This review was originally published in 2001. It has been re-edited for style and clarity.
As a teenager, there’s nothing I loved more than a good arcade brawler. Perhaps you know the type? Linear progression through the bowels of a crime-ridden city, plenty of fisticuffs and mixed martial arts, and endless opportunities to beat the stuffing out of creeps and hooligans.
The only thing better than dishing out street justice was teaming up with a friend. With that in mind, Final Fight One delivers like Dominoes!
Final Fight One for Game Boy Advance is a port of a ‘90s-era arcade brawler by Capcom. There’s no denying that these games were designed to eat your quarters. The onslaught of scum and villainy is relentless! As such, you’ll do battle with hordes of street thugs as you progress through Metro City to confront—and defeat—the leader of the Mad Gear Gang.
The game’s three playable characters are Guy, Cody, and Haggar. Guy is a speedy ninja, Cody is your average Joe, and Haggar is a hulking man in overalls. Haggar is also the mayor of Metro City. His daughter Jessica was kidnapped, so he calls in Guy and Cody to help him get her back. They’re not just beating people up for fun!
Sluggish controls, poor response time, awkward button mapping—any of these can doom an arcade brawler. Thankfully, it’s smooth sailing with Final Fight One. The B button punches, the A button jumps, and the right shoulder button (R) performs your special move. Combine these with the d-pad for a satisfying variety of knee bashes, body throws, and skull-crushing slams. If you like, you can remap the controls to suit your style.
The one complaint I have is the rarity of health boosters. On normal difficulty setting, you get about three full replenishes in the first five stages. Perhaps great gamers can endure without taking a scratch, but the difficultly ramped up too fast for me. Even on easy, the levels leading to the main boss had me sweating bullets. I’m ultimately lamenting my lack of skill. No doubt this game was designed for two players.
The art direction embraces comic book sensibilities: heroes are tall, stoic, and muscle-bound while enemies are grungy and unsavory. Environments are varied and packed with detail. As you travel through Metro City, the change in scenery provides a sense of progression.
Character kicks and punches are quick and impactful. However, when your character is idling, he’s oddly static. He doesn’t breath, look around, or demonstrate signs of life. Since you’ll rarely have the luxury of loitering, it’s not a dealbreaker. I’ve simply been spoiled by other games.
Brawlers are all about replay—you’ll be dying a lot, after all. In terms of additional replay value, you can unlock menu options to alter the game. You can change the character’s outfit (palette swap), increase or decreases the number of continues, etc. You’ll have to rack up points first by playing through the game, so all that skull-bashing has a purpose.
Sometimes games lose features when they’re ported to the Game Boy. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Cooperative play is possible if you’ve got a Link Cable handy. If I ever meet someone with their own copy of Final Fight One, I’d love to give it a try. Playing solo is a unique experience, but multiplayer is what keeps me coming back for more.
For now, I’ll have to be content with my memories from the arcade. In those days, any random stranger could come along, drop in a quarter, and join the fight. Add in the smell of roller skates, licorice rope, and cheesy nachos to complete the picture. Those were good times.
Brawlers are a guilty pleasure for me. Final Fight One scratches the itch for an arcade experience on a portable device. Even if you’ve never played the original, there’s fun to be had here. Solid replay value, competent controls, and a simple concept executed well. What more could you want? Perhaps some teenage mutant ninja terrapins…