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Streetwise’ appeals only to Capcom fans

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There is a fine line between continuing a successful franchise and bleeding it dry. Capcom’s “Resident Evil”is an example of the former – it’s a game-of-the-year experience.

But another of its recent releases, “Final Fight: Streetwise,”is an example of the latter.

The original “Final Fight”was released back in the height of the arcade frenzy, where huddling in the dark with a bunch of guys around a glowing vertical video game unit was the epitome of cool for teenagers. A plethora of sequels followed quickly, but a nearly decade-long dry spell followed. Random “Final Fights”lit up the arcade scene, as well as Super Nintendo and Sega Saturn but there hasn’t been a new one in recent memory, and for good reason.

The “Final Fight”games fit firmly into the side-scrolling fighting genre, much like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”The latest iteration features a three-dimensional facelift, creating a fully 360-degree brawling environment. The controls are also updated, giving a complex collection of catastrophic combos under the player’s control.

The setting is still Metro City, the location of the original game. Most of the original stars play a role in “Streetwise,”including the original trio of playable characters. The player assumes control of Kyle, the younger brother of the original fighter Cody. Kyle is an underground fighter, making ends meet by scrapping with other combatants. Cody has aged a bit since the first game and is unable to fight anymore. However, his competitive nature lives on, and he disappears early into the game. The rest of the game follows Kyle’s search for his older sibling.

It is on this quest that he runs into many fan favorites, including ex-mayor and muscle man Haggar and karate master Guy. Other favorites also pop up – sometimes unexpectedly – but in ways that always delight fans of the series. Kyle can participate in pit fights throughout the story to earn money, and many of Capcom’s coolest cameos appear during the fights.

For hardcore fans of the original, there are two additional modes included in addition to the story mode. A multi-player arcade mode – featuring multiple playable characters in addition to Kyle – and the original “Final Fight”can also be unlocked.

However, for everything the game does correctly, there is something done poorly. One of the major omissions is the lack of a multi-player mode during the story mode. Included in the draws of the original was the ability to face the gangs of Metro City with a friend, which is sorely missing from this sequel.

The brutal nature of the fights is also dampened by a finicky camera – fending off hordes of drugged enemies is made more difficult by having the players sight blocked by a stationary shrub. This can lead to some cheap hits by the opponents and even a death or two.

Artificially adding length to the game is a silly, pointless side quest. While they do add a little variety to the game, they are often repeated to the point of boredom. The final complaint is that the foes fit firmly the façade of standard video game fare. There are the Italian mobsters dressed in fancy suits, the Japanese girls wearing school outfits and carrying kitanas etc … . This can be a positive however, as it continues the spirit of the original.

Fans of the original may find this game a nice nostalgic novelty, but “Streetwise”won’t convert any newcomers to the flock.