Monday, April 05, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Art of Fighting 2 (Neo-Geo)

Art of Fighting 2 - SNK for Neo-Geo - 5/10

You know, I am trying to like Art of Fighting 2.  I really am trying.  On my better days, I can convince myself that a quality fighting game lurks here somewhere, just under the surface, waiting to be discovered.  Most of the time, I find it to be a frustrating mess.

This game is impossibly hard.  I mean impossible.  Neo-Geo fighters are known for being difficult, but AoF2 takes the crown.  Either I just don't have the pacing down, or I can't figure out the special moves, or the computer just has a sixth sense and responds faster than I can.  Whatever the case, consider yourselves lucky to even clear the first stage.

The graphics on Aof2 are spectacular.  This is probably the best-looking game from the early Neo-Geo years.  Colors are vibrant, detailed, luxurious.  Fighters are immensely large, standing at 2/3 screen size in close-up.  SNK knew how to pull off flashy graphics, and you can see it every moment.  All of us kids with Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were duly impressed.

The animation, however, continues to be choppy, clunky, almost half-finished.  There needs to be more frames of animation to these fighters.  Compared to Street Fighter 2's smooth movements, Aof2 is just stiff.  It's deeply frustrating because this affects the gameplay, and makes things more difficult than necessary.  And have I mentioned that this game is impossibly difficult?

The fighting roster is hit-or-miss.  Half the characters are excellent, and you'll see them reappear in the King of Fighter series again and again.  The other half are forgettable.  SNK doesn't seem to know what to do with the really big guys.  I've still yet to find one large brawler who can equal Zangief or E. Honda on SF2, or Wolf and Jeffrey on Virtua Fighter.  Why can't SNK's big guys have more throws, or, heck, more than one?  Why can't anybody have more than one throw?  And would it kill anyone to come up with some original fighting moves?  Fireball?  Dragon Punch?  Are you kidding me?

Ugh!  Frustrating!  I really want to like this series, I really do.  It seems SNK never quite clicked with their fighting games until Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters, and they never really mastered the genre until later titles like The Last Blade and Garou: Mark of the Wolves.  It's like they needed to break a dozen eggs before figuring out how to cook an omelette.

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