Developer: Bitmap Bureau
Publisher: Numskull Games
Genre(s): Arcade, Retro, Beat’em-up
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 17/6/22
A code was provided for review purposes
When it comes to the humble arcade brawler, I’d like to think that I’m a bit of an aficionado. From high-flying titles of Streets of Rage, and Final Fight, to the niche of Knights of the Round and Alien Vs. Predator – my combo-button mashing prowess have saved countless worlds and cities from the forces of evil. Next in line is Final Vendetta, an arcade side-scrolling beat-em-up that’s just as much a homage to the genre’s greats as it is original.
With a kidnapped sister to save, gangs roaming the streets of London, and plenty of brawling to be had – let’s go ‘Bare Knuckle’ and unleash that ‘Double Dragon’ with this ‘Final Fight’ of a review…
Be sure to check out the bottom of this review for a look at the Collector’s Edition version of the game!
Panic on the Streets of London
Final Vendetta is an arcade side-scrolling brawler that’s presented within the same vein as Final Fight and Vendetta – with the title being an amalgamation of the two. In Final Vendetta, you’ll take your chosen “hero” across various stages set throughout London while battling the sinister “Syndic8” gang. It’s a story that’s as old as time, but do we really play this type of game for its in-depth narrative?
Each of the three playable characters come with their own stats and move lists which gives each a distinct play style. Claire is quick on her feet, but doesn’t do much damage. Miller is slow and hard-hitting, while Duke is somewhat in-between. There’s no right-or-wrong way to play, and each character will appeal to different players.
Controls will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Streets of Rage. Regardless of which character you choose, each performs within the same way. Combos can be strung together to maximise damage, you can block attacks, and there’s a couple of special attacks too. Much like other games of the genre, Final Vendetta ties the use of the desperation attack to your health bar. Which means you’ll sacrifice a slither of HP in performing the attack.
Pulls No Punches
In terms of balancing its combat, Final Vendetta is pretty close to flawless. Each attack or combo has a degree of weight behind it, with each doing a fair representation of damage. Each character has a very generous hit-box, and you don’t necessarily need to be accurate with your positioning on the right plane. My only real concern when it comes to balancing is that some enemies seem to be able to predict your moves. In some extreme cases they can even time their attacks to essentially stun-lock you to the floor. While this isn’t particularly game-breaking (or even a new issue) it does take away the shine from what’s otherwise a well polished game.
Final Vendetta isn’t an easy game and its difficulty is certainly in tune with the games that have inspired it. As mentioned above, enemies seem to be able to time their attacks well and fighting large groups can become a chore. It’s very easy to become penned in as enemies swarm around you. Each character does have a screen clearing desperation attack, however it doesn’t really give you any room to breathe. While there is a block ability, it’s not flawless and most enemies are able to break through it.
Boss characters are prime users of cheap tactics and will certainly use the game’s flaws against you. Be prepared for some incredibly questionable moves as bosses are able to hit you well beyond their reach, and even teleport, and turn off the lights. While you do expect boss characters to be cheap combatants, at times it does seem a little unfair.
Final Vendetta also uses a retro inspired “lives” system. Again, it’s not an entirely new mechanic and it perfectly ties into the game’s arcade-inspired roots. However, Final Vendetta doesn’t include any form of continue system. This means that losing all of your lives does send you right back to the start to try again. It is frustrating and on a couple of occasions I did “call it a night” early due to not willing to play the same stage over again. If there was even an option to pick your starting point from a previously completed level, then it’s at least something. But sadly it isn’t to be.
However, one small grace is that it did bring back a lot of memories of running out of 20p coins, to then race against the 10-second timer to find my parents for more money. Which is a situation we’ve all been in right?
Final Vendetta is presented within a gorgeous 16-bit style, that’s instantly familiar to anyone who’s played an arcade beat’em-up. Its characters are well designed, and there’s a great mix of enemy goons to fight before they start to become repetitive. Boss characters are also well designed, with each fitting into their respective stage well. Hero characters are also similarly well designed, and do take on some clichéd looks that play upon their fighting style.
Stages are presented well, with each having a generalised theme. There’s everything from dank side-streets, to hitching a ride on the London Underground, and even elevator battles. Stages are also littered with weapons and food that aim to help you in the battle with Syndic8.
When it comes to the docked vs. handheld argument, I’ll stand by what I always say about pixel-styled titles. While the game is perfectly playable in docked mode, it doesn’t do it justice. The over-enlarged pixels feel incredibly distorted once displayed on a larger screen, and each character loses any attention to detail. However, experiencing Final Vendetta in handheld mode is (in my opinion) the optimal way to play. The smaller screen makes everything pop into place, with characters having a degree of detail to them.
Much like other games of the genre, Final Vendetta has a pretty unique sounding soundtrack. Listening to the blend of hip-hop, electric, and street brought back memories of both Marvel Vs. Capcom, as well as Streets of Rage. It does well to set Final Vendetta apart from its influences, yet retains that sense of familiarity throughout.
Collector’s Edition Unboxing
To coincide with this review, the kind folks over at Numskull Games sent me the Final Vendetta: Collector’s Edition to check out. As special edition box-sets go, this one’s pretty rad!
The box itself features a striking image of the game’s primary protagonist, Claire. Styled with a great use of red and white, it makes the title that ever more striking as it leaps off of the box. Inside the box we’re then treated to plenty of extra content. Here you’ll not only find the Final Vendetta cartridge (within its own standard Switch case), but also a CD of the OST, a deck of 30-enemy themed Top Trumps-esque playing cards, and a giant turkey sticker.
For those looking for a hard-hitting arcade experience, Final Vendetta is the game for you. Its simple pick-up and play style is one that’s both easy to learn, yet difficult to master. Without the mod-cons of modern gaming such as continues and extra-lives, Final Vendetta perhaps takes its inspiration a little too seriously. As such it can be frustrating at times, and it’s here where the lack of quality of life options shows.
However, if you can overcome the steep difficulty there’s a superb brawler hiding underneath. With an art style that’s very reminiscent of past Capcom and SNK arcade gems, Final Vendetta is a great slice of retro delight.
Now which phone box did I leave that roasted turkey in?
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.