Capcom Home Arcade Thoughts

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By now, you’ve probably seen the trailer and reviews for this thing but I’m going to talk about it anyway. I love retro/classic games and I adore Capcom’s back catalogue so a product like this should either be in my hands already, or on my Christmas wishlist. But it isn’t and here’s why.

What is Capcom Home Arcade?

Essentially, the Capcom Home Arcade is a premium version of the tried-and-tested retro-themed plug ‘n play devices. This one means business though. The device features a pair of arcade-style controls for starters, and competition-spec sticks/buttons from Sanwa. Here it is from the horse’s mouth a.k.a. the official site:

“Featuring a pair of competition class Sanwa JLF-TP-8YT sticks with 8-way GT-Y directional gates and OBSF buttons for the finest precision, response times and durability.”

So this isn’t something that’s going to fall apart and break after a few hammerings. Sanwa are, after all, a well-known and respected brand in the arcade stick field.

The device has the (pretty much now standard) HDMI-out connection and also wi-fi connectivity for uploading high scores.

As for the games, you are once again assured of quality. These are original CPS1 and CPS2 arcade ROMs running on a licensed (not without controversy…) version of the emulator, Final Burn Alpha, so you won’t be getting the kind of shady emulation associated with cheaper retro handhelds or plug ‘n plays from the likes of Blaze.

So as far as the actual quality and execution of the hardware goes, I cannot fault the Capcom Home Arcade.

What are the games?

The device comes with sixteen pre-installed arcade titles:

  • 1944: The Loop Master
  • Alien Vs Predator
  • Armored Warriors
  • Capcom Sports Club
  • Captain Commando
  • Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness
  • Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors
  • Eco Fighters
  • Final Fight
  • Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
  • Gigawing
  • Mega Man: The Power Battle
  • Progear
  • Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
  • Strider
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

So what’s wrong with it, then?

So…solid hardware, a decent line-up of games and sound emulation; should be a great product then, right? Well, I would never ask anybody to take my viewpoint as the gospel (because this is just my opinion after all) but, in my eyes, the Capcom Home Arcade is FAR from deserving of a “shut up and take my money!” meme.

For starters, this thing is ugly as sin. Look, I get where they were going with the design, and I’m not saying that it won’t appeal to anybody, but this just looks a bit tacky. The non-symmetrical, oddly-shaped form isn’t pleasing to my eye. It’s like the next Playstation being a giant Sony logo – who would take that seriously? I would have much preferred a traditional-shaped arcade stick decorated with some original artwork from an artist associated with Capcom such as Kinu Nishimura, Bengus or Akiman.

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But the physical shape of the Capcom Home Arcade is the least of the problems.

The roster of games is, admittedly, far from awful. These types of products are usually loaded up with the same games over and over again rather than the juicy, rarely re-released titles that fans of the company involved are constantly clamouring for. So credit must be handed to Capcom for including the likes of Alien Vs Predator, Gigawing and Armored Warriors. They also avoided two other pitfalls: wasting slots with sequels and wasting slots on a slew of Street Fighter II revisions.

That said, I have to wonder why they went for the Hyper Fighting version of SFII rather than Super Turbo, or why they chose the original Darkstalkers over the much expanded sequels. On the whole though, these are petty moans when many of these games have never been ported to home systems. In fact, almost all of these aren’t available on the likes of PSN, XBLA or Nintendo’s E-Shop at the time of writing.

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I’d honestly given up on ever seeing AvP re-released. Shame that you have to pay £200 for the privilege…

There are even two trump cards in the pack: Alien Vs Predator and Progear. The former is one of the all-time greats in the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre and has never received a home conversion (the SNES version is the same in name only), something that fans had long written off as ever happening due to licensing issues with the characters. As for Progear, this is a CAVE-developed bullet-hell shooter that has also never been released outside of obscure, mobile ports for old phones.

Did I say the line-up of games is “far from awful”? I should take that back because it’s actually bloody good once you realise that you can’t just go and (legally) download them from PSN or XBLA for a few quid.

So…what IS wrong with it?

That price.

The Capcom Home Arcade retails for £200 and that is BIG money for a plug ‘n play, no matter how good it is. You ARE getting solid build quality and an interesting collection of games to play but it’s just too much in my opinion, and that isn’t me being a tight-arse git who wants everything for nothing.

For starters, you have to be a fairly hardcore gamer to pay that much money for sixteen games, and those sorts of gamers have been playing un-converted arcade games for years on dedicated emulator-based arcade cabs. Many committed retro-heads even have the original CPS1 and CPS2 boards for these games and play them via JAMMA-compatible SuperGun devices.

Then there is MAME. Yes, it isn’t technically legal but, again, most people haven’t been waiting 20+ years for Capcom to re-license Alien Vs Predator. When a game is THAT good, you just emulate it, as you would with the other titles that have never received home conversions. Yes, we would ALL (myself included) like to play and own everything legally but it simply isn’t possible when certain games don’t get re-released. We have our virtual collection of arcade cabinets on our computers and MAME does a damn good job of emulating them by this point.

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Never forget about these beauties or their bigger home console sisters.

And if MAME is too dodgy for you, several of these games were included in the various Capcom Classics compilations for PS2/Xbox/PSP which are readily available on the second-hand market. Additionally, Final Fight, Armored Warriors and Captain Commando were not long ago included in the Capcom Beat ’em Up Bundle along with four other games. This is still available on PSN for £15.99.

And it’s highly unlikely that casual gamers, younger gamers or those new to Capcom’s back catalogue will want to drop £200 on this.

The fact is, you are so much better off by obtaining what you can via the aforementioned, existing compilations and just emulating the rest. The quality of the Capcom Home Arcade and its games cannot be disputed but why do yourself out of money? If this was a £100 or less then I would endorse a purchase immediately, even if the device IS butt-ugly.

Capcom would have been better off dumping these games on a disc or lumping them together as a digital compilation. Heck, release them individually on PSN, XBLA and the E-Shop. Start a new line of retro re-releases under some sort of fancy banner, perhaps. I have to assume that more money goes into Capcom’s pocket by doing it this way. Certainly, they are attempting to cash-in on the Christmas rush when more unsuspecting punters – partners of gamers for example – are likely to pay the £200. Nothing says “I love you” at Christmas when a long suffering partner presents you with a thoughtful and expensive gaming item, after all.

What I SHOULD be doing is celebrating and going nuts over Alien Vs Predator finally being shown the light of day again but, instead, I’m sitting here in disbelief having seen that £200 price tag and the naff aesthetics of the Capcom Home Arcade. If it bombs and stores are forced to slash prices by 50% or more to get rid of them then I will probably buy one but I have a feeling that these won’t be that mass-produced. The Capcom zealots will probably buy them anyway, no matter the price.

Capcom planning to revive dormant IPs

A lot of gaming news and announcements completely fail to enter my sphere of interest these days but, sometimes, I see/hear something that I can’t help but be excited for. It’s these little moments that remind me that, as much as I have cooled-off on the hobby in recent years, I still love gaming. Such was the case when I saw the news that Capcom is planning to “revive dormant IPs”

In fact, I was so pumped, that I decided to make a quick post about this news. First thing’s first though: I read this on The Fighters Generation, a website dedicated to fighting game news, reviews and artwork that any fan of the genre really should have saved in their bookmarks/favourites.

And HERE is a direct link the story.

Apparently, Capcom’s confidence in their classic franchises has been bolstered by the success of Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Monster Hunter World and the collective sales of 18.5 million units.

Naturally, the potential here is incredible. Capcom’s back catalogue is enormously impressive and I believe most gamers could think of a franchise or standalone game that had the Capcom logo on the box, and that they would like to see revived going into 2020 and beyond. Obviously, it’s far too early to get any hopes up yet but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and list off the top five games (in no order) that I would like to see announced…

Darkstalkers

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[Image Source]
It should come as no surprise – given the name of this blog – that I have always been a huge fan of Darkstalkers. It’s basically Street Fighter with vampires and mummies but Darkstalkers is so much more than that. The beautiful 2D art style lent a colourful and playful comic-book style to characters and themes rooted in horror. It was also an incredibly creative series with crazy moves and nutty supers that were a gazillion times more interesting to behold than Street Fighter‘s equivalents. And that’s saying something when much of Ryu and co.’s pyrotechnics, gravity-defying punches and outrageous super moves weren’t exactly grounded in reality in the first place.

In theory, a new Darkstalkers should be a success. After all, you only need to look at how popular and enduring the characters still are. However, Capcom have a recent history of trolling the fanbase with various hints and rumours that haven’t led anywhere unless you count Darkstalkers Resurrection for PS3/360 which was just a duo of tarted-up ports.

This being one of my absolute favourite series’ of all-time, I do have some reservations, however. Firstly, the game really needs a sumptuous 2D style to do the originals justice. I know that hand-animating genuine 2D sprites and backgrounds is no longer a viable thing in the industry but I’d happily settle for a convincing imitation. The King of Fighters XIII and Blazblue spring to mind, for example. But knowing Capcom, they will likely fall back on the tried-and-tested 2.5D style that has powered recent Street Fighters and MvC games.

Secondly, I will be underwhelmed (to say the least) if a new Darkstalkers becomes the next Street Fighter V and adopts the same rushed launch, DLC/F2P approach and focus on online play. And please, no petty stuff like censoring Morrigan’s cleavage or putting Felicia in a nun’s outfit (and yes, I know that that actually happened in one of her endings).

Capcom Vs SNK 3

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The timing for a third installment in the CvSNK series has never been better. SNK are riding high at the moment with the successes of KOF XIV and Samurai Shodown (both great games) and they have been setting the fighting game world alight with mini crossovers. Mai Shiranui slotted neatly into Dead or Alive, Geese Howard brought his counter-attacks to Tekken 7 and Terry Bogard has starred in TWO non-SNK games – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Fighting EX Layer.

So why not blow the minds of fighting game fans and bring back the crossover series that gamers have been clamouring for for so long? The potential is immense. So many new characters have established themselves on both sides of the Capcom/SNK divide in the last twenty years so there’s ample room to spice up the roster. They could even expand it some more so that it doesn’t feel like just Street Fighter vs King of Fighters. Tatsunoko Vs Capcom and the last two Marvel Vs Capcom installments have shown that the developer isn’t averse to some left-field thinking and sending out tournament invites to characters not traditionally associated with their fighting games.

As with Darkstalkers, my main reservations would be the visual style and whether a CvSNK3 would become DLC: The Game. I have to be honest though: neither would put me off playing it.

Haunting Ground

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A bit of a different survival horror game that didn’t do brilliantly at retail first time around, but now commands a fair price on the second-hand market due to gamers eager to play what they missed out on. Away from commercial success (or lack of), Haunting Ground was a interesting game from the same publisher that brought us Resident Evil. Unlike that series, however, the protagonist – Fiona Belli – didn’t fight back against the sinister enemies stalking her. The twist was that you really were just a frightened teenage girl, trapped in a massive castle, and being hunted by the owner’s servants.

Fiona had to avoid her enemies and hide in closets or underneath beds and it was very tense, knowing that you may or may not be discovered. She also had her faithful canine companion, Hewie – a German Shepard that could be instructed to attack enemies or retrieve out-of-reach items. You had to look after Hewie though, and keep him healthy so it almost felt as if you were building a genuine relationship with this dog, Fiona’s only friend and – in many cases – chance of survival.

Haunting Ground had such a fantastic, chilling atmosphere. There were only three enemies in the game but the threat of being found, and knowing that you could only flee in terror, ramped the tension up to often unbearable levels. Fiona could also fall into a state of panic if she was exposed to too much. Visibility worsened, she could start running about of her accord and could even fall over. Staving off exhaustion played a key part in keeping Fiona’s sanity at healthy levels and preventing a dehibilitating state of panic from setting in, so you had to be careful not to run too much or abuse the backstep and tackle abilities.

It was such a creative and original survival horror game. It also looked superb by PS2 standards. Additionally, there aren’t many enemies in the survival horror genre that can hold a candle to the robotic creepiness of the maid, Daniella.

Dino Crisis

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In period, Dino Crisis was often described as “Resident Evil with dinosaurs” and that’s pretty much what it was. The controls and camera angles were very familiar to Resi players and the game was even developed by the same team. The original Dino Crisis was a big success and cemented itself as a firm favourite that most 90’s gamers will have played or at least heard of.

Unfortunately, the series never achieved the same longevity as it’s zombie-infested sibling. Dino Crisis 2 traded survival horror for a greater focus on all-out arcade action but was still a success for Capcom. The same couldn’t be said for 2003’s Dino Crisis 3, however; a sequel that took the series into space with new characters, mutant creatures engineered from dino DNA and one of the worst in-game cameras ever implemented. The fact that it was exclusive to the original Xbox – when Dino Crisis was traditionally a Playstation-first series – probably didn’t help sales either.

So it would be awesome to see a brand-new Dino Crisis that perhaps uses the Resident Evil 2 Remake engine. Come on, Capcom: bring things full circle again.

Final Fight

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Thanks to digital platforms, side-scrolling beat ’em ups have seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years with many enjoyable, original examples finding their way onto PSN and XBLA in amongst welcome ports of classic arcade brawlers. Even Streets of Rage is finally getting a true fourth installment so wouldn’t it be great to see a Final Fight 4 as well?

Obviously, there have been other Final Fight sequels post-Final Fight 3 but it’s difficult to count those as ‘proper’ sequels. Final Fight Revenge was a pretty poor attempt to simultaneously take the series into the third dimension AND the one-on-one fighting game format. Final Fight Streetwise returned to the beat ’em up format but barely had anything in common. I didn’t entirely dislike Streetwise (it’s so bad that it’s fun) but the miserable urban ghetto setting, swearing, a storyline based on substance abuse and even mutated abominations towards the end of the game, all marked the game out as the blackest of black sheep in the Final Fight series.

What we need is a REAL Final Fight follow-up that reintroduces some colour as well as the traditional side-scrolling format. It would be great fun. The recent inclusion of Final Fight 3‘s Lucia in Street Fighter V proves that even the lesser-known sequels to the original arcade hit are still in the front of Capcom’s mind so maybe and brand-new installment isn’t such a wild wish…

So those are my personal top five choices for Capcom revivals. What do you think of this news? What would be on your wishlist?

Final Fight Streetwise is NOT a bad game

Now that I have your attention with that outrageous title, I guess I will need to justify making such a statement and with good reason. Whenever the topics of worst videogame reboots and worst modern updates of classic franchises get brought up, you can bet a fat wedge of your hard-earned money that Final Fight Streetwise will make it onto that list. It’s easy to see why too: the game was released in that awkward mid-noughties period when publishers seemed to believe that what their cherished franchises needed to succeed on the PS2 and Xbox was grittiness, tits and gratuitous profanities. Many series’ fell foul of this notion (an entire topic in itself) including Capcom’s much-loved Final Fight beat ’em up series.

Eternally a sucker for the more obscure stuff that lies at the dusty side of this well-travelled road we call “Gaming”, I decided that it was high time I played the game for myself to see if Streetwise was really deserving of its poor rep.

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Even bad games increase in value due to their notoriety. The going rate for Streetwise in 2018 is £7-£10.

The shocking thing was that I found myself enjoying the game! After hearing nothing but hatred for Final Fight Streetwise over the years, this was a big surprise. It certainly goes to show that popular internet opinion isn’t always correct and that you should always try a game out for yourself before joining in the chorus of condemnation based on what you have heard/read or seen in video footage.

That’s not to say that the game is a classic or anything approaching that because there ARE many things that are wrong with it. The big elephant in the room is of course the ‘Final Fight’ name on the box and the depiction of the likes of Cody, Guy and Haggar in this game. A lot of the scorn for Streetwise stems from the fact that this game is part of the Final Fight saga and fans of the older games were (understandably) pissed that their beloved franchise and characters were radically different this time around. If Streetwise had traded the Final Fight connections for new, original characters then it probably wouldn’t have invited such a critical pasting and would have simply been another 3D beat ’em up for the PS2 generation. Unfortunately, Capcom decided it was safer (ironically) to trade on an established name, a move that sealed Streetwise‘s fate from the beginning. The irony continues however when considering that Capcom also developed an original 3D beat ’em up title for the PS2 called Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance. This game was objectively better than Final Fight Streetwise in several respects but still no classic yet a lack of connection to an established, much-loved series counted in its favour.

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Gritty urban surroundings and guns? The Final Fight resemblance was a bit thin.

To describe the gameplay, I’ve taken to billing Streetwise as a crap version of Sega’s Yakuza. That’s to say that there is a free-roaming nature to the game (albeit confined to a much more limited, less interactive game world) with 3D combat, the use of weapons and an upgradable set of moves/combos. Different areas of Metro City are gradually unlocked as the game progresses and there are a variety of side missions as well as a series of pit fights against opponents that stand out from the general street thugs and gangstas. All of this considered, it’s easy to make the comparisons between Metro City and Kamurocho but if Sega’s highly detailed crime saga can be likened to a Ferrari then Streetwise would probably be a Ssangyong or a Dacia by comparison.

And as a I mentioned earlier, the game fell into the trap of pandering to the teenage boy audience that every publisher was trying to sell games to in the mid-2000’s. Metro City is a gloomy, miserable urban environment this time around with a look of extreme decay and social rot about it. F-bombs and all manner of other swearing are casually tossed about, blood flies during brawls and hookers hang around on street corners, trying to sell the main character their wares. Fortunately, Streetwise doesn’t let you go any further with the latter and the dilapidated city’s porn theatre is conveniently never able to serve you due to the “register being down”. A soundtrack of gangsta beats from obscure artists serves as backing noise (and I really do consider it to be “noise”) and completes the transformation of the once colourful, cartoon-like beat ’em ups from the arcade and Super Nintendo.

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Darker and more ghetto than before.

You play as Kyle Travers, brother to Final Fight‘s Cody Travers and an up-and-coming fight club brawler. Many years have passed since the events of Final Fight and Cody is now older with knackered knees that can’t take the abuse of fighting anymore so he puts his time into coaching his brother instead. Cody still feels the burning desire to fight however and finds himself mixed up with shady underworld types and a dangerous new drug called “Glow” that can turn the average man into a superhuman machine at the eventual cost of the user’s mind and humanity. A dangerous gang crashes a drinking sesh at the local bar and kidnaps Cody with the gang’s leader – known as The Stiff – knocking Kyle unconscious at the conclusion of the brawl. This is where the game kicks off properly, with Kyle’s aim being to track down his brother and save him from Metro City’s underworld and the lethal Glow drug. Final Fight has certainly grown up since the old days eh?

Along the way, Kyle runs into strong man Haggar (angrier and swearier than before) and Guy who has now become a gang boss himself, heading up the Japantown district of Metro City. There aren’t really any more links to the Final Fight lineage other than these characters and a few references to their past exploits. The only classic Final Fight enemy to make a return is Andore as an optional pit opponent. Concept art for the game showed Poison and Sodom but neither made it into the final game.

Thus far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Final Fight Streetwise is a load of nonsense, trying to be cool and hardcore while re-writing the likes of Cody and Haggar to be grittier, more ‘realistic’ characters e.g. exactly what nobody asked for. Gangsta music, a drug-related plot and the more violent nature of combat certainly suggest this so you may be wondering why I’m saying that Streetwise is not actually a bad game?

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You say bad, I say so bad it’s brilliant.

Well, the “bad” stuff is often so bad that I found it entertaining with so many crappy aspects of Streetwise lending the game a unique sort of charm. The awful NPC dialogue and quotes for example are just brilliant. Metro City appears to have a large population of flamboyant men making overly saucy remarks to Kyle in passing, (one such comment even referencing a “package”…whatever that means…) while hookers come out with such brazen lines as “Fancy a shag?” or “Wanna have a poke?”…in laughably posh British accents which obviously make the world of sense in an urban, American city.

Side missions often take the form of mini games which are a stark contrast to the game’s moody, violent vibe. One standout distraction is a card shuffling game where you must keep an eye on the winning card as it is shuffled with two others. You play this game by speaking to a suited businessman who just happens to be hanging around in a bad part of town, briefcase of playing cards at his side. Other amusing mini games include (literally) stamping out a cockroach infestation in the diner, smashing up a car that has enraged a local resident by being parked in their way (a nice throwback to the car-smashing interludes in the arcade game) and…blasting rubber ducks in an alleyway shooting gallery to win cash? Yep, that happens. The novelty of these side events does wear off once they begin to repeat over and over but there’s no denying that they are – initially – quirky and unexpected in a game where you expect to simply be fighting.

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I’ll be honest, as interesting as this was, I still didn’t bemoan a lack of G-Con2 support.

Speaking of the fighting, it’s actually not that bad. Yes, Final Fight Streetwise had contemparies that arguably did combat better (Urban Reign, Spikeout: Battle Street) but Streetwise is still more than serviceable. There are the standard light and strong attacks to create combos as well as the obligatory throw command. In addition, there is also an “Instinct” meter below the health bar. This energy can be used to enhance the power of moves (by holding down one of the shoulder buttons while attacking) or to fuel the use of stronger special moves such as the drop kick or suplex. Kyle can also counter an opponent’s attack if the player presses the block/guard button at precisely the right moment, sending the game into a brief slow-mo sequence where they can input various commands to evade damage and knock the enemy back. New moves and extensions to the health and instinct meters are purchased from the game’s various gyms, giving the player a reason to collect as much cash as possible from side events and enemy drops.

It’s nothing special but it works and there is a reasonable level of satisfaction to be gleaned from the combat, especially when consistently countering like a boss and sending enemies flying with an elbow smash, nose-breaker or hurricane kick.

Other sweet touches are a cameo fight against Street Fighter‘s Cammy (as a big fan of Cammy, I loved this) and a bonus arcade mode whereby you select Kyle, Cody, Guy or Haggar and attempt to fight your way through hoardes of enemies as in the old-school arcade games. Arcade mode takes on a strange 2.5d perspective with a fixed route and a much simplified moveset including a removal of the Instinct system (so no counters either) and many special moves. It’s an interesting sideshow but good luck beating it on your own without a second player because it’s absolutely brutal. Finally, you can unlock the original 1989 arcade game and play it from Streetwise‘s main menu but in all honesty, I can’t recommend the port as it feels sluggish with a poor resolution. Stick to the Capcom collections on the PS2 or PSP if you want to play classic Final Fight. Or the superb Final Fight One for the GBA.

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I wish this costume for Cammy had made it into one of the Street Fighter games as an alternate outfit but I imagine Capcom are keen to forget Streetwise ever happened.

Overall, I have to say that Final Fight Streetwise is not the absolute trainwreck that I was waiting to experience when I popped the disc into my PS2 after all these years of reading negative horror stories. Yes it is a flawed game and no, it isn’t an essential gem in the PS2 (or original Xbox’s) library. There are better 3D beat ’em ups available from this generation of gaming – without question – but I do feel that Streetwise receives a lot of flack for being a bad Final Fight game rather than a bad game in general. Strip away that famous name and you have a serviceable beat ’em up with some interesting quirks. It isn’t a bad game at all; it simply failed to live up to the Final Fight name but that was always going to be the case.

The one major complaint I personally have is that the save system is terrible. You can only save by quitting the game (not explained in-game or in the manual) and loading a saved game puts you back at your last checkpoint (also not explained in-game or in the manual) meaning that until you realise this, you can lose a lot of side-mission progress by believing that you have saved the game at your current point when you haven’t. Other small niggles are repetitive mini games, some fiddly bosses and the final few chapters feeling more like Resident Evil with zombie-like enemies and mutated bosses.

But Streetwise still isn’t a bad game. I couldn’t exactly recommend it but I COULD recommend that you open your mind a little, forget the Final Fight name and give the game a chance because it’s alright.