Saturday, December 3, 2016

Super Valis: Akaki Tsuki no Otome (SFC) Review

Received: October 27th, 2016 / Written: December 1st-3rd, 2016
Alternate Title: Super Valis IV
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developed by: Telenet Japan
Published by: Shin-Nihon Laser Soft | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.

Image from Wikipedia; Happy 30th Anniversary, game I haven't played
On December 1986 the MSX, NEC PC-8801, and X1 computers saw the debut of Mugen Senshi Valis in Japan, which Americans will identify as Valis: The Fantasm Soldier, developed by Arcus and Tales of Phantasia developer Wolf Team and published by Telenet Japan which was about a contemporary 1980's schoolgirl named Yūko Asō who becomes the chosen warrior to wield the mystical sword named Valis as the realms of Earth, the spirit realm, and Vecanty, the Dream World are endangered.  The game would also see different versions on the FM-7 and NEC PC-9801 computers as well as the Tokuma Soft-developed Famicom version in 1987, leading to the Riot-developed MegaDrive/Genesis and PC Engine Super CD-ROM² System conversions in 1991 and 1992.  What made it stand out from other games at the time was its heavy emphasis on storytelling cutscenes to advance the narrative which would influence games like Ninja Gaiden, Cotton, and Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, all of which owe Valis in this regard.  Popular consensus says the story and cutscenes are the sole reason to play it as the gameplay apparently left a lot to be desired, though I hear the PC Engine Super CD-ROM² System is the superior version of them all.
Image from Wikipedia
After several versions of the first game combined with intrigue to where the story would lead to next, Valis warrior Yūko would return to the scene in Mugen Senshi Valis II or Valis (The Fantasm Soldier) II in the Summer of 1989 with versions ranging from the Laser Soft-developed PC Engine CD-ROM² one (being the first game in the series to come out in America as Valis II for the TurboGrafx-CD in 1990), versions available on the MSX and NEC PC-8801 and PC-9801 and Sharp X68000 computers, and a super deformed edition on the MegaDrive/Genesis as SD Valis (Syd of Valis in America)--the last of which even Valis fans consider to be an embarrassing disappointment.  Overall the follow-up has been revered as a slight improvement from its predecessor, but it wouldn't stop there.
Image from Wikipedia
Yūko would wield the Valis sword one last time in Mugen Senshi Valis III, Valis III in America, on the PC Engine CD-ROM² System in September 1990 (with a TurboGrafx-CD release following suit in 1992) which would also receive a Reno-developed MegaDrive/Genesis port in 1991.  Of the Valis series' offerings general gamers as well as fans consider it to be the best in terms of gameplay (as you could also choose to play as either Cham or Yūko's sister Valna Asō) as well as a really good sendoff for the blue-haired Valis warrior.  I recall reading an article several years ago saying this Valis iteration in particular (among other games) was slated to come to the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, but obviously that never came to pass (likely due to licensing disagreements).  =(
Image from MobyGames; Happy 25th Anniversary, other other OTHER game I haven't played
On the heals of the third game Telenet Japan followed it up with the PC Engine Super CD-ROM² System-exclusive Valis IV in August 1991, transpiring fifteen years after the events of the previous game which was essentially a passing of the torch kind of game as Yūko, who's become a goddess in the end of Mugen Senshi Valis III, bequeaths the sword to Vecanty-born Rena Bland should she be worthy of it who's accompanied by her twin sister Amu and Asfal.  General consensus states that it's good but is outrageously difficult throughout.
No direct port of Valis IV has been made, but there was a reimagining of it on March 1992 with the Shin-Nihon Laser Soft-published Super Valis: Akaki Tsuki no Otome (for which the subtitle translates to "Red Moon Rising Maiden"; produced and directed by Valis IV producer Masami Hanari) for the Super Famicom which would arrive in NTSC SNES format on February 1993 (courtesy of Atlus) as Super Valis IV, which I bet baffled American Nintendo loyalists at the time; suddenly getting a Valis game with the Roman numeral "IV" attached even though the only American gamers who got to play the first three games at the time comprised of TurboGrafx-CD and Genesis owners (the first Valis did see a Nintendo 8-bit edition, but only for the Famicom in Japan).  So how is this series' first and only Nintendo 16-bit take?

In the year 199X, the Dream World of Vecanty had prospered in its peaceful lifestyle for fifteen years thanks to the heroic efforts of the legendary Valis warrior Yūko Asō.  But now that's being threatened by the generals and forces of the Dark World overlord
Prince Galgear.
In Vecanty, Yūko has since become its goddess who's been watching over peace all these years, but now that she can't afford to fight for the three realms herself she awaits for the one who can save everyone.
That one is the young M'aider Maiden Rena Bland, who upon meeting her swears and vows to use the Valis sword wisely against Galgear and his forces.  Yūko then bestows the mystical sword to the red-haired maiden, which is the only weapon that can hurt Galgear.
It is up to Rena to restore peace and take down the evil forces that threaten the good people of the three realms.

From Vecanty to the Red Moon, Rena will stop
at nothing to restore peace
Super Valis: Akaki Tsuki no Otome has you take control of Rena Bland in this sidescrolling actioner whose main method of attacking enemies is with the Valis sword via the Y button, with the B button allowing you to jump (how high or low you jump depends on how hard you pressed the button).  As you venture throughout you'll find varying power icons which you can toggle with either shoulder button (even when paused a la Contra Spirits/Contra III: The Alien Wars), only able to carry six at a time, and once you've chosen the power-up you want to use press the X button that way you'll use up it as much times as it allows you by pressing up and Y.  I know what you're thinking: "Castlevania clone?"  Yes,... and no.  One game series that Valis has drawn comparison to since its inception was Konami's Akumajō Dracula/Castlevania series (Mugen Senshi Valis debuted three months after the vampire slaying game that started it all) if only for this reason; in America Super Valis IV (as it was known) more than likely got compared to Super Castlevania IV (as Super Famicom Akumajō Dracula was known) due the same Roman Numeral and the word "Super" in the title even though gameplay-wise those two are dissimilar (there's no eight-way weapon aiming here, only left and right).

"Vecanty Dominator", huh?  You wouldn't happen to
be related to the ironically named Wander Over Yonder
villainess Lord Dominator, would you?  -_O
Unlike the aforementioned series where you could refill the amount necessitated to use the subweapons, in Super Valis once you choose the power-up you're only allowed to use it as many times as you're given (numbers depend on the difficulty you choose to play) and if you've ran out of the other power-ups you can still shoot the small but wide-ranging beam from your sword by pressing up and Y (the only magic you can use indefinitely).  You can swing your sword as you're standing, while in midair, and when ducking down; and you can dash also.  Your normal walking pace is deliberate, but in order to gain traction just double-tap the left or right buttons to let Rena go fast (which proves very useful when it comes to wide gaps)--you'd think that'd be enabled by simply moving and holding down the attack button like in most games of its ilk, who'da thunk that it would function as if it were a Kirby platformer post-Adventure?  Oh, who am I kidding, this game precedes the Kirby series entirely!

"Begone, foul infiltrators!"
Super Valis is a pretty game to look at, colors and details and all.  =)  Because Valis IV was a PC Engine game it could not be completely transitioned to the Nintendo 16-bit, only partially; among the elements brought over to today's game are many of Sayoko Kingodzi's background designs, with some additional ones provided specifically for this game by Kumataro Shigeta, albeit in a different layout as rearranged by Hal Nishida.  The Dream World of Vecanty has got a fiery and looming backdrop amidst the destruction of buildings and walls sometimes littered with fallen corpses; Babylon has got a bright sky with a small amount of clouds with some added visual depth incorporating two different layers scrolling at different speeds in the background as well as a towering color-layering waterfall occasionally popping up in the foreground; and there's a chilling feel as you roam its Clistal Pillor that subtly changes colors at points with occasional ice falling down.  Some of the best-looking areas this game has to offer are Castle Vanity with the parallax scrolling clouds in the backdrop amid a star-studded sky as you explore the walls and (sometimes incomplete) statues, Valhara which starts off refreshingly bright with the slow but looming backdrop and parallax scrolling sea of grass which ends up inside a worship place adorned with stained glass windows dedicated to Yūko, and there's a psychedelic wavy effect during the Red Moon stage which is cool.  =)

So beautiful  =O
Also carried over to Super Valis were the in-game character and enemy designs and animations originally done by Kōji Otsuka, Kenji Kobayashi, and Kazuhiro Koizumi who all make a return.  Rena animates nicely as she moves (faster as she runs) and as she swings her sword (but is it me or is her upper torso briefly split from her lower body as she proceeds to swing a sword while ducking?), plus her hair animation is quaint.  Among the enemies Rena encounters are evil pike-throwing suits of armor, white creatures with red spider-like tentacles, floating swordsmen, varying kinds of Valkyries, and even Rena clones who spring from sentient floating fetuses.  Boss-wise there's a general who rides a leaping, fire-breathing tiger; a three-formed boss fight who begins as a statue then turns into a harpy until finally she becomes a mermaid; a tall jet-fast general whose got a big countenance on his body; and Galgear's not too shabbily designed in-game.

Swords
Like the previous games Valis IV advanced the narrative with anime cutscenes with animation and voice acting included, but were reduced to stills when it came to Super Valis, as the scenarios were done by Haruyuki Nishida and Bunzō Matsui (who suspiciously are not credited here).  Naturally since the game got restructured the stills could not be used in chronological order (that, and another reason); doesn't matter what the context is, if Telenet Japan could fit those in somewhere that's all that matters.  Rena, Yūko, and Galgear look really good in cutscene format, and before Rena and Galgear duke it out there's a slight bit of animation with his cape flowing to the side, Rena raising and pointing the Valis sword to him, and Rena moving her lips as she's talking in that brief moment.  The colors are gorgeous during these moments, and depending on the difficulty there might be a different profile pic after you see the credits.  =)

Ah, nothing beats showering as you're fighting baddies
With none of the cues composed by Kawame, Junta, and Shingo Murakami (Mugen Senshi Valis III) making their way over to the Nintendo 16-bit console (despite many of the backgrounds, sprites, and some of the gameplay being transitioned) Super Valis' soundtrack had to be done from scratch, this time done by Junta (whose only other credit seems to be the one-on-one fighting game Taiketsu!! Brass Numbers/Doomsday Warrior), and it's a good soundtrack in its own right... however, a lot of it doesn't quite work when heard out of context, and the reason for that is because there's a heavy quality to some of the tracks.

Hurray, fixed patterns  =D
The introduction theme, for example, has got an overwhelmingly urgent and at times nightmarish sound to it with its emphasis on prolonged intense notes, and it doesn't let up until the title forms up; Babylon's theme is a fast-based techno beat that works wonders serving atmosphere for its setting but proves to be ineffective outside of that; the organ-ridden Clistal Pillor theme is heavy in terms of tone; and the Red Moon theme has a foreboding composition going for it.  The only themes that work best both in and out of context are Vecanty's theme which sets a heroic tone for what's to come, Castle Vanity's theme with its majestic instrumentation that sounds inspiring, Valhara's theme which is atmospheric yet lighthearted with some mysteriousness thrown in, and the ending theme is pleasing to listen to as your adventure has come to an end.

Harpy dives down, gets slashed in the process
The boss theme is swift-sounding but serviceable, but Galgear's theme as you fight him is a big step up as it sounds so energetic and fun (really depends on the mood if it works specifically for the game or can be listened to either way)--the sound samples might attribute to that.  =)  The sound effects are quaintly-chosen in Super Valis for Rena's normal sword swings sound just right, the magic she shoots from her Valis sword has got a somewhat whooshing sound, and the sound effect of the bosses as they explode in defeat is rather satisfying; the dinging sound for when Rena dons her health supplement armor which ironically protects even less skin (and the sound for when her health bar capacity has been augmented in the Normal and Hard difficulty settings) is cute, but for some reason when she sustains damage the sound is akin to the sound of chopped wood.  =/

Who knew that grass would be enough to slow
you down?  That is a nice view, though  =)
In the options screen you have a choice to customize the control scheme if the default one doesn't suit you (I don't have a problem with it myself) as well as set the difficulty setting between Easy, Normal, and Hard.  On Easy you automatically start with six power-ups to choose from, but in both subsequent difficulties you start with zero and have to grab them in order to make use of them should you so please; should it be full, the next one you grab will take out the leftmost power-up of the bunch due to overlapping.  You'll notice that even before you face the boss in question their health bar is ever-so present, but what you may not notice (at least not right away) is that with each moment that passes their health capacity will augment itself just slightly until it's time to face them; meaning that if you dawdle too long then their health bar will be close to maximum capacity; there's no timer, but the goal is to get to the boss fight as fast as you possibly can manage.

Don't kill Valkyrie!  =O  Who'll compassionately
break Krino's Black Xandra curse if not her?  =(
Also on Easy Rena's health capacity will be at its fullest while in both Normal and Hard you get an increase in health after every 10,000 points (up until you reach 30,000 in which case there's nothing more to add); and any time you lose a continue you'll either restart from the segment you lost all your health (Easy) or start the stage over at square one (Normal and Hard).  Super Valis joins the likes of Jaleco's shoot'em up Super Earth Defense Force, Konami's cute'em up Pop'n TwinBee, and Jaleco's beat'em up Rushing Beat Shura in that a credit constitutes as a life, but unlike those games where the amount of continues you had were limited (thirty in Rushing Beat Shura's case) this game has unlimited continues which is fairly convenient for gamers who are inexperienced and unseasoned (specifically for Hard mode).

I'm a sucker for stained glassed windows
Super Valis is a pattern-based game, which means that should you memorize where the enemies are and how you should deal with some of them (particularly the gravity-bending dragon statues in the Red Moon stage) you'll be just fine in future playthroughs; and while some enemies take one hit to demolish others will take more than that (even on Hard mode).  Any time you reach a boss you'll be given a boss description and their main method of attack, which prepares you somewhat for what's to come; General Dhalgen's schtick is jumping and shooting at you (how... simplistic), General Medius has a "Schrole Approaching Fast" technique where she sends three illusions towards you before the genuine article starts appearing swiftly (from any random angle, so be careful) on top of a small platform, and Galgear's fight gets really involved as it goes on.  There to help you sometimes is the armor power-up which is a health supplement that takes up to five hits before you're back to normal, but to perform a special explosive magic press up and Y with the armor power-up in stow as you're wearing the armor (but only use it when it's really warranted, like the fight with Galgear).

She may be a goddess, but Yūko will always
watch over you
Super Valis: Akaki Tsuki no Otome (which was programmed by Hiroshi Ono, who also did the programming for Valis IV) was not well-regarded at the time, and to this day some say it's a low point in the Valis series, with the major complaint being that it should've been a straight port of Valis IV.  It's not that simple; with it originating on a PC Engine format a direct Nintendo console conversion was out of the question (though NEC had no problems with them happening on Sega formats) so it had to be slightly altered in order for it to be approved.  In Valis IV you could choose to play as Rena, Amu, and Galgear's father Asfal, but the latter two were removed for Super Valis as Rena's the central focus, she could run now which she could not do before, her sliding ability is absent (her sliding sprite in this game is her death sprite), and while Valis IV had a heavy emphasis on narrative, Telenet Japan turned Super Valis into an arcade game, one that takes exactly thirty minutes to beat.  Could Valis IV have been ported to Nintendo 16-bit format?  In theory, it could've been a possibility (give or take some elements that may or may not be lost in translation), but unfortunately at the time it wasn't so much a question of whether you could convert PC Engine games to Nintendo format so much as were you allowed to?  =(

Aren't you cold with that armor (or lack thereof) on?
Is Super Valis that bad, though?  I don't think it is, honestly; it's not without its issues, sure, but as a whole I find it to be a good game in its own terms.  I first found out about it as well as the series on YouTube almost ten years ago as I saw some gameplay videos by a user named Valis77, who I recalled had done some Let's Play videos (with some hilarious commentary) and I was interested; it's been awhile since I've seen his videos (I do miss them) but they made me want to try anything Valis.  But, being a collector meant constantly wanting to try new games and would not get to play Super Valis until this October (in its native Japanese version).  =)  I do own a RetroGen adaptor that lets me play Genesis games on my SFC and SNES consoles, but Valis: The Fantasm Soldier and Valis III are a bit on the costly side (maybe one day I'll get to play them for myself).  I don't own a PC Engine console (I usually use consoles that require yellow/white/red AV cables and not the A/B switch boxes which you had to fidget with until the screen quality was just right, the latter option never was fun), but if I get one (and that's a big "if" 'cause it's unlikely) I would like to try Valis IV as one of the first games I get for it.

In 1995 a similar thing would happen on the Nintendo 16-bit with Akumajō Dracula XX/Castlevania: Dracula X/Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss where it was a restructured take on the previously existing Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (which I have played on Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles) with its gameplay and sprites retained as Konami could not directly port the 1993 game on account that it was a PC Engine exclusive, and because of that the Nintendo 16-bit game also garnered a less than pleasing outlook from general gamers.  So between the unfortunately named Castlevania: Dracula X and Super Valis, which do I consider to be the superior title of the two?

Shoot the core
Personally I enjoyed Super Valis more, for plenty of reasons.  I liked that you could dash if you so please, visually it left a stronger impression, and the gameplay felt for the most part more polished (as much as it might take a bit to adjust to when playing it for the first time).  =)  The lack of a timer was a plus, though I appreciated the added sense of challenge value concerning how much health the boss would have depending on how long or short a time it took you to get there, and I like the area designs; also, trying to get by with just one life can be a real rush (on Hard mode, particularly).  Despite the brevity, is there are any replay value to be had?  Yes, actually; aside from playing any one of the three difficulty settings, your overall gaming performance will be ranked based collectively on your time (out of a possible 60) and item (out of a possible 40) bonuses, which you will see after pressing Start the moment the credits are over.  I may play games for fun and not for score, but this is actually exciting as you don't find out until after you beat it.  Among the ranks you'll get based on the total score are Valiant Warrior, Pallas Athena, Joan of Arc, and Valkyrie Rena to name some; the highest I managed to score so far was a 93--all right, I'm a Super Heroine, yeah!!!  =D  ...uh, wait, what???  o_o

Sooo, who's the space babies' mother?
So what qualms do I have if it's not perfect?  For starters, Rena's invincibility time as she gets hit lasts one second and later on there are icicles that fall down or ice blasts which if you're not careful to avoid you'll be frozen for a few seconds in which case if there's an enemy or boss nearby will render you susceptible to enemy attack.  Nornil's mermaid form stays underwater just slightly below the surface and you have to wait until her body pops up, the core in the Clistal Pillor consistently moves up and down as you must time your jump properly as you shoot the normal beams towards it (once it's in vicinity) while contending with a laser-spewing guardian, but the biggest problem is the Red Moon stage itself--not necessarily on Easy and Normal but on Hard--for not only do you have to contend with Rena clones spouting from fetuses who take two sword swings on Hard (or don't, just jump over them, and jump over them again if they turn around) and gravity-pushing dragon statues but there are fireballs which will explode and take out a chunk of your health (unless your armor is on) should it be destroyed.  It is the only stage where going at a steady pace is a must unless you want to lose your health quickly, which is too bad because all the other stages I can handle just fine in any difficulty with no problem.

'_________________'
Super Valis was the only Valis game available on the Nintendo 16-bit console, and for awhile was the last game to come from the series until 2006 when Telenet Japan sold the Valis rights to Eants who developed Valis X, a five-episode erotic visual novel series recounting the first four games to commemorate its twentieth anniversary--which were the last games Telenet Japan published before they shut down in 2007.  Um, beg pardon?  o_O  How do you go from well-respected action/platforming fantasy series to... hentai?  That just sounds so wrong!  XP  Luckily for Valis fans the November 2011 release of  Mugen Senshi Valis Complete Plus – Legend of a Fantasm Soldier was the most recent thing pertaining to the series, but only in Japan.

If you wanted to play the closest thing to a proper Valis experience on the Nintendo 16-bit console, you would have better luck with Affect's Makeruna! Makendō or Kendo Rage as it was called in America.  But if Super Valis wasn't enough Telenet Japan action/platforming entertainment for you, don't worry: they would follow up on it with a Super Famicom-exclusive title developed by their Riot firm in
Image from Wikipedia
Psycho Dream.  Christmas is coming around the corner; it's the perfect time to ask for expensive games--well that, and birthdays.

"I HAVE THE POWER!"
If you're walking into Super Valis: Akaki Tsuki no Otome expecting it to be exactly like Valis IV you're going to wind up disappointed as it's best to treat it as its own game.  If you're looking for a game that's got a lot of depth and length you're not going to find it here, but if you're searching for something short and sweet then this isn't a bad game to play.  If you like action/platformers that incorporate emphasis on story and narrative your best option is to play the preceding Valis games (provided you own the consoles in question), but if you like arcade games (or rather arcade equivalents) I think Super Valis will suit you just fine.  Or if you're looking for a game you can have fun playing with thirty minutes to spare, I think you should go for it.  =)  Nothing great, but good to play once in awhile.

My Personal Score: 7.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Merry Christmas to you all and take care!  =)
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Happy 30th Anniversary, Valis!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Final Fight 2 (SFC) Review

Received: December 10th, 2012 / Written: November 22nd-26th, 2016
Year: 1993 | Developed and Published by: Capcom | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit, and it's about damn time I got to today's game.
Image from Wikipedia
On December 1989 Capcom released onto arcades the sidescrolling beat'em up Final Fight which at one point was to be called Street Fighter '89 until the title got changed following the arrival of a little Technōs Japan-developed coin-op named Double Dragon (originally serving as a direct sequel to Street Fighter only to not actually play like the 1987 game at all, which might also attribute to the title change).  It was a huge success as it was one of the most highly played arcade games at the time thanks to the colorfully detailed backgrounds, huge character and enemy sprites, challenge value, holding as many as eight or nine enemies per screen, as well as its biggest selling point: two-player co-op.

So successful it was that Capcom started to shift their focus on brawlers when it came to arcades (for the most part)--basically if it weren't for this game there would be no The King of Dragons, no Captain Commando, no Knights of the Round, no Cadillacs and Dinosaurs adaptation, and Street Fighter would not have become a franchise starting with the highly revered Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.  Really stop and think about that for a second; not everyone is a fan of beat'em ups but pretty much everyone loves Street Fighter II, so whether you like these kinds of games or not you have to appreciate Final Fight for that at least.  =)
Image from Wikipedia; Happy 25th Anniversary, Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage
Final Fight also ended up sparking some competition, the most notable example of this being Ancient's Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist on the Sega MegaDrive in August 1991 with a PAL MegaDrive release following suit that month as Streets of Rage culminating in the American Genesis release come that September.  This beat'em up was the closest Sega gamers got to playing Final Fight on their console (before its Mega CD/Sega CD port in 1993), as Capcom ported Final Fight to the Super Famicom in 1990 (to initially mixed results), and at the time it got good praise from many as it stood the test of time well.
Image from Wikipedia
.........at least it would have if not for the direct sequel Streets of Rage 2 on December 1992 in America, arriving in Japan and Europe on March 1993 as Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle and Streets of Rage II respectively, which upon release proved to be a real game-changer in the genre with improved and expanded controls plus good sense of polish which easily managed to blow even its own predecessor out of the water (though a mere handful of gamers feel otherwise).  Even to this day gamers all over have clamored Ancient's follow-up to be one of the best (if not the best) beat'em ups during the course of the early '90s.

When Nintendo saw how greatly Streets of Rage 2 was doing they asked Capcom to create a follow-up to Final Fight on the Super Famiconsole to rival Ancient's title, even though it wasn't in their main interest to make a continuation of the 1989 coin-op, especially not after its 1990 port didn't go over smoothly with Final Fight fans; with it being one of the very earliest Nintendo 16-bit games ever made it was restricted by the console's limitations resulting in fighting three baddies per screen, an entire stage being excised, and the two-player option completely absent (and the less said of the changes contrived for the localized SNES versions, the better), but over time the port has been viewed a tad bit kindly by some.
Reluctantly Capcom agreed to craft the console-exclusive sequel Final Fight 2 which saw release in Japan on May 1993, seeing a release in American and European soil on August and December 1993 respectively.  Did it pay off in the end?  The answer: no, it didn't.  Why?  Let's find out!  =<

Well, this sepia-toned clip from the original Final Fight doesn't ring shades of The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue and Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, given the two opened the exact same way  =P
In the years following the death of the Mad Gear gang's crime lord Belger and the rescue of Mayor Mike Haggear's daughter, Metro City has long prospered in its peaceful lifestyle thanks to Haggar, Cody, and Guy.
However, amidst all this, the remaining Mad Gear members have formed together in secret exacting a revenge plot under their new crime lord, Retu.
It starts with the kidnapping of Guy's girlfriend Rena and her father Genryusai, Guy's former sensei--just like how Haggar's daughter Jessica was kidnapped in the first game.
Former street fighter turned mayor of Metro City Mike Haggar finds out about the kidnapping by phone while in his office (just like the first name), only here he's informed by Rena's concerned younger sister Maki Genryusai as Guy's currently traveling overseas.
With Guy gone and Cody off vacationing with his daughter Jessica, Haggar once again leaves his office to fly all the way to Eurasia to confront the Mad Gear gang and save Rena and Genryusai, accompanied this time by Maki and this random guy whoever the hell he is, South American swordsman Carlos Miyamoto.
As you can tell the plot shares the same beats as the first Final Fight (only with some details changed except for Haggar who's the only constant in the two games), but that won't matter if the gameplay is different, right?  ......heheheheh, would you rather I tell a lie?  <=(

"Time to give you a piece of my mi--- oh, hi Chun-Li!"
And, um... Zangief?  o_O
In Final Fight 2 you can choose to play as Haggar who's a bit on the slow side but makes up for that with his bulk and strength, Maki who's the weakest member of the trio but makes up for that with her agility and speed, and then there's Carlos who's the median member of the group (i.e. shares equal power and agility); either by yourself if you play it on your own or two-player co-op if you've got a partner beside you.  Well, Capcom managed to incorporate that feature back in this sequel, but what of the actual gameplay?

Wall-kick jumping back at you
In this beat'em up you can roam in any part you wish as you can move in all eight directions (but only at a walking speed), but the major way you'll be heading throughout is to the right; once you scroll to the right you cannot backtrack to the left where you came from.  Frequently you'll be facing countless members of the Mad Gear gang who also can move in all eight directions but have differing attack tactics they'll attempt to use against you.  With the B button you can jump and with the Y button you can do normal punch attacks, press it consecutively to perform a combo against them (if you press up as you're doing it instead of finishing the combo you'll throw the enemy in question, ahead or below you, which you can also do if you simply grabbed them), attack airborne (with either a widespread or downward attack), pick up and use a weapon (unless it's a knife which you can throw you can't disarm yourself, however, you'll only let go of it after taking damage from an enemy and if you made it to the end of a section with it in hand).

Knifeout
You can also perform a desperation move in the event that you're outnumbered and cornered, but at the expense of a tiny fraction of health, by pressing both the Y and B buttons at the same time; but in the options screen you can relegate it to a single button (preferably X) as when you first turn the game on the Extra Joy has been disabled (likely due the fact that the original arcade predecessor required both buttons being pressed at the same time).  Concealed inside boxes and oil drums (or in some cases, seemingly inconspicuous foregrounds) are varying foods to replenish some or all of your health (because the floor sounds like a logical place to get edible items from), items like spanners and watches for points, a Guy doll that gives you a life, and weapons (knife, tonfa, plank of wood).  If Final Fight 2 sounds like it's Final Fight all over again in this aspect, that's because it is (the gameplay is literally the same); but that won't matter none if the experience is fun and does something new, right?  Uhhh......  >_>

Twister
Composing the music this time around are Yasuaki Fujita (who also worked on the original Final Fight soundtrack as well as its Nintendo 16-bit port, Mega Man III, Mega Man IV, and did music for the original Breath of Fire), accompanied here by Mari Yamaguchi (Super Ghouls'n Ghosts, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, Mega Man V, Breath of Fire), Yuki Iwai also known as Yuki Satomura (Gargoyle's Quest II, Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken), Setsuo Yamamoto (Mighty Final Fight, Mega Man X), Yuko Kadota (Mighty Final Fight, Mega Man X, Mega Man VI), and finally there's the uncredited Breath of Fire sound provider Tatsuya Nishimura (Super Bases Loaded, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, and Nintendo 16-bit Disney's Aladdin); and honestly it's not a very memorable or standout Capcom soundtrack which is a real shame given all the talent involved.  =(

Well, if it isn't a beguiling cameo back there
The theme for the intro sequence is a slower and remixed take on the first stage's theme from the first Final Fight; all else that follows is serviceable but not really that catchy or energetic or bound to stick in your head (except for the London theme but for the very wrong reasons), although the Venice theme is actually okay to a point.  Many of the songs get reused occasionally, including the theme for China (which is also actually used for the fight against Retu in the end; talk about uneventful); my favorite song is actually the credits theme which is different from everything else as it sounds calmer which is befitting for the end (another reason it's my favorite is because it's the end).  Not terrible by any means, but Final Fight 2's music doesn't hold a candle to the unforgettable themes introduced to us by Manami Matsumae, Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (the only one credited at the time), Yasuaki Fujita, Hiromitsu Takaoka, Yoko Shimomura, Junko Tamiya, and Harumi Fujita in the first game.  Perhaps if they had more time......

London kicks
The best thing this game has got to offer are the visuals which as you'd expect from Capcom during the Nintendo 16-bit days are crisp and beautiful and pretty to look at, with a good sense of detail here and there plus the vibrant color selection.  The trio's animation is solid, especially when it comes to their combo attacks; Haggar's sprites are exactly the same as they were for the first Final Fight with the bulky arms spread out with only his legs doing the moving as he's walking (and he's still sprite-flipped any time he changes directions on account of the single strap around him) except this time he's got boots, knee pads, and workout gloves to protect his hands (and now he rotates as he does his jumping enemy dumping attack).  Carlos and Maki's animations are solid too, especially with the latter's hair as she moves.

Time to break some backs
Each country in Eurasia looks very good and differentiates themselves from the other places; an example of this is the Paris stage with the cafes and Eiffel Tower as well as its skyline which subtly yet progressively gets darker and darker as you press on (kind of like the first stage in Super Earth Defense Force) and there's a desolate look and feel to the stage that takes place in Holland what with the dead trees, ravens, and brownish yellow.  There are a couple of cameos made by two Street Fighter II characters Chun-Li and Guile (each on a separate occasion) which are quaint, and there's some occasional thunder on the way to face Retu in Japan.  The enemy roster animates solidly too, from the normal gang members to the Mohawk gang members to the musclebound ones to the female gang members to even the round enemies with those damn electric tuning forks (seriously, I hate the Elicks so much) including returning baddies André the Giant-based Andore from the first Final Fight with their towering stature; some of them being palette-swapped.

Walking in the streets of Paris
The end of each stage culminates in a fight against a boss before heading to the next country: some examples of this are Won Won who's huge, hops along, and occasionally will try to swipe at you with his butcher knife (any time you or an enemy is attacked by a sharp object there's a tiny burst of blood which I'm sure was removed in the localized editions); and there's Bratken who has a good entrance as he smashes the door that imprisoned him as he's revealed to be a hulking prisoner equivalent to Frankenstein's monster.  The cinematic visuals during the intro and ending are well-done (even the player select screen even though Maki's armlets are the same color as her skin tone outside of the main game), and before the title pops up there's fire raging from Haggar's eyes which become bigger as he and everything else fades to black to form up the number 2 until the fire turns into chrome as "Final Fight" appears beside it.  It's so pretty to look at that it's very unfair and unearned because the game as a whole doesn't live up to the quality of its visuals.  =(

Big Trouble in Little China
Final Fight 2 has got four difficulty settings--Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert--and depending on the difficulty there'll either be a differing amount of enemies or they'll each have a differing amount of health (but regardless of what difficulty you choose to play, there'll always be six continues which starts you back at the segment you lost your last life).  Be forewarned that the hardest difficulty settings will be time-consuming (more so if you play as Maki and you could argue Carlos, but less so as Haggar) because there is a timer you have to keep track of because while you'll reach the next segment before it reaches zero (thereby restarting the timer at 99) the segment before you enter the tower where you face Retu will really test that on account of the annoying amounts of Elicks and Haggars you have to fight (be thankful you only have to fight up to three enemies per screen).

Just like its predecessor there are two bonus games that give you a breather from the main experience.  In the first one that takes place after you're done with Paris you have to destroy a car in the allotted time that you're given.
Ah, that was fun once,...
...twice...  =/
What do you mean it's a spoiler?  It's only been four years!
Honestly I had more satisfaction watching Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope von Schweetz, and Ryu take the car down than actually doing it myself in Final Fight 2 because here specifically it lacks the freshness of the previous games that let you do it.  Although now that I think about it, Capcom must really hate cars.  o_O
The second and final bonus game that you'll be accessing after beating the London stage is different.  In just thirty seconds you must knock down as many oil drums as you can (I suppose it's an adequate replacement for glass pane smashing), but don't attack when the fire is sprouting big otherwise you'll be knocked back and lose a second or two of your time limit (unlike the glass pane smashing bonus from the first game, though, this one doesn't seem to want to be completed).

Widespread kicks
I first got to play the original Final Fight in 2006 when I got the PlayStation Portable compilation Capcom Classics Collection Remixed and I thought it was fun for what it was, and while to this day I don't think the 1989 game is great I do think it's solid entertainment--so much so that I was curious to try the two Nintendo 16-bit exclusive sequels when I found out about them but it wouldn't be until years later that I would get to experience them.  On May 2012 I began to import Super Famicarts after I bought a Retro Duo (now I use a Super Famiconsole) starting with Alcahest, and because I could now play Nintendo 16-bit games from Japan I opted for the original uncensored version of Final Fight 2 as the eighth Super Famicart I imported.  When I played today's game it was okay at first, but it didn't take long for my enthusiasm to fade (several replays of it on any difficulty setting attributed to that); even if I had played the localized edition, God forbid, I don't think my opinion on it would be all that different.  =|

I don't remember Venice's waters being so green  o_O
You'd think it would be odd that Rena's boyfriend Guy is absent during all this, but there is a reason for this: one of the causes for complaint over the Nintendo 16-bit port of the first Final Fight was the absence of Guy who had become a fan favorite, so Capcom tried to rectify that issue by making Final Fight Guy in 1992 (available for a cheaper price on SFC format than on the SNES format because in America and Europe it was a rent-only title while in Japan renting games is illegal--you either buy the game or you don't) with him being made available to play as; but aside from Cody being swapped for Guy and the intro and ending being slightly altered it was just Final Fight once more.  As for why he's not playable in the sequel that's because it would have been inconvenient to have two Guys in the same game, as Maki is the essentially female Guy equivalent (right down to the warm colors and wall-kick jumping ability) while Carlos despite having a sword is essentially the Cody equivalent (right down to the cold colors and ability to hold onto the knife as opposed to immediately throwing it).

Damn all you fat Elick bastards to hell!!!  >O<
Despite the fact that you're globetrotting to different parts of Eurasia as opposed to traveling in each subsequent segment of Metro City its gameplay has been liberally copied and pasted from the first game, which wouldn't be a problem in of itself if Capcom had done at least one thing new or different to warrant it or at the very least still made it fun, but they haven't.  What was once fresh gameplay in Final Fight now feels stale and repetitive in Final Fight 2 because it's going through the motions of the first game (Retu gets offed in the same way Belger did); the weapons are not worth using in this sequel on account that they take so much time to use and don't seem to be as effective as your normal punching and kicking attacks.  Regardless of the difficulty many enemies are manageable including the Haggars, although you'll have to be careful for the Eliza and Mary enemies on account that they sometimes leap at you (especially since you get a life after every 200,000 points after you hit 100,000 which seems to happen every what, seven to ten minutes?); but my least favorite enemies of the bunch are those damn Elicks.  Oh my God, these have got to be some of the most annoying enemies in a beat'em up ever as you have to consistently be on guard as occasionally they'll try to  ram towards you with their tuning forks (sometimes fully charged with electricity); made all the worse if you're caught off-guard which you cannot let happen because it is just time-consuming to take these fat assholes down and they're just an overbearing presence as you end up fighting a lot of them.  I can't stand them!  >=(

Heads down
But the biggest problem with Final Fight 2 isn't that it's unplayable, it's definitely playable; the biggest problem with Final Fight 2 is that it is a slog to play through (I'm sure it's better if you're playing it with a partner, but other than that it is just too longwinded for me).  The fact that you fight up to three enemies per screen doesn't help (if there's a crate or oil drum there will be two enemies, one if there are two of the former), but the lack of a dash ability really puts a damper on things and occasionally if you've knocked people offscreen you have to wait until they reemerge again from offscreen (you could stand to the edge and punch offscreen if they're near you, but when it comes to enemies that are Elick or Haggar or the two female gang members I wouldn't risk it).  Streets of Rage 2 didn't simply recycle the gameplay of its predecessor, it improved and expanded upon it; there are people who accuse Golden Axe II of being Golden Axe all over again (and okay, it is) but at least that game was more fun thanks to the controls which were more responsive than its predecessor's plus you could dash in both slash'em ups.

Those tourists sure are enjoying watching this
cat fight going on onboard, mrrrrow
I don't know the specifics exactly, but I'm pretty sure the Final Fight coin-op's development process had to have lasted longer than five months, because Final Fight 2 arrived in Japan five months after the American debut of Streets of Rage 2.  I don't blame Nintendo for Final Fight 2's existence, they just wanted something to compete with Ancient's beat'em up classic, but I do find it rather disappointing that Capcom did little to nothing new for the sequel and took the lazy route as they rushed it so that they would be done with it.  Yeah, it's pretty to look at, but if the gameplay isn't fun what difference does it make?  I played through this game several times, on all four difficulty settings with all three characters (the harder the difficulty the more complete the ending will be), and frankly I'll be a lot happier if I never play this game again--I don't say that out of bitterness, I am not bitter, but rather I say that for my own protection: I've developed a system that I find helps prolong my journey without using many continues as Maki and Carlos where I can do most of the combo but not actually finish it (have to do it fast), attack backwards, then start the process again until they're done for the count (namely for the sturdiest of enemies)... but unfortunately it's something that threatens to give my hand arthritis, something other beat'em ups I played have never done, and arthritis is something I don't want to have when I get older.  =(

After Final Fight 2 came out in Japan (but before it came out in America and Europe) the Famicom and NES received Mighty Final Fight which was goofy and lighthearted take on the original game as a chibi'em up in the vein of SD The Great Battle II: Last Fighter Twin, afterwards Haggar would appear as a playable character in Muscle Bomber: The Body Explosion/Saturday Night Slam Masters as well as its sequel.  But it wasn't until 1995 that Final Fight got the true sequel it deserved in Final Fight 3 (Final Fight Tough in Japan) on the Nintendo 16-bit which did what today's game should've done and improved upon and expanded the controls (you could dash now and Guy was a selectable character) plus had replay value thanks to the alternate paths and possible endings; it costs a lot on eBay but is available for only $8 on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console (I downloaded it days after I got a Nintendo Wii U for Christmas in 2013, which was a hugely enjoyable step in the right direction).  That's the beat'em up you should play instead of Final Fight 2.
Or better yet, play Rushing Beat Ran — Fukusei Toshi; hugely underrated Jaleco beat'em up and tons of fun.  =)  Admittedly it too is long at an hour like Final Fight 2, but it's more bearable to play thanks to the ability to dash and perform dash attacks as well as its Ikari mode enlivened by its energetic soundtrack, plus there was no timer (hooray!), not to mention it's got replay value in terms of difficulty and which three bosses you would fight based on who you did not select and also instead of starting over from a section if you lost a continue you could resume right from the spot which I'm glad about.  Hell, even the lesser Western version Brawl Brothers (shut up) is better than Capcom's rushed and lazy Final Fight follow up; take your pick, it's less of a shameless rehash of the first game either way.

"If you're Rolento then why is your name one
letter short, huh?"
I know there are people out there who enjoy Final Fight 2 in spite of its recycled formula and creative bankruptcy, and I don't begrudge them if they do, but to me today's game just felt tired and familiar.  Although to be fair this game might work best if you never played its predecessor though it may still pale in comparison to other games in the genre (especially Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time).  Unless you want to play a game with co-op action I can't really think of a reason to recommend this beat'em up; honestly you're better off playing Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken which is a much more satisfying and enjoyable hour to play through, and that game's an action-adventure.  Capcom may have recycled Final Fight for its first sequel, but at least they would make it up to fans of the series with the new and improved Final Fight 3 in a couple years.

My Personal Score: 5.5/10
<( -_-)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(-_- )>
P.S. Screengrab of Wreck-It Ralph taken from my Region 1 Widescreen DVD of it, property of Disney.  I'm really looking forward to its sequel on March 2018, but I'm not sure how I feel about the voice of Fix-It Felix Jr., Wander, and Irving, Jack McBrayer, voicing a Smurf in the upcoming Summer's newest movie of theirs.   I like him as a voice actor, but I'm not sure if I'll watch it (maybe if it gets middling to positive reviews?).  This one's all CG and looks closer in style to Peyo's design, at least.
 
P.S. 2 I saw Disney's Moana on the 23rd and I loved it.  The songs were great and catchy (especially "How Far I'll Go" and "You're Welcome"), the characters were likable (Moana especially), the in-jokes were spot-on, the story was good, and it was so beautiful to look at (the colors, the water, the realistic hair texture, the CGI, wow).  =D  Ron Clements and John Musker has done their big fan proud once again, because I absolutely love their movies (as I was watching it there were a few times that it brought me back to the days I watched Disney's Aladdin and The Little Mermaid and Hercules as a kid which I appreciated very much).  Go see it and stick past the end credits, it's worth every minute!  ^~^

P.S. 3 Eight down, one left to go; Brandish, here I come!  I'll have a much more positive time with that A-RPG than I did for Final Fight 2.

P.S. 4 Chun-Li's cameo here was nice,
but I much preferred the one she made in Breath of Fire.  Much more wholesome and engrossingly fun than this game.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!
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Guy will return