Fatal Fury 2 (X68000) review
"Who wouldn't want to control lone wolf Terry Bogard on a quest to topple a ruthless opponent? Believe it or not, some people didn't. This time, those people had seven other options. They could play as ninja girl Mai Shiranui, spinning across the screen with her Deadly Ninja Bees attack or hurling butterfly fans."
Let's face facts, Fatal Fury 2 is old and outdated. There's just no getting around it. It was designed to compete with the original Street Fighter 2, which it does, but it doesn't compete with Capcom Vs SNK 2. Still, there are plenty of people with good reasons for being interested in the game. Maybe they're collectors, purists, or just gamers with warm and fuzzy memories who want to experience the best version of the game ever created. Well, those people can look elsewhere because this isn't it.
Fatal Fury, with its storybook tale of three heroic champions against the Southtown gangs of Geese Howard, paled in comparison to Capcom's eight selectable World Warriors. For Fatal Fury 2, SNK followed Capcom's lead — eight powerful fighters against four evil bosses, culminating in an epic battle against the German warlord Wolfgang Krauser.
That sounds pretty cool, and the game was cool. Who wouldn't want to control lone wolf Terry Bogard on a quest to topple a ruthless opponent? Believe it or not, some people didn't. This time, those people had seven other options. They could play as ninja girl Mai Shiranui, spinning across the screen with her Deadly Ninja Bees attack or hurling butterfly fans. They could don the robe of Jubei Yamada, the spry (and short) Japanese Judo master, who performs spinning piledrivers that would school even the mighty Zangief. And then there's the Hong Kong tycoon Cheng Sin Zan, a portly character who attacks others with his massive gut. With returning favorite Billy Kane still in the mix, FF2 sported a roster that shamed the first and out-styled Street Fighter's by-then tired crew.
Unfortunately, the limited gameplay didn't offer much variety. Each character had their three or four special attacks and a limited number of combinations. No reversals, no counters, no parries, no rush combinations, no guard cancels. This simplicity was sufficient in the genre's infancy, but it's unacceptable today. Furthermore, the animation — in every version — is stilted and herky-jerk, falling beneath the quality of any major fighting game released within the last ten years.
On the other hand, the backgrounds stunned gamers with their detail and animation. Sure, Chun Li's stage from Street Fighter had some kid riding a bicycle. Well, Lawrence Blood's stage had an entire herd of bulls stampeding through the Spanish colosseum! The battle against Mai takes place on an enormous wooden raft, floating along a deeply-parallaxed river with enormous Japanese sculptures passing by in the background.
Magical Company's port
Like the majority of arcade-to-X68000 ports, Magical Company's rendition of Fatal Fury 2 keeps the graphics and gameplay intact. The bright colors put Sega's version to shame, and the high resolution mocks the Super Nintendo's effort. Then again, the X68000 version weighed in at 6 times the size of these other ports, so it wasn't ever fair in the first place.
And that's the port's first problem. It's spread across six disks, meaning there's a lot of floppy-swapping considering the X68000 only has two disk drives.
Select Terry, then select Mai as your opponent.
TERRY? versus MAI? booms the computer's crystal-clear voice.
"Insert Disk E in drive 1."
Load. Load. Load.
"Insert Disk D in drive 1."
Load. Load. Load.
Then the battle begins! If you're defeated and choose to continue with a different character... get the disks out again, because you'll be swapping a few more times. This problem can be cured by purchasing a hard disk, but an X68000 HD is, and always was, a luxury item.
Optional MIDI devices were another luxury, but not a necessity. Keep in mind, this isn't like the old Soundblaster/internal-speaker days of US computers. The X68000's basic sound chip crushed the capabilities of its primitive US counterparts. Although most similar to the Genesis, the X68k offered more channels and greater range. Even without a MIDI device, this version of Fatal Fury 2 sports the absolute best music to be found outside of the Neo-CD, topping even the original arcade game. Plug in the MT32 or SC-55 for an even cooler remix. Although I hate the character, I'm a sucker for Cheng's energetic music.
That's the port's only advantage over the original. Anyone who's ever tried playing the old PC version of Street Fighter 2 knows you can't control anything with a keyboard, so Magical Company included a really nice and sturdy four-button control pad with the game, copying the Super Nintendo's colorful button layout. Unfortunately, the two kick buttons are on top and the two punch buttons are on bottom, going against the precedent set by every single other fighting game ever released. And the buttons can't be remapped, so you're stuck with that layout.
It doesn't matter how fluid and responsive the directional pad is if you're always hitting the kick button when you want to punch someone.
The final verdict
For its day, Fatal Fury 2 offered more diversity and better visuals than anything else of its type. Today, the combatants animate choppily but the backgrounds — such as Jubei's Japanese garden which can be destroyed piece by piece — still impress. Unfortunately, the X68000 version's loading times and unnatural controller setup just aren't worth the trouble. If you desperately need Fatal Fury 2 in your collection, stick with the original Neo-Geo game.
Staff review by Zigfried (October 24, 2004)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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