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Fatal Fury Special (SNES) artwork

Fatal Fury Special (SNES) review

"And just like that, Fatal Fury 2 goes from 'mediocre' to 'yeah, it's alright.'"

In 1992, SNK released Fatal Fury 2, a sequel to their popular Street Fighter ape. While the arcade version was pretty well liked, playing its home console edition was akin to enduring a sleeper hold. It moved so slowly and sluggishly that getting through it while remaining awake was a task in itself. As you can tell, few games would have benefited more from the Street Fighter II Turbo treatment than this one, and luckily someone out there realized that...

Fatal Fury Special expands graciously upon its predecessor's offerings, though you wouldn't know it at first glance. Visibly, it appears to be the same one-on-one fighting title we played before, except with the addition of seven new selectable characters, including Duck King, Geese Howard, Tung Fu Rue and even the main antagonist, Wolfgang Krauser. In truth, the game moves and plays much more smoothly. Not only is the animation quicker this time around, but SNK bolstered the action by upgrading the combo system. As with its successful contemporaries, Special allows you to chain blows more effectively, leading to an all around tougher, meaner and more thrilling fighting experience. And hell, if you utilize the revamped combat system well enough, you get to fight a hidden final boss in Ryo Sakazaki.

If you've played even one 2D tournament fighter game in your life, then you more or less know what to expect here: lots of punching, kicking, pulling off special moves (including projectile blasts) and nailing your rival with strings of blows until they're out cold. Standard rules, in other words...

Unlike some "versus" fare, though, this one features a tiered battlefield. With one button, you can leap onto another space just behind the foreground. From there, you're free to cheaply pull off a flying knee strike or wait for your enemy to join you. If you want to, you can also kick the opposition into the background yourself, then follow that shot up with an aerial blow. Sometimes, you'll even run into a stage that doesn't have a second layer, and instead holds some kind of deadly obstacle. Billy Kane's arena, for instance, features giant gears that crunch any unsuspecting contestant who gets knocked into them.

"But the arcade version is the only one that matters," someone out there will inevitably say, and they're not entirely wrong. When it comes to choosing a version to play, the cabinet or NeoGeo (which includes the ACA NeoGeo release) are the best options. However, let's not dismiss the SNES port, because it's actually a pretty solid one. Yeah, I get it; the SNES is home to some disappointing re-releases in that genre, so it would make sense to write this one off as well. For instance, Primal Rage was not only censored, but pretty bland and visually shoddy; and Samurai Showdown presented a mere shadow of its former glory. Special's SNES adaptation may not be the best, but it's still a worthwhile addition to that 16-bit library.

This iteration provides the same roster as before. Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui and Big Bear return yet again, joined by the aforementioned new recruits. With fifteen fighters available, you're looking at a slightly longer and more fulfilling single player campaign (not to mention more combinations available for a two player "versus mode," plus a lot of ending cutscenes to watch). From there, you leap into a pretty decent translation of its coin-op cousin, complete with speedy mechanics and a colorful presentation.

However, this game puts off an "off-brand" vibe. You see in the visual sharpness, and how the palate doesn't pop as much as it did before. You also notice some animated choppiness, especially in each character's stance and the background spectators. For instance, the women in Joe Higashi's stage don't dance quite as quickly or fluidly as those in superior versions of Special. This is not to say the SNES edition is an eyesore by any means, but it's an obvious (and understandable) ocular downgrade.

Sound represents the biggest blow, though. I really don't have many positives to offer up for the SNES version's soundtrack, except that it's "not terrible." Most of the BGMs are unremarkable and only somewhat add to the game's action. For the most part, you could pass them off as any other tournament fighter's tunes, and none of them standout so much as to be iconic. It's not like you hear Axel Hawk's cut and suddenly think of Butterbean or any other portly, bald boxer. However, none of them are particularly bothersome. There are some odd ones on offer, though, like Jubei Yamada's music and its feminine vocalist hypnotically crying Jubeeeei, Jubeeeei, Jubeeeeeeei.... Ultimately, the game's score represents a missed opportunity, providing only a forgettable arrangement.

Honestly, while those setbacks somewhat hamper the experience and leave your pining for one of the better renditions, they're not deal breakers. In regards to mechanics, the SNES version mostly holds up and offers a fair enough stand-in for its more distinguished brethren. The game plays not only well enough to entertain, but it's a better choice on that platform than tons of its ilk. Would I recommend it over Street Fighter II? Not by a long shot. However, it's a far better choice than, say, Street Combat or World Heroes 2.

However, it's hard to give Fatal Fury Special a strong recommendation in 2020. I'll grant it some points for being one of the better arcade ports on Super Nintnedo, but let's be honest. The genre has expanded tremendously since 1993, and anything that didn't knock your socks off back then is best left to nostalgia these days. Obviously, I'm not saying Special is awful by today's standards, but it's not the most highly member of its category. Still, if you were to hook up an SNES somewhere or download a ROM, this title can still kill an hour or two effectively. For a game as old as this one, that's commendable.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 08, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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