Mix And Match
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Remember the days when you could sit in your basement and play through a side scrolling beat 'em up and enjoy its basic visceral fun? It was a simpler time, when pounding on one punch button, with maybe a few grabs thrown in for novelty, afforded you a couple afternoons of mind-numbing pleasure. For all intents and purposes, Capcom's "Final Fight: Streetwise" is exactly that. The problem? The great arcade style slugfests, which this game is not, died with the 16-bit platforms more than a decade ago.
"Streetwise" is yet another thinly veiled attempt by Capcom to take great games from its past and cash in with mediocre or outright bad games on current generation platforms (see Megaman, Street Fighter, etc.). While it tries to represent its hardcore street cred with an abundance of profanity and violence, the new Final Fight is about as streetwise as Justin Timberlake.
We are immediately thrown into a makeshift boxing ring in some painfully played out Fight Club as Kyle Travers, younger brother of Cody, whom gamers recall from the original Final Fight games. After a nonexistent tutorial, we learn that Cody is in deep with many of Metro City's most unsavory characters. The single player missions follow Kyle's generic quest to find his brother and help him kick his "Glow" habit (a more luminous version of PCP). Although you follow this story, the game allows you to roam free in each of the city's "roughest" hoods.
The idea of freedom to beat up whomever and whenever is nice, but unlike better roamers, it quickly becomes predictable, frustrating, and utterly boring. There is no map system whatsoever, each specific city hood feels and plays almost exactly the same, and the overwhelming majority of the environments are not interactive.
Hopefully, you enjoy smashing the occasional trash can and taking on a handful of thugs here and there. Hopefully, you also enjoy lots and lots of load screens, because every time you open a door or walk to another part of town, you will get a nice shot of some lame artwork. You'll find yourself avoiding doors and taking the scenic route to destinations just to avoid these disjointed breaks in action.
While running through Metro City you are prompted to complete tasks via your journal. This is an ineffective way of telling you what to do and how well you've done. Many times, the game will ask you to read your journal in the middle of a street brawl with ten thugs, which is just plain annoying.
As for the control and combat system, it can be described as X-button and A-button, rinse and repeat. "Streetwise" tries to toss some variety in through the purchase of combos and by going into "instinct mode," but honestly, with enemy AI this dumb, you could go through the whole game hitting the heavy punch button several times. There is also a lock-on feature, but since you'll be mostly fighting multiple enemies, it does more harm than good.
During the monotonous melees the camera has a nasty habit of hiding you and your opponents. Many times I found myself stuck in a corner, hitting X and hoping I was bashing an off-screen bad guy. To break up the alleged fight fest, the game throws in several mini games that Kyle must complete to advance the story. Think less "God of War" and more "Whack-a-Mole." These mini games vary from stomping roaches to, I kid you not, a slide puzzle. Oddly enough, some of these mini games can be enjoyable in a very basic sort of way. Stomping rats and roaches to bogus ska music, however, does not seem very streetwise.
As you complete portions of the game you will unlock playable characters for the arcade mode, including Final Fight regulars Mike Haggar, Guy, and Cody. Arcade mode is pretty much exactly the same as the single player mode, minus the aforementioned boring story. It is an attempt to imitate the old school Final Fight games, where you and a partner can walk through town kicking ass and taking names. But, more often than not, you'll just be taking those dubious names Final Fight slaps on its standard thugs.
You can also unlock the original Final Fight, but the game makers couldn't even include a decent version of the game that started it all. The bad sound and choppy frame rate of the emulation mirror the bland visuals, hit or miss licensed score, and eye-rolling voice acting of "Streetwise." Even the cut scenes in Streetwise are left in the same resolution and detail as the regular game animation, begging the question, did Capcom really care?
"Final Fight: Streetwise" is in the same vein of "Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks," only it is not as deep, polished, or inventive. With "Streetwise" you pay for what you get. What you get is the 16-bit Final Fight experience with very little learned from a decade of game industry growth. So if you want to waste time in the same mind-numbing fashion you used to, but with a Tony Montana helping of profanity and darts mini games, "Streetwise" should suffice. For everyone else, play real darts.
Nate Barnes is a reviewer for Gameindustry.com. When not otherwise distracted he can be found playing with his Xbox and dreaming of virtual glory.