Rival Turf, stylized on the cover and manual with an exclamation point (like Jeb Bush's failed 2016 presidential campaign), is an early SNES beat-'em-up created by Jaleco. Games published by Jaleco were generally sub-standard, and Rival Turf is no exception. It was a bald attempt to capitalize on the success of Capcom's arcade hit Final Fight.
|The photo art on the box and manual is infamous.|
Rival Turf is inferior to Final Fight (FF) in every way except one. Unlike FF, Rival Turf supports two players at the same time. FF was a popular arcade game, but (as I noted in my review) the home version disappointed many fans because it omitted one of the three character options and, crucially, was single-player only. What made FF so popular in arcades was the ability for two players to play together. Rival Turf's sole achievement is including this feature.
The two character choices are carbon copies of Cody and Haggar from FF. One is beefy (Oozie Nelson), the other slight (Jack Flak). Incidentally, the name Jack Flack should ring a bell for people my age: it was the name of the fantasy version of Dabney Coleman's character in the 1984 movie Cloak and Dagger. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. It even features a spy message hidden inside an Atari 2600 game!
|The real Jack Flack|
Anyway, the simulated street fighting in Rival Turf is simple: press Y to attack, press B to jump, and press A to do a special attack that hits enemies on both sides of your character. The combat is mindless, repetitive button-mashing.
The system for performing special attacks is unusual: whenever you defeat an enemy, an icon appears next to your character's health meter. To perform a special attack, you must spend five of these icons. FF used a simpler system: the special attack cost some of your character's health. Another enhancement compared to FF is that you can make your fighter run by holding L or R while pressing the d-pad. Bizarrely, they don't run but shuffle their feet like they're speed walking!
Almost every aspect of the game copies FF. There are six side-scrolling stages, which are typical cityscapes. Each level ends with a boss fight. (The boss of the third stage, Slasher, is a blatant rip-off of Vega from Street Fighter II.) Between levels a map of the current location is shown. The enemies are stereotypical street toughs. Their health is displayed in a meter at the top-right of the screen. Occasionally enemies drop weapons that Cody/Jack and Haggar/Oozie can pick up and wield or throw: knives, wrenches, bats, rocks, dynamite, and hand grenades. Boxes and trash cans can be destroyed to uncover food, like sushi and hot dogs. Picking up food restores some health.
There are a few differences from FF. If you go to the options menu, you can turn on "Angry Mode." With this, your character goes berserk after taking some damage. He starts flashing and becomes faster and stronger. After a few seconds, it wears off, and he's left with little health.
Another difference is that you get five continues instead of three. With five lives, this equals thirty attempts to finish the game before being kicked back to the title screen! The game menu also holds a player-vs.-player mode, which I haven't had the opportunity to try. Also, Rival Turf lacks an opening cinematic, so you have to read the manual to find the story. Surprise! It's the same from FF: your girlfriend has been kidnapped by a gang.
With respect to music and graphics, Rival Turf is middling. The music tracks are repetitive and unremarkable. Some people say the enemy sprites look worse than those in FF, but I didn't notice. The only FF enemy I remember is Andre, who is an obvious Andre the Giant ripoff. The only one that stands out to me from Rival Turf is Arnold, a Schwarzenegger clone.
People who had Rival Turf as a kid and played it with a friend or sibling probably look on it with some nostalgia. Unless that's you, or you're just a huge beat-'em-up fan, Rival Turf isn't a good game, in my opinion. Still, it's simple and short enough to pick up and play, so it may be worth at least one spin around the block, beating up punks and gang-bangers. I'm giving this game a D+, but if you are going to play it with two players, bump it up to a C-.
"Putting the salubrious charms of the two-player mode aside for one moment, Rival Turf! is inferior to Capcom's Final Fight in every single way imaginable."
— Damien McFerran, Nintendo Life, 4/10
"Dull enemies, forgettable music, and uninspired stages."
— Mike Vito, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library, 2/5