Final Vendetta is finally here in all its pixel beat ’em-up glory and it promises to punch its way into your affections. But it comes at a time when the scrolling beat ’em-up genre is enjoying a resurgence and there’s stiff competition. There’s a clear nod to Konami’s Crime Fighters series, and like many others, this side-scrolling brawler also uses some good things from Streets of Rage and Final Fight. But does it have enough of its own ideas to stand out? In any case, Final Vendetta will need to throw a few body slams to beat the competition!
Final Vendetta comes from the great minds over at Bitmap Bureau, who already have fine form producing excellent pixel-art games. Xeno Crisis, the developer’s debut, was lauded by critics and the recent Battle Axe is filled with quality artwork. And again, this one also looked great in the trailer so many are expecting this to be good. This is Bitmap Bureau’s second title published by Numskull Games and available digitally or physically from 17th June 2022. This review is also available as a YouTube video that can be found below.
As with any scrolling beat ’em-up worth its weight we need a city, some bad guys and some young do-gooders to clean up the streets. It’s just as well then that Duke, Miller and Claire are on hand to go on a rescue mission. Claire’s twin sister has been kidnapped and this outrage must be avenged. The team refuse to pay the ransom and set out to take down the Syndic8. Yes, it’s as silly as it needs to be and Final Vendetta appears to be set in London, the red telephone boxes and tube map are a dead giveaway.
You start as one of the three protagonists and the action plays out in traditional single stages with a boss battle at the end of each. There are six stages in total to tackle and three difficulty levels, the last of which is only unlocked once you finish the first two. What is interesting is that Final Vendetta only gives you the arcade mode to play at first. The added Boss Rush, Training and Survival modes are not available right away and you will need to complete the game to access these extra modes.
Once you get into the action, Final Vendetta feels familiar but you’ll need to get used to timing your attacks. The enemies are unforgiving and one punch early, or late, will lead to taking damage. This is intentional as well, the developer wants you to learn and improve. If you make a game like this too easy, you may lose the player’s interest quickly. But Final Vendetta hits that sweet spot between risk and reward without compromising on its tough-as-nails values. You will feel satisfied in getting through a section without taking damage or losing a precious life.
Speaking of life systems, this one is as brutal as it’s rewarding. There are no continues in Final Vendetta, lose your lives and it’s back to the start. There are no save points, you must complete the game in one sitting or not at all. But lucky for you, secret lives are spread about the stages and you will need to find them to survive. It’s refreshing to see a game that is difficult to complete. Many games these days play on the arcade nostalgia but Final Vendetta puts you right back in it. The lack of hand-holding or save points is exactly what was expected – and it’s glorious.
Final Vendetta’s combat system is equally as impressive as its difficulty. The usual jump, basic attack and block are your staple actions. These are responsive and you’ll be whizzing around punching the enemy horde in no time. What’s a little more complicated is the advanced moves that you’ll need to master to stand any chance of finishing the game. Specials, throws and super moves all play their part in a large repertoire of manoeuvres. The enemies are also clever, you can’t spam the tough moves over and over, you will need to think strategically.
Each character has its strengths and weaknesses of course and you’ll find your happy medium between strength, speed and toughness through experimentation. The most balanced character is Duke, he has enough power to clear enemies quickly and is speedy enough to evade attacks when needed. Miller is the game’s heavy type but he’s slow and cumbersome. Claire’s a nippy little fighter but she takes lots of damage so you’ll need to learn to dodge. What’s clear is how different the fighters are and each has a distinct style that adds variety to the gameplay.
One of the more interesting features is Final Vendetta’s chain system. Anyone familiar with racking up huge scores will know that to score big you keep that combo count going. The system works as expected in Final Vendetta although the chain only breaks if you’re knocked to the floor. And having that little leeway is a good thing as it’s annoying when a tiny slap from a low-tier enemy sneaks in to break a combo. But you can take a few light hits and it encourages you to keep improving. Overall, the combat system is rock solid and a lot of fun to play about with.
Graphically, Final Vendetta is simply jaw-dropping. The use of colour is excellent and coupled with immensely smooth animation, makes this a beautiful game. Also, the attention to detail and use of scrolling is high quality across the board. The music features none other than London’s finest Utah Saints who have supplied an awesome soundtrack. It might not hit the heights of Yuzo Koshiro’s Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack, but it’s close and certainly holds its own. Everything from the sound effects to the high score tables oozes class, top marks for presentation.
The last feature, two-player mode, comes in two flavours. The traditional local co-op mode lets you join forces with a buddy. This plays well and does take some of the pressure off allowing for a slightly easier experience. The other mode is a vs. battle where you fight each other on a single screen. The lack of online play will be noticed by some, but Final Vendetta doesn’t suffer because of it. If anything, keeping everything local adds to the arcade feel and only underlines exactly what Bitmap Bureau is aiming for.
From the moment the title screen opens, through to beating the last boss, Final Vendetta is a joy to play. It hits every note on the beat ’em-up tick-list. And although this isn’t the longest of games, the different modes and tough challenge will have you at it for a while. It’s also refreshing to play a modern game that doesn’t hold your hand, Final Vendetta forces you to improve to get through it. This is a no-brainer purchase for beat ’em-up fans or those wanting a tough, arcade challenge to master.
Thank you to Bitmap Bureau and Numskull Games for the review copy. You can order a physical copy right now from Numskull Games or digitally on Switch, Xbox, Steam and PlayStation.