Two thousand and ten ways to die
Review written by
September 11th, 2014
Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight was originally released on the NES in 1990. It was re-released on Virtual Console on the Wii not too long ago. It was also re-released just a few days ago on the 3DS Virtual Console. Contrary to its title, the game has very few things in common with the more well-known Street Fighter games. One of those things is the character Ken. The game is also made by Capcom... and that's about all that they have in common.
First of all, let's talk about the story: I have only played the US version. The protagonist's back-story is rather different from the Japan version. In the US version, Ken is the same character from Street Fighter II, although much older. In order to remain competitive in battle, he is enhanced with bionics. In Japan, Ken is simply a cyborg cop. Other than that, the stories themselves are quite similar: Ken's friend and lab partner "Troy" is murdered, leaving a trace of a power-enhancing chemical referred to as "cyboplasm". Ken must collect this chemical energy in order to hop from planet to planet, fighting through mutant thugs and aliens in order to track his friend's murderer and exact revenge.
It's a strange story, but very cool in a B-movie, science fiction manner. The game features cut-scenes reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden in between levels. For the time, these were extremely well done. They looked flat-out awesome on the NES in its heyday, and it's really hard not to like Ken. He's ripped, made of flesh and metal, and has a cheesy pair of shades that match perfectly with blonde hair and Clint Eastwood scowl. This isn't your typical Final Fantasy protagonist. This was 1990. Short hair and big muscles were in, men looked like men, and this guy fitted the bill.
But a game doesn't really deserve praise unless the gameplay itself holds up, right? Well, if you look about online, you will see that reviews and general impressions about this game are quite divided. Some praise the game as an underrated NES gem, while others despise it or see it as little more than a scar upon the Street Fighter series' name. I'm going to flat-out defend and borderline praise this game, and below I will explain why.
First of all, the controls are complicated. You would think that they'd be simple, being that the game is controlled by five buttons. But it isn't. The method for jumping is an art into itself. If you jump forward, you will perform a mighty leap. However, if you press backward directly after jumping, Ken will do a back-flip as his body goes backwards and away from enemies and pitfalls. This can be confusing at first, and takes some getting used to. Ken also has a good variety of moves, which is atypical of NES fighting and platforming games. Ken will punch with a press of the "B" button. If you hold forward while punching, you will perform a stronger, but slower punch, which will cause more damage yet leave you vulnerable to attack. Holding "down" on the control pad will unleash a fierce kick which will arc your energy attack upward.
Yes, it gets even more complicated from there. See, this "cyboplasm" chemical enhances Ken's attack power and range. At zero, Ken has almost no range, and this makes the game quite difficult. At three points, Ken has a good range and can attack most enemies from afar. At level five, Ken can throw a simple punch and it will not only travel across the screen but it will turn into a giant glowing orb and rebound back like a boomerang. To top all of this off, Ken can also attack while climbing, and he can shoot a downward attack in the middle of his back-flip jump. So, is this flip little more than a flash? At first, yes, but ultimately no. If you play the game enough, you will realize that for roughly half a second, Ken is immune to almost all enemies and projectiles. This is during the peak of the flip, and until you master this, you will absolutely not beat the game without a game genie or cheat codes. Using this dodge at the right time is the difference between life and death. If you can dodge the enemy's fireball then you can get right behind him and pummel the alien into oblivion.
Does it sounded complicated? Absolutely. Convoluted even. But if you are a gamer of extreme patience, and dedication, you will find that the combat system is excellent. After hours of diving into the game, and dying repeatedly, the controls will start to make sense. That mutant boss that shoots electricity through the level, who tore you apart five times in a row? You will eventually kill him in fifteen seconds or less, back-flipping through the exit portal and onto the next planet like a boss.
But even after you get accustomed with the control scheme, the difficulty is still so strong that even the most seasoned gamers will get nauseous at times. If you lose your power-ups in later stages, you're left at an extreme disadvantage. Your attack range will be too short to strike the giant carnivorous plant that wants to bite your head off. Not only are the enemies abundant and deadly, but the platforming sections require precision timing. Half or more of those sections feature auto-scroll. Move and kill quickly, or die. Continues are also limited, unlike Capcom's more forgiving Mega Man games. Many consider Mega Man games to be too difficult. Well, this game makes Mega Man games feel easy. It may sound like I'm joking or bluffing, but I say please play the game and see for yourself.
Fortunately, the 3DS console features save-states. That changes the formula for this game. It means that, today, in the year 2014, mere mortal gamers, even ones who never bathed in the warmth of the original NES console, can beat this game or get further than one ever could before. It doesn't hurt that the game only costs five US dollars plus whatever your nation or state taxes.
Before wrapping up the review, I would like to reiterate that this is a game made by Capcom, in the late 80s / early 90s. Capcom means "Capsule Computer", but during those times, it meant "guaranteed quality". This game may be harder than hell, but it's an excellent game once you figure out the controls and the attack patterns of the enemies. Let's also not the leave the awesome soundtrack, which sounds like a more desolate, angrier version of an early Mega Man game. The graphics are also beautiful and colorful, and the sprites are so abundant that the game sometimes features that bittersweet NES-slowdown. This means that sometimes everything will come to a near-halt, like an unintentional bullet-time ala The Matrix.
Anyway, if you can play the game on the original NES, I recommend that for the purest experience. I found the game slightly harder to control on the 3DS, but save states more than make up for the added difficulty.
This is an absolute, underrated platforming gem, but only for those new and old who love punishment. To the uninitiated, it is a nightmare. This game will scar you for life, and you may or may not like it.
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