"Scars build character, don’t they?"

After having played the overwhelmingly mediocre sequel to one of the best brawlers ever made, I was rather hesitant to even look at this specimen. Upon hearing word that some rather disagreeable character designs combined with a deteriorated fighting engine were present, I pretty much abandoned the idea of even looking into it. That is, until three years after its release and I picked it up for ten dollars just for giggles. Expecting the worse as my console was turned on and instantly skipping the intro, I ended up being quite pleased to discover I had been in error. This is actually a pretty enjoyable game. Indeed, in some regards it is even an improvement over the original. What has been altered for better, and what could have been better off as it was in its predecessor, Final Fight?

I’ll dole out the good news first; the gameplay and controls are excellent. Instead of sticking with simply the tried and true for what has always worked for the basic brawler, they’ve also thrown in specials and super moves. Running has also been introduced where it had been absent before, along with gatling running combos for the more nimble characters and a running aerial attack for everyone. Everything else is still intact from before, and everything else still runs as smoothly as ever. The special techniques and super moves work well in many situations and are simple to perform, usually consisting of a simple direction input followed by hitting the attack button ala Street Fighter. They help to keep gameplay quick, clean, and simple in this manner and don’t at all deter from the simplistically fun operation that games of this genre are supposed to have. The running attacks specifically are useful, hitting with especially well developed connectivity and aiding your fighter in keeping the pressure of the hoards of thugs soon to impend upon you. Best of all, if it is obvious you are running into a sticky situation, a pair of quick taps in the reverse direction will cause your character to stop dead in their tracks and hop backwards and away from danger. As if that weren’t enough, it is now possible to unlock different pathways and levels depending on your actions. This helps to inflate the replay value and give veterans a little something to toy with.

In perspective, these may not seem like very significant things. In fact, you can easily play through the game without employing any of these new features at all (which is quite a bit of a misfortune, but that will come later). It should be noted, however, that they do not detach from the wonderfully simple gameplay at all, and may even prove invaluable to those who are willing to invest the few seconds it takes to toy with them and get used to their proper applications. The only complaints I might be able to surmise are that the connectivity is still slightly shaky for some of the moves and the physics are a bit floaty. Nonetheless it isn’t really enough to make the game feel sloppy or choppy, and it is still an improvement over previous titles.

The character movements aren’t sloppy or choppy either. All the attack animations are done smoothly. Only a few actions seem jerky and erratic, but this is likely due to the programmers intending it to look that way. In one example, there is a small enemy type named Joe that will jump up and latch onto your character, then bite their necks several times in a row. All of this baddie’s animations and actions seem rather bizarre and spastic, but given his appearance one would expect this character to act in a manner equivalent to that of a neurotic Chihuahua. The detailed face mask and wild hair don’t exactly add to any sanity that may be perceived. On that note, this isn’t the only character design that is well done. Many of the basic thugs have had a good amount of work put into them; the Andore character especially has been made to look more menacing with a harder face and metal chains. The new player characters, Lucia and Dean, are also well designed, and Guy still looks as sharp as ever. The backgrounds are also well drawn and fit into the usual city-in-the-midst-of-a-crisis shtick. Particularly the factory level, which has an interesting pulsating lighting effect running along the walls towards the later end of it to give off the vermilion glow of the fires below. I doubt it will be anything you haven’t seen in any other side scrolling brawler, but they are still well done.

Haggar, however, could have been left untouched. They added on one too many layers of thick muscles onto his hide, and to be frank the spindly ponytail he has dangling down to his hips from his diminutive cranium looks ridiculous on him. He looks more silly than tough in this game. The bosses are also a lackluster bunch. It is a given that bosses in these sorts of games tend to be large muscular fellows, but there are always a few oddballs thrown in to help mix it up. Final Fight had the obese cop and Belger himself. Final Fight 2 had a psychotic clown and a marine with a seemingly limitless supply of explosives. What does Final Fight 3 have? Nothing. Ever single last one of them are over sized, steroid induced guys with dinky heads. It gets a bit tiresome fighting these goons that all seem too similar.

Then comes the worst of it all: the challenge level. No matter how you come at it, this will be one game that most people can effortlessly soar through. On my first play, I stormed through Normal mode without losing any lives at all. Even on Expert mode, don’t expect to die too often or to even need the use of a continue. I don’t even know what the continue screen looks like; I never was challenged enough to get to that point. This really drains away from the replay value. Sometimes when I go back to Final Fight and play through I’ll still get destroyed on a bad day, but with this one I can always clear the game in little time and with minimal effort. One can even meander through the entire thing without using anymore than the basic punching combo. Thus, while all the additions to the fighting engine are great you can still get by without using them, making them become completely optional. It is still entertaining for a run every so often, but it is not substantial enough to elicit long term interest from the gamer. This game could have easily been improved with a bit more pizzazz in the enemy AI and if the game actually gave you a reason to use your full arsenal aside from using it for the sake of variety.

The music and sound effects are what you would expect them to be. Punches sound like punches, kicks sound like kicks, and the music is effective in doing its job. It is nothing that is so catchy that it will burrow itself into your cerebrum and remain there, but it isn’t obnoxious either, and assists in setting the proper ambiance for this type of game.

Don’t expect anything new in the story department either. It’s just another evil gang of thugs taking over the city for whatever purpose, with Mayor Haggar and Co. ready to beat them into submission and reclaim the metropolis. Not worth complaining about, but nothing with an interesting twist either.

Thus we have the end result of a resplendent piece of work that simply ends to fast and doesn’t provide enough. It’s like a good candy bar: sweet and succulent, but there’s all too little of it and you will be left wanting more. With this aside, Final Fight 3 is a good finisher to a trilogy that suffered in its second installment. It carries its scars well and is a great Beat ‘em Up while it lasts.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/18/04


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