Final Vendetta review: beat ’em up homage with a few new tricks of its own

Just as I was about to put the finishing touches to my review of Final Vendetta – Bitmap Bureau’s love letter to beat ‘em up belt scrollers – something miraculous happened. My largest complaint about the game was addressed in an update! Slightly annoyingly, this meant I had to rewrite my review, but that minor annoyance was a price well worth paying for an update that significantly improves the game. I’ll explain exactly how it improves it in a minute, but in summary, I was initially disappointed about the game’s inaccessibility, when otherwise it was an extremely well-crafted experience – and now I don’t have to worry about that anymore. For the sake of thoroughness I ran through the game again in the way I had originally intended to – with my son in co-op and without the restrictions initially levied on the game.

Final Vendetta is an unabashed homage to scrolling beat ’em ups like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Double Dragon. You and a friend can pick one of three heroes (quick and springy Claire Sparks, former wrestler Miller T. Williams or streetwise Duke Sancho) as they try to save their friend, and the city at large, from the pithily named Syndic8. To do so you’ll need to battle through such familiar thug hangouts as alleys, subway cars, warehouses and nightclubs, bashing palette-swapped cronies and chowing down on questionable road meat all the while. Any attempt to name drop all the Easter eggs and tributes would be a fool’s errand; just know that the many references to beat ’em ups past will make you smile in between being surprised by the game’s surprisingly deep and satisfying combat.

Each fighter’s move set has all the bells and whistles you’ve come to expect, from drop kicks to crowd-clearing special moves and then some. What separates Final Vendetta from the clones are a couple of obvious but never-before-implemented tricks that change up the cadence of fights and empower the player. Most of the time, belt-scrollers use the rusty design choice of overwhelming the player and forcing them to use “quarters” to keep the game rolling without a whole lot of strategy. In all honesty I still find these games really fun despite knowing that, but in order for the genre to evolve, they have to do something else.

The biggest game changer in Final Vendetta is the ability for you to block attacks with the press of a button. It sounds silly when I write it down, but the first time that I was able to stop a hit instead of getting knocked down – then coming back with a combo of my own – felt really, really good. It has practical uses, too: more than once I set myself up to use the powerful counter-attack move by holding out on the baddy I was fighting so that other enemies could wander in and I could knock them all about.

The other new addition is simply that you now have the ability to kick your opponents while their down. Dirty pool, you say? When you’re a vigilante who’s taking on an entire gang by yourself, I say poppycock! It’s nice to be able to do something with grounded opponents other than wait for them to get up. There were also instances where I finished someone off before his buddies could come along and ruin my day, which added yet another layer of stratagem to the proceedings. Neither this nor the block feel like an epiphany, but with hindsight (and having played more beat ‘em ups than is probably healthy) it’s easy to see how great these additions are.

In my first draft, all of this wonderful design and loving adulation was tamped down by how tough the developers were on the player. The standard mode gave you no continues, which meant playing through the entire game on one credit – a steep challenge even for the best of them. I tried it a couple of times with my kids and didn’t get very far, so they lost interest; and playing on my own, it took me a couple dozen attempts before I could complete it. While I enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the game, the difficulty was offputting for my kids, and it hampered my opinion of Final Vendetta. I don’t mind taking on a challenge, but not everybody can dedicate time to mastering a game.

And what do you know – they listened. Now there’s an easy mode replete with continues, and soon enough my kids and I were trashing phone booths for loot, crushing heads and defending London like the overpowered neighborhood watch that we were. And you can play it in onw-credit mode to feel like a badass. And play it on an even harder difficulty besides! When everybody gets what they want, everybody wins. Now I can unequivocally give Final Vendetta my seal of approval.

Final Vendetta was developed by Bitmap Bureau and published by Numskull Games, and it’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Final Vendetta was provided by Numskull Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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