Review by Shirow
"DC Fighting Game of 2001"
Ten years have gone by…But the legend still remains…
Mark of the Wolves is set 10 years after the memorable Real Bout Special. Consequently, all the older fighters have now gone and have been replaced by new ones. Another company would have just thrown in a lot of weird, unknown characters at the expense of the plot but you'd get none of that with SNK. Instead, most of the new characters are related in a way to someone from the past cast and the few that aren't are involved with the original Garou plot in some intricate way.
This may sound a rather easy achievement but when you think about it, you'd realize that SNK had no idea they would have to change Garou sodrastically. It really amazes me how they managed to pull the stunt of inserting all the new characters without straying from the plot. Of course, Terry just has to be in. What would be Garou without him ?! Rock, Hotaru, Dong Hwan all carry on the tournament brillantly and those who played the first Garous will be in for a real treat ! I won't reveal more since I don't want to spoil your fun but believe me, Garou has some very nice surprises, storywise.
This Garou is in no way similar to the previous titles. Is that good or is that bad ? The only thing which hasn't changed is the fact that aside from the hidden potentials, all the powers are performed with the same commands of qcf,qcf. As a matter of fact, it's more of a return to the first titles since the latest titles changed here.
The plane and evade system have given way to the feint moves and breakable moves. Some hardcore fans will probably complain that this isn't good for the series since the features that made Garou so popular are missing. However, the feint and breakable features will easily make you forget of those and if anything else, add more depth to the game. Feint moves include performing only the opening animation of a certain move to fool them. This makes your character recover faster and you can take advantage of the opponent's stupidness.
The brake feature is probably what manages to give the game so much depth and is a stunning reply to any of Capcom's ''innovations''. Basically, you can break certain moves and throw in another one or any of your powers. These make a lot of combos possible as well as infinites which should please every beat-em-up fan. The game is quite balanced with no character being too much for the rest of the cast and although the bosses are selectable, they are toned down when you use them.
Could this game be considered as the pinnacle of the series where graphics are concerned ? The characters are now lavishly detailed and benefit from an excellent port to SEGA's marvellous console. Such details as the older characters in the background - is that King near a car and Yamazaki grinning by a wall ? - , Dong Hwan's electricity moves, Rock's jacket, the moving cargo when you fight against Terry - will at last show you the true potential of the Dreamcast.
The structures in Hotaru's stage coupled with the marvellous landscape in Butt's background will clear away any of your doubts if you still had those. From the graphical point of view, one cannot find any faults with Garou's designs. And to think this has been achieved on the ''old'' MVS board ! It was not so old after all…
As for the characters themselves, Terry has lost his old outfit. He now sports a new jacket and trims, had his hair cut - about time too - and has lost his gloves. And man, does he look cool ! Rock comes closest to him as one of the best-dressed characters in a fighter and the others each sport individual outfits. The animation never slows down except during some counterhits to let you enjoy the opportunity of throwing in more hits. The flashing during T.O.P. is overwhelming and shows an how incredible amount of work was spent on even the tiniest detail.
If you thought the Arcade or Neo-Geo soundtrack was great, wait until you hear that of the Dreamcast port and you'll be literally swept off your feet. SNK, how do you manage to write such entertaining soundtracks ? The Theme of Zeta - Rock's BGM - takes from Robert Mile's children but instead of being a mere copy of it, adds to it by inserting some terrific beats in it. Hokutomaru can boast to have a childish BGM but one of the most enjoyable that has nothing of the dull beat-em-up feeling in it.
SNK has always be known for supplying every single of each games with decent voice-acting. ROCK YOU ! Say good-bye to decent and say hello to perfection. Think I'm just a biased fan and I'm exaggerating ? Just listen to Hotaru's Mai-Shiranuish cries, Freeman exhorting, and most of all…who else but…Terry and Rock ! New sound effects for Terry, Rock will pull the Rising Tackle with the true excitement of a youth who has just discovered the joys of fighting for honor.
Button-mashers, prepare to feel very stupid ! Mashing will only take you to the Continue screen in this game. Instead, true skill is required. Stand high punch, stand high punch, stand high punch ? This is SNK, not Capcom. Wanna know what you'll need : stand high punch, feint, run, stand high punch, feint, run, crouch high punch, Power Dunk, brake, Buster Wolf. Thinking of being able to pull this after one day ? Gimme a break and go play with your dolls !
Logically, it's pretty much impossible to play MotW on the original DC pad. A joystick is essential if you wish to master the subtleties of the feint moves and the brakes, and more so if you want to beat the game one day.
I have never met a game so in-depth on the Dreamcast. Truthfully, there aren't really a lot of moves in the game. At most 6 or 7 moves for a character and I'm sure most other titles simply thrash Garou both in terms of options and cast - there are only 14 characters in the game, yes, only 14 - but the title manages to provide an astonishing gameplay and replay value.
I simply have to mention how once again, the bosses suffer from the typical SNK Boss Syndrome. Understand by this that the bosses have overly powerful moves, take less damage from your moves and are as quick as an Eagle-129. Thinking you can still win since SNK bosses are usually weak against a certain pattern of play ? No, Sir ! At last, this has been corrected and what a relief ! A true fighter where you'll have to rely both on your skills and on a good strategy to win…
What need I say more ? Garou : Mark of the Wolves is simply the best fighter on the Dreamcast and one of the best ever ! SNK took risks and changed everything about their trademark title. They also beautifully succeeded and through this, earned the respect of everybody, even players who wouldn't care a damn about them and wanted to remain true to Capcom. If this isn't an achievement, then what is…?
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/01, Updated 11/09/02
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