"It seems unusual to see the high-quality backgrounds swapped out from one game to the next, rather than simply finding them supplemented by a few new ones. Just the fact that things work like that, though, is a point in this compilation's favor. The genuine differences between each entry—including a final boss in the first one that is swapped out by the time the second and third arrive—mean that you really are getting three distinct titles instead of one thrice repeated and barely modified."
When I was a kid, I couldn't afford many games or consoles. I had a Super Nintendo and a subscription to “Nintendo Power” but not much else. Those facts pretty much determined what I did with my spare time and money from one year to the next.
In the early 90s, I was flipping through a recent issue of the magazine. It was all about fighting games and especially it was about Street Fighter II: The World Warriors, but that particular issue was careful to remind readers that Capcom wasn't the only developer working within the genre. It featured a World Heroes game and one of the Fatal Fury titles, as well.
I wanted a fighting game very much and that issue cemented my desire. My mom wasn't quite convinced at first, but I talked her into it. After all, I didn't have much to do with my spare time except play games and harass her. Shortly after my birthday, I had saved up money enough to buy a new game. I must have gone through that issue of “Nintendo Power” a hundred times, looking at the options and weighing their pros and cons before finally I ordered Street Fighter II: The World Warrior from the local video store.
That's right: I skipped Fatal Fury back then. I don't regret it, either. I've had years of enjoyment from the Street Fighter II franchise. Still, I'd always wondered what I missed.
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 2 conveniently answered that question. It contains three titles that make up the back half of the Fatal Fury franchise. I can't be certain, but the general impression I get is that they're unchanged from their days on the NeoGeo platform. The graphics are decidedly old school, the announcer sounds like English doesn't come naturally to him at all and the interface throughout everything is decidedly rough. Despite all of that, though, I found myself having a lot of fun the minute I stopped noting the petty details and started playing.
From the title screen, you choose between the three available games. After a brief moment on a load screen, you're left to play the game you've chosen. It's simple and effective, even if it's underwhelming.
Real Bout Fatal Fury is the oldest of the three titles included, so that's where I began my experience. It's definitely a competent fighting game. You can select a difficulty level and a time limit for rounds. Then you pick your character and a rival to fight. From there, you can progress through a series of fights--13 in all--that result in a showdown with Geese Howard at the end.
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is the next in the series, and the improvements are significant. Though the fighters move very similarly, the backgrounds have really taken a leap forward. They're nicely detailed and generally interesting in a way that neither of the other two games can claim. From one round to another, there even are changes as the sun goes down and a vibrant blue sky is replaced by crimson tones or even the glow of moonlight. Waterfalls cascade down rock walls in the distance, stone courtyards disappear into shadow. It's all very eye-catching.
Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers represents yet another evolution, but this time the focus is placed more squarely on the characters themselves. They move more fluidly and there are, naturally, newcomers. With the exception of a few interesting stages (including one where a man pulls and tugs at a pig he's trying to discourage from eating slop out of the back of a pickup truck while other animals run wild in the streets), the general impression a person gets is that this time around the artists spent their effort on the characters. As such, there's more polish to the special moves and the title feels more well-rounded than either of its predecessors.
Coming at this with a Street Fighter background, I'm used to smaller changes between one title and the next. It seems unusual to see the high-quality backgrounds swapped out from one game to the next, rather than simply finding them supplemented by a few new ones. Just the fact that things work like that, though, is a point in this compilation's favor. The genuine differences between each entry--including a final boss in the first one that is swapped out by the time the second and third arrive--mean that you really are getting three distinct titles instead of one thrice repeated and barely modified.
There are other differences between the Street Fighter and Fatal Fury franchises, as well. In these games, for instance, you can step into the background at a press of the 'O' button. That serves as an effective dodge if you use it properly, though you're still not out of harm's way. It's a move that you and your rivals will use with some regularity, both defensively and as a means of circling round one another to mount a fresh attack. The player who forgets that he has such options at his disposal will do poorly indeed.
Other points of interest mostly come down to personal taste. My opinion is that few of the fighters here are as memorable as nearly any of the original world warriors from Street Fighter II. That hasn't stopped them from developing their loyal followings on Internet forums and among SNK fans. Mai and her bouncing boobs have as many admirers and Chun-Li and her thunder thighs. Vega's narcissism can be relevantly compared to Billy Kane's eccentric behavior as he leaps around arenas with his lethal staff. A lot of the personality in these games isn't as in-your-face as the Street Fighter series, but it's there if you're looking for it.
Not everyone appreciates fighting games. Despite not always mastering them thoroughly enough to walk into an arcade and lay the beat down on strangers, though, I've always been one of those people that does. After finally experiencing the Fatal Fury franchise, I feel stupid for not trying it sooner. These are enjoyable games that deserve your attention, perhaps now more than ever as we suffer through the current drought the genre is facing. Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 can be yours for less than $15.00. At that price, it's more affordable and definitely more worthwhile than a trip to the theater box office and concession area this weekend. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy soon.
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 25, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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