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Jun 06

A Way-Too-Detailed Analysis of Final Fight’s Continue Screen

Final Fight is a beat-em-up classic. It was one of the first games, possibly the first, to utilize your classic three-character strong-fast-balanced selectable character archetypes, and the huge sprites, fluid gameplay, and variety of moves helped take beat-em-ups to the next level.
Plus, to the extent that anyone cared about the plot of a beat-em-up, it was a lot of fun to take control of a former street fighting mayor determined to personally crack down on crime to rescue his daughter.

It’s something of a tribute to how much fun Final Fight is that it’s still named as one of Capcom’s best and most memorable beat-em-ups, even though they probably released better ones later on (I personally had fun with The King of Dragons, a more medieval themed beat-em-up with some very light RPG elements). It’s also a tribute to how much fun it is that the game itself wasn’t completely overshadowed by its continue screen (Contrast the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden, which is pretty much only known for a buzzsaw slicing up an ambiguously bound Ryu Hayabusa).

I still remember my first time seeing Final Fight’s continue screen, but I’ll get to that later. Suffice to say, for now, that it left quite an impression on me, to the point I’ve spent way too much time thinking about it over the years.

And so, we come to the point of this post. Having spent way too much time thinking about it, here’s a compilation and analysis of sorts of that screen, in its major versions–Arcade, Sega CD, SNES, and GBA.

Arcade
So if you’re unfamiliar with Final Fight’s continue screen, the one sentence summary is “Your character is tied up near a lit bundle of dynamite”. If you somehow have never seen Final Fight before, your selectable character roster is here. (Thanks to I Heart Classic Games)

You can see the continue sequence for all 3 characters in the video below (Thanks to “dnandres” on Youtube).

Okay, so some basic things to note here.

  • All three characters have 3 frames of animation, though their order varies.
  • Cody’s animation loop is the shortest. It’s a simple 1-2-1-3 repeating pattern. Haggar’s is a bit longer–the pattern is 1-2-1-3-1-2 and then repeats. Guy’s is both the longest and the most irregular: 1-2-1-3-1-2-1-2-1-3-1-2-1-3-1-3-1-3.
  • As for the animations themselves, Haggar is trying to blow out the dynamite’s fuse. He seems to be only one really trying to improve his awful situation, but hold that thought for a moment. Cody is shaking his head back and forth, like he’s in denial about what he’s being subjected to, and Guy is kind of generically panicking, which I can’t blame him for. The animations for all three get faster when the timer reaches 4.
  • Haggar is also unique in that he’s the only one bound by chains (This sounds way kinkier than I intend it to). The other two characters are tied to chairs; Haggar isn’t. More on this in a second as well.

Okay, so those are the 1-player versions. But what if two people run out of lives at the same time?

Oh….oh my. The first thing to notice is that the dynamite is, for whatever reason, slightly right-of-center. Huh. Capcom used the same animations for one and two players. For Cody and Guy, this works fine. But Haggar…oh my, Haggar. In summary, with two players, both characters are offset from the center, which makes sense on a basic level. But with Haggar in the one-player position, he goes from trying to blow out the dynamite to, as I put it in the linked video, using those lamaze classes he took with Mrs. Haggar years ago. Basically, he goes from being the only one trying to prevent his impending demise–though I suppose you could argue Cody is struggling to free himself–to looking like a complete buffoon.

The other thing of note is that Haggar is supposed to be a good deal taller than the other characters (Translating the character select screen roughly to inches, Guy would be about 5’10”, Cody just about 6′ even, and Haggar 6’8″ or so), and putting him side-by-side with another character destroys that illusion. You could argue that Haggar is supposed to be sitting in a chair that you just can’t see due to his bulk, which would lower or eliminate the height difference, but again, putting him side-by-side with Guy or Cody proves that that isn’t the case. The more obvious answer is just that Capcom didn’t think a 2-player continue screen would occur that often, and definitely didn’t expect someone to come along and nitpick the hell out of it.

Putting Haggar in the two-player position makes him look a bit more reasonable. In fact, you can argue he’s aimed at the fuse moreso than in his solo continue screen. He’s still not nearly as tall as the selection screen implies he should be, though.

Honestly, 2-player Cody/Guy isn’t particularly interesting as compared to 1-player. Since they’re not interacting with the dynamite like Haggar is, their animations work fine.

Sega CD
Besides the different soundtrack, there are a few other subtle differences between the arcade and Sega CD versions of the continue screen, just about all of which are illustrated in the video below.

First of all, the “area” of the continue screen is wider, which puts the dynamite back in the center, or at least a good deal closer to it. Also, while Haggar’s animation remains the same, there’s a bit of a pause between the loops of the animation. I kind of like this, as it’s like he’s checking to see if he successfully blew out the fuse before trying again. Cody’s animation is completely different, though. Instead of a simple 1-2-1-3 repeating animation, it starts at 1, and then enters a loop of 2-1-2-1-3-1-2-1-3, as though they forgot to put the first “1” in the loop itself. Again, I like this as compared to the arcade version, as it looks more like he’s actually struggling, albeit completely ineffectually.

The last interesting thing about this version is that Cody and Haggar have a single frame of animation that occurs after the dynamite explodes. Given that this was Sega in the 90s, this could either be sloppiness, or if you’re inclined to buy into a darker theory, a kind of post-death muscle spasm. The issue with that is that, from my limited understanding of explosive physics, there probably shouldn’t be much left of our heroes to spasm after the explosion.

Bit of a personal note here: Except for the fact that it was the arcade version as opposed to the Sega CD version, this configuration was my first encounter with the continue screen in any form. I was probably about 7 at the time, and it was part of an arcade trip with my cousin and uncle (Who generously gave my cousin and I way too many quarters that afternoon). Lacking any kind of context for Haggar’s animation at the time, I concluded that he was nodding his head as if accepting the inevitability of his situation, instead of trying to blow out the fuse.

If you’re curious about why I chose not to include Guy here, it’s because his differences aren’t that interesting–he just has a Haggar-like pause in his animation, and lacks the “death spasm” or whatever you want to call it. If you really want to see it, it’s at the very end of this video (The video should be cued up–if it isn’t, go to 25M24S) from VGDECIDE.

SNES
The SNES version of the game is a bit of an odd duck. A bunch of stuff got taken out–most notably Guy, the fourth level, and 2-player co-op–which makes it pale in comparison to the arcade version. Yet what’s left even after the cuts makes for a pretty decent beat-em-up on its own. It occupies this weird limbo of “A bad port, but a good game despite that.” Guy would later return to the SNES version in Final Fight Guy, a re-release that, among other things, cut out Cody to make room for him. As we’ll see, the corner-cutting extends to the continue screens (Thanks to “GameOverContinue” on Youtube for the below).

So the dynamite has been changed to a larger bundle of TNT. Here’s your one genuinely educational fact of this analysis: according to Wikipedia, dynamite and TNT are actually rather different, outside of both being explosives; in layman’s terms, though, the differences boil down to “dynamite is a bit more powerful and much more sensitive/unstable”. Besides that, all three characters are, broadly, doing the same things as in the arcade versions, but all three animations have been shortened to two-frame repeating loops. All three characters are also standing and chained, like Haggar in the arcade version. Finally, the animations increase in speed with each tick of the counter, reaching ridiculous speed at 1.

A few other quick notes about this:

  • I maintain that Guy’s animation looks like he’s transforming into a werewolf.
  • The increasing speed was the inspiration for something similar in the continue screen of S.E.T.U.P. (Final Fight’s continue screen in general was a big inspiration on the continue sequence in S.E.T.U.P., you probably won’t be surprised to find out. There were several different “inspirations” for S.E.T.U.P, but on a subconscious level, at least one was “I miss old-style arcade continue screens; what’s a game I can make that would give me an excuse to make one?”)
  • Try and track down a video of what Guy looks like when you actually continue in Final Fight Guy. Whereas all of the other characters in the versions we’ve discussed to this point look some appropriate amount of happy/relieved to be rescued, Guy in Final Fight Guy looks incredibly smug, as though he knew you were going to save him the whole time.
  • Finally, if you look very closely at Guy’s continue screen, it looks like either there’s a bit of a layering error or he’s leaning way forward–whichever it is, the result is that it looks like the bottom of his chains are on top of the table.

GBA
While the GBA version restores pretty much all of the content the SNES version cut out, and adds some to boot, I’m nonetheless convinced that it used the SNES version as its code base and grafted the rest of the content onto it. For one, the SNES censorship is still in the US version. For another, take a look at the continue screens (Thanks to “smoke072” on Youtube):

Even with some of the options, such as the new palettes of the characters, the “substance” of the continue screens for the main three characters are the same as the SNES version, right down to the bizarre layering on Guy’s chains. It’s the two new characters, Alpha Guy and Alpha Cody, that are the most interesting (As well as showing that Capcom easily could have gone with something closer to the arcade animations for the other three characters).

First, both Alpha Guy and Alpha Cody have two distinct animations. The first animations for both are 1-2-1-3 loops, similar to arcade Cody. And both characters, frankly, look bored with their situation. When the countdown reaches 5, both change animations–Alpha Guy begins to sweat in a 1-2-1-3 animation loop, while Alpha Cody goes into a more panicked version of his 2-frame SNES animation loop.

Youtube comments (Yes, yes, I know) on the linked video have a neat explanation for this. Basically, Alpha Cody and Alpha Guy are from the future and remember going through this before (Alpha Cody in particular goes meta at the end of stage 4, noting he doesn’t remember it because he took a shortcut after beating Edi. E, a nod to its being cut from Final Fight SNES), perhaps including being placed in (And saved from) the continue screen sequence. As such, neither of them are too worried until the TNT is halfway to exploding, at which point they’re more concerned that things will be different this time around. Then both gradually speed up as the clock ticks down, much like the SNES version.

Two more minor notes: Alpha Guy is the only character bound with ropes as opposed to chains. And it looks like Alpha Guy and Alpha Cody both gained some weight in the interim.

So there you have it. Way too much analysis of an icon continue screen and its various iterations, and hopefully an explosives lesson as well!

-EE

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