I’ll be honest with you all, I’m a bit of fan of SNK fighting games for some weird reason. I’m not entirely sure why, to be perfectly honest but when there’s something inexorably likeable about the way the games are so UNASHAMEDLY IDENTICAL to each other that you can always slip in and out of them all and still be like “oh THAT’S how you play these games!” – but you’re also very “oh FUCK, is THAT how you play this game? I’ve already played this game like forty times.”
Fatal Fury was my first dip into SNK waters apparently. I didn’t know it at the time because it was released in the UK by Takara, a company most notable for… er… toys and stuff. Apparently they’re bankrupt now but they had a nice run while it lasted. Plus any company that introduces Japan to Earthworm Jim is OK in my books.
What do you mean you’ve never heard of Fatal Fury? Are you, like, twelve or something? If you are, you need to at the very least play Garou: Mark of the Wolves so that you can actually play a decent game in the series. Don’t go back to Fatal Fury 1 or 2 for the love of ANYTHING on this Earth because in this day and age, games like that have no right to even exist. Back then, they might have been passable, and to be fair, I played VS mode with one of my cousins every time he came over. It was usually the only game that didn’t result in me wanting to punch him in the face. I never did punch him in the face, by the by, more’s the pity.
So I suppose I should say thank you to this series of games for not causing bodily harm to someone. I won’t thank it for being a fairly shonky series of fighters, even though there were ridiculous numbers of them in the series until they got good and actually STOPPED. I mean, what the actual fuck happened there? You gave us 1, 2, 3, Special, Real Bout 1 and 2 plus Special and Dominated Mind (who the fuck names games like this?!) and you EVEN had the audacity to give us WIld Ambition for which you should feel THOROUGHLY ashamed. Suddenly, we got Garou, which was undoubtedly one of the best 2D fighters ever released and yet the LAST ONE in the series. They haven’t made any more. THAT WAS 16 YEARS AGO. HOW VERY RUDE. Not even a phone call to say you’re OK, not even a Facebook post… I mean, you could be lying dead in a gutter somewhere and we wouldn’t even know it! You’ve made your poor mother sick with worry, you selfish, ungrateful bastard you, we wish we’d never had you. You were adopted.
Anyway. Back to Fatal Fury.
In a nutshell, the premise of these games involves the Bogard brothers, Terry and Andy, and their good friend Joe Higashi in a giant scuffle with a shaven-headed overlord called Geese Howard. Geese is a bit of a sod and he had something to do with Erry and Tandy’s dad’s death ten years before. I say “had something” to do with it, he basically killed the man. How rude of him. No wonder these two boys are pissed off at him. He isn’t dead yet, despite there being five games preceding this one. So for all the martial artist powers in the world, they still haven’t been able to off this guy.
SPOILER ALERT IT MIGHT HAPPEN SOONER THAN YOU THINK!
So here’s the motley crew ready to go out into the fray and beat seven shades of shit out of each other to no real consequence. This in itself is the Playstation version as I don’t own a Neo Geo because I don’t have that much money and nor will I ever HAVE that much money. For the uninitiated, the Neo Geo was a space age console that cost buyers £50,000 to buy and each game was about £3,000 each and this is not made up in the slightest. Only a few consoles actually produced games for the system and it’s basically a massive collector’s item now. You won’t ever be able to afford one. Just wait for all of them to come out digitally. You could save thousands of pounds on your car insurance.
There’s a joke in there somewhere.
Look, basically, 16 chumps are out to defeat Geese, including Geese himself if you can be arsed to play as the cheap character for five minutes (plus the fifteen minutes of loading time). Tell you what, someone obviously spent half an hour on this player select screen, using and finding the scrunched paper background. Yeah. How fucking long do you think that took?
Technically, there are only two new additions to this game from the previous one, the two smug looking shrimps in the bottom left corner of the screen. And even then, they’re the same character with slightly EVER SO SLIGHTLY different variations on their movesets. They’re the Ken and Ryu of the series only immensely more irritating and pointless. And shorter. And one of them might be a girl but it’s difficult to tell (he’s not).
Series regulars Andy, Terry, Joe and Mai (she of the megalicious jiggling boobs) are joined by randomer 1, randomer 2, Terry’s not-but-actually-sorta-is girlfriend, randomer 56 and Duck King. Yeah. Duck King still sucks. SNK, he’s not cool, we don’t care, he can basically fuck right off. Unless you turn him into a likeable character somewhere along the line, just don’t, OK? He is DUCK KING. HE CALLS HIMSELF THAT VOLUNTARILY (via you) AND THAT IS NOT A COOL NAME IN THE SLIGHTEST. TO QUOTE THE MIGHT DUCKS: “THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE TEETH!”
And neither will you throughout this game FIGHTING GAME JOKE but just don’t play as FUCKING DUCK KING. FUCK KING. OHHHHHH. I JUST REALISED THAT. NEVER MIND.
So one of the selling points for this series of games was the fact that it could be fought in two battle lines. You could switch between two lines if you wanted to, allowing for a greater range of combat choices. One more does amount to “greater” choices. It does very little to the actual gameplay other than frustrate the player in the middle of a mega combo. It’s niche, it’s interesting but it’s more of a distraction than an actual gameplay mechanic. The mechanic that really changes the way you tend to fight is the ring out/out of bounds mechanic.
Each of the stages, OF WHICH THERE ARE ONLY FOUR (five including Geese’s final stage but BLEH), at the edge of the battle area, you can bust through the barriers and ‘ring out’ to win or lost the battle. The most famous/infamous of these is the seafront stage – mainly because if you ring out with Blue Mary, when she comes up for air having fallen into the water, she pops up topless for a split second. This was taken out for the Playstation version, probably because in essence there was no need for it but also because I’m fairly sure there were laws against that kind of thing that would have resulted in a ridiculous age-rating for the game.
Now, here’s the qualm: it does take away something from the gameplay in the same way it ADDS something to it. Yes, it can end a needlessly lengthy battle early and it see off trickier characters much more simply but at the same time, particularly in verus mode against a friend, it can seem somewhat cheap and unsatisfying. You don’t get a significant enough feeling that you’re actually WINNING as opposed to your opponent FORFEITING because they back-dashed a bit too far or you punched them lightly onto the subway lines like the sadistic bastard you are. The other thing is that there’s a bit of a deathly feel to these ring outs. Drowning, electrocution, falling down a lift shaft… you feel as though these mechanics are out of place in a game where these kind of things have never happened before. As opposed to enhancing the experience, it detracts rather ignominiously from it.
The fighting itself feels reasonably fluid and there is inherently nothing wrong with it, considering it’s a tried and tested formula and if you’re not into this sort of thing then you’ll never really grasp the whole concept of fireball motions or dragon punch motions or reverse fireballs or air combos or punches to the balls… if you’ve ever played Street Fighter, you will be OK with this game. You can easily get on with the mechanics and whatnot. You can slide straight into this game like INSERT SEX JOKE REFERENCE HERE and you’ll generally pick it up and play. Mess around with it for a bit and you’ll probably find a decent combo here and there. To be honest, if anything, you’re playing this game because it’s a fighting game and the fighting is solid and fun with a few interesting bits to sate your appetite.
And yet, here’s the problem: it feels very lacklustre. There is an underlying feeling that this game is either trying too hard or not trying at all. The characters are very wishy-washy, save for the staple figures in the game, and the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. They think so little of the game’s introduction that they include it in the main menu. You don’t HAVE to watch it (and to be honest, there’s no need to, there’s no fucking story to even bother with) and they basically give you to option to not even go near it. That says a lot. It’s like saying to the designers of the game to make the game but then they’re just going to include it as an add-on to another better game or something. It’s utterly pointless having it in there as an ‘optional extra’ when you’re trying to sell the game as it were.
The music’s a bit pap, the sound effects aren’t meaty enough and you could spend a good few hours on the game and feel no real satisfaction. It will entirely depend on whether you’re into this sort of thing or not. It’s probably not the best game in the series to be introduced to Fatal Fury but then again, the best game would be the last game in the series anyway… but you’d need to play the other games to have any real sense of what’s happening in the final game.
I’ll save you the trouble: Geese dies about four different times and then Terry sort of adopts his son. There you go. I just saved you the trouble.
Altogether now: BUSTAAAAAAH WOOOOOLF! ARE YOU OK?
You haven’t got a fucking clue what even refers to, do you? Don’t worry. You’re not alone.