Release date: 1993

Systems: NES

Last week we looked at the most important side-scrolling beat em up of all time, Final Fight. Yeah, that’s right – I didn’t hedge with ‘arguably’. It is the most important side-scrolling beat em up of all time. If you haven’t read last week’s post, go do that now. In fact, if you click here you can read all of my posts on the history of beat em ups so far.

We tend to think of the side-scrolling beat em up as a 16-bit phenomenon – Streets of Rage, Streetfighter II, Final Fight, Altered Beast, Turtles In Time – these were all SNES and Megadrive titles. By comparison, solid fighting games on the NES, Master System, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad and Commodore 64 were few and far between.

But, I submit to you that when they were done well, they were done really well. Exhibit A: super-deformed NES Final Fight parody, Mighty Final Fight.

Until the N64, Nintendo’s dreaded family-friendly policy meant that Nintendo systems lagged behind in the death and destruction stakes. This famously came to a head with the bowdlerised SNES version of Mortal Kombat, where the blood and fatalities were toned down but not removed, meaning Nintendo managed to alienate its fans while failing to placate the placard-waving hysterical Bible Belt mother brigade. (I was convinced that final compound-sobriquet was going to sound like a cool band name while I was writing it, but reading it back I see it doesn’t – pah! Curse you, placard-waving hysterical Bible Belt mother brigade! Is there anything that your Jesusy xenophobia can’t ruin? Okay, think I’ve salvaged a weak meta-joke from the ruins of that sentence. Let’s make it part of English history and move on)

Mighty Final Fight is a rare happy consequence of that policy. Capcom stripped all the brutal, po-faced end-of-the-eighties grit from Final Fight, and turned it into a cartoony romp through Metro City, as Haggar, Cody and Guy fight to rescue Haggar’s daughter Jessica from Mad Gear crime boss Belger. In this version, instead of kidnapping her to blackmail the Mayor, hapless Belger grabs Jessica because he has fallen in love with her.

This game is pretty great, noble friends! Most games that appear at the end of a machine’s life tend to be less than stellar – they’re either titles aimed at the very young, or crappy movie licence cash-ins, or awkward attempts at porting games designed for better hardware.

Mighty Final Fight wisely chooses not to emulate its bigger brother, but play to the NES’s strengths – simple gameplay, cartoonish graphics, and stripped down arcade action. There’s a rudimentary level-up system, but this is superficial and has little practical effect. The controls are intuitive and the fights – although a little repetitive – are a good laugh. Lots of characters from Final Fight make an appearance – Sodom and Damnd under the less Xtian-baiting names of Katana and Thrasher. There are some silly bits of dialogue, a couple of basic yes/no dialogue trees.

The biggest shock is that Mighty Final Fight‘s elevator level is better than the original. I loves me an elevator level in a side-scrolling beat em up, folks. Final Fight, The Simpsons, Crude Busters… it’s a neat way of switching up the mechanic, and it’s soooo satisfying when you successfully suplex/uppercut/dropkick some punk right off the elevator who normally soaks up ten or twelve punches. The MFF elevator level is up there with the best – check out the video.

Most of what Mighty Final Fight does well, it borrows from an earlier NES title, one that few people in the UK seem to have heard of. I certainly didn’t know anyone with a Nintendo who owned it, but it turns out to be a total secret cracker. All will be revealed next week, at which point I suggest you get on the Nintendo Virtual Console and purchase it post-haste.

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