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Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (Arcade) artwork

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (Arcade) review


"Poor Robert. He’s the secondary hero of the Art of Fighting series, but nobody really cares about him. The games are focused more on Ryo, the main hero, and his ability to kick evil’s ass throughout the city of Southtown. The only things that Robert has going for him are a vast amount of wealth, facial features worthy of a Spanish soap opera heartthrob, designer jeans (because you have to look stylish when you’re beating criminals to a bloody pulp), and the fact that Ryo’s little s..."



Poor Robert. He’s the secondary hero of the Art of Fighting series, but nobody really cares about him. The games are focused more on Ryo, the main hero, and his ability to kick evil’s ass throughout the city of Southtown. The only things that Robert has going for him are a vast amount of wealth, facial features worthy of a Spanish soap opera heartthrob, designer jeans (because you have to look stylish when you’re beating criminals to a bloody pulp), and the fact that Ryo’s little sister Yuri is morbidly obsessed with him. However, Robert figures little into the progression of the series. Thus the handsome Spanish/Italian pretty-boy brawler is left to play second fiddle as his Japanese rival dominates the center stage.

At least, until now.

Considering how little attention he got during the first two Art of Fighting titles, it’s little wonder that Robert’s gotten bored with Southtown. He’s taken a little road trip into Mexico, where one of his old friends (female, to Yuri’s chagrin) is supposedly in trouble. Instead of focusing on the criminal syndicates from the previous games, Art of Fighting 3 features Robert wandering through Mexico with the rest of the characters trying to find him. Accordingly, all of the characters (except for Ryo and a now non-playable Yuri) and settings from the last installments have been flung asunder. Instead of smacking around big city mobsters, Robert will have to face a pudgy sketch artist, a whip-wielding blonde bombshell, a veiled assassin waving a scimitar, the Hispanic version of The Incredible Hulk, and a handful of other weird characters. As knocked-out fighters start piling up, the purpose of Robert’s quest is fully revealed.

Hardcore fans of the older Art of Fighting games will likely view this plot with blend of incredulity and contempt. Don’t dismiss this game just yet, though; the basic gameplay remains virtually unchanged from the previous titles. Each character can perform a small set of kicks, punches, and throws via the arcade’s limited selection of button commands. The deeper combat lies with the multitude of special attacks in each character’s moveset. Our heroes can still fling fireballs, pierce the top of the screen with their manly uppercuts, and leave their foes dazed in a flurry of punches and kicks. The trick to using these moves lies with the energy gauge under each character’s health bar. The more energy you store up and use, the stronger the attack will be. A fully powered fireball can blaze across the screen and send an opponent reeling on impact. A fireball with no energy in it will simply blip in front of your character and disappear entirely. You’ll have to spend and recharge your energy wisely if you hope to kick some serious ass.

It’s not like you need the special attacks to win, though. While the aggravatingly slow pacing and limited movesets of the previous games practically forced you to rely on the energy attacks, Art of Fighting 3 completely revamps the combat system. Instead of only getting in a regular punch of two in a single attempt, you can now link attacks together by timing the button commands correctly. A single punch leaves the opportunity for you to follow up with a second punch, then a third, a couple of roundhouse kicks, an uppercut, etc. The only thing that stops the game from being an mindless button masher is the need for timing; if you don’t perform the commands on the right time, you’ll find that your character will end up missing their targets and leaving themselves wide open for a counterattack. While such concepts may seem primitive by current fighting game standards, they are certainly impressive (if not cheaply implemented) for their time.

In order to accommodate for such blazingly fast combat tactics, the game boasts some of the most fluid and smoothest animations in the series. All of the characters are lively and well detailed, allowing you to watch Lenny’s whip swish through the air, see Robert actually extending his jeans-clad legs to perform his signature kick combos, and how each character actually uses both his or her limbs as opposed to the wooden movements of Capcom’s fighters. You can see the creases form in Ryo’s uniform when he assumes his pre-fight stance, how the puddles of water reflect the clouds floating above, or the way the drunken patrones de la barra stop guzzling their Tequilas and watch the fight happening in back of them. Even if the game has some fairly generic rock music for its background, the Mariachi bands, smoking bystanders, seedy bars, bustling marketplaces, and breakable fences make for a vivid and charming atmosphere.

Indeed, Art of Fighting 3 is a decent sendoff for one of SNK’s most popular fighting game franchises. Even if the story is radically different than those of previous installments, the kooky cast of characters has their own appeal. For once, Robert gets to stand tall as the main hero, with legs and fists a’swinging. While the game maintains the basic gameplay formula established in the older titles, the use of the combo chaining system allows for faster-paced and intense combat. On the flipside, the simplistic button commands for these combos cheapen the fighting a bit. At least the Latin-themed presentation and the fluid animations make for a good departure from the comparatively dull Southtown imagery. Needless to say, Art of Fighting went out in style.

Rating: 7/10

disco's avatar
Featured community review by disco (June 14, 2007)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

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