Video Game Review: Final Fight (Arcade)

Final Fight is a pretty badass side scrolling beat’em up game from the era where I spent a lot of time in arcades. The era that was probably the peak, as far as arcade games were concerned but then arcades started to fizzle out not too long after.

This game exists in the same universe as the Street Fighter series and a lot of the characters from Final Fight would appear in Street Fighter-related games over the years.

With that, this is an incredibly well-crafted, fluid, fun, smack a bitch kinda game.

Final Fight is just a blast to play and it’s aged really well and is definitely one of the best games of its type. While I enjoy Double Dragon a bit more, Final Fight beats out the vast majority of its competition from the same era.

The characters all look cool as hell, the levels are neat and the overall playing time and pacing of the game is damn near perfect.

This would go on to spawn sequels and to see its characters used, again and again, in other Capcom games from the early ’90s till current day.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Final Fight games, as well as similar side scrolling beat’em ups like the Double Dragon series, the Streets of Rage series, Crime Fighters, etc.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes Vs. Dragonninja (Arcade)

I’ve played through and beat the original Nintendo port of this game at least a dozen or so times in the last three decades. However, I haven’t actually played through the superior, smoother arcade version since the late ’80s.

There was actually a Bad Dudes arcade cabinet in a convenient store right next to my cousin’s house when we were kids. We dropped a fuck ton of quarters in that machine.

It’s a game that was just too f’n cool for words when I was a kid. Ninjas were awesome! And here, you play as one of two buff Jean-Claude Van Damme looking dudes and smash color coded ninjas by the dozens.

You also got to do it in greatly designed levels where each had a unique look and vibe about them. The moving semi truck and freight train levels just added an extra dose of badassness to the already badass proceedings.

The arcade version is also the best version. It plays smoother, has better graphics, better sound and just exists on a higher level than the NES version, which was watered down by the limitations of the console.

Bad Dudes is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite beat’em up side scrollers of all-time. Revisiting this version of it just solidified that even more.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.

Video Game Review: Captain America and The Avengers (Arcade)

If you were a kid or a teen in the early ’90s, chances are that you’ve played this game either in the arcade or on the Sega Genesis, where it was ported and ported rather well.

If you haven’t played this but played the early ’90s X-Men arcade game, this is incredibly similar.

In fact, the graphics are really close, as is the game play, controls and general aesthetic.

This is a side scrolling, beat’em up game where you get to choose between four Avengers characters: Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Vision. You also get some assistance from other Avengers throughout the game. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the lineup and thought this could’ve used more playable characters but it’s still fun, regardless.

The game is also littered with a ton of villains, some minor and some major. The big bad of the game is Red Skull but he definitely forged a solid alliance with some of the Avengers greatest foes and a giant Sentinel robot.

The gameplay is straightforward but there are some different modes. Some level let you fly a vehicle or just fly around as Iron Man or Vision as you battle aircraft and flying robots.

Most of the game still relies on the standard beat’em style, which was super popular at the time.

All in all, this isn’t a bad game; it’s actually pretty cool. My only real complaint is that I wish it was a bit longer and that you had more characters to use.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the X-Men arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.

Video Game Review: River City Ransom (NES)

River City Ransom was probably the first side scrolling beat’em up game that I played on a console after the Double Dragon ports.

This was also very obviously inspired by Double Dragon but the way you travel through the different screens was more complex, as you can enter buildings and go down streets to other areas.

Some of the locations look like generic recreations of sections of the first Double Dragon, though. Plus, the graphics in general aren’t as good and this looks a lot more cartoony and basic.

Overall, this is pretty mundane and it’s riddled with problems.

The first big problem is the controls. They’re shit. Often times they don’t even respond and with that, you get your face punched in.

The next problem is the fighting mechanics, which are pretty trash. In addition to that, some of the baddies you have to beat up forever. If you want to knock off Double Dragon, do it right. Knocking a thug on his ass twice should be enough to keep him there.

Another issue is the platforming aspect of the game. It is also trash. It’s hard to jump and if you jump into a ledge instead of over a ledge, you get knocked backwards because I guess humans in this game are made out of rubber.

The last problem I’ll bring up is that you can pretty much roam everywhere, however you want. But if you don’t kill the “bosses” in a certain order, you can’t enter the high school and advance. You literally just get stuck and have to start over.

In the end, this is a poor ripoff of a great game that tried to be a bit more ambitious but failed to execute anything in any sort of decent way.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Avengers (Arcade)

I saw a game titled Avengers on the MAME part of my RetroPie but I soon found out that it didn’t have anything to do with Marvel’s Avengers or the 1960s British television show.

This is basically an arcade beat’em up game like Double Dragon but it isn’t a side scroller, it is instead a vertical scroller like some of the classic shooters in the vein of Commando or Ikari Warriors.

The game is smooth and it has controls that are okay but take a few minutes to get used to. However, it has a pretty killer soundtrack and decent graphics for the time.

It’s nothing special, however, other than it’s a beat’em that goes vertical as opposed to the more traditional horizontal.

It’s easy to play but the difficulty is a bit of a problem. Mainly, because when you die, you respawn from a checkpoint and not on the screen where you died like a typical beat’em up game. So later in the game, you have to be a lot less reckless and not rush into battle like a coked up kangaroo with a bulletproof face.

Overall, this was fun but not great.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other beat’em up arcade games.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Between this and the Ninja Gaiden games, I’ve been revisiting some of the most frustrating things from my childhood.

However, I did finally beat this game after playing it on an emulator and using an actual walkthrough because those last few levels are f’n mazes, man! Mazes that will drive you bonkers, as there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to their design.

As hard as this game is, I was shocked to discover that the final boss, Shredder, was actually the easiest boss of the game. It was like someone said, “Hey you need to go through this six level obstacle course of mortal danger to kill the enemy!” and then when you get to the end, there’s just a snail you need to step on.

Anyway, the underwater level is still one of the most assholishly designed levels in video game history. While frustrated beyond absolute belief, I did beat it on the first try. I remember spending hours on it as a kid and questioning why I was even still playing the game but I hated the level so much I couldn’t let it have the last laugh.

If you have played this game, I’m sure you are already aware of how much of a pain in the dick this is.

But that being said, it’s not impossible. You can master this thing but I guess it comes down to whether or not you want to put that much time into it and whether or not it’s even worth it.

In the end, I don’t hate this game like I used to. However, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the awesome side scrolling beat’em up Turtles games that came after this first official attempt at a TMNT game.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES games but this is the worst of the lot.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Arcade)

The Double Dragon games were a massive part of my childhood. At least the parts that were spent at the video arcade or playing the original Nintendo.

My fondest memories were of the original game and Super Nintendo’s Super Double Dragon. However, when this game first came out, I was ecstatic that my favorite beat’em up side scroller of the time was getting a sequel.

Sadly, this one disappointed, even if I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself it was awesome.

My biggest gripe with the game is how they altered the controls. How you attack depends on how you are facing the enemy, which made attacks from multiple sides a pretty infuriating experience. I could play this for hours and my brain still couldn’t adapt to the bizarre and terrible change.

Playing this now, I turned it off about two-thirds of the way through because even on MAME, where I can alter the controls to my liking, I still couldn’t get the game to work in a fluid and fun way. I was bogged down by the shitty combat system.

Also, the enemies in this game just seem a lot more annoying, which is only compounded by the awful controls.

On top of that, this feels more like a rehash of the first game with shittier and more generic level design. Where the first game inspired imagination, this one just felt like one of the dozens of games that ripped off Double Dragon. This really added nothing good to the game series and in fact, made it worse.

However, the Nintendo version of the game is much better with some pretty good level design and additions. Sadly, it’s still got these shitty controls though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade)

Being that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game was nearly perfect, I wanted to play the arcade version of its sequel.

Now I have played Turtles In Time before but it was always the version for home consoles and not its superior arcade counterpart.

This was a blast to playthrough though, as it plays just like its predecessor. The controllers and look of the game are the same and the only real difference is that this comes with new levels, new bosses and the time travel element thrown in. If anything, it’s an expansion of the great first game.

My only real complaint is that the boss battles in this one weren’t as good or as memorable as the first game. I missed beating up on the more popular baddies, as this chapter gives us mostly second and third tier Turtles villains.

However, the final boss fights were a lot of fun. The battle with Krang felt fresh and new and not just a rehash of what was done in the previous installment. Also, the final fight with Shredder was more challenging and the cherry on top of this superb banana split of awesomeness.

Overall, I liked this one less than the first game. However, it is a solid compliment to it and it kept things fresh enough to allow it to stand on its own as a worthy side scrolling beat’em up.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.