Fixing Amiga Final Fight

Finalfight_amiga

Being a geek is all about the little details and when basking in the joyous rays of youth there are some things which at times move from annoyance to flat out obsession, and the one thing that really stuck in my craw when I was at the greasy blossom of my teenage years was Final Fight on the Commodore Amiga!

As the years pass the iron of time is expected to free the shirt of life from such silly wrinkles like this, as the sensible population embrace maturity, responsibility and adulthood.

And then there’s me!!!

The Beginning

Before we start, let me first express my complete and total realisation that this piece will undoubtedly win the top award in the “Most pointless topic for an article ever!” category and with that we shall move on…..

Let’s face it, there have been few games so absolutely and uniquely genre defining as Capcom’s amazing 1989 beat ’em up Final Fight. Indeed, it is the yardstick to which all scrolling beat ’em ups are judged even to this day and it’s impact on modern gaming society can’t easily be overlooked. The fact that it is set in the same universe as the Street Fighter series (almost being a Street Fighter game itself before a name change) only adds to it’s appeal.

The game was a smash hit in the arcades and at the dawn of the 1990’s hungry players like myself were desperate for a home version, but at that time the only port in existence was for the Super Famicom which was then only available in Japan. Unless you were very rich or very stupid and could afford or were willing to pay for an expensive grey imported Super Famicom and equally expensive cartridge, you were figuratively humped if you wanted a shot at Final Fight in your bedroom. Make no mistake, at one time I nearly saved up enough to get one but chickened out as it was just silly money for a teenager to be expected to pay. (My will wasn’t as strong when Streetfighter II was released for the SNES though!)

Enter U.S. Gold, a dubious games publishing house who were famous for snapping up arcade licences and producing poorly made ports for the home computers. They had the task of bringing Final Fight to what was arguably the most popular home computer of the time, the Commodore Amiga.

History

I openly admit to having a little bit of an obsession with Final Fight and even more so with the Amiga port.

I first came across the arcade game in 1990 whilst trawling the Golden Mile in Blackpool when I was on the annual pilgrimage with the family. I was a big beat ’em up fan anyway but going from games like Double Dragon and Vigilante to this well……it blew my socks off! Plus it guzzled at least £30 of my hard saved up holiday money (I’m serious!). In those days that was about half a years worth of hard car washing, but the game was totally worth it and I can still recall seeing Guy’s attack combo for the first time and the subsequent sound of my jaw hitting the floor. Nothing since has had the same ‘first play’ impact on me as Final Fight and so it has a very special place in my gaming heart.

hqdefaultWhile on a day trip to Edinburgh some months later the Final Fight arcade game was still heavily on my mind. I stumbled across a small games store with a guy behind the till who looked like Mario’s grandad, but on the counter there was a Super Famicom all set up with *Gasp* Final Fight plugged in.

It was beautiful, it looked perfect and I wanted it so bad……but I just couldn’t afford it nor was I even prepared for even seeing it at that time. Bear in mind that even with the Super Famicom conversion’s shortcomings, at that time seeing anything that even looked remotely like an arcade game of that level on a home system was absolute witchery!

So there I was sitting on the bog “sometime in the 1990’s” 😉 (Ok it was 1991) as you do when you’re 13 and reading my new copy of C+VG. After getting a little excited reading the Streets Of Rage review I flicked towards the back of the mag and *Gasp* There it was…..

A review of Final Fight on the Amiga!

The screenshots looked AMAZING and the review itself was very warm and awarded the game a respectable 80% overall. The EMAP games magazines at that time had a funny rating system where 90-99% was phenomenal, 85-90% was really really good, 80-85% was a solid game and anything below 75% was bullshit.

80% was decent and already I had an image in my mind of how it was to be and I was prepared for the perceived sacrifices too.

FullSizeRender
My original copy of the C+VG Amiga Final Fight review.

Sunken

Some time later I was in and around the game shops of Glasgow and I picked up a copy of Final Fight for the Amiga. When I got home I couldn’t wait, so I ran upstairs popped in the first disk and was greeted by the amazing intro with that absolute beast of a title song which I watched all the way through and it really got me excited. Things changed when I started playing though…..

The first thing that I did was walk up and try to punch a bad guy and…….holy shit, where’s the attack combo?

Gone!

Where’s the grab move?Intro

Gone!

Where’s the stun move?

Gone!

Where’s the music?

Gone!

Where’s the between level transitions and score roundup?

Gone!

Where’s the end sequence after beating the game?

Gone!

Yep, Final Fight on the Amiga was a bit of a letdown!

In the arcade game you had the multi-move attack combo, grab moves, jump attacks, a splash/stun move and the panic/special move all of which could be combined and used in tandem with each other for some very varied assaults. On the Amiga conversion, each character was left with a single punch, a jump attack and a variation of the special move. Needless to say, the review in C+VG was generous to say the least and I actually wondered if they had even played the same game.

The Good

After calming down for a bit I started to analyse the game properly and went through it about 9 or 10 times (not a hard thing to do really!). I came to realise that the reason I had such a problem with this conversion is that it had a really solid foundation and had so much potential to be good but some really odd choices prevented it.

To start with, the graphics are great! Seriously, for an Amiga beat ’em up this is really good. The intro uses more colours to get a near arcade perfect recreation, even more accurate than the SNES version as it uses the original arcade text fonts.

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The graphics were pretty spot on.

In game, the energy bars have been placed outside and above the playing view which presumably makes scrolling easier and is absolutely fine although they are the wrong colours. It should be yellow on red not red on black but I’m guessing that plotting and drawing a single red bar which is linked to the energy variable in the code is easier than a yellow over a red. Apart from that, any sort of screenshot was going to look brilliant and at a glance you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the coin-op.

The sprites were ripped directly from the arcade machine using a home made ROM reader built by Programmer Richard Aplin and they are MASSIVE! Furthermore, they move quite smoothly too. The backgrounds however, weren’t from the arcade and were drawn by some graphics artists employed by U.S. Gold. Aside from a few blocky and bare looking sections they are great too with the ‘Westside’ background being particularly good. The game also has some really nice graphical touches like how the player will bounce off the ground when he falls down and the way weapons fall when you change them. Other things too like car bits flying off and bouncing around in the bonus stage and it seems like a nice little gravity engine which was made. There’s also some subtle background animation now and again like the swinging of the train handles and water drips from pipes on walls and it’s just a few simple touches that you appreciate.

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The game had 16 colours overall. Doesn’t seem like it does it?

There are compromises, but really they’re hardly noticeable. The in game colour palette has been reduced to just 16 (4 bitplanes for you techy folk). This makes it all a little drabber with more muted choices and some greens standing in for blues in the shadings. That’s ok though as I always felt that it gave the game a gritty ‘Amigaish’ feel and injected a bit of home computer personality into everything….in a good way of course. Honestly, back in the day and without a direct comparison to the arcade game you couldn’t really tell the difference and I actually think some parts look better than the ultra grubby Mega CD version so kudos on that front. The palette reduction was NOT caused by being ported from the Atari ST which is a common misconception. The Amiga game was made first! The colour choice was all to do with speed and so less colours just equalled a faster game. The parallax scrolling in the backgrounds has gone as well but that’s ok too, they’re not really missed at all. There is an issue with the main scrolling itself in that it’s a bit slower than the player’s walk speed which is a tad annoying to have to stop start a walk to move on.

There have also obviously been some frames of animation dropped for every character in the game which is to be expected, and that’s totally fine. I mean let’s face it, you don’t need the arcade’s 12 separate frames of animation just to make the player walk or any more than 3 to do any sort of move, player or otherwise. The choices made in regard to which frames were to be omitted are on the whole very sensible ones, and even some very clever ones too.  A few don’t seem so sensible though and there are even one or two frames that only appear once and are never even re-used anywhere else in the moveset although they could be.

The other thing that grabs you is actually how fast the game plays. When there’s about 2 or 3 baddies on screen plus your player it’s actually quite speedy and it does nearly match the arcade game which, given that the ‘sprites’ on the screen are actually all memory hungry blitter objects (or Bobs) instead of hardware sprites and are being handled by the on board blitter chip as well as the scrolling, it’s quite impressive. This is especially so, given the tech it was made on (not even a 1MB expanded ram Amiga, just plain old 512k). The slowdown when the screen gets crowded is a bit crap but we’ll get into that later.

The sound effects are all meaty and have been taken from the arcade game, although they are a bit more ‘clicky’ and a little misplaced (E.G. Guy’s arcade spin kick woosh is now the bonus stage glass smash sound effect) but they do the job well. There’s a pitch shift effect on them when you hit more than one enemy at once, and this is presumably to prevent sample stacking whereby if two sound wave forms which are identical play at the same time they will double the volume.

Interestingly, the game has a few sound effect samples from the arcade machine which are on the disks but aren’t used within the game at all. These can be listened to by opening the disks in a music/sample program like Octamed or Protracker or something similar. The unused effects include –

– Cody’s uppercut sound effect
– Haggar’s Hammer punch sound effect/grunt
– Haggar’s Piledriver yell
– Guy’s “AY-YA!” Flying Kick yell
– The ‘Hit’ sound effect for the pipe weapon
– The crowd noise for the end of Level 2 Boss fight in the boxing ring.

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Both bonus rounds were included.

The same is true for some graphics as the disks contain the background for the missing elevator level and Andore cage fight, plus the sprite sheets for the two missing knife enemies Holly Wood and El Gado (What????). Icons for missing items such as the sword and all the breakable objects including the oil drum, the telephone box, the crate, the barrel and the bin are also on the disks.

This suggests that perhaps much more was actually planned for the game but time ran out. It’s crazy beans to have so much missing in the actual game yet have all this stuff on the disks that isn’t even being used taking up space.

The Bad

Ok, let’s get this out the way- this article isn’t just some excuse to slag off Richard Aplin nor is it an attack on his programming skills. I have a huge amount of respect for the man and he is a very talented programmer whose other games I have enjoyed immensely. Nevertheless, the conversion does fall short on a number of features and that is what is being discussed here, not anyone’s reputation. The game is very cleverly coded and it’s a smooth ride but I just think there were some odd choices made with the gameplay. To me it feels like everything else got priority over the actual player characters as the game has all the levels, almost of the weapons and just about all of the bad guys yet SO many of the player moves were missed out.

Coming down to potential reasons for this it could be that –

1. U.S. Gold gave a measly 4-6 months for the game to be fully completed in (F**K SAKE!!!) and there just simply wasn’t enough time for a one man team to get anything bar the most basic game skeleton done.

2. Richard Aplin has stated that he simply wasn’t into these types of games. That’s fine though, there are games that are insanely popular which I find quite dull and it’s all a matter of taste, but if you don’t ‘get it’ then it’s going to be hard to try and simulate whatever ‘it’ is. In fact, Amiga Final Fight is a classic example of ticking all the boxes but almost completely missing the point, as I don’t think Mr Aplin appreciated what made the game so popular in the first place and as such it got lost in the translation (That and actually having no time to fine tune the gameplay).

I see the same thing happening in the music production world where a band of one genre gets recorded by an engineer who’s into another. While the engineer may be very talented and it’s technically all very well recorded something will inevitably slip through the net as you need to understand what’s happening from an artistic point of view as well as a technical one. Games are no different!

Anyway back to the game. The enemy placement is so random when compared to the arcade machine, and due to the complete absence of any breakable objects there’s shit and items just lying about in clumps all over the streets which makes the whole thing feel sort of like an unfinished beta demo. The game starts by just dumping you in what seems like a random position somewhere near the start of the first level, and right in amongst a huge gang of bad guys too. In fact, every level starts pretty much this way, yet there are massive sections of each stage where you are just walking from left to right with nothing happening. The Boss Abigail appears a few times as regular enemy Andore Jr. and nothing really seems spread out any more. For example Andore first appears on Level 1 when he is a level 2 and onward enemy

There’s zero in game music too and this isn’t the fault of Richard Aplin either, as apparently U.S. Gold didn’t even hire a composer to do any tunes. In fact, I recall reading that Mr Aplin bugged his bosses again and again to get someone in to do a few tunes, but they were just too cheap to hire anyone.

Another thing is the enemies AI. They  all seem to have the same basic AI pattern, like it’s been copied and pasted for each instance.

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Crowd round and batter in!

The routine goes something like this –

– Always move towards the player
– If far away then move fast
– When closer slow down and walk
– When close enough then attack

That’s it! Every single enemy bar maybe Belger (who is just called “Boss” here) or Roxy follows this routine. Belger actually has an interesting pattern which makes him back off and hover which if that code were put in one or two of the lesser enemies such as Axl or Two P, would have made the game much more varied.

Most beat ’em ups will have what’s known as a breather or ‘ground’ routine for enemies, and it basically means that when your player has been knocked down and is on the ground the enemies back off or stay still. This allows you to get up without being slaughtered or knocked down again right away and adds a bit of fairness to the game.

Amiga Final Fight doesn’t have this feature, not does it have any sort of hit count whereby you get knocked down after a certain amount of enemy punches. Due to this, you just stand there being pummelled until your energy runs out becasue your punches are so slow that the fire button doesn’t even register the input as you’re constantly being hit. With this, you constantly find yourself in a situation where enemies just crowd round and punch away, even if you are on the ground. Haggar can usually escape from crowd maulings, but most of the time Guy and Cody have no chance as their panic move is pretty much useless.  Enemy ‘clumping’ happens too when is where multiple instances of the same object follow the same code routines and can appear as one without some variety in the AI to maybe recognise this and get one to break off to the other side of the player.

What would I do?

Now we get to the nitty gritty and if you’ve made it this far into the article then congratulations on being the only other person on the planet that gives a shit about this!

Over the years, the conversion has usually been blamed on hardware limitations or poor coding but it’s not that, it was a case of not having enough time to refine the gameplay and making some weird choices with what was there. The game could have been made a million times better with just a few compromises in favour of the player.

Now we’re talking bare minimum changes with what is in the game already, so playing it smart is the key. If you make a few small tweaks to the existing game then add them all up you can make some really big changes that would drastically improve the play.

Remember, this is an Amiga 500 with 512k of RAM so it’s all about shifting things around to improve what’s already there rather than adding loads of stuff and aiming for a 100% accurate port.

– The Attack Combo.
In the arcade, Final Fight’s meat and potatoes and arguably the thing that made it great was it’s phenomenal attack combos which were done by mashing the one attack button. If you are just punching the air then your character will just keep doing a jab type attack, but when you make contact with an enemy the player scrolls through a sequence of badass martial arts moves.

The characters combos in the arcade game are as such –

Guy – Jab, Jab, mid-punch, elbow, spin kick
Guy Full Combo

Cody – Jab, Jab, mid-punch, uppercutcody2

Haggar –  Jab, Jab, Hammer punchhaggar2

Now the Amiga game changes this and instead of doing a combo when you hit an enemy you just keep on jabbing them until their energy is down to it’s last point which then triggers a finishing move – in this case is the end move of the arcade attack combos for each character (Bar Guy who’s spin kick is replaced with his jump kick animation)

Not only does this make the gameplay boring as shit and hugely monotonous if your enemy has a large energy bar, but it leaves you open to attack from behind too and you can’t turn around as the enemy you were hitting previously is still standing.

With just a small edit in the code there could have been a cut down version of the combo implemented whereby you do two jabs and then a knockdown move like so –

Guy – Jab, Jab, jumpkick
Guy New Combo

Cody – Jab, Jab, Uppercut

Cody new

Haggar’s combo would now be identical to the arcade with a ‘Jab, Jab, hammer punch’ being in place.

haggar21

Implementing this system wouldn’t require anything new. The enemies all have a ‘knock down and get up routine from when the player hits them with a flying kick, so all it would take is placing a jump to the knockdown routine at the end of the combo.

Strangely enough, this “Jab, Jab, Knockdown” combo trick was used in the Amiga Port of Double Dragon II which was also done by Richard Aplin and Creative Materials (Then Binary Design) and is considered to be one of the best arcade conversions on the system and one of my own personal favourite Amiga games. Why they didn’t stick with it for Final Fight I do not know.

– Attack speed & states

This part is a little geeky but bear with me…..

Amiga Final Fight is a smooth but pretty plodding affair. Haggar is really the only enjoyable character to play as becasue his pile driver move is sort of fun and it’s effective too, plus his jabs/punches have a good reach. Playing as either Guy or especially Cody is a death sentence as their jabs are just so slow that the enemies can actually nip in an attack between them, and there’s a reason for this. When you press fire to punch, like the arcade game your player goes through his jab animation, only in the Amiga port if you press fire WHILE your player is doing their jab then nothing happens. In other words you need to wait until the jab animation has finished it’s cycle before you can punch again. Add to the fact that the animation speed for the jab is set puzzlingly slow and it make the game feel incredibly sluggish.

This is (I’m guessing) most probably due to something programmers use called states or finite state machines. Most programmers worth their salt use versions of finite state machines or some sort of modular jump program/table system, and it was no different back then. Besides, it makes the example easy to explain so for this section we’ll just assume states are used. What this means is there is a state that your player is in for each action and that state holds code for whatever the action is and extra code for what you can do within that state in order to branch off and go to other states.

There’s a state for standing still, there’s a state for walking, there’s a state for punching and there’s states for jumping and everything else.

Now in order to switch from state to state you have to put in a condition that will allow you to do so if an certain action is performed.

For example if the player is in a ‘standing still’ state there will be a condition code in that standing state which says that when a fire button is pressed then it will go to a ‘punch’ state.

Punching state
No “Re-punch” trigger would be available while the punch state is active.

Now the problem is that while the player is IN his punch state there is no condition that says if fire is pressed again then punch again, and so the animation cycle has to complete before the ‘standing still’ state is returned to and activated and hence the press fire to punch code becomes available again.

This makes the already sluggish gameplay feel even more swamp like and could have been easily avoided by putting the condition for a punch state WITHIN the punch state itself. So, if fire is pressed while the punch is happening it will loop back round and make the punches faster. This of course would only be for the initial punch and not the combo moves themselves, plus a breathing room of a frame or so would be needed but that’s just a simple piece of code involving a countdown timer or some similar form of delay.

The arcade game has this feature in it. You can tell this by rapidly pressing the attack button and the punches will match the speed.

If this was implemented PLUS the previously mentioned cut down attack combos then it would have accelerated the gameplay mechanics a good deal just with those small code tweaks alone. The actual speed of the game though would not have changed but it would FEEL faster.

– Jumping & jump attacks

One of the more strange features of Amiga Final Fight’s game mechanics is the jump system. If you push fire while standing still you punch but if you tug the joystick left or right and to walk and THEN press the fire button you do a combined jump and flying kick. Same if you push up and fire you get a jump kick.

This would be ok, but the move is coded so that you don’t actually reach your kick until the decent of your jump arc which opens you up to attack on the ascent (although you can still hit an enemy on the up). It would have been better to just make sure the flying kick activated on the ascent of the jump and hold it.

The jump attack actually isn’t that bad and it is just nit picking on my part, but the special moves certainly need an overhaul. In the arcade game, the spinning special moves for Guy and Cody would span the length of the ascent and descent of the stationary attack jump and basically floored everything on the screen. In the Amiga version it only fires off once you reach the peak of your jump and you spin down which, you guessed it, leaves you open to attack on the way up. It doesn’t even knock some enemies down. The collision range for it is quite narrow too, and this isn’t so bad for Haggar as his spinning move is on the ground…….but not in the Amiga version as it was left out completely in favour of a pile driver using the jump animation frames. As such, Haggar has no panic move at all.

Pile
Makeshift vs. real piledriver. Nice shadow on the upside down baddie’s feet on the left.

– Enemy Clones, missing moves, unused data and memory space

Final Fight features a variety of enemies and those enemies have what are called clones or palette/head swaps. This just means it’s a slightly different graphical version of an enemy to add some variety but they are all based on the same model of and do exactly the same thing.

The basic low level goon is Bred and his clones are Dug, Simons and Jake.

Clones
An example of enemy clones. Bred, Dug and Jake.

Higher goon clones of other characters appear too and usually come in pairs such as Axl and Slash who are based on the same model. Other palette swaps include Poison & Roxy, J & Two P and the three fat men Bill Bull, G.Oriber and Wong Who

The thing that strikes you about Amiga Final Fight is the massive number of player moves and animation frames that are missing from the game. At first I suspected this was most likely down to storage memory restrictions of the floppy disks as all the frames of animation probably couldn’t be included, but it wasn’t (see later in the article).

It’s face squintingly baffling then that the game includes nearly every enemy clone that was in the arcade machine, and each clone does exactly the same thing yet the sprites take up valuable memory. It may very well of course be the case that only the heads of the goon clones are stored and the bodies are simply recoloured in a palette swap by the game’s code. However I’ve looked at the graphics in Maptapper and all the clone seem to have their own full sprite sheets.

Being the saddo that I am, I sat and worked out that each player just needed about an additional and generously estimated 10 or so select frames of animation to reinstate the missing moves to some degree with maybe a frame or two missing.

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The unused “Holly Wood” sprite sheet which is still on the disks.

Bearing in mind that there is stuff on the disks that isn’t even being used (the aforementioned sprite sheets for Hollywood and El Gado) and so if that was binned plus the clones such as Jake, Wong Who, Two P, Slash and maybe the glass breaking bonus round then there would have been room for most of the animation frames for the player’s missing moves to be reinstated to some degree. Take out Richard Aplin’s ‘Hidden message’ too.

Every byte counts!

Now if you add all this to the previous ‘attack speed’ and ‘attack combo’ tweaks you are now looking at something which much more resembles the way the arcade game plays. However, nothing has really been added, it’s just shifting stuff around a bit and replacing one thing with another.

With all this being said, storage space wasn’t the problem. The two floppy disks are only at around 86% and 59% capacity respectively, which means that there IS room for more graphics and presumably music. The only real memory that matters in these games is the amount of accessible RAM that is available to hold all the graphics and audio for instant use within the game. 512k couldn’t have been much to work with, but I’m not sure the expanded 1MB RAM makes any difference when it’s detected. I certainly didn’t notice any extra sound effects or graphics being used when the extra memory was available. In saying that, by late 1991 the A500 was nearly five years old and getting a bit creaky, so it’s sad that the later Amiga models didn’t get targeted as much as they should have by games publishers. I would have loved to have seen Richard Aplin heading up a team of say five people (Second programmer, musician and the two graphics artists who did the backgrounds) over a full year to do a conversion of the game on one of the later Amiga models. I bet it would have been fantastic.

– On screen enemies & slowdown

As mentioned previously in the article, the game actually zips along really fast and once it gets going it can be good fun despite the limited moves available. The problem here is that it suffers from slowdown. The game for some reason allows up to SIX different enemies on screen at the same time as well as your player(s). All those massive blitter objects cutting about is bound to be a resource drain and cause slowdown and guess what?

It does!

A more sensible approach would be to take a leaf out of the SNES’ book and have a maximum of 2, maybe 3 enemies on screen at the same time and just give them a little more of a vicious AI. Perhaps pair off some enemies so that they only appear together in those pairs and save on RAM. Of course in two player mode some slowdown would be expected and that’s ok. It’s an Amiga port so it’s unavoidable (Christ, the Double Dragon arcade game slowed down like hell, but it was still a smash hit), but with this tiny change added on to our ever growing pile of small changes it would just make it that mite zippier, and every little bit counts. This is all assuming you have the time to do so.

– Atmos

The final thing to do would be to put in some music. I know for a fact that Richard Aplin got the amazing intro music from the Amiga demo scene (You can listen to it here). The composer Jolyon Myers, known as ‘The Judge’, went unpaid for his trouble, although again Mr Aplin, ever the fighter for truth and justice, did try to get U.S. Gold to pay him, but again it didn’t happen. I think the notoriety that Jolyon Myers received from having his track included may have been payment enough as his song has now become synonymous with the game as well as famous because of it and it is much loved by retro enthusiasts to this day.

protracker-3-15
Random image of Protracker, becasue you can’t see music.

All that would be needed is just two similar pieces of music preferably with one channel free for sound effects, and alternate them between levels. It would have added a great deal of depth to the atmosphere of the game and broke some of that horrible sterile feel. In saying that, a game like Final Fight would have been an audio head scratcher on the system. The Amiga had some great sound capabilities but it only had four poxy channels which limits both creative layering plus having sound effects and music at the same time. It’s possible but something has to be cut. Look at Golden Axe on the Amiga and you’ll hear bits of the music cut out when a sound effect sample is played. The A600 and beyond should have had six channels in my opinion.

If you want to check out a mock up of what Amiga Final Fight would be like with music (plus have a look at all my complaints listed above), then check out this video from ‘World Of Longplays’ channel on YouTube which uses music from the Nigel Mansell CD32 game pasted over the video. It’s cheating yes, but the feel of the game is significantly different, and if you’ve ever played the standard Amiga Final Fight you’ll realise what a huge addition a bit of music actually makes to the action.

That’s it!

With all these tweaks in place I think that the game could very well have earned that 80% it received in C+VG and perhaps even a dash more!

It wouldn’t be perfect but let’s be honest, as Amiga owners we were never looking for nor expecting perfect, just decent!

Future?

As a boy it was always an ambition of mine to re-program Final Fight on the Amiga and implement these tweaks. It’s even spilled somewhat into my adult years as the game still seems to catch my attention now and then, but with the source code lost to the mists of time, bar running the disks through a debugger for a ‘labelless’ ASM version and my meagre coding skills it would perhaps only be achievable with a considerable time investment of a few years (around four months of which would be spent redesigning the game and the rest would be actually learning the programming language).

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The Amiga box art featuring no-one from the game but Synthol-Man instead!

There was a gent from the ‘English Amiga board’ who went by the name ‘Leathered’ and he did start to do a ‘from scratch’ port of the game called Final Fight AGA for the Amiga 1200, and you can check out an early video of it here. As you can see the game doesn’t look quite as smooth as the official version but damn, it feels MUCH more like the arcade game and that’s the sort of thing we were expecting with the U.S. Gold port. Unfortunately, Leathered sadly passed away from cancer in January of this year (2016) and the game which was his passion only reached somewhere around  v1.5. Some members of the community are, I think, trying to honour his memory by completing the conversion, but it just shows that the passion for a project of this sort is out there.

Final Fight on the Amiga, from a technical point of view is an extremely well programmed game. The code used some very clever dynamic-defragging memory management and background loading/decompression. As such, the game actually runs very smoothly given the hardware it’s on. The Amiga 500 was amazing for it’s time but, as previously stated, it was getting a little obsolete by the time Amiga Final Fight was in development. It wasn’t as powerful as some folk like to make out, and certainly nowhere near a Capcom CPS-1 board. The problem is that most regular game players don’t really give a shit about the behind the scenes wizardry and only care about the gameplay which obviously fell short.

To Richard Aplin’s credit he managed to rip the graphics from a bare arsed arcade PCB board using hardware he built by himself and then wrote the whole game from scratch including tile mapping editors on his own in assembly code (Fuck!) with a time limit of a few months to do it in…….and he was only about 21 at the time! *Applause*

From the look of things he got a lot of what I would consider undeserved flak for Final Fight, however he appears to have a good sense of humour about it and still seems to take an interest in the game and any potential amateur conversion attempts of it. What with the advent of the internet I think he’s finally getting a chance to tell his side of the, now surprisingly infamous story which are making a lot of people change their opinions and re-direct their venom solely at U.S. Gold. Even at that, I’m surprised he’s not just gone back and released an unofficial tweaked version of the game just to shut folk up.

As I say, bar a slightly limited palette the graphics are great and the game does tick all the boxes for a scrolling beat ’em up. However, the bottom line is there’s just no real finesse to the gameplay. The lack of moves means it’s void of any depth or strategy and it just gets too old too fast.

As much as I have a very strong technical admiration for the conversion, I still always felt that it was a bit of a waste of some perfectly good graphics and a really, really strong foundation!

At the end of the day, I’m perfectly aware of what an obsessive old weirdo I am for going into this much detail about an ancient game conversion that no-one really cares about. This is especially true since MAME has been able to give you the arcade game in your home for a number of years now, but I attribute it to the lasting power and appeal of Final Fight itself. The Coin-Op was the number 1 arcade game of 1989 and is widely regarded as not only a bonafide classic but a milestone in the gaming world, and my sad obsession is simply a testament to it’s ever enduring appeal.

The question is, why does a grizzled old wizard like me who is fast approaching 40 even care?

I guess it all comes down to the fact that, although the SNES version was made first, it wasn’t available in the UK until 1992 when the Super Nintendo console was officially released here, and so Amiga Final Fight was the very first home version which I, and probably many others, were exposed to. The lasting impression of that first play experience in the comfort of your own home would have been much greater, as well as the focus on all the missing parts. Very much a case of seeing something which had such an impact on your youth not quite make the jump to your home. Additionally the fact that it had great potential and being bothered when it almost got there but didn’t quite.

As George Mallory once famously said when asked why on Earth he would want to climb Mount Everest, he replied…..

“Because it’s there!”

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Author: aviewfromaskewblog

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4 thoughts on “Fixing Amiga Final Fight”

  1. Ha that was great 🙂 Very fair; yeah the gameplay didn’t get tweaked as much as it could have. It probably isn’t incredibly hard (using modern tools, i.e. an Amiga emulator) to rewire the gameplay that you dislike (e.g. player character fighting move sequencing) but leave the rest of the engine intact. If I recall correctly (i.e. possibly not) that with enemies that used recolored sprites the recoloring was done when they were loaded as opposed to them being stored on disk. I do remember that if you had 1MB ram it ran a bit faster (it put a 128k sprite flipping table in the top ram) plus you’d see a greater variation of baddies (I think) because it cached them in the extra memory (could be wrong about that). Anyway thanks for your detailed look at the game; I was really pleased with the technology parts (background loading and decompression, incremental defragging of ram, etc), but I agree it wasn’t super fun. I played the original on MAME recently just for amusement and wasn’t dazzled by it, although I know it has a lot of (very hardcore and vocal) fans.
    Cheers!
    Rich Aplin

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    1. Thanks for the comment Rich. Glad you thought it was fair as it was meant to be more of a “what if” rather than a moan about the development. I do appreciate the “under the hood” tech a lot more these days so the game is actually quite layered in that respect. At the very least, people are still talking about it 26 years later and there’s not many out there who can say that.

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  2. I really enjoyed this, thanks for taking the time to write it 🙂 I wish there where more detailed in depth articles about Amiga games! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I may do some more game related articles in the future as the Amiga was a huge love of mine back in the day.

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