Bitmap Bureau are a retro focused indie developer who have had several successful KickStarter campaigns most notably with Xeno Crisis. Now they bring us Final Vendetta – a side-scrolling brawler or beat ‘em-up, taking heavy inspiration from the classics. Let us see if this new kid on the block is worthy of your attention.
Final Vendetta – even the name feels like a long lost arcade game. The latest in the revival wave of new breed beat ‘em-ups that have a modern twist with an old school feel. This one definitely leans way more into the retro feels with its gameplay, graphics and difficulty level.
Easy or hard are the only two options for difficulty provided to us in the options menu. Let me tell you that as a semi seasoned beat ‘em-up player, easy mode is extremely difficult. Even in this mode seven lives are all that’s given to survive the six brutal stages that lie ahead; well seven stages if you count the short bonus stage before the final area.
Taking clear inspiration from the classics Streets of Rage and Final Fight, the alleyways, the warehouses, the characters and the docks all scream ‘90s classic. Alongside the setting, the pumping soundtrack provided by UK dance group Utah Saints mean that Bitmap Bureau have really pushed the boat out to engage those nostalgia receptors.
From the outset the game knows exactly what it is and never wavers from its course. A wonderful tribute to the classic scrolling brawler genre which unashamedly cherry picks their best bits, using them freshly and using them well.
Set in the UK, although it never quite feels like you are on the streets of London besides the odd red phone box to smash, the stages could have been plucked right from the Final Fight cutting room floor. This is not a bad thing though as each short stage stands on its own two feet. You may occasionally wonder why this trio of heroes have banded together to take on the mean streets of Great Britain, however don’t hold your breath for a lengthy explanation.
Story in Final Vendetta is almost non-existent. The Syndic8 gang have kidnapped Claire’s sister and she calls upon Duke and Miller to help rescue her. That’s your lot – as deep as it gets. Besides an opening crawl setting the scene there is no connective tissue or cutscenes from the first stage through to conclusion. Now whilst not exactly a genre known for its masterfully crafted tales, a small scene here and there would have worked to provide a connection with the main characters and bosses.
Classic genre tropes such as finding food and items in trash cans are plentiful, and you’ve got to eat that turkey off the ground when living the life of a street vigilante. Graphically Final Vendetta is absolutely beautiful and it could take its place proudly on the Series X while easily sitting in a classic arcade cab. Amazing work has been done to make the backgrounds and sprites pop and move fluidly.
The handling of your chosen character is solid, never once do you blame hit detection flaws or moves not working. No, in Final Vendetta you will lose because you are not yet ready my young apprentice. Practice, practice and more practice will be the main course served today.
This is not to say that Final Vendetta cannot be unfair. The enemies are brutal, the bosses are relentless and the lives are limited. It is very unfair, to the point where you may need to rest the controller before you weep at another Game Over screen appearing before your eyes.
However, each enemy has an opening, a flaw to be exposed and when this clicks for each one, you must then become relentless in turn. Memorising which move an enemy can or can’t block will be the key to your success. This is not a game where spamming attacks will see you through to victory – it won’t even see you past the first boss. Knowing your chosen character is another crucial element to beating the meanest streets since, well, since Streets of Rage.
Duke has the swagger of Axel in Streets of Rage 4, and he is also the character of choice for newcomers. Miller is a bulkier, slower but heavier hitter; tricky to get to grips with first time around. Claire is the quickest and can pull off a Guile (of Street Fighter fame) style flip kick that provides help in sticky situations.
Each character has their own moveset, from basic punching to running attack, grab move and Super. To activate the Super you need to successfully dispatch enemies on screen to build the meter and this will become an invaluable asset as it helps clear out the gangs that quickly overwhelm if you take your eye off the prize. Quick reflexes and reactions will be your friend as anything less and Claire’s sister will be lost forever.
Enemy types are a fantastic throwback to classic scrolling beat-em-up titles. You have the stabbing guys with knives – handily named as slasher/cutter etc as a pre-warning for the unaware brawler – and his variant Clive who will simply shoot you in the face. There are the boxers, the basic grunts and even cyber punk looking masked brutes that will remind you of Bebop from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games.
Boss fights are usually where you will slip up. Even on a perfect (or near perfect) run, these monstrously sized bad guys will waste a life in seconds if you falter. Each has a blue life bar that acts as a shield that needs to be broken before you can start chipping down their actual health bar.
One of the best bosses later in the game – named The Gentleman (who is anything but) – is a lovely homage to the late great Macho Man Randy Savage. He will attack you and dive at you with gorgeously animated wrestling moves that are simply just the chef’s kiss to look at.
The final boss – found after the Manor level – spams attacks that are fast and outrageously difficult to avoid; even between phases landing hits is a tough challenge. This is clearly to replicate that nostalgic memory of running out of coins to pump back in the machine as you lose time and time again.
Outside of story/arcade the package is very bare bones, with very little incentive to replay besides the high score screen at the end of every run. A few unlockables or in-game modifiers would have been nice as a reward for completing Final Vendetta. There is no online play present here sadly, something which has been very well received in recent similar titles.
Final Vendetta is a great title that requires focus and practice in order to master each technique; you will need to learn them all inside and out to take on the challenge within. If you found the likes of Shredder’s Revenge a tad on the ”mash X to win side”, then Final Vendetta may be right up your street (of rage).
Fantastically well made with passion for the genre, incredible looks and solid play, longevity may be the issue for Final Vendetta; with little replayability and only six stages, it is a bit on the short side.
Not one for the faint of heart or casual player.
Final Vendetta can be found on the Xbox Store