Thanks to the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, it is gradually becoming easier to replay classic games. If you loved a game on the SNES, NES or Genesis, odds are getting better that you'll find a port or remake on one of the three consoles. That mostly applies to console games, though, as the oft-forgotten arcade titles continue to be overlooked. Sure, you can find ports of the most classic of arcade games like Pac-Man or Galaga on Live or the Virtual Console, but those of us who grew up with The Simpson's Arcade Game or Dungeons and Dragons: The Tower of Doom aren't left with many options. Fortunately, the tide is starting to turn, and the golden days of the arcade are set to make a revival, with more and more arcade titles appearing on the online services. In particular, the Final Fight: Double Impact collection seems to exist entirely to appeal to those of us who remember pumping quarters into an arcade machine to beat the Mad Gear gang. Comprised of two separate games, Final Fight and Magic Sword, Final Fight: Double Impact is about the closest you can come to replicating the arcade experience without an actual arcade machine.
The first of the games in collection, Final Fight, is perhaps the iconic side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Both the plot and gameplay are fairly simple. A group of evil criminals known as the Mad Gear is attempting to take over the fictional Metro City. In order to progress their plans, they've kidnapped Jessica Haggar, the daughter of the mayor. Unfortunately for them, the mayor of Metro City is former professional wrestler Mike Haggar, and his daughter's boyfriend is martial arts master (and future Street Fighter ) Cody. Along with Cody's best friend Guy, they team up to beat the living daylights out of the Mad Gear gang and save Metro City and the mayor's daughter.
Final Fight's gameplay is beat-'em-up at its most simple. Players take control of Guy, Cody or Haggar as he beats his way from one end of Metro City to the other. There are slight differences between the characters, although nothing too substantial. Guy is quick and fast, Cody is reasonably balanced, and Haggar is strong and can perform wrestling moves on his opponents. Combat boils down to two buttons: jump and punch. You can punch enemies in a brief combo, perform jumping attacks on the enemies, or press both buttons at once for a special move that hits multiple foes but drains your energy. You can also grab enemies to perform throws — wrestling moves if you're playing as Haggar — for massive damage. The entire game involves going from left to right and beating the living crud out of any enemies who are unlucky enough to wander into your path. Players can occasionally pick up pipes, katanas or knives to increase the damage of their regular punches, but these weapons quickly break. There's really not a lot surprising here, as Final Fight is one of the games that defined the beat-'em-up genre, and nothing has been changed in the port to Xbox Live.
Magic Sword is another beat-'em-up from Capcom, released a few months after Final Fight. The plot is as straightforward as Final Fight, if not more so. An evil Dark Lord is attempting to take over the world using the power of the Dark Orb, and a hero known as the Brave One (and his trusty sidekick) must prevent this from occurring. Along the way, they'll meet a few friends and a whole lot of enemies. The game even has multiple endings, although the actual difference to the "plot" is pretty minor.
As far as gameplay goes, Magic Sword is more complex than Final Fight, but only slightly so. The game consists of a giant tower with 51 distinct floors filled with enemies. The Brave One and his nameless friend must beat their way through all 51 floors in order to reach the Dark Lord. Unlike Final Fight, Magic Sword mixes the beat-'em-up action with a bit of platforming. Some of the floors have dangerous traps, forcing players to combine their foe-smashing action with careful platforming. Combat is still a two-button affair, although timing your attacks can allow your blade to charge up to perform special magic spells. You can also perform a screen-clearing move at the cost of some of your life bar.
The game has also very basic RPG mechanics. Players can find an ally character — such as a magician, ninja, barbarian or lizardman — who will fight alongside them and add extra power to their attacks. These ally characters level up as the game progresses, and they can be lost or switched in and out over the course of the title. Some of these allies have special powers or requirements, such as the priest being able to deal extra damage to undead enemies. Players can also find power-ups and new weapons along the way, including new swords or axes that increase the basic damage done by their attacks. The mechanics are not particularly complex, but they add an extra layer to the game when compared to the extremely straightforward punching of Final Fight. There are also hidden paths and treasures to find while exploring the dungeon, giving it a fair amount of replay value.
Final Fight and Magic Sword are both classics of the arcade beat-'em-up genre, but that can be a double-edged sword. To those of us old fogies with fond memories of the days of quarter-eating arcades, these games are a welcome dose of nostalgia. The gameplay holds up reasonably well today, and the addition of online play makes it possible to replicate the arcade experience. Unfortunately, it's also impossible to deny that these games are rather dated. Final Fight is an experience in walking from left to right and beating up a few pallet-swapped enemies by mashing the same button over and over, and Magic Sword is just a hair more complex. The beat-'em-up genre is fun, but it isn't for everyone, and newcomers may find the gameplay too simple for their tastes — or for the cost of 800 Microsoft points.
Another element of the port that may bother gamers is the overall ease. Final Fight and Magic Sword are arcade games, so their primary difficulty curve was designed to make you spend quarters as until you either beat the game or ran out of coins. The ports, on the other hand, give you an infinite supply of continues, so the only real limiting factor is how many times you're willing to press the Start button after dying. Of course, it's perfectly possible to limit yourself to a minimum number of continues, but the games may seem entirely too easy to gamers who don't yearn for the arcade days.
At the start of every game, you're given a series of tiered challenges. Some are simple, such as defeating a boss, while others involve you amassing a certain amount of points on a stage of the game, find a hidden exit, or various other things. They're very similar to Xbox Live Achievements, except only a few of them are worth Gamer Score. However, every time you complete a challenge, a new feature is unlocked in the game's Extra menu. These special features include concept art and fan art from the games, comic books and even an episode of the old "Street Fighter" animated series. There's a lot of unlockable content between the two games, and you're encouraged to play through multiple times to get everything. Even if you're a Final Fight master, you're going to have to go through multiple times as different characters to get every possible achievement.
One of the biggest selling points of the double pack is online play. Both Final Fight and Magic Sword feature drop-in multiplayer. As long as you are playing the game while connected to the Internet, someone else can pop into your game at any time, just like in the old arcade days. If you'd rather play alone or are waiting for a friend, you can set the second player slot to invite-only or private. The online play in both games is reasonably good, and I played through both games multiple times with only a bare minimum of problems with lag. Some of the platforming elements in Magic Sword felt a little awkward at times, but nothing that detracted from the overall gameplay. However, this drop-in multiplayer does come with one frustrating element. Unless you disable multiplayer entirely, the game can't be paused. It's understandable, since it isn't any fun to slow down the game for a second player, but it means that any distraction in the real world is going to cause problems with the game.
The overall presentation of Final Fight: Double Impact is very nice. You can set the games to play in a variety of ways, including in a mock arcade setup where the game screen is surrounded by a border that mimics the classic Final Fight or Magic Sword arcade machines. The main screen can also be given various filters to smooth out the graphics or give the game the original limitations of the arcade monitors for a more "realistic" experience. There have been no other substantial tweaks to the games, as they're extremely straightforward ports. The sprite-based graphics have aged quite well, although they're going to look a little odd when blown up to television size. The audio is arcade-perfect, which is important because both games have fairly nice soundtracks.
Final Fight: Double Impact is a collection built around nostalgia. Everything about the presentation serves to remind gamers about the good ol' days of quarter-eating arcade machines and beating up hordes of faceless mooks with your pals. The two games in the collection have aged relatively well, but nostalgia is required to get the full enjoyment out of them. The addition of optional challenges and online play adds a fair amount of extra value to the game, but the fun factor still boils down to how much you enjoy beating the crap out of your foes. It's tough to deny that Final Fight and Magic Sword are both classics of the genre, and anyone who enjoys beat-'em-ups is sure to enjoy them. The simplicity may turn off some gamers, but for only 800 Microsoft points, Final Fight: Double Impact is a deal that no fan of the beat-'em-up genre should turn down.
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