Released: April, 1993 / Sega CD
In the early 90s, Final Fight was an incredibly hot brand; the Super Nintendo port of Capcom’s arcade game moved quite a few systems in the early months of the system’s launch in both Japan and America, despite missing a stage, a playable character, and 2-player co-op. Final Fight CD contains everything that the SNES version lacked, making it the definitive home port of the game at the time, and even adds a bit more.
As far as go-right-and-punch-dudes-and-eat-meat-from-inside-barrels simulators (aka “brawlers”) go, the original Final Fight remains one of the best. The story is simple and good enough, the combat is solid, the presentation and tone was pretty edgy and provocative at the time, and the music is excellent and fits the atmosphere perfectly. All of this is true about the Sega CD version… well, almost.
In addition to welcome inclusions of features such as an extra stage, three playable characters, and 2-player co-op, Final Fight CD also contains a new arranged soundtrack (to showcase the prowess of the CD format, no doubt). While the music in the game sounds excellent from a technical standpoint, the wanky guitar and funky bass would sound better in the background of a Prince record rather than the background of a night in the Metro City slums.
Aside from this unfortunate addition, the game is an excellent port of a fantastic arcade title. Character movement is smoother than the cartridge version and the game even sports an animated and fully-voiced opening and ending. So why didn’t it move Sega CD systems? Well, there are a number of possible factors. For one, the game released in April of 1993, four years after the original coin-op version. Not only was Final Fight a bit old hat at this point, but the brawler genre was on its way out, soon to be replaced by the one-on-one fighter. The other factor was that in January (December in Japan) of that year, Sega had released Streets of Rage 2 for the Genesis, arguably the pinnacle of the genre.
You have to wonder if Final Fight CD had been a launch title for the Sega CD, in the height of the brand and genre’s popularity, if it could have reversed the system’s fortunes. Maybe, maybe not. Though its legacy may not be that of a killer app, it remains an excellent port and a game that is still enjoyable to play, nearly 20 years later.