"For a collection of titles that are approaching 17 years old, Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1 provides an experience that both newcomers and veterans to the series will enjoy. The franchise has inspired an anime and a full-length feature film, and its easy to see why: Loveable characters, believable settings and gameplay elements that changed the genre forever make this tidy, budget bundle a must-buy."
The Fatal Fury series has been knocking around for quite some time and includes over 11 titles spanning a decade. The first Battle Archive includes the first four games up to Fatal Fury 3: Road To The Final Victory, originally released on the Neo Geo. I expected horrible graphics, abysmal sound and terrible controls but was proven wrong very quickly. Unlike World Heroes Anthology, SNK have put some effort into re-making this arcade classic. You won't find the amount of polish that is present in the later titles of the series here, as producers Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto – the concept designers behind Street Fighter and the latter created the Art of Fighting series – were only present from Fatal Fury 3 onwards. As with all re-releases of classic games, it is important not to expect anything too revolutionary from one particular franchise, since the majority of these series presently being complied for the PS2 audience were made by the same people. Instead, focus on what makes each franchise unique. I didn't like how the great idea behind World Heroes was presented in a very dull way for example, but I find the setting and characters in Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting (both series are in the same universe) to be far more interesting, despite WH including great historical figures such as Joan of Arc.
The first four (including Fatal Fury Special) titles in this collection chronicle the rise of protagonist Terry Bogard and the fall of Geese Howard's criminal empire. Howard organises an annual fighting tournament named 'King of Fighters'; which gains its own spin-off series as FF moves away from this arc. The reigning champion is the crimelord's right-hand man Billy Kane, until Terry arrives on the scene and (with the help of some friends) claims the title for himself. Its a simple, coming-of-age story that was far more suited to its teenage audience than the likes of World Heroes. The characters are kept simple and human-like, with stranger beings only appearing in later instalments. Realism also causes the tournament's participants to fight like a normal person; there are different styles of fighting but you won't be throwing fireballs at a rotation of the analogue stick. Special moves are complicated to pull off and only after hours of gameplay will the most talented of players begin to remember where and when to use them. Whilst this keeps the fights pretty vanilla, it also works to the game's advantage: No longer will you be playing against an enemy (human or AI) that spams the same three moves continuously. Strategy actually goes into planning blows and fights with harder opponents function more like boxing matches than a suicidal rush against each other.
Slower-paced fights are mixed up due to the implementation of a two-plane system: Characters can fight from different angles, allowing attacks to be dodged easily. There is no total 3D space to move around, so whilst parrying initially appears simple to pull off, it is negated quickly if your opponent is thinking quickly enough. Other elements that are now common to recent titles in the genre are also introduced: An instant kill when a character is knocked out of the backdrop ('Ring-Out') and being able to team-up with a fellow human player against AI foes (Co-op). These mechanics are now used in almost every modern fighting game; displayed in everything from Soul Calibur to Super Smash Brothers. It is interesting to play the titles where the gimmick first originated and these qualities set even the oldest of Fatal Fury games apart from their peers.
Aesthetically, the game has aged well. Animations are clean-cut and varied, helped by each character having their own unique moveset. Backgrounds are limited by the lack of a full palette of colours and spectators repeat the same dance-like actions in a three-second loop. Still, each location is suited to the character you're fighting, which seems to be a key theme that even fighting games this generation haven't got right (I'm looking at you, story mode of Soul Calibur IV!). All the games in this compilation have an option to pick between English or Japanese language settings (for those of you who dislike the dodgy translation) and a choice between listening to the original arcade music or the remastered Neo Geo version. These little novelties make the package a fulfilling experience, especially if you're a gaming nostalgic nut.
For a collection of titles that are approaching 17 years old, Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1 provides an experience that both newcomers and veterans to the series will enjoy. The franchise has inspired an anime and a full-length feature film, and its easy to see why: Loveable characters, believable settings and gameplay elements that changed the genre forever make this tidy, budget bundle a must-buy.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (October 29, 2008)
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