Playing as Final Fight’s Haggar: An Evolution

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I never liked Haggar.

I was a Cody player. Growing up on the Super Nintendo version of Final Fight, Guy was never an option, but he was selectable at local arcades. I passed over Haggar every time even when presented with few choices.

Final Fight is conducive to fast play styles. Mad Gear Gangs cronies surround and swarm, so it feels necessary to utilize Cody’s rapid fire punches while whipping back and forth to keep them at bay. It’s always worked, and it’s enjoyable. Few beat-em-ups have ever managed to harbor the snappy feeling credited to Capcom’s designers.

But, in a period where beat-em-ups are on the rise and I felt the call in my blood, I popped in Final Fight. Specifically, the PSP rendition on the Capcom Classics compilation. After a mistaken selection of Mike Haggar, and little concern for any serious play, I just went with the flow. An entire world was opened to me.

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It’s not the first time I selected Haggar. With friends, there were often character debates over who played as whom with say, the Sega CD port. That (excellent) edition allowed co-op. Inevitably, I would be dead before the end of the second level with Haggar. He couldn’t keep pace with level boss Sodom.

This time, on the PSP, it was different. I came to the realization that Cody may pick away at foes with his punches, but Haggar folds them. His three hit combo literally snaps people in half at the midsection. His third strike is a double hammer fist that is placed perfectly on the back of their heads. It is pure, sadistic violence, a man driven to complete retribution for his city and his daughter.

To work over crowds, Haggar lacks the footwork. He will never contain groups with punches, and that’s what I always used. His benefit is size. Suplexes stretch him out over most of the screen, taking gang members with the unfortunate target. His piledriver is crowd dispersal its best, using an opponents head as a mini-rocket launcher. Enemies scatter. Of course, there is also the special that sends him spinning with his fists outward. The body count generated is amazing.

haggar2I never grasped why Haggar was so popular. He would be found in Saturday Night Slam Masters, he became the only character to carry through all of the Final Fight games (even Mighty Final Fight on the NES), and was featured in countless fighting games for Capcom. Cody, when he finally appeared again post-Final Fight in Street Fighter Alpha 3, was relegated to second tier status as an escaped thug, complete with handcuffs.

All of this Haggar talk makes me wonder how many brutes I’ve missed out on over the years in other beat-em-ups. Is Max Thunder the best choice for Streets of Rage 2? Most genre entries have the three definitive styles of play – fast, medium, slow – with the usual traits. Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong for many years. My backlog just became bigger.

Thanks Haggar.