Final Blow logo

A boxer's life isn't all box, box, box. Well it is in Storm's arcade conversion, and it manages to make even the weediest of our reviewers look muscular. The last blow could be the final straw.

So you wanna be a boxer? Well now Storm offer you the chance to be a contender. Start at the bottom of the world rankings, take on all corners and take a shot at the championship. The only element of the fighter's story missing is the appearance as the dame in a low-budget pantomime after everything's gone horribly wrong.

But that's just the fate of no-hopers. You, my budding hero, have a whole glistening career in front of you. There's no-one going to catch you in an oversize pinafore, false eyelashes and a pair of comedy breasts - you can do aftershave adverts instead.

There are two modes of play; knockout and league. Knockout merely pits you against a random selection of opponents - just keep on pummeling different fighters until sooner or later you get pummeled yourself. There's a certain amount of challenge to be found in seeing how many fights you can go without a loss, but basically this just prepares you for the real championship - the nie-week league.

There are ten fighters of differing shapes and sizes (actually that's a lie - they're all built like tower-blocks. But they do have different haircuts) and you can pick any one of them to be your young hopeful. It's now your unenviable job, in your newly acquired bulging body, to take on a new opponent once a week. Win, lose or draw - it's then on to week two (and so on) until by the ninth week you've fought all the other sluggers.

Earn three points for a victory, one point for a draw and leave empty handed if you end up as canvas fodder. The league table is updated each week and your stats are displayed for all to see. As time progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that some of the guys out there are better than others. Some weeks you take on nancies, some weeks you take on wimps - yes, they're all ridiculously easy to beat, but more of that later.

Either way, the bout unfolds the same way each fight. Click your joystick to tell Cecil (well, what do you call your Amiga?) that you've had enough of the statistics sheet thank you very much, and that yes - you're simply itching to get on with it. A whirr-clunk from your disk drive tells you that your next pixillated victim is entering the stadium, the fight-screen scrolls down, revealing two bulging fighters and the ref. Both ughly lumps of pulsating manhood punch the air, the ref stands back and it's seconds away...

Graphics are big and the sound effects are particularly gruesome - but that's your lot.

Now the fun starts. There are two methods of fighting, and a survey of various people around the office came to the unanimous conclusion that one of these methods is distinctly more likely to prove successful than the other. But in true fight-night style, before announcing the winner let's introduce the contestants. Over to our ringside host, Larry:

In the red corner, Method One...
"Thank you, and good evening, fight-fans. Straight into the ring we have the 'Diligently learning and implementing all the moves, keeping your guard up when necessary and a lot of fancy footwork' method. With all of the five different punches mastered: the upper cut, the swing punch; low and high long punches and a lean-back jab at his disposal, this boy (who has become as 'Technical Excellence) has got to be the hot favourite.

He can raise his guard or lower it, he can duck and even jump - as well as shuffling backwards and forwards as professionally as I've ever seen it done. He can read his opponent's moves and react to them. When this opponent aims high, his guard can cover it. When his opponent slips up, then Technical Excellence has the weaponry to get in there and really hit him hard. Surely he can't fail."

In the blue corner, Method Two!
"Well, Technical Excellence would seem to have this match sewn up before his opponent's even entered the ring. But here his opponent comes - unconcerned and looking decidedly confident - and what a strange looking chap he is! He's going under the name of the 'Putting your joystick on auto-fire and making a cup of tea or reading a book of something' method. Quite remarkable."

And the winner?
OK, so no prizes for guessing the winner of this bout. Yes, your good old faithful auto-fire button will safely see you through all nine fights to collecting the World Championship crown. Yes, we're serious - but are Storm? How can such a simple game (there are no skill factors, training sessions, management decisions, choices of opponent or player development) afford to be so remarkably easy?

The answer is, it can't. Final Blow is fundamentally flawed from the outset. Any game that can be finished on the first attempt in such a ridiculous fashion (the cup of tea bit wasn't a joke) doesn't deserve to be put within 100 miles of your Amiga. OK, so you could try the "Technical Excellence" approach. But the animation is so haphazard and jerky any attempt to fight a skillful bout inevitably ends in failure, and soon degenerates back to a pummeling-the-fire-button-through-the-floor approach. There's no reward for thoughtful play, due largely to the fact that your opponent refuses to stand still long enough for you to hit him. The action is brawlish, frantic and ultimately frustrating.

This also scuppers what could have been the game's one saving grace - the two-player option. With so little skill involved and certain victory just an incy-wincy auto-fire switch away, there's no way that even the most ardent of boxing fans will enjoy this for long.

Final Blow seems doomed as a project. A while ago it was released for the Sega Mega Drive. It's only claim-to-fame then was as perhaps the worst-timed licensed product ever. The name James 'Buster' Douglas Boxing (presumably a licence signed after he somehow managed to beat Mike Tyson) was a whacking 200lb albatross by the time the game actually reached the shops. The Amiga version repairs none of this damage.

The graphics are big and colourful and the sound effects are particularly gruesome - but that's your lot. Jerky (hence reading your opponent's moves becomes impossible) animation, zero depth and flawed gameplay. It could have been a contender, but is stopped in the first round by a technical knockout. Anyone fancy some aftershave?

The good, the bad, the ugly and more besides. Chose to play any one of these 10 chaps (some are better than others) then spend the next nine weeks beating the living daylights out of all the others. Complicated game, boxing.
Final Blow: Cool Shaun
Cool Shaun
Final Blow: Demon Dave
Demon Dave
Final Blow: Detroid Kid
Detroid Kid
Final Blow: Dynamite Joe
Dynamite Joe
Final Blow: Fernando Gomez
Fernando Gomez
Final Blow: Kid Steve
Kid Steve
Final Blow: Killer Ken
Killer Ken
Final Blow: Kim Nang
Kim Nang
Final Blow: King Jason
King Jason
Final Blow: Krushka Kev
Krushka Kev

4D Sports Boxing logo Final Blow logo

So ist das Leben: Da wartet unsereins nun tagein, tagaus auf ein vernünftiges Boxspiel - und dann kommen plötzlich gleich zwei Fäuste zur gleichen angeflogen. Das schreit ja geradezu nach einem Vergleichskampf...äh, -test!

Das Spektakel verspricht spannend zu werden, denn unterschiedlicher können die Kontrahenten kaum sein: Storms finaler Schlag ist ein Spielhallen-Import reinsten Wassers (für Historiker: Wir haben den Automaten in unserer Erstausgabe getestet!), während man bei Mindscape die Vektor-Männchen nach einem halben Jahr PC-Training nun endlich in den Amiga-Ring geschickt hat. Aber genug der Vorrede - gleich ertönt der Gong, die Fighter sind schon mitten in der Vorbereitung...

Das Aufwärmen

Die zehn Fertig-Boxer von Final Blow haben's hier relativ leicht, denn sie sind einfach da und warten bloß noch darauf, daß sich der Spieler einen von ihnen aussucht - die restlichen sind dann die Gegner. Man muß sich lediglich zwischen Demo-, Knock-Out- und Turniermodus entscheiden, falls zwei menschliche Kontrahenten aufeinander eindreschen wollen, bleibt sogar nur der Knock Out-Modus übrig.

Ganz anders sieht's da beim 4D-Boxen aus, wo der/die Spieler bereits zu Anfang mit Optionen und Einstellmöglichkeiten überschüttet werden. Man kann seine(n) Kämpfer selberstricken oder aus der Retorte beziehen, im Trainingsraum schwitzen lassen, zu Schaukämpfen oder auf den langen Marsch durch die Weltrangliste schicken. Es dürfen -zig Sachen festgelegt, ausgewählt und angeschaut werden - Grafikdetailgrad, Statistiken, Kamerastandpunkte, Szenenwiederholung, der ganze Technikkram (Spielstände, Musik/Effekte, etc.) und und und. Damit ist schon klar, wer hier als Champion in den Ring steigt...

Der Kampf

Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, bietet Final Blow klassische Prügelaktion - seine Spielhallenvergangenheit kann und will es nicht verleugnen. Tatsächlich war der Taito-Automat ja auch nicht übel, wer also gerne schnell zur Sache kommt und mit Begeisterung einen Gegner nach dem anderen auf die Bretter schickt, liegt hier goldrichtig. Der Schwierigkeitsgrad ist recht niedrig angesiedelt; bei den meisten Widersachern genügt es, sie nach rechts in die Seile zu drängen und dann immer feste draufzuhalten - ein KO-Sieg ist so beinahe unvermeidlich!

Bei 4D Sports Boxing stellt sich die Situation auch hier wieder völlig anders dar: Was man bei den Fights zu sehen kriegt, erinnert zuerst mehr an Geometrie-Unterricht als an Boxen. Die Kämpfer sind nämlich aus Vielecken (Polygonen) zusammengesetzt, und der Ring besteht aus zwei, drei bunten Strichen und viel Schwarzer Fläche. Dafür kann man sich den Kampf von allen Seiten anschauen, besonders eindrucksvoll ist dabei die Sicht "durch das Auge des eigenen Boxers". Umgeschaltet wird zwischen den insgesamt neun Perspektiven einfach mit den Funktionstasten, was gelegentlich aber schon etwas dauern kann.

Die Entscheidung

Sie fällt hier leicht, denn angesichts des jeweils Gebotenen war der Sieg von 4D Sports Boxing praktisch vorprogrammiert. Gleichauf liegen die beiden Games eigentlich nur beim Sound: Hier wie dort gibt's etwas Sprachausgabe, eine passende Geräuschkulisse und wenig aufregende Titelklänge. Die abstrakte Grafik von 4D Sports Boxing muß man natürlich mögen, sie ist nett animiert aber weder besonders detailreich noch wahnsinnig schnell. Rein vom Anschauen her kommt die Optik von Final Blow zunächst besser rüber, man hat außerdem auch kleine Gags eingebaut, z.B. fliegt ab und zu mal ein herausgeschleuderter Gebißschutz durch die Gegend. Aber die riesigen Sprites sind farbarm und nur bescheiden animiert, auch fehlt es an Abwechslung - Hintergrund und Kämpfer ähneln sich von der ersten bis zur letzten Runde.

Dank der vielseitigen Steuerungs- und Einstellmöglichkeiten sind die Vektor-Champs den rein actionorientierten Kollegen also klar überlegen. Und bei aller Komplexität ist die Handhabung von 4D Sports Boxing nicht mal wesentlich schwieriger, in beiden Fällen haben auch Leichtgewichte am Stick gute Karten. Die Ringrichter waren sich daher einig wie selten: Ein klarer Sieg nach Punkten für die Boxer aus der vierten Dimension! (C. Borgmeier/mm)

Final Blow logo

Oh dear, looks like it's Christmas...

Hmm. We'll ignore for a moment the rather suspect taste of a game marketed with slogans like 'come face to face with a mean opponent ready to inflict serious damage' and 'destroy or be destroyed - it's all in your hands' when Michael Watson's still critically ill in hospital - good taste has, after all, never been one of the strong points of the computer game industry as a whole.

What's harder to forgive, or indeed understand, is why a proven and talented team like The Sales Curve should choose to make a sitting target of themselves by picking such a limited and outdated coin-op as Taito's dull and short-lived boxing bash to convert in the first place. That they've made a good job of it isn't in doubt - this game looks and plays almost identically to its arcade parent, except for the slightly puzzling loading between opponents and the rather tatty front end - but Final Blow was such a completely duff game in the first place that Storm never really stood a chance of turning it into an entertaining Amiga product.

The two-dimensional nature of the ring means that the only options available to the player are walk towards the opponent, walk away from him, or hit using one of a (slightly confusing to operate) array of punches. I managed to beat the first couple of opponents (there are nine in total) on my first try by putting the autofire on and waggling the joystick completely at random, and while I'm sure this tactic wouldn't work on the tougher ones near the end (I got crumped by the third guy), I'm equally sure it wouldn't take very long at all to discover a tactic that would, meaning Final Blow's lasting appeal has to rank in the 'hours' category (at best).

If you really must have a boxing game, why not buy the Codies'Pro Boxing Sim instead? It's £18 cheaper, and at least you get the option to fight dirty for a bit of added 'depth'.
At £26 from the same people that brought us the great SWIV and Rodland, this is nothing short of criminal - please Storm, what happened to your pride?

Final Blow logo

Up until now, the only semi-decent boxing sim has been the humble Spectrum version of Elite's Frank Bruno game. For some reason, whilst the martial arts aspect of facial rearranging is well catered for, binary pugilism Amiga-style has never taken off.

However, in converting Final Blow, Storm have taken the risk and, to an extent, pulled it off. I was never really a fan of the Final Blow coin-op as its large sprites disguised a very run-of-the-mill game. Somehow, though, Storm have managed to inject a modicum of playability into the Amiga game, creating a repetitive but playable conversion.

The original coin-op sported five boxers, each of whom had to be beaten before the title was yours. Storms\'s game, however, now sports a tournament, a two-player mode and an expanded gym of ten would-be champs.

The actual bouts against these guys takes place over two rounds within a horizontally-scrolling ring, with the player's on-screen persona represented by one of the largest sprites the Amiga has housed. The movement of these towering fighters is essential to the atmosphere and, whilst some of the animations are a little odd, the generally look works well.

There are a variety of punches available, ranging from uppercuts to head blows and blocks, and these are all easily accessed using the joystick and fire button. In addition, if you're coming off worse during scuffle, the ref will come in and break you up or you can leap out of the fray.

Actually, there's something very satisfactory about laying into your opponent and, as you both get steadily weaker, blood and gum shields fly until one of you goes down. Then, depending on the pounding your took, you may struggle up again for another bout - real edge of the seat stuff!

The trouble is that, as with the real thing, this is all there is to it. What's there is well done, with large boxers behaving realistically and offering slightly different tactics, but it still boils down to a slugging match with the fastest fighter winning.

However, somehow I get the feeling that, even if Storm had added more moves to the existing ones, the game would still boil down to the same thing. Entertaining enough in the short-term, and undoubtedly better than the coin-op, Final Blow is the best of its kind but a feather-weight in the lasting appeal department.

Final Blow logo

After scouring the ZERO office for someone hard enough to review Sales Curve's new beat 'em up, Final Blow, we finally had to settle for Richard 'Float Like A Bee, Sting Like A Butterfly' James.

Boxing is well known as the 'sport of gentlemen', and what a league of gentlemen we have on offer in Final Blow! You choose one of ten boxers to pack your punches, then wack your way through the other nine to the World Championship title, facing a foe of varying skill each time.

There's Kim Nang, the vicious Vietnamese; King Jason, who looks like he's straight out of the Bronx; Cool Shaun, positively uncool with a well dodgy mohawk haircut; Krusha Kev, a dead ringer for the bloke who took a swing at me in the pub the other night. (Well, if you will try to smooch with the local domino champ's girlfriend... Ed.); and six other equally ugly mugs.

According to the rather platry instruction leaflet, the game can be adjusted to your own specifications. If you're a cissy you can have one-minute rounds, but if you reckon you're a dead ringer for Tyson you can go a full nine minutes. If you're a bit of a Joe Bugner lookalike (ever considered plastic surgery?), you can have one round per match.

If you fancy yourself as Chris Eubanks' sparring partner, you can go nine. Unfortunately, the assembled ZERO think-tank couldn't work out the way to do this on the review-copy we were sent.

Luckily there's a Knockout Practice option, so you can wise-up on your technique before the hurly-burly of the championship. First there's the punching - a selection of jabs, swing punches, upper-cuts and long punches.
The upper-cut's the best, but you have to learn how to use it quite accurately from exactly the right distance.

Then there's the defensive manoeuvres, which mainly include learning how to keep your guard up effectively, or running away. If you practice really hard, you can make your boxer dance back and forth across the ring like a real boxer (although a tango is definitely out of the question). And that's about it, really.

Right, the lights are dimming... the crowd are baying for blood... let's get into the ring...

Amiga review

Richard: Donning my silk dressing gown, I entered the ring. The Ed had dismissed me as easy meat, so I had to take on the computer. Wearing an imaginary Robin Givens garter around my ankle (and dreaming that if I won the league she might ditch her film-producer boyfriend for me), I started the game...

Strewth! Good Lord! Did I take a pasting! And what's more, the graphics are almost as good as the arcade version! The pixels are large, with loads of rippling male flesh filling the screen.
The ref dances around, occasionally calling "break" when you and your opponent get caught up too close together. (Shame you can't take a swing at him if you question his judgement, though). And there's a great bit when the boxer's gum-shield flies out when he's on the receiving end of a particularly nasty bashing.

The sound effects are nice and splurgey too, with loads of "oofs" and bone-crunching slaps as the punches connect, and the roar of the crowd is ever present. Once vicious bast even shouts out encouragement in the form of "Give 'im a right!"

Tactically, Final Blow is fairly realistic - it's best to avoid getting trapped on the ropes under a welter of punches, otherwise you'll find it difficult to get your guard up and will almost certainly go down. Dodging and ducking is better than out-and-out-brawn, so it's fairly evident that it's not modelled on Tyson's 'nobble 'em hard' style of boxing.

As there's no option to 'throw in the towel (like there is in the more complex 4D Boxing), you can have to keep going until you're finally down and out - a position I got used to during the course of the evening. A better player, however, would probably find it fairly easy to bash his way to the top. It's a cruel old world. I even lost my Robin Givens garter. Stop