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‘Final Vendetta’ Review: Pixel-Perfect Punches And Pounding Dance Tunes

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‘Final Vendetta’ Review: Pixel-Perfect Punches And Pounding Dance Tunes

If you’re the kind of player for whom the merest mention of Streets of Rage is enough to get your skin prickled and your blood pulsing, pay close attention to Final Vendetta. This arcade-style side-scrolling beat ‘em up is, clearly, a close stylistic cousin of SEGA’s series, so too the likes of Final Fight and Double Dragon. And just like those ‘80s and ‘90s arcade titles, it’s designed to devour your loose change. To challenge you. To hurt you.

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Which is to say: good grief, Final Vendetta is a hard game. And before you slide in with some snide comment about it lacking a ‘journalist’ difficulty, well: first off, get some better patter; and secondly, I’m someone who has played these games for years. Like, three decades, and change. I grew up with them, pinching 20 pence pieces off my parents to sneak in a round of Konami’s Turtles (now afforded an amazing modern successor in Shredder’s Revenge) down the local social club, or teaming up with pals to try to get through The Simpsons whenever we were in town proper. The merest mention of Streets of Rage does get me excited - I’m a huge fan of SoR2, which has proven so influential, and I’ve played 2020’s fourth entry in that series near to death. But I’ve been really up against it with Final Vendetta, which lays on the pain like few brawlers before it.

Check out the gameplay preview trailer for Final Vendetta below which shows off further features…

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But perhaps that should come as little surprise. This game’s makers, Bitmap Bureau, previously developed both the sci-fi(ish… it gets very weird) twin-stick shooter Xeno Crisis and the isometric, Gauntlet-inspired Battle Axe, and both of those are rage-quit-baiting affairs that gleefully toss extreme adversity in the player’s general direction. These guys, they clearly get off on watching players cry - which is why even ‘easy’ mode in Final Vendetta shouldn’t be ventured into without a commitment to really get to grips with each protagonist’s move set, the timing of their blows and combos, and the willingness to train muscle memory into actually using the block button. Yes, this side-scroller has a dedicated block button. You will need it.

Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games
Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games

First up though: who are you? At start of play you get three characters to pick from: the fast-of-fist bare-knuckle fighter Duke Sancho, the towering wrestler Miller T Williams, and martial arts badass Claire Sparks, who’s embarking on this throwdown across a pretty grimy looking London town to rescue her kidnapped sister from the Syndic8 gang. Yeah, as a story goes it’s very arcade beat ‘em up standard: somebody’s been taken, so you’d better go make fists meet faces until they’re safely recovered. Tried and tested. And each protagonist - two-player co-op is available, but sadly not three (at launch at least) - has their own strengths and weaknesses. Miller is an absolute powerhouse if he can get an enemy within arm’s length and send them crashing to the tarmac, whereas Sparks’ flying kicks can keep foes at a distance. Sancho is probably my favourite to use though - a crowd-clearing spinning kick comes in handy when swarmed, while a flaming flurry of punches deals decent damage to anyone already stunned from a few well-timed jabs. He plays somewhere between Streets of Rage’s Blaze and Axel, I guess.

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Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games
Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games

The art is terrific throughout, whether you’re tearing along a Thames-side dock or rampaging through an Underground station, with a strong sense of place evoked in the environmental detail. There’s no mistaking that this is London you’re leaving bodies littered across. Animations are fluid and there’s a nice degree of feedback to each connecting blow via subtle vibration (on Switch, anyway). Enemy hitboxes - likewise your own - are generous enough without being silly, and the whole game is soundtracked by some very early-’90s-feeling electronic music, much of which is arranged by Featurecast but there are a few tracks from Utah Saints - ‘Something Good’ and all that jazz (except it’s not jazz, obvs). Don’t be surprised to have these rhythms winding around your brain several hours after you’ve put the game down.

The problems, such as they are, relate to quality-of-life features that are largely a given on modern games of this genre. There are no continues - once your stock of lives is spent, it’s game over - and no save states to pause for a session and pick it up again another day. You start, you play, you complete the game - the only other option is beginning all over again. And that doesn’t quite sit right with me. Other games give you an option to save, or smash through the whole thing on a single credit, or take your time, or continue if you want to. You’ve paid your money, and these options are good things from an audience perspective. Choices are good. I’m slightly baffled why they’re not here as standard - but past Bitmap Bureau games have included things like an easier difficulty setting or additional play modes as cheat code-unlocked extras, so perhaps there’s something hidden here, yet to be found (spoiler: there is). The extra modes that are here on the menu - training, boss rush and survival - are locked until the arcade mode is beaten once by each character, so there’s a good chance many players will never experience them. The exception is the one-on-one(-on-car) versus mode, available at any time for two players.

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Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games
Final Vendetta / Credit: Numskull Games

In my experience on Switch, I’ve also found the classic double-tap-to-run (and then pull off a rising attack, usually) input a little fiddly with the analogue stick. Not a problem using a Pro Controller with its decent d-pad, but speed and precision is really necessary here, from the first stage onwards, so sloppy controls only make a tough game tougher still. That could be me, it could be my Switch (it’s a new OLED model, mind), or it could be the game - but whatever the cause, I was never comfy playing Final Vendetta in handheld mode with the analogue stick (and be fair, nobody uses the standard Joy-Con ‘d-pad’, do they). Enemies bearing weapons can be especially brutal to your health bar if not swiftly neutralised - but then, knives must really hurt in real life, and they certainly do here. If you see a bloke with a blade, floor him fast.

So it’s not exactly a mixed bag, as the moment-to-moment play of Final Vendetta is a lot of fun, albeit hard as nails, and the presentation is terrific. There are a lot more items in the plus column here, than the minus one. And yet, it’s hard to recommend this game to anyone with only a passing interest in the genre. It’s a furiously focused distillation of side-scroller beats, where merely pumping away on the punch button will only get you murdered, fast. You have to play warily, tactically, maintaining space but never letting yourself become overly outnumbered. Prioritise targets, search for the extra life hidden in every level (you’ll need it), and don’t forget the block button - as I did for my first few hours in this game’s company. Be decisive with every press, every move. It’s an awful cliché to write something like, this is the Dark Souls of beat ‘em ups, but you know how you knowingly commit to every attack in FromSoft’s series? Like it’s not quite instinctive, but considered, measured? That’s something you will find yourself doing here. Get the space just right, the time and distance from white knuckles to bloody lips, and go for it. Miss and you’ll eat dirt - but that’s something you’re just gonna have to get used to.

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Pros: great art and music, there’s massive satisfaction in properly learning a character’s move set and unleashing it on grunts, the challenge will be a major plus for some

Cons: no saves or continues, locked modes on the menu screen sucks, the challenge will be a major negative for others

For fans of: Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Rushing Beat

7/10: Very Good

Final Vendetta is released on June 17 2022 for Nintendo Switch (version tested), PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox consoles. Review code provided by the publisher, Numskull Games; game published by Limited Run in the US. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Numskull Games

Topics: Indie Games

Mike Diver
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