Luke versus Darth Vader, Sonic versus Mario, Tiger Woods versus sexual desire, Hall versus Oates – The world has been fraught with conflict and confrontation since the history books began. Perhaps the biggest full-scale conflict concerning this second Week of Rage tribute week is that age-old opinion-splitter Streets of Rage versus Final Fight, two real behemoths of the retro side scroller genre.
It’s the game equivalent of crossing the streams. Careful now.
Round One: History and Premise
I guess to even begin comprehending this pairing we have to go back to the start. Capcom launched Final Fight in the arcades in 1989, so it actually predates SEGAs series by a whole two years. Capcom may have pioneered this style of game in a big way but that doesn’t necessarily make it better.
Both games centered round a similar premise; in Final Fight, the Mad Gear gang have both Metro City and the balls of mayor Mike Haggar in a tight vice. In a bid to persuade Haggar into letting the gang run riot unopposed, they kidnap his daughter Jessica and hold her for ransom. Telling the gang ‘no deal’ Haggar, along with friends Guy and Cody, take to the streets to unleash their own brand of face-paneling street justice, leading to the shadowy kingpin behind the gang…a paraplegic in a wheelchair named Belger.
Now, I’m all for equal opportunities in gaming, in fact, although it is all about violence, Final Fight is about as politically correct as they come in this respect. Why shouldn’t a handicapped person have the influence to create a ruthless street gang. Unless the final boss of Streets of Rage is a paraplegic who also happens to be blind, I will have to give this round to Final Fight…
Score: SoR 0 – Final Fight – 1
Round Two: Characters
Both titles boast a superb character roster. Streets of Rage 2 covers so many bases; Max is your slow yet powerful fighter, Axel is powerful but a tad faster and with greater reach, Blaze is a great all-rounder while Skate is weak yet blindingly fast. Score one for spoiling us for choice.
Final Fight may have three characters, Haggar being the slow yet powerful one, yet the differences between both Guy and Cody are threadbare, with slightly different weapon handling and specials, they simply aren’t diverse enough. Also, who’s representing the female corner guys, what is this the dark ages?
OK, forget I asked…Final Fight is disqualified from this round on the ground of sexual confusion
Score: SoR 1 – Final Fight – 1
Round 3: Ambiance
This should be a no-brainer. Afterall, Streets of Rage 2 is widely regarded as having one of the greatest game soundtracks of yesteryear. You want the proof? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE PROOF! *cough* – here it is:
Fair play to Final Fight, it does have a great soundtrack, but it really can’t compare to the masterworks of Yuzo Koshiro. I can think of no game soundtrack that so perfectly embodied the year it was released than Streets of Rage 2. It drew in influences from the techno and dance charts, smooth jazz from the bar stage and boasted one of the best boss themes of the 16-bit era:
Meanwhile, SEGA CD owners were treated to this when they bought their home copy of Final Fight:
NOT SO FAST MIKE!
Sorry Capcom, it’s a no-brainer. Streets of Rage wins!…Continue?
Score: SoR – 2 – Final Fight – 1
Round Four: Visuals
Oooh, tricky one this. Streets of Rage 2 may be full of colour and slick animation, but Capcom’s Final Fight does it chunkier, bigger and with more fluidity. Something about Capcom arcade titles really does resonate and grab me, they are afterall, masters of sprite art. Just one look at the Street Fighter Alpha series proves how talented their artists are. While the home versions of Final Fight were much less appealing to the eye, the arcade version was real treat.
I really like this screenshot. Look how chunky the sprites are, together with the detailed background that strecthes out into the distance, compelte with onlookers. It’s evident the Capcom team spared no expense in the art department. Now let’s compare this to Streets of Rage 2.
Not bad, I really like the lighting effects here, together with the detailed backdrop. However it’s lacking a human element. Other than the cage fight against greased-up wrestler Abadede, you never see onlookers in the background. I realise the game takes place over the span of one night and the streets ae likely to be deserted but it leaves the stages feeling a tad cold. Again, it pains me to dock Streets of Rage a mark as it’s my favourite of the two, but the raw arcade power of Final Fight wins this round….just.
Score: SoR – 2 – Final Fight – 2
Final Round: Gameplay
So we come to the final round of this legendary saga as we attempt to name a victor. Gameplay is crucially important to how enjoyable a game is. Side scrolling beat-em-ups can often fall into the trap of being repetitive button-bashing. Sadly, Final Fight falls into that very category for having a scant combo system. Streets of Rage 2 on the other hand boasts a wide move set consisting of:
Jump-kick to the side
standing jump kick
Jump and down-kick
forward-forward-punch rush attack
standard punch combo
static special move
grab and punch attack
grab and forward-punch combo
front grab throw
back grab throw
hold punch for two seconds then release attack
Bloody hell! All this from just three buttons? Ok I’ve seen enough. Final point goes to Streets of Rage. To see the expansive move set in action, check out this gameplay video from YouTube:
Kudos to ShiryuGL for the footage and mad skillz .
Final Score: SoR – 3 – Final Fight 2