character abilities are in play too. Guy has his wall jump, Cody gets his close-range knife stabs, and Hagger checks in with the Piledriver that started it all. All the little things like fonts, hit timing, and even falling distance are as arcade perfect as you could ask for.
Of course, why do a remake without at least some additions, and this game has a few. Foremost, the widescreen format helps open the playfield and makes fights more tactical. Existing areas get a subtle retouch using some of OpenBOR’s unlimited layers to add depth. There are a few all new areas and they’re integrated seamlessly, starting with an intro stage that acts as a prelude to the original game’s iconic barrel wall encounter. There’s a couple of new faces in town too. Maki joins the lineup, and like everything else she fits in seamlessly. You can also take prisoner Cody out for a spin.
I do have a few nitpicks to point out. First, there are still a few missing mechanics from the arcade. Fast rising isn’t possible. Instead, everyone stands up after falls with hard coded timing. Grappling attacks lack the arcade’s scaling damage effect. Worst of all, the iconic continue screen is gone. In fact, if you have credits left, the continue timer is infinite. Come on man, this was the 80's - early 90's! Anyone who loses a fight expects to kiss dynamite. People were tougher like that.
The extra characters are nice to have, but they don’t really add anything. Maki is just Guy with a less effective wall jump (she automatically performs a flying kick that does marginally more damage and doesn’t allow combos). Prisoner Cody is a 1:1 reskin. Speaking of characters, the selection screen is a bit awkward to page through. I also think widescreen format with only two player support is a missed opportunity. Allowing three players so Hagger, Cody, and Guy could share screentime would be fire.
Lastly, there are some potential game breaking bugs related to spawning and transition. Make sure you always finish an area with plenty of time left or you might get stuck. In fairness, the game is still in demo status, and I believe the next release is fixing these.
Overall, if you are a fan of Final Fight, this is a must have blemishes and all. It’s a faithful update that adds a couple of new tricks but keeps all the original feel and flavor. Sometimes, that’s all you need.