Review by kr0z
"Thank you Agetec."
A little while back, a game known as Garou: Mark of the Wolves was released quietly in the arcades. Then, it went to the over-priced underrated Neo Geo system. Finally, a company known as Agetec ported the game to the Dreamcast in Japan, and finally to North America (during which they changed the name from Garou to Fatal Fury).
The animation is, hands down, the best SNK has ever created. Now, of course, it does not quite match the animation of the Street Fighter III series, nor does it have the high-resolution mind-blowing drug-induced graphics found in Guilty Gear X. But it matches the VS series frame for frame, and it is not without its fair share of wind-flapping clothing and spectacular lighting effects. There are so many amazing little graphical nuances that were thrown in. For example, a mid or high level counter attack will cause the opponent to do a little spin around before recovering and attacking, making the game look, for a brief moment, like a 3D fighting game. Then, certain moves will cause the enemy to whirl around in the air, a la Dead or Alive 2. Sure, you've seen similar things in SFIII, but still, it's a lot harder to create than it looks. However, with the high resolution Guilty Gear X still on our minds, I still had to hold back a full score of 10. Regardless, props to SNK for their efforts.
2D fighters are never world-renowned for their music, and the same holds true for this game. However, it is decent enough that it doesn't bleed the ears (*cough*StreetFighterAlpha*cough*). The Dreamcast version of this game has an option to change between two music modes. Both are equal, so it comes down to a mere matter of opinion as to which one chooses. The sound effects are absolutely amazing, though, making the player(s) forget about the mediocre music. Voice acting is great, and matches the tone of each character. What's strange, though, is that for the Dreamcast release, some of the sound effects are delayed. Once, Terry Bogard yelled out 'Power Dunk' after he had landed. Another reviewer said that he encountered the same sort of thing (I believe it was PlanetDreamcast.com), and, like him, it is a very rare occurence. The reason for this is that the programmers decided to read the music off the GD-ROM, instead of loading it onto the Dreamcast's temporary memory.
No problems here. No, really, there aren't. The controls are extremely tight and extremely responsive. The commands are familiar if you've played any 2D fighting game in your life (quarter-circle-forward type things), but it seems that SNK has made some sort of a challenge towards Capcom by one-upping them in a certain sense - certain moves require triple-quarter-circle-forward button presses, relatively unheard of in ...well, anywhere.
Ah....the meat of the game. This, alongside Last Blade 2, is amongst the deepest in 2D fighting games, no, in fighting games...wait, in videogames in general.......heck, in life. Well, scratch that last one, but really, it is a very deep game. The special moves can be memorized in a week, sure, but the game is more than special moves. First is the TOP (Tactical Offensive Positioning) Gauge, which allows you to highlight a certain part of your health bar in which you may perform a powerful TOP move, slowly regain health, and dish out additional damage. The placement of the TOP area is entirely up to you, and you can choose to have it at any three sizes. The smaller an area it highlights, the greater amount of damage you can do, and the quicker you regain health. The customizability that this feature provides is absolutely outsanding.
Then, there's the Just Defended system, where, if you block exactly at the last moment, you will gain a blue aura around you. During this phase, you will gain back a small amount of health (not to mention eliminate tick damage) and you will be able to immediately counter attack with no recovery time in between.
Also, there's breaking, which isn't entirely new to the world. It allows you to link certain Special moves to certain Hidden powers or Potential powers (the equivalent of Supers in the VS serieses).
Finally come the characters. Some may argue that each of the characters' special moves require the same button presses, but upon closer inspection, it's not the button presses that are the skill of the game, it's the timing of the special moves. Each of the special moves requires different timing, positioning, etc. As for the characters themselves, they are quite varied. From the cute Hotaru with her cuter ferret Eetto, to the gigantic, grappling, spandex-wearing birdhead, Tizoc (no, really, he is like that), it's hard to find someone who does not at least partially match your style of gameplay. Even similar characters such as Rock Howard and Terry Bogard will play in completely different ways, which is very much unlike the Capcom fighting games (how many Ryus are there?). Character balance is quite good, though not perfect.
It does vary. Really. If you're hardcore and you wanna learn as much as you can, go for it. If you're just kinda casual, you're gonna beat the game on level 1, beat survival mode, take a few glances at the art gallery, and put it away until friends come. Hardcore: the depth is only matched by other SNK games; 9. Casual: sorry, SNK doesn't like you because you put it bankrupt; 6.
The sound and the longevity are really the only things that bring it down. If you're hardcore, you'll love it. If you're not... do yourself a favour and don't get this game (unless you have lots of 2D purist friends).
It's so sad that casual gamers will toss this up as 'another 2D fighter,' without recognising its true depth. It's also so sad that this game came out as one of the last Dreamcast games, ever, because it is AMAZING. SNK will be missed, for this, and for others. I'm glad they closed out the series that started it all, with this.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/27/02, Updated 04/20/02
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