Final Fight is the best game ever made. If you don't agree with that statement, consider the following words: Bred, Andore Jr., G. Oriber, Edi E., Two P, and, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Metro-City Mayor Mike Haggar. These are some of the most unforgettable characters in gaming history, and they all appeared first in Final Fight. If you're still not impressed, then stop reading now--you won't appreciate Final Fight One, an almost perfect translation of the arcade original.
In case you're unfamiliar with the Final Fight legend, but were impressed by the list of characters and so are still reading, here's the deal: Final Fight is the seminal side-scrolling beat-'em up. Technically, Double Dragon may have come first, but Final Fight perfected the genre. Imagine Street Fighter if it wasn't designed for monocle-wearing fancy-lads--if it had a more meat-and-potatoes combat system, involved fighting a lot more than one enemy at a time, featured plenty of smashing barrels with your fist to see if there's any treasure or hunks of meat inside, and required a lot more walking to the right. And then imagine that not only can you punish the thugs by pile-driving them, but you can also make them cry by busting up their cars. Then stop imagining, because it's all contained in Final Fight.
The Game Boy Advance version is a little miracle. It's the best translation of the arcade game to date. First of all, it contains all six of the arcade levels, including the industrial area left out of the 1990 Super Nintendo translation. And unlike that version, Final Fight One features all three of the original characters--the all-arounder Cody, the beefy Haggar, and the agile Guy. More importantly, it permits two people to play cooperatively using two systems and a link cable. Even more importantly, the two-player mode works great and doesn't slow down when there's a lot of activity onscreen, which is pretty much all the time because that's how the people who play Final Fight like it.
Unfortunately, the translation isn't completely perfect. For some reason, the two female punks, Roxy and Poison, have been replaced by generic male punks. This was true of the SNES version as well, but that hardly excuses it. There are also some small graphical changes--the arcade's flickering fluorescent light effect is gone as are a few background animations. The game's soundtrack suffers somewhat in translation too.
There are five difficulty options ranging from very easy to very hard. You're allotted a limited number of continues, but unlike in the arcade and SNES versions, progress is saved after every level. One mildly annoying feature is that the two-player mode gives you unlimited retries with no option to restrict the number of continues. Of course, you can simply decide to permit only a certain number of retries, but seriously, everyone knows those kinds of honorable resolutions never last very long.
Perhaps to make up for the small ways in which Final Fight One deviates from its arcade inspiration, a few bonuses have been included. There are now some small cutscenes before each of the boss battles. It's not a huge thing, but they do include some excellent new tough-guy dialogue such as "Shut your mouth up! Get Ready!" There's also a point system that unlocks a series of bonuses. None of the bonuses amount to much, however. There's nothing even as good as, say, a portrait gallery. About the best bonus is an option to make Guy and Cody wear their Street Fighter Alpha clothes. The rest are all along the lines of extra lives, a level select, and other pretty mundane rewards.
Still, the great thing about Final Fight is that it's a timeless game. Whether it's your first time through the game or your seven hundredth, shoulder-tossing one punk into a group of his oncoming friends remains a thrilling experience. It may not be deep in the Virtua Fighter smarty-pants sense, but it is deeply satisfying. Final Fight represents straightforward arcade brawling at its absolute best. That the entire arcade game now fits in your pocket is quite frankly insane.