Review by hangedman

"A final effort, even if not a great one."

''1989 was a long time ago.''

The year is 1995. The SNES is dying of old age, and next-gen systems are beginning to crank out the games. Final Fight 3 is a long way away from the original, so much so that it seems like a completely different title. Final Fight 3 attempted to remedy the problems rampant within Final Fight 2, leading to a game that was good in its own right but nowhere near the feel of the original.

Not to say that Final Fight 3 isn't a good beat-'em-up, but the end result of optimizing this game for the SNES is very different from the first arcade game that we all know and love.

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STORY
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''We can only rebuild the Mad Gear gang so many times.''

The Mad Gear gang stopped working for good after the second time they were crushed. In a desperate effort to rebuild themselves, everyone wants a piece of the Mad Gear action. Because anyone who's anyone in the criminal underground thinks that they should be the next Mad Gear boss, the gang is never rebuilt to full capacity, and is dominated by the Skull Cross Gang. Talk about coming out of left field.

About this time, Guy returns from Japan and is having a nice conversation with Mayor Mike Haggar when a giant explosion is seen out the window. Guy agrees to help the good mayor out with the butt kicking, and Guy and Haggar are soon joined by a cop and an Ex-street fighter, both of whom show up in Haggar's office out of nowhere. The cop, Lucia, explains that the Skull Cross gang has started a full-scale riot in order to free the leader from jail. The fighter, Dean, says that he's seeking revenge against the gang after they killed his family, as Dean refused to work for them.

The furious four head downtown to beat up people, making their way to the ubiquitous ''big building'' in town run by the evil leader, or maybe several of the extras from Goodfellas. The mafia is behind everything. Why should the Skull Cross gang be any different?

Final Fight 3's story is lame, but it's better than the ridiculous stories I've seen elsewhere. At least they have a plausible reason for why the Mad Gear gang is MIA, even if they don't have any reasons for why Haggar and Co. didn't just drive to the ''bad guy building'' right off the bat.

I'm getting used to it, and on the plus side, no girl was kidnapped! I've got to give it some points for Dean's opus:

''I'm going to hunt down every last one of them down and make them pay!'' Welcome to the department of redundancy department.

Story: 6 / 10
Above average for a Final Fight game. I have low standards.


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GRAPHICS
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''You look dumb, guy. No, this isn't the 80s anymore.''

Final Fight's characters were dumb looking, but seeing as how the game was made in 1989 (about 1985 in Japan, judging from the characters), they had an old-school kind of charming dumbness about them. Sadly, Final Fight 3's characters look absolutely pitiful in a timeless sort of way, so the character designs are pretty horrible.

Haggar has been officially screwed over. First, I thought Haggar was nifty-looking in a Cro-Magnon sort of way, and in FF2 he donned giant combat boots and shinpads. Bizarre, but it looked like Haggar was capable of some rocking. Final Fight 3 gives Haggar skintight bike shorts and the same goofy kneepads. And a pony tail. I have some choice words to say to the Final Fight 3 character designer, none of which should be repeated in front of an elementary school if you don't want the kids being as screwed up as I am.

The enemies are uninspired, or seemingly inspired by the use of hard core narcotics. We've got the Billy Lee like guys with a vest and knee-high silver boots, in addition to baseball players with hockey masks and leather-clad midgets with gas masks. The bosses are hardly any better, with Chinese chefs in cowboy boots, pirates, and some dreadlocked guy with a wrench. I think I liked the last boss, Black, better when he was called ROLENTO.

However ridiculous everything looks, it moves and looks good in the technical department. New to the Final Fight seems to be moves that have more than two animation frames, and they look great. Enemies each have a few different attacks, as well as several non-recycled animation frames from character to character. Typical of the FF games are the almost-palette swaps: palette swaps with different heads. It works, I suppose. All of the characters are large and detailed, a staple of the Final Fight games.

The backgrounds are pretty good, and there's little sprite recycling from area to area. Although nothing back there that eclipses what's going on in the foreground, it's pretty good. Some background interactivity is present, new to the FF games, which produces some neatness when a baddie is thrown into a plate glass window.

As one of the last games made for the SNES, the quality is good. Animation is plentiful, characters are detailed and big, and the backgrounds have a modicum of interactivity. A good final hurrah for the SNES in the eye-candy department, and a good showcase of what the SNES is capable of.

Graphics: 8 / 10
Excellent if you disregard the horrible characters.


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AUDIO
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''Yawn.''

There isn't too much audio outside of a few generic sounds and some repeated music. Punches and kicks fail to enthuse me, but they're much more low key in this game instead of a high-volume metallic clanging in the last game. I never thought that mediocrity would ever be a good thing, but it is here. Voices are few and far between; when they occur they're about as bland as the other sound effects. There's nothing interesting to see here, move along.

The music is pretty well-done, the typical Japanese glam-rock is cross bred with a small handful of Jazz. It's so incredibly video-gamey, but I liked it nonetheless. Although most of the themes were good, FF3 had a tendency to wear out their welcome after the fourth time I'd heard them. Even the boss has recycled music, which is usually a small warning sign to most.

There isn't a lot to recommend by way of the sound, but it's not nearly as painful as it was in Final Fight 2.

Audio: 6 / 10
Low key and average, neat music.


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GAMEPLAY
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''And you said you were a Final Fight game, right? You're a liar.''

Final Fight 3 is a gigantic leap away from the gameplay conventions we're used to. If I was to bastardize the gameplay into one sentence, I would say ''Final Fight plus Street Fighter Alpha.'' Truthfully, I'm not surprised by the direction that they took with the gameplay. I'll give a brief rundown here:

Final Fight (arcade) was a game utterly dependant on large amounts of opponents to attack at once. Seven enemies could be onscreen at once, without a trace of slowdown. Consequently, things could get tricky and out of hand for the unskilled. Punch-combos wouldn't work the whole game through, and enemies could tag-team you when you were caught off-guard.

With the SNES, the maximum number of enemies onscreen is three. Because of this, much of the charm and skill of Final Fight is lost in the translation. With the new direction Final Fight was headed in having to work around the technical shortcomings of the SNES, there are essentially two choices:

*Leave Final Fight's core as is, giving it a cosmetic makeover. Familiarity is made at the sacrifice of playability.

*Revamp the fighting engine to allow more moves and techniques to balance out the fact that there's a minute amount of enemies.


Final Fight 3 decided to take the second option, unlike the first game ported to the SNES as well as the sequel. FF3 has added so much over FF2 that it's a game so far detached from its roots that it really isn't doing any justice as a makeshift sequel. Again, it's not bad, but it may be farther from Final Fight's arcade experience than you might be expecting.

There's a true dichotomy in the new gameplay. On one hand, your punch-combos, throws, and jump-kicks work in an identical fashion to the ones in Final Fights one and two. Get close, and you can perform the hit-hit-throw combination we're all familiar with, or stand at a distance for the multiple-punch chain combo which ends in a knockdown. On the other hand, Street Fightery special moves have been thrown into the mix as well as a super bar. Running is accomplished by double-tapping forward, and leads into either a running jump-kick or a running knock down. Most fighters have either a quarter circle or ''dragon-punch'' motion to perform a multi-hit special move at any time during the fight.

The real kicker is this super bar, which when filled allows for a highly damaging special move. The command for this move is fairly difficult in comparison to everything else, but delivers a large amount of pain to your intended target. The super move breaks up some monotony in the gameplay, but overall it's not too far above and beyond the power of your standard attacks. Usually, it works as a ''get rid of one guy faster than normal'' payoff whenever the bar fills up, and not some catastrophic attack as one might expect. I would have liked something more powerful at the cost of twice the charge time.

The other special moves and dash-attacks do a lot to break up some of the regular tedium in the game, and sometimes allow an extra edge in a boss fight or random skirmish. They're also pretty powerful if they connect fully, and this requires a small amount of skill to accomplish.

The problem lies within the fact that because you have godlike abilities, your enemies don't have much to stand up to you with. The game is easy, but unlike FF2 (which was also easy) you have different moves to use on the same regularly appearing cast of freaks. Even though you have a lot of stuff to make the game less repetitive, without your bag of tricks the game doesn't take enough initiative with enemies or bosses to provide something new or original with each level. Baddies, boss. Baddies, boss. Repeat. There's little challenge outside of the cheap hit that snakes in every now and then. Technically, you could beat the game using only your punch-combo. Not a good sign.

The formula behind the level progression is an old one, but old doesn't exactly equate with classic. It's clear that FF3 is making steps in the right direction, but the relatively few numbers of predictable enemies and bosses drag FF3 down. Consider additionally that with games like Streets of Rage 2, new levels, enemies, and bosses are constantly being introduced. Rise to the level of the competition or get out.

Final Fight 3 hasn't done anything as far as the weapons go, as they still appear as infrequently as they did in the last game, again providing less of a gameplay difference than they would have been useful for. Give us more, and give them more often. Once again, Final Fight 3 has been eclipsed by competitors here.

Final Fight 3 is a good attempt to try and restore a dying series back to its former self, but in this case it's not enough of an effort for how much time has passed. While I can appreciate the greater list of moves for each fighter as well as the subtle but clear differences between all of them, there's too much unchanged from the last two games. These issues were problems then, and are extreme problems now. Sure, FF3 has way more moves and stuff to do, but the enemies are still as brain damaged and repetitive as they were in the last game.

Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Too little, too late.


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OVERALL
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''And it ends not with a bang, but a whimper.''

Final Fight 3, if it is to be the last game in the lineage, is a sad note to end on for the greatness that the first game was able to achieve. It's clear that Capcom took a different road this time, but it didn't stray as far off of the beaten path as it should have. Final Fight 3 is not a bad game. It's an above-average beat-'em-up. There's enough here to keep you entertained, and it's not a failure in spite of the repetition that seems to plague most beat-'em-ups.

Final Fight 3 seems torn between attempting to do everything right and stay true to its roots. It strikes an odd discord between the two, which absorbs the negative of both with little of the positive. Sure, it's faithful to the roots, because it's repetitive and shares many of the same problems. It also does a lot of things differently, but not enough to turn it around. As such, Final Fight 3 feels like an outcast from the Final Fight series: much like 1 and 2, but different enough to be ostracized from them.

The glory of Final Fight is over. There are no more gigantic riots, the usefulness of each move does not vary based on the situation or enemy, and there's no more sense of danger or challenge. Final Fight 3 brings super moves and dashing, but it continues to carry the beat-'em-up burden of extreme repetition.

Sleep well, Final Fight.

Overall: 6 / 10

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*I want a beat-'em-up with Don Knotts.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/18/02, Updated 02/18/02


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