Ah the good ol’ times of the beat ’em up, how I miss thee. Pump in your quarters and immediately get compensated with violent, in-your-face, stress relieving all-around good time. The 2D sidescrolling beat ’em up genre had its golden age in the early 90s, with smashing titles by Sega and Capcom, among others. But, since a golden age might be gone, but never forgotten, we’re seeing more and more examples of the genre being brought back from the dead. Especially in the last few years, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Streets of Rage IV and now with Final Vendetta, developed by Bitmap Bureau and published by Numskull Games.
If one has played any of the previous 16 bit classics, then it is fair to say that Final Vendetta will definitely be very familiar. A quick introduction with just the excuse we need to go beat up some bad guys and we’re off, but before, we have a choice of three characters: Claire (whose sister has been kidnapped), Damion and Miller. Claire is the all around more balanced character, with Damion being more quick on his feet but with weaker attacks, and Miller the classic “tank”. Each character can attack, block, dodge, jump and perform a special attack which is mostly used for crowd control when one is being attacked from all sides.
Punching and kicking enemies will gradually replenish a “special bar” which can be used for the aforementioned crowd control move. If the bar is not full, health will be used instead. Clearly, breaking down crates or barrels can also grant the player some health replenishing food or bonus pickups. Strangely enough, as opposed to basically all the other classic beat ’em ups, score in Final Vendetta is used strictly for high score purposes, not even collecting a million of points grants an extra life. Those are only found throughout the level in certain secret places. Levels seem to be almost taken verbatim from the Streets of Rage vocabulary: streets, underground, factory, docks, club, evil guy’s mansion.
Final Vendetta works so much like a classic 2D beat ’em up, that veterans of the genre should be immediately able to pick up the various inspirations from Capcom and Sega. Like the way the knife wielding enemies attack by jumping over and throwing three knives to the ground (similar to how El Gado in Final Fight does) or the “mandatory” elevator scene, with the character trapped inside while waves of enemies attack over and over. Even the one bonus scene sees the character demolishing a car with fists and kicks, again, taken directly from Final Fight. But unfortunately no “oh! my car! cutscene included. Indeed, it is definitely fair to say that the developers have done their homework. But is there something to the game by Bitmap Bureau than just paying homage to the classics? Well… that depends.
For fans of the genre, Final Vendetta will definitely provide a solid beat ’em up experience, if a slightly predictable one. It plays okay and features everything one might except from the genre, but should one prefer it over any of the other classic beat ’em ups from the early 90s, many of which are at the moment readily available in convenient collections (on Nintendo Switch for example)? I’m not sure. Still, graphically, Final Vendetta presents solid 2D visuals (even better with the CRT filter on): big well animated sprites and light effects which would have looked impressive in an arcade game in 1993. The soundtrack also sports a couple of tracks from past glories like the Utah Saints and thumps and bops appropriately.
Still, Bitmap Bureau made the weird choice of depriving the players of quality of life options. There is nothing wrong with wanting to deliver a challenging game, they even say so in the manual, but why not provide the player with a “continue” option? If one wants a tough challenge they can always just ignore it altogether, but at least they can decide on their own it fo persevere or just give up. Even at “easy” level (at the start the only one available with “hard”), this is no easy game anyway since the only thing that seems to change between difficutly levels are a couple of lives more and slightly less enemies here and there. To be fair, there are only six levels to complete so this is not a long game anyway, but still – as always – it should always be the developers’ priority to provide options to the player, instead of taking them away.
Completing the game unlocks several bonus modes, nothing that would warrant spending much time on: VS mode which pits the main characters against each other and Survival mode which speaks for itself. Lastly, it is also possible to unlock a Training mode, which would be something I’d expect to be available from the get-go, but okay.
While not a bad game by any means, it definitely does its job as an old school beat ’em up and fans of the genre will eat it up, Final Vendetta seems to work at its best when played in classic co-op mode, get a friend and have fun beating up the bad guys. Bitmap Bureau’s title unfortunately seems to lack that strong personality which would – otherwise – easily earn it a recommendation over other classic games in the genre.