Defending Final Fight SNES

Two articles on the same ancient game in the space of a year?

That’s just how I roll!


I don’t need to go into what an amazingly popular and beloved game the original Final Fight arcade machine was. The fact that it’s still seeing releases on things like phones and modern consoles is a testament to the games enduring longevity and it is almost solely responsible for inspiring a trail of literally thousands of clones, including the equally beloved Streets Of Rage games.

Ports of the game are simply that. The arcade’s graphics, sound and code are “ported” or emulated perfectly on modern devices which these days, even low spec units piss all over the most powerful arcade machines of the early 90s. Back in the day though we had what were correctly called “conversions”. A conversion was more like an interpretation of the game which was dictated by the target system’s own technical limitations. What you got was usually a cut down version of the original coin-op and sometimes it was crap and sometime it was decent. Regardless, either way stuff would normally be missing but circumstances and doing what you can with what is there could either make a home classic or a home turd.

The Start

Final Fight was released in the arcade in December of 1989 but another company was gearing up to release their next gen console in 1990. That company was Nintendo Japan and the console was the Super Famicom.

Nintendo and Capcom were already very cosy due to the Megaman games on the NES and watching this new monster arcade game made by their buddies storm the charts well, Nintendo wanted a slice of the action too. They quickly commissioned a port of Final Fight for the Super Famicom as one of the earliest games for the machine outside the launch titles of F-Zero. Pilotwings, Sim City and Super Mario World.

Capcom handled the conversion themselves and on each release in the different regions (1990 – Japan, 1991 – U.S.A., 1992 – Europe and UK) the game received very positive reviews from the Magazines of the era. The graphics were (for that time) incredibly close to the arcade game which was still quite a state of the art machine in 1990 and seeing anything that close on a home console was mind blowing. The gameplay was almost a carbon copy of the arcade game (It probably used some of the source code) and the general vibe was accurately created.

finalfight
The U.S. censorship in full effect. Because a differently spelled word which sounds like “Damned” is so offensive and dangerous but heavy metal stereotypes as villains are fine. (Logic)

Elephants

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the game the fact is that Capcom had to make some (pretty big) sacrifices when it came to the game’s conversion. Due to memory restrictions at that time, the character of Guy was omitted as well as the Industrial area stage and the one that hurt the most: the simultaneous two player mode. For many seasoned Nintendo players this was an unwelcome echo of the disappointment felt when first loading up Double Dragon on the NES and discovering that it too was one player only (biggest misnomer ever?).

Why not just use a cartridge with more memory in it then?

The simple answer is because it didn’t exist. The largest capacity for Super Famicom carts at that time was 8 Megabits and that’s what Final Fight was. It wasn’t until two years later in 1992 when the very first 16 Megabit Super Famicom cartridge was manufactured and that was for the conversion of Streetfighter 2.

People have suggested that maybe Nintendo should have waited a year or two before a conversion of this particular game was attempted. However, if they had postponed it then they couldn’t have capitalised on the arcade game’s white hot success, or even worse one of their rivals would have commissioned a conversion first. In other words it would have been a poor business decision which ultimately would have lost them money, and I hate to say it but Nintendo Japan, while having stunningly creative staff, were in the business of making profit like any other corporation.

Power

As the years roll by, the criticisms of the game have become more and more harsh. With arcade emulation now available even on a phone it’s so incredibly easy to compare versions, but is this fair?

When one does actually compare the SNES conversion to the arcade you can plainly see that it’s not arcade perfect in any way. The graphics have obviously all been re-drawn from scratch to fit with the SNES’ reduced resolution and the sound only contains about one or two muffled samples from the arcade machine (Although the sound effects are very good). The gameplay is solid but it IS a lot slower and there are only three enemies allowed on screen at any one time as opposed to the arcade letting about nine or ten bodies on screen for ultimate chaos.

nintendo_super-famicom_1s
The Super Famicom. A thing of beauty but ultimately just a cow in heels. Thankfully Europe got this design and not the purple vomit box which appeared in America.

Now the reasons for this were simple: The SNES just wasn’t really that powerful a console yet the great uneducated and vocal seem to think that it was an arcade machine in the home (Amiga fans are the same). YouTube is generally a festering hub of rubbish people anyway but Final Fight SNES gets it’s fair share of hate on there from people who sound like they have never read a spec sheet in their life. Either that or they compare the game to the Mega-CD conversion which not only was released a full three years later but on a much more advanced platform too with what (at that time) was almost unlimited storage memory in the CD format.

The main problem is that backwards comparisons are not only pointless but incredibly unfair (not to mention stupid). The games don’t suddenly morph new features as time goes on so you have to look at the in the context of the era in which they were made. The conversion, according to some, was completely butchered because it wasn’t 100% identical to the arcade original but the fact of the matter is that the SNES at that time just couldn’t handle it.

Why?

We’ve had a look at the omissions of the game from memory restrictions and people use these as ammo to really lambaste the conversion but there are other factors at play here too:

1. New Tech

Final Fight on the Super Famicom was released just a few months after the console’s launch and as such the development team were working with brand new and unfamiliar tech. Programmers may be wizened beasts with a command over mystical languages which we mortals will never understand but they’re still people and people take a while to get to know things. With that in mind the programmers would have probably been wading through an unknown swamp with the new hardware, not knowing what little tricks they could do with the code to make things run a little faster or save space here and there for maybe a two player mode.

2. Rush

There is some evidence that the game was perhaps a little rushed too.

Cody
On close inspection the graphics aren’t 100% accurate.

Some of the backgrounds don’t look quite finished and small things happen like the player object will completely disappear from the screen before a level transition fadeout which looks a little sloppy. The intro sequence with Damnd laughing while holding Jessica and the oil drum breaks has been completely removed and now you’re just plonked in the middle of the screen at the start of the game.  The Cody sprite is also a little scruffy and inaccurate.

3. Power.

The SNES had a lot of bells and whistles but when it came down to it the console was a bit pathetic in the main processing department.  Nintendo cheaped out with (at that time) a pretty sludgy CPU in the Western Design Center 65816 which only clocked in at around 3.58MHz. The chip was based on the CPU of the archaic Apple IIgs which wasn’t the most stunningly fast brain either. When you compare this to the then 2 years old Sega Megadrive’s Motorola 68000 CPU (Used by arcade machines and Amiga/Atari ST) which ran at 7.6MHz along with a small Z80 chip which dealt with the sound. You can then start to see the problems happening in a game like Final Fight which takes massive amounts of power to shift those big graphics around. The SNES game does experience some quite bad slowdown although it’s 90% of the time not noticeable due to the on-screen enemy limit but you can see it now and then, particularly when you smash some breakable objects which means they have to animate as well as the baddies and the player. It’s all just too much for the poor old SNES CPU and you can almost hear it cry out in pain.

This is bad enough, but when you compare the SNES to a Capcom CPS-1 board it becomes almost laughable yet people STILL maintain that the Nintendo machine could keep up and it just couldn’t.

I’ll prove it with hard facts –

CPU:

  • SNES – WDC 65816 @ 3.5MHZ
    CPS-1- 68000 @ 10Mhz (primary) Zilog Z80 @ 3.579 MHz

RAM:

  • SNES  – CPU RAM 128Kb, Video RAM 64KB
  • CPS-1 – 68K RAM: 64 KB WORK RAM + 192 KB VRAM, PPU: 192 KB VRAM + 6 KB CACHE RAM, Z80 RAM: 2 KB WORK RAM

Display:

  • SNES – Maximum Colours on One Screen – 256 , Colours Available – 32,768, Maximum Screen Resolution – 512 pixels X 448 pixels, Maximum # of Sprites per Screen – 128, Maximum # of Sprites per Line – 32, Maximum Sprite Size – 64 pixels X 64 pixels, Minimum Sprite Size – 8 pixels X 8 pixels
  • CPS-1 – Maximum Colours on One Screen – 3072, Colours available – 65,536, Resolution: Raster, 384 x 224 @ 59.6294 Hz, Color Depth: 16-bit (12-bit RGB with 4-bit brightness value) (192 global palettes with 16 colors each), Simultaneously displayable: 256 (per scanlines), Sizes: 16×16, max. 16 colors (15 unique + 1 transparent), Vertical and Horizontal Flipping capability, Tiles: Sizes 8×8, 16×16, 32×32 with 16 colors (15 unique + 1 transparent), Tile Maps: 3 Maps, 512×512, 1024×1024, 2048×2048 pixel, 68K RAM: 64 KB WORK RAM + 192 KB VRAM(Shadow), PPU: 192 KB VRAM + 16 KB CACHE RAM, Z80 RAM: 2 KB WORK RAM

The SNES had a load of cool custom chips and hardware to help the snail like CPU along but still it’s figuratively dwarfed by the monstrous arcade machine. According to Richard Aplin the programmer of the Amiga conversion, almost everything on the CPS-1 board is hardware driven, even just to change a few registers here and there. Compare that to the SNES’s pensioner speed CPU and relatively spongy resolution and you were NEVER going to get an arcade perfect port of Final Fight.

pcb_repair_knights_of_the_round_1
The Capcom CPS-1 arcade board was an absolute monster in its day.

Guy

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention the infamous Final Fight Guy. The game was released in 1992 and Capcom simply replaced Cody with the missing Guy character. Now on paper this is some cool fan service as Guy was incredibly popular (he’s my favourite character) but looking back it was just a bit of a cash grab from Capcom. Being released a full two years after the original Super Famicom Final Fight, the game had a chance to remedy some huge issues but instead only the bare minimum was changed. There is still no Industrial level and still no two player mode which was incredibly disappointing, only some minor new item pickups and some people standing at the bar in Westside are the most significant changes bar the title character. Regarding the major omissions, the two player mode I can understand as something like that, which would require custom variables for each player would probably need to have the game coded from the ground up. However, they could at least have swapped the Bay Area for the Industrial Area level and made a truly complimentary cartridge.

It’s still good but asking people to pay full price for essentially the same game was a little shady on Capcom’s part. Interestingly, the 90s UK console magazine Mean Machines featured a small snippet in their news section about the game where they claimed that not only Guy had been re-instated but also the missing Industrial level. Of course this was big lies but it would have been a more appealing deal for consumers.

ff-guy.jpg
The deceptive Mean Machines news snippet from 1992

Conclusion

Final Fight on the SNES isn’t perfect but then people forget that as a conversion it probably was never meant to be. In this day and age children, and even some grown ass men are simply spoiled with modern technology where regarding retro things, everything is possible in perfect form. You can get a spot-on port of Final Fight almost anywhere it’ll be exactly like the arcade game (because it IS the arcade game just emulated) which is great but expecting that of a 27 year old home games console is beyond stupid.

I see it it’s like this, the conversion could have been done two ways: it could have been like the Amiga version where all the features, characters levels etc. were included (Yay!) but which meant that it had to be spread thin with small bits taken out of everything (See my other in depth article on that conversion here). Alternatively you could be like the SNES conversion and have one or two massive omissions but then make sure that you cram in as much as you can to the other bits with that space.

Final Fight SNES has all of the included character’s combos, grabs, enemies and features. In other words what IS in there is incredibly faithful and considering that this game came out only a few months after the Famicom’s launch AND a few months after the Final Fight arcade game was released and all on vastly inferior tech to the original coin-op then I think the development team deserve a real round of applause.

A word of advice though:

Final FIght Jap box.png
Japanese boxes were always better

if you are going to play it then stick to the original Super Famicom Japanese release. This version has not been censored and features the two girls Roxy and Poison who were replaced with men in the western release (sexist much?). It also features the bad guys who are black (Yes they actually whitewashed them by lightening the skin colour) plus you can see the blood splat when you hit an enemy with a knife rather than a generic hitspark. The original names of the first two bosses also remain unchanged. They were altered in the West (U.S. to be specific) because of their vague similarity to mild sweary words (really?) and the god word for bumming. In reality they were actually named after rock group The Damned and thrash band Sodom so it had piss all to do with god or swearing which shows you they ridiculousness of censorship not to mention the lack of research on Capcom USA’s part. Additionally, the Japanese box art is infinitely superior to the western version so it’s win win all the way.

So there it is. Final Fight on the SNES  is a top effort from Capcom and Nintendo considering the circumstances and remains faithful in spirit to the original.

Moaning and bitching because it’s not absolutely arcade perfect without having the slightest clue about the technological limitations is worthy of a forehead tattoo that simply says “Idiot!”.

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Author: aviewfromaskewblog

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