Are you ready for prime time?
So, I was facing off against “The Stiff” which I’m sure is already a nickname, but there’s no way his friends don’t call him “Stiffy” behind his back. It starts off with this big dude and Kyle Travers pointing guns at each other in a cutscene. The fight starts and I unload said pistol at the guy, and it does basically nothing. His health bar is cut down by an amount that would be offensive to the whole clip of bullets I put into him. So I ditch it and beat him up with fists.
As I’m fighting him, guns just keep dropping out. He’d fall down, drop his pistol, get back up, reach behind himself, and reveal a new pistol. I can only imagine Stiffy was wearing an absolute tangle of holsters on his back. Or maybe he just has a gunsmith up his ass. He finally takes enough damage and runs to the roof, where Kyle and Stiffy face off again in a cutscene, pointing pistols at each other. Kyle is like, “Why don’t we settle this with hands?” which we already were, because our guns are apparently loaded with Nerf.
I beat on Stiffy for a while more and he falls off the edge of the building. Kyle grabs his arm, and he’s left dangling.
Stiffy’s like, “You won’t drop me. You aren’t a killer.” Which completely ignores all the dudes who I filled with buckshot on the way in. However, then Stiffy – and I swear this actually happens – reaches behind himself and pulls out yet another pistol, pointing it at Kyle and demanding he lifts him to safety.
He gets dropped because that’s an incredibly stupid idea, but that’s just sort of how 2006’s Final Fight: Streetwise rolls.
What a horrible swansong for Capcom Studio 8. The studio was responsible for the two Maximo games. To be fair to the developers, Final Fight: Streetwise wasn’t the game they envisioned. Supposedly, marketing decisions caused the drastic change in tone and approach, but I was unable to confirm this, because I couldn’t find anyone on the team to talk to.
In any case, the resulting tone of Final Fight: Streetwise is what I’d describe as an edgy teenager’s take on Yakuza. Final Fight already had a bit of a grittiness to its art, but Streetwise is just smeared with dirt. It’s so grey. It’s oppressively grey. I think some parts of the game take place during the day, but all I can remember is dirt.
You play as Kyle Travers, the brother of Cody Travers from the original game. Cody has been living vicariously through Kyle’s street fighting career. I’ve read that this is due to Cody having arthritis, which prevents him from fighting. The game kind of neglects to mention this, but maybe it did, and I was just distracted by how badly it fails to crop cutscenes for a 16:9 resolution. In fact, I actually had to turn off widescreen in the Xbox settings just so that some characters would appear fully on-screen.
The plot is just so outlandishly awful. Cody makes some vague statements early on, then gets abducted, then you find him, and he’s just been doing drugs. Apparently, a new drug called “Glow” has been taking over the street. It turns people into Hulkamaniacs, but they also go insane. Cody was using this to get back into the fighting scene, which he… needed to be abducted for?
They’re just sleeping
It’s definitely one of those stories that make you question who the bad guys really are. I mentioned shooting a bunch of dudes early on, and it’s really a hugely accidental tonal shift. I found a shotgun in an alley, then suddenly I was just murdering addicts.
It’s kind of like how Yakuza would let you throw people off rooftops, but no one actually dies outside of cutscenes. The only difference is that I think Yakuza does it for fun, whereas Final Fight: Streetwise kind of implies this is a cool thing to do. When you get to the last few acts of the game, you’re just mowing down addicts like that’s how you deal with someone dealing with chemical dependency. Kyle seriously just wants to cure Cody of his addiction, and everyone else can just die, I guess.
As well as being tonally galling, there are a tonne of plotholes everywhere. The person who is behind the drug keeps appearing and disappearing whenever she sees fit, and it’s really hard to tell if she’s with you or against you. That division might be on purpose, but it’s so clumsily handled. One moment she’s bandaging your arm, telling you she needs to take responsibility for her actions. The next, she’s literally helping Mr. Badguy do evil.
With that said, the devs obviously had some respect for the source material. High-top ninja Guy and daddy poundcake Mike Haggar make appearances, and they’re not entirely bastardized. Haggar stopped being a mayor so he could run a gym, which doesn’t seem right but is pretty far away from character assassination. There’s a decent attempt to stick with continuity, even if I’m completely certain that this one is going to be ejected from canon if it hasn’t already.
Weirdly, Final Fight: Streetwise wasn’t overly excruciating. The fighting system kind of sucks, but so did many of the era. I mostly just found the game to be just hilariously off-kilter. One of the enemies spawned directly in front of me in plain view, and as if Final Fight: Streetwise was embarrassed by this slip-up, the thug started contorting and folding in on themselves until they were eventually sucked into the ground. It was like the thug broke the hard-fought immersion of the game and was being dragged into digital hell for eternal punishment.
Kyle’s voice sounds like someone doing an impression of Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. It’s convincing enough that I had to check if it was David Hayter, and it was not. It’s Trent Kaniuga, who isn’t really known as a voice actor. Despite this, I both love and hate their performance. They both capture the qualities of David Hayter that I find hokey and irksome, but they also sound like they’re just so into the role. It is delivered so earnestly that I can’t help but find it somewhat charming.
I actually wound up giving up on Final Fight: Streetwise. I was nearing the finale, but then a boss lept at me in a cutscene, and the entire game locked up. This resulted in me losing multiple hours of progress, including some rather prolonged and excruciating sequences. It’s not that I have bad save practices, it’s that Final Fight: Streetwise does. In order to save the game, you actually have to pause, go to quit, and after confirming that you want to quit, only then does it actually ask if you want to save. Obviously, since I was planning to play through to the end, I hadn’t saved and quit in quite a while.
That was less funny.
A stronger nose
Capcom USA closed down Capcom Studio 8 after the release of Final Fight: Streetwise. Some sources indicate that this decision was made even before the game’s release. A lot of things point to the game just having a horrifically troubled development. You can peek right through the cracks and see the squirming mass of adversity beneath.
I kind of regret that I didn’t finish Final Fight: Streetwise, but I also don’t blame myself for not getting back up after it kicked me in the face. You don’t typically tell the person with the broken nose that they should maybe have a stronger nose. Maybe I’ll pick it up again once my nose has healed.
That’s not really a recommendation, though. While Final Fight: Streetwise isn’t the complete bastardization that I feared, it is just unfathomably dumb and blatantly underdeveloped. There was maybe a decent game that someone was trying to build this mess up to, but we didn’t make it there. Instead, we just got a monument of trash.
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