Sunday, March 28, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special

Fatal Fury 2 - SNK for Neo-Geo - 5/10

There were many copycats to chase the Capcom's coattails after Street Fighter 2, and none were more dogged than SNK.  They really were determined to become the kings of fighting games, and this began with the Fatal Fury series.  Now, I have to be honest here: I'm not a great fan of SNK's fighters.

Fatal Fury 1 was a clunker of a game; its only appeal was being the only Street Fighter competitor at the time.  It was a flashy showoff for SNK's Neo-Geo system, but simply awful in every other respect.  I think Fatal Fury 2 was a much better improvement.  Graphics, animation, and color are simply superb, a striking improvement over the original.  Characters are large and detailed, and the roster is expanded.  They figured out the appeal of The Hot Chick, and

Sadly, I still don't think Fatal Fury is very good.  It's average at best.  SNK was at their best with run-and-gun shooters like Ikari Warriors and Iron Tank and Guerrilla War.  When Neo-Geo launched, the focus quickly turned to Double Dragon and Final Fight clones.  With Fatal Fury, they began to learn fighting games from ground zero.

Street Fighter 2 is immaculately balanced, precisely timed, and built on a strong foundation of cause-and-effect.  Each attack has a proper counterattack.  It's this elegance that makes the game a classic, even today.  I have as much fun playing Champion Edition on the PC Engine as anything.

Fatal Fury still doesn't have this elegant balance.  It's still clunky and slightly choppy and a bit slow.  There still aren't enough moves, and the animation still comes up short.  And, really, that two-plane idea just doesn't work.  It never worked.  I'm really not having fun with this game, but I can see the improvements, which leaves me hopeful for later installments.

Fatal Fury Special - SNK for Neo-Geo - 6/10

Hmm, perhaps SNK would be wiser to jump ahead to Garao: Mark of the Wolves.  Now there is a truly great fighting game.  Most of the later Neo-Geo fighters are excellent, in fact.  There's Art of Fighting 3, Last Blade 1 and 2, there's Sunsoft's quirky Waku Waku 7.  Why not release those games, instead of the clunkier, chunkier early titles?

Fatal Fury Special is the third title in the series, more of a slight reworking of Fatal Fury 2.  I'd say it's the better game of the two, slightly more refined and polished.  I understand the fighting system has been completely revamped, introducing combos into the series.  It's a subtle improvement and it helps.  The number of characters has been increased as well, and you can already see the SNK roster exploding at the seams.

I'm still struggling to enjoy myself.  Perhaps I'm just not very good at this series.  But I'm perfectly fine with Street Fighter 2, and I'm perfectly fine with the latter Neo-Geo titles.  FF Special is still a learning experience for SNK, as if they were searching for Capcom's magic formula.  In all fairness, I don't think this is a bad game, and it is better than most of the hideous SF2 clones from the early '90s.  But everything you can level against Fatal Fury 2 can be leveled at Special.

Getting better, yet still not there.

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