Let’s… Sorta… Talk About Fatal Fury

fatal front

Look, you and I know full well that the very first Fatal Fury game isn’t exactly a spectacular foray into the fighting game genre. It’s not really a good fighting game. There are plenty of things I will pick apart in this here review but I’m going to be brutally honest with you right now as to why I’m not saying you should steer clear of this, even though in reality… you sort of should.

This, gentlepeople of the interwebs, was my very first ever fighting game.

That’s right. Not Street Fighter 2, as that one didn’t come out on the Mega Drive until 6 months later (SIX WHOLE MONTHS OF WAITING – even though we got a bloody terrific version of it in the end…) – no, no, no. Fatal Fury 1, the first SNK fighting game they developed for the home consoles. Oh yes. Indeed. Instead of the mastery of Capcom’s pinnacle of fighting game excellence, I purchased the bumbling, half-arsed SNK attempt, which was actually designed by one of the designers behind the original Street Fighter game.

And despite this game being a bit on the crap side, there are many reasons as to why I’m not going to sit here and slate this game for about eight minutes of your reading time. I mean, I ought to because it’s a piece of crap but… well… that would be unfair.

fatal 11

Before we get into that, STORY TIME MOTHER HUBBARDS! So Terry and Andy Bogard, two brothers who sort of hate each other but don’t for… I dunno… their relationship is oddly complicated. I don’t get it. They’re brothers. They don’t HATE HATE each other but they have that brotherly rivalry and whatnot… You know. ANYWAY. So their dad was murdered by a rather rum fellow named Geese Howard and he’s really doing his absolute best to basically stay out of their way but setting up a fighting tournament is basically like asking for trouble.

“I WISH TO STAY AWAY FROM TERRY AND ANDY BOGARD. I AM RUNNING A FIGHTING TOURNAMENT.”
“BUT SIR, TERRY AND ANDY’S FATHER WAS A VERY WELL-KNOWN FIGHTER.”
“THIS WILL HAVE NO CONSEQUENCES FOR ME AT ALL.”
“SIR, THOSE TWO MIGHT SHOW UP AND THEY MIGHT BRING A FRIEND WHO ALSO KNOWS HOW TO FIGHT.”
“NO CONSEQUENCES AT ALL.”

Well done, Geese. Ya done goofed.

fatal 3

So essentially, Terry and Andy are out for revenge and they bring their pal Joe Higashi along with them, whose dad also happened to be a well-known fighter from THE PAST. But he’s just tagging along really because he’s a nice guy. A bit of a goofball (if later instalments are owt to go by) but a nice guy. Loud, mind. I mean, he screeches most of his attacks in later games and laughs his head off in a similar way to Sagat (SEEING AS THEY ARE MUAY THAI FIGHTERS… is this just the thing that Muay Thai fighters… do? Laugh at everything? And not even in a jolly way. I DIGRESS).

Anyway.

fatal 10

At the start of the one-player campaign, you can pick from either Terry, Andy or Joe and then get the opportunity to chose who you fight against first from one of four opponents.

Now… there are two things here I need to pick up on. One: the character roster is MINIMAL. I mean, only having three characters… I can SORT OF deal with that… It’s not ideal but the whole purpose of the game was to tell a story, rather than give you a billion characters and tell you to get on with it. But… outside of that… the Mega Drive version of the game is severely lacking in other characters.

Before I go into that though, one thing I’ve quite liked about the first three Fatal Fury games is that you do get to choose who you fight against first. That’s always been quite a nice little touch. It’s not MAJOR. It doesn’t make the game bigger or better in a substantial way but that is a nice touch to give the player.

Character-wise then… you’ve got Michael Max, a boxer who’s CLEARLY not remotely similar in look to Balrog (even though the games were developed at similar times so who copied who is neither here nor there… let’s just call it a happy coincidence), Richard Meyer, a capoeira fighter – which was actually a pretty unique fighting style at the time – Duck King (the less said about him the better) and Tung Fu Rue.

Now… Tung Fu Rue is an odd one in that he looks like a tiny, frail old man on the surface.

fatal 13

I mean… look at him! You could beat him any day of the week! Even on Sunday, when you’re meant to be asleep because everyone sleeps longer on Sundays… or is this just me? HAVE I BEEN LIED TO?

Anyway… attack and damage him enough and HE TURNS INTO A RAGING BEAST OF A MAN…

fatal 12

But only until you damage him enough to make him turn back into his ‘normal’ self. He’s an absolute bastard of an opponent. He’s innocent enough… but he could kill you with a second glance in EITHER frail mode or beast mode. He’s easily the hardest of the four opening opponents. Usually… it makes sense to pick him first so that he is at least out of the way but… either way, you’ll have to face him. AND HE’S A BASTARD.

Defeat those four, plus the other two characters you DIDN’T choose from, and you’re given a chance to face off against Raiden, a rotund, masked wrestler who spits dust at you, careers across the screen like some badass rocket and belly flops all over you.

He’s also a twat. He’s easier to defeat that Tung Fuck You, but he’s still a bastard.

fatal 9

Now… here’s the major quibble with Fatal Fury: it is not a good fighting game. End review. See you next week.

No, no, no… let’s be serious here. Playing through this game for the first time in quite some years is a painful experience. The game is so very, very slow that it’s difficult to understand how this could actually exist… but this existed at a time when fighting games were pretty slow and didn’t really have much inspiration for it. There was this and Street Fighter out around the same time and before that, you had all the crappier fighting games that nobody cared about. Street Fighter was a shockingly poor game in terms of controls and even WORSE roster of generic fighters (and the fact you had the choice of either Ryu or Ken who were both the same…), and the rest of this game’s predecessors (Yie Ar King Fu, Way of the Exploding Fist, etc…) were all… woeful. They were AMAZING at the time for what they did and what they tried to do… but by shite, are they fucking terrible. So… given that we’re into new territory here with Fatal Fury, being a bit slow is actually forgiveable. There wasn’t much to compare it to. We’re talking about a game that had Street Fighter as its main comparison as the others that came close were not much cop.

As such… when I first played this game in the arcades, I was actually really excited. It looked pretty damn good, the characters moved well, it responds nicely and there was a real satisfaction with performing special moves.

fatal 4

I say satisfaction but hellfire, were they hard to pull off. Some of them weren’t quite as natural as the game thought they were. Terry’s Burn Knuckle and Power Wave were simple enough but the Crack Shoot move felt impossible when you had to quarter circle and then press up-towards the opponent and kick, usually resulting in a jump towards your character and that was it. And some of the game’s other moves were just as ridiculous to perform. This, thankfully was toned down for further iterations in the series.

fatal 5

In terms of what this game is… yeah… it’s not good. It’s too slow, the presentation is pretty wonky and murky-looking for the most part and the sound is really off-putting. The opening scene features all three main characters sliding into the screen accompanied by some sort of chainsaw buzzing sound effect that gives off the impression that this is going to be a horror game. Plus, it’s inexorably loud when it first comes on; enough to make you jump out of your skin. This might have been my first ever major jump scare as a child. I would have preferred the original arcade intro… but the Mega Drive version of this game didn’t seem to have enough space to do… anything so fitting that intro in was clearly a step too far.

I mean, they couldn’t even fit all of the characters in the game itself. This version misses out Hwa Jai (whose next appearance wouldn’t be until the King of Fighters XIII, some 20-odd years later) and Billy Kane, both of whom are relegated to cameo background appearances. They couldn’t even fit the characters’ names above or below the health bars. They couldn’t include a scoring system like the original… so how the fuck are they suppose to fit in an intro that lasted all of about eight seconds but included more colours than the rest of the game combined? And more animation?

fatal 2

But again… let me reiterate something about this game: it is the company’s first. It was the first major foray into the genre and we have to be fair to it for that reason. For all intents and purposes, it is a shit game. It’s bland and slow to play and really has nothing going for it that makes it stand out. It’s basically just a curio in the fighting game genre. It’s the game that started SNK onto their massive, massive trawl of fighting games.

AND THAT’S WHY IT’S IMPORTANT.

Basically… I cannot be too mean to this game for that very reason. This was the game that allowed the developers to improve upon the formula and make better in later versions. SNK would go to make a successful series of sequels, spin-offs and other fighting games and this game is the one that started it all off for them. Everything that this game had, they were able to improve upon in later instalments. Now… everything about the original game was average at best so they obviously knew what they needed to do to make it better.

The graphics were overhauled and the animation was improved tenfold in following games. The game’s atmosphere in presentation improved ridiculously from one to two. The number of characters was increased and you could play as more than just three. The story evolved further, although it did end up getting somewhat convoluted in the “is Geese dead yet?” scenario. He basically dies at the end of each game but isn’t… quite dead… until at least the Real Bout series of games… I mean, you can play as him in the last instalment but his character portrait has a halo over his head (A FUCKING HALO FOR GEESE IN THIS GAME IS LIKE SUGGESTING A NUN NEEDS DEVIL HORNS; THE MAN MURDERED COUNTLESS NUMBERS OF PEOPLE AND IS RIDICULOUSLY CORRUPT BEYOND ALL REASON – WELL DONE EVERYONE).

fatal 1

So let’s be clear here: the actual game itself is poor. The only reason I’m not putting it squarely in the CRAP category is because of two reasons: my own nostalgia (seeing as it was my first fighting game), and because of what it has done for fighting games in general. Yeah, Street Fighter probably did more for the genre but this totally kickstarted the King of Fighters series and many, many fans around the world are grateful to it for that.

Now I’m off to flick Tung Fu Rue behind the ear and watch him rampage all over the city like some wild animal.

I’ve warned the police. Don’t worry too much.

GRAB YOUR CAMERAS. IT’S GOING TO BE FUCKING HILARIOUS.

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