Final Fight One Review (GBA)

This review was first published on 06.09.02; it was republished on 09.21.17.

Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Brawler | Players: 1-2
Release: 2001

During the mid 1990s, which I regard as a blissful decade of awesomeness, Capcom released a great arcade title named Final Fight. Like those in its genre, FF was a pleasure-ridden beat ‘em up fest for one or two players, trekking around the different areas of Metro City, beating the crap out of the local gang thugs, picking up health, weapons, and valuables, and taking down key bosses at the end of each stage. The motive? Rescue the mayor’s bodacious daughter Jessica from the crime lords hoping to manipulate her father and run the city.

Final Fight One for the GBA is, at its heart, a beefed up portable conversion of a challenging and formulaic arcade game. The good news is that it’s not only incredibly addictive, but a lot of fun to boot. The bad news… well, your thumbs are going to hate you for it.


  • Three unique characters to choose from, each with different fighting styles, control, and abilities
  • Six levels with 3-4 individual stages; more than 18 stages total, plus bonus rounds
  • Useable weapons and items to collect for high scores; special game secrets to unlock with added cut-scenes and dialogue
  • Team up with a friend via the Link Cable for two-player cooperative mode
  • Classic arcade action without the quarters!


There’s nothing I love more than a good arcade brawler. From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Streets of Rage, the straightforward gameplay never disappoints me. The plot is usually an excuse to roam huge maps and bang heads together, progressing from stage to stage, confronting bosses, collecting power-ups, heath, weapons, and preparing for the onslaught of the grand finale. Even better, find a buddy to help tackle endless thugs, punks, tough guys, Andre the Giant look-alikes, knife-wielding ninjas, corrupt police officers, and leather-clad women with deadly whips! Oh yeah. Final Fight One delivers like Dominoes!

Graphics: 10 of 10

Capcom didn’t mess with the visuals for the simple reason that they’re good enough already. Perhaps I’m biased, or maybe waxing poetic about the 16-bit arcade area, but FFO has some really catchy graphics. Character sprites are huge, taking up more of the screen than most brawlers. Luckily, all the characters are well drawn and animated. A note about the animations: individual kicks and punches are fluid, but when your character is standing still, he doesn’t breath or otherwise look around. He’s oddly static.

That nit-pick aside, the environments change to reflect each portion of the city, whether indoors or outside, and each is well packed with detail. The best way to describe the art style is lean and mean with a comic book flair. Good stuff.

Control: 10 of 10

Most people think that brawlers are mindless button-mashers. The truth is that you need strategy to survive the never-ending onslaught of thugs and vermin. Most important, however, it the ability to get out of trouble before it’s too late. Sluggish controls, poor response time, awkward button mapping – these things mean certain death in brawlers; breath easy, though! You’ll find none of that nonsense here. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Button mapping can be modified from the main menu, but the default scheme is as follows: B punches, A jumps, R performs your special move. Combine these actions with the D-pad, in no more than four steps, and you get a satisfying variety of knee bashes, body throws, and skull-crushing slams. The controls deliver like… oh, wait. I already used that line.

Gameplay: 9 of 10

While beating thugs to a pulp, you’ll find a variety of objects for defense, offense, points, and health. Your character can traverse the whole screen, advancing from point A to point B by moving up, down, left, and right. Everything is standard here – beat up the thugs and move on. The reward is confronting a mini-boss at the end of each stage, ultimately closing in on the real mastermind behind the Mad Gear Gang.

To the game’s credit, its three playable characters guarantee different play experiences. Often, this will affect which route you take through the guts of Metro City, and which mini-bosses you meet up with. You’ve got a ninja named Ken (I think), a regular tough guy named Cody, and Haggar, a former street fighter-turned-mayor whose daughter was kidnapped. Ken moves the fastest and is equally skilled at punching and kicking; Cody’s your average Joe with balanced strength and normal speed; Haggar is the slowest but also the strongest.

The only complaint I have is the rarity of health boosters. On the normal difficulty setting, you get about three full replenishes in the first five stages. Perhaps great gamers can endure without taking a scratch, but the difficultly ramps up too fast for me. Even on easy, the levels leading to the main boss had me sweating bullets. I’m ultimately lamenting my lack of skill, but I wish the easier setting meant the game was easier throughout—not just at the beginning.

Sound: 9 of 10

Punches, kicks, and other forms of physical violence come off wonderfully and relieve stress like magic. If you’ve ever wanted to beat the crap out of someone, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so. And most of it sounds good, too! The music is the only aspect that could use a facelift. Sure, it’s appropriately upbeat, but the experience isn’t enhanced in any meaningful way. I confess I would miss the music if it suddenly disappeared. It’s forgettable at worst and sufficient at best.

Replay Value: 10 of 10

The greatest joy of a good, solid brawler is facing the same horde of scum bags and bosses, showing you’ve got what it takes to whoop the game from stem to stern. Another great feature of FFO is its two-player cooperative mode, allowing you to team up with a buddy for some cooperative butt-kicking if you’ve got a Link Cable. If I ever meet someone with a GBA, I’ll give this feature a try; until then, I’ll have to be content with my multiplayer memories from the arcade.

The ability to unlock special game options adds replay value. Specifically, when you tally a certain number of points from the game (how many people you beat up), you’ll unlock the ability to change the character’s outfit (palette swap), increase or decreases the number of continues, etc. It’s a nice incentive to beat up even more people.

Overall: 96%

I love brawlers, so I admit I’m biased. As an arcade conversion of an existing game, Final Fight One delivers over and above the original. Give it a try if you’re a fan of the series or the beat ’em up genre. Great replay value, good controls, and a simple concept executed well—what more could you want? Perhaps some adolescent mutant terrapins…

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