The emergence of things like Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console were logical and obvious. If you ask any gamer what his top five games of all time are, you’re likely to hear as many Super Mario Bros. 3s and Contras as you are Fallout 3s and Half-Life 2s. Be it nostalgia or the desire for pure, technical gameplay, gamers crave the legendary adventures of the early consoles and arcades. However, at least insofar as the Virtual Console is concerned, its releases’ greatest strengths are also often its downfall: the faithful reproduction of the original games — for instance, wouldn’t it have been nice to be able to play Mario Kart 64 over wi-fi rather than against the same friends that you’ve always played with?
Capcom’s Final Fight is one such classic that was bound for re-release, and Final Fight: Double Impact — a dual pack download that also includes Capcom’s Magic Sword — delivers in decidedly faithful fashion. Driven by recreating the arcade experience explicitly, Double Impact not only recreates the original games faithfully but presents it on a virtual arcade machine, a casual nod to Capcom’s quarter-sucking classic.
Final Fight is the archetype of a brawler: a sidescroller wherein you punch and jump kick your way through endless waves of knived or otherwise unarmed, ninja-like street hoodlums on your path through a nominal storyline. You select one of three characters whose binomial traits — slow but strong, quick but weak, or average — are typical of nearly every brawler/Capcom fighting game since. There are various interludes and minigames (e.g., a tag team wrestling match against a ninja master, and easily the most famous scene from the game, a non sequitur where you mercilessly smash a presumably innocent yuppie’s car and then laugh at his anguish), but for the most part, the game is just constant waves of enemies. Magic Sword is a similar brawler, except rather than fighting thieves and criminals, you spend your days “swording” and “magicking” and “axing” your way through a tower of demons and zombies in the most scattered, so-much-stuff-going-on-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-killing fashion on a quest to save the world from evil forces.
As an aside, the Capcom model for games like Final Fight and Magic Sword were economically brilliant: they’re games that, regardless of your talent level or understanding of the game, are going to see you burn through continues (i.e., quarters) to the point that I question the legality and morality of so outwardly scamming pre-teens out of their allowance. But I digress.
The real draw of the package is the ease of online co-op modes, which were included to try and simulate other gamers placing a quarter in your machine and joining up to defeat the various hordes of street muggers and zombies. Aside from being a nice addition to a console port, the ability to pick up with anyone else playing the game is a crafty way to keep you interested in games that are otherwise short and remedial. Lacking the need to pay for more continues and the fact that the game gives you unlimited continues means that working through and beating the games is simply a matter of patience and inevitability.
And when it comes down to it, Final Fight: Double Impact doesn’t offer enough new material to make it anything more than a nostalgic flashback. If you’ve played the games before and neither are on your list of must-haves, they’re just a diversion for you and your friends to reminisce over. Then again, smashing up virtual cars rarely gets old.