Review by Will Smith

"This game is <b>so</b> overrated.......don't believe the hype."

Garou: Mark of the Wolves was released in the arcades in November of 1999. It was supposed to be the continuation of the Garou Densetsu (Fatal Fury) series. It takes place right after the Real Bout series.

When I first heard about Garou:MOTW, I was somewhat interested, but overall I was pretty indifferent to it. It wasn't in any of the arcades in my area, so after a while I just forgot about it. Then when Agetec did a port of the game in September of 2001, an unbelievable amount of hype surrounded this game. From many sources (including the Fighting Games board of GameFAQs) I heard that Garou was equivalent to Capcom's Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, and in some cases better. And then Gamespot officially named it as Dreamcast's Top Fighting Game of 2001. With the public buzzing about this game, and the unbelievable amount of hype surrounding this it, I became very interested. I am also a HUGE fan of the original Garou Densetsu, so when the opportunity presented itself several months ago to buy this game at an unbelievably low price, I pounced on it immediately. Sadly, I was SEVERELY disappointed. I felt duped and I wanted my $15 back. I had such high expectations, and I was completely let down. To be brutally honest, this game is nowhere near the level of SFIII: 3rd Strike. It doesn't even compare to SFIII: 2nd Impact, Giant Attack. The best comparison would be SFIII: New Generation, and New Generation is still MUCH better than Garou. I wonder what the people at Gamespot were smoking to name this as the Top Fighting Game of 2001. For all intents and purposes, I will occasionally be comparing Garou:MOTW to SFIII: New Generation.

Graphics: 2 (Animation: 6)

Overall, the graphics are decent. The colors are muted and drab, but much brighter and vivid than the color scheme in SNK's KOF series. Overall, I was disappointed. Having owned and played 3rd Strike, I expected to be impressed after hearing all the hype about Garou:MOTW's impressive graphics. What a disappointment.......the characters and backgrounds are pixelated, low resolution blobs. Some backgrounds are better than others (Gato, Terry, Marco, Grant, and Freeman's stages really shine) but overall the total package is not impressive. Most of the backgrounds are actually reminiscent of the backgrounds in Capcom's original Final Fight from 1989 (Rock, Dong Hwan, and Hokutomaru are all Final Fight quality). I know it sounds harsh, but I'm being honest. I expected to be ovetaken by beautiful, sophisticated, and lively backgrounds, but all I got was.........this. The graphics are pretty sad, and it's even worse considering the fact that SNK produced better backgrounds and graphics back in their glory days in games like Samurai Spirits II and Garou Densetsu. SFIII is not in any peril of losing the graphic's crown.

The character sprites are also ridiculously small. Under the constraints of the incredibly weak and ancient MVS hardware, I guess that's what you can expect. In my opinion, it's like using the characters from a side scrolling beat-em-up like Final Fight or Bare Knuckle (Streets of Rage) in a 1on 1 Versus mode. I feel detached from the action because the character's are so miniscule.

The animation is pretty exceptional for an SNK game. The character's all move with a fluid grace that can't be seen any other SNK game to date. However, don't be fooled by the hype: the animation in Garou is in no way superior to SFIII. Overall, it's slightly smoother than the animation in Capcom VS SNK 2 but not as polished as in SFIII: New Generation. The fluid animation is the second best aspect of this game.

And no, I'm not going to give ''sympathy points'' and artificially inflate the score given for graphics simply because SNK is working with outdated 16 bit hardware. I don't care if they developed MOTW on the PC Engine console or the the friggin' 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System; when a game has this much hype revolving around it (and the title of Fighting Game of the Year bestowed upon it), you expect more than squat, dull, pixelated, low resolution characters. Other than the fluid animation, the graphics fall WAY below the mark (of the wolves).

Sound Effects and Music: 2

The music is mediocre. Kevin Rian's theme is the most annoying in the game IMO. I can't stand it. Everything else is ranges from mediocre to trash, and most of it is forgettable and sounds like it came from the early '90's. Whatever happened to the wonderful orchestral pieces from SNK's early days? SNK has totally fallen off.

The sound effects are on point, although they don't deliver the impact that you would expect. It's the generic punch and kick samples that you've heard at least a million other times in a million other fighting games. The voice acting is alright, although I find it is ludicrous that SNK is so incompetent that they cannot find a person that can speak decent English. Terry sounds like a joke. You can almost imagine the Japanese seiyuu sweating and struggling to spit forth the phrases ''Oh Kaay!'', ''Stauhnd Op'' (Stand Up), ''Sawr-Eee'' (Sorry), ''Bustah Warf'' (Buster Wolf, allegedly), etc. Kevin Rian is American and does not utter ONE word in English; it's all done in fluent Japanese. Bonne Jenet is supposedly French, but it seems like she took Advanced Japanese classes with Kevin. Kain is supposed to be German, but guess what? He also attended school with Kevin and B.Jenet, and speaks Japanese like it's his native language. A note to SNK: Next time try putting some effort into the voice acting: it will actually give the characters more of an exotic appeal if they speak their native language, rather than the pathetic Engrish and standard Japanese that you've been dishing out for years. Oh yeah, Hokutomaru's voice is pure TORTURE. Absolutely annoying. Be sure to hit the Mute button when you see him on screen, or else suffer through the audio torture session.

The announcer, is really, REALLY boring. It sounds like he would rather be somplace else. Heck, if he's not even enthusiastic about this game, why should I be?

Gameplay: 2

Oh boy.........where do I begin.......

It seems like SNK is back to their old hijinx of shamelessly ripping off of Capcom. MOTW's ''Just Defense'' system is a blatant rip off of Street Fighter III's Parry system. But guess what? SNK used their little brains, and in an attempt to be original, changed the motion to tapping backwards (rather than forwards in SFIII) at the last possible moment to ''Just Defend'' an attack. You will take no damage and recover a sliver of life. Let's face it: Just Defense is basically is a poor man's Parry. At least in SFIII there was some risk involved in Parrying since you leave yourself open to punishment by tapping forward. In MOTW this is not the case and actually feels quite lame, as there is no risk involved (if there is it's VERY minimal) and Just Defense is so easy you'll find yourself performing it successfully without even noticing it. Parrying was a very dominant aspect of SFIII: New Generation, and Just Defense is a very dominant aspect of MOTW. Basically, whoever has the best Just Defense skills rules the game. And if you and your opponent have Mad ''Just Defense'' Skillz, it will be a long and boring match. Implementing a bootleg Parry is the furthest thing from innovation, and it just shows how lazy SNK is. It's quite pathetic. Finally, I wonder how long it took the designers to think of a dumb name like ''Just Defense''. Implementing a bootleg Parry is the furthest thing from innovation, and it just shows how lazy SNK is.

SNK programmer #1: ''I like the idea of Parrying, but we can't call it that or else everyone will think we're stealing from SFIII''.

SNK programmer #2: ''Hmmmm........dude, I got it! Why don't we call it Just Defense, as in, Dude, I totally just defended Terry's Power Wave at the last minute!!''

SNK programmer 1 and 2 in unison: ''GNARLY!!!!''

*sigh*

Feint moves have been revamped in MOTW. Sadly, it looks awkward to use this feature in a 2D game and would be more appropriate in a 3D game engine. But hey, it works.

Guard Canceling is nothing more than attacking during a Parry......er, ''Just Defense''. Big whoop, I'm not impressed.

Break moves are basically interrupting a specific special move and following with another special or a Super. This actually gives depth to the game and is a nifty feature that is overlooked.

The T.O.P. (Tactical Offensive Position) is a silly little gimmick that SNK cooked to differentiate itself from SFIII. Basically, your offensive power increases, you gain a T.O.P. move, and you regain some life while idle. This is really ridiculous and almost pointless, as the most logical placement for the T.O.P. meter is in the beginning of your life gauge. There is not one person that I have spoken to that thinks there are advantages to placing their T.O.P. in the last 1/3 of their life gauge. If your opponent has beat you so bad that all you have is a 1/3 of your life remaining, I'm sorry to tell you that gaining that slight boost in offensive power and gaining a near worthless move is not going to turn the tide in your favor.

Damage control hardly exists in this game. The damage that normal, special, and super moves inflict in this game is horrible. It's almost like MOTW is a throwback to fighting games of the early '90's like Street Fighter II': Turbo where simple combos kill you easily. Every move inflicts ridiculous amounts of damage, and you can easily kill an opponent in just 2-4 combos without even using a Super once (it's even worse when your T.O.P. is activated). Needless to say, this makes the matches VERY short. Super moves inflict about 30%, and Potential Powers inflict 50-60% damage. This is really flawed, and the folks at SNK really dropped the ball.

Every character has a minimum of two supers, although some have 3. SNK once again rips a page out of Capcom's notebook and made the Supers a double quarter circle forward motion plus a punch or kick........just like in SFIII: New Generation. SNK tried to be slick and separated the Supers into Super Powers and Potential Powers (which is just a really fancy name for a Level 3 MAX super). This is basically a fraud and really is, in layman's terms, Level 1 and Level 3 super moves. In various strategy guides and movelists for Garou, character's supers are split up into two sections, for Super and Potential Powers, respectively. To the unobservant player, it will appear that each character has 4 super moves upon first glance. Some Super moves get different aesthetic name changes when they reach PP, but don't be fooled: all you really get is 2 supers of different strengths. At least in SFIII: NG you had a minimum of 3 Super Arts for EVERY character.

As for character balance, it is non-existent. You have overpowered, insanely cheap characters like Kevin Rian, Freeman, Marco Rodriguez, Terry Bogard (of course), and Kim Jae Hoon dominating the game. These characters can crush just about anyone else and possess enormous advantages in their favor. It's just like how Street Fighter III: New Generation was unbalanced due to overpowered characters like Ryu, Ken, Dudley, Ibuki, and Sean . Does SNK bother with testing the games anymore? I am really dumbfounded at how this game can be voted Fighting Game of the Year and receive so much praise with such glaring flaws.

Control: 10

The best aspect of the game. The controls are perfect. The characters are responsive and the special and Super moves are a breeze. Absolutely flawless.

Presentation: 1

The presentation for MOTW is subpar. The character select screen is extremely generic. The intro is bleh, as it sums up the premise with some cinemas of Geese's death, Terry raising and training Rock, etc. It could have been done a lot better.

The character illustrations within the game are UGLY. The characters have no detail in their faces, and all seem to be caricatures. For example, in one of the pictures, Terry doesn't have a nose, Kevin Rian is basically a set of teeth, Hokutomaru is a grinning turd, and Griffon (Tizoc) could be confused for decapitated chicken. They are pretty bad, but not the worst I have seen. SNK has really lost their touch.

The character design is totally uneven. On one side you have badass, cool, awe inspiring designs like Rock Howard, Terry Bogard, Gato, Grant, Jae Hoon, and Griffon. Marco Rodriguez, Freeman, and Kain fall somewhere in the middle. And on the complete opposite end of the spectrum you have ass clowns like Dong Hwan, Hokutomaru, Hotaru, B. Jenet, and Kevin Rian. It's hard playing a game when you feel amped using a cool character like Rock, and your enthusiasm plunges when your next opponent is buffoon like........Hokutomaru. Or Dong Hwang. SNK seemed really confused about the direction that they wanted with this game. This game suffers from a 'KOF influence', with too many joke characters and slapstick intros. Some people may like it, but I don't. I love the original Garou mainly because of the dark and foreboding atmosphere and characters. The closest thing to a joke character in the original Garou was Duck King, but even though his name was stupid, he was more of a sociopath and he could still kick your ass. Every character in that game was a mean mo'fo. Now you have people like B.Jenet (no doubt Mai Shiranui's successor as the token T&A chick), Dong Hwang (he makes Dan Hibiki look good), Hokutomaru (a complete insult to my favorite character of the Garou series, Andy Bogard! You mean to tell me this crack smoking chimp is Andy Bogard's successor in this game? They actually removed Andy to make room for this gimp? Screw SNK!), and Hotaru ( generic kawaii anime girl. *yawn*). People that would look totally out of place in the original Garou or any other Garou game from the early '90s. Removing a classic like Joe Higashi for an ape like Dong Hwang is unacceptable. Kain looks like a KOF reject. He's the generic, sissy bishounen endboss that you would expect from SNK. Geese Howard is probably turning in his grave. Geese was a REAL boss. Kain looks so frail and fruity; he should have his endboss licenses revoked. *end of rant*

If this is Garou's future, I want to stay in the past, thank you very much.

In more than one instance, SNK ripped off of SFIII: New Generation's cast tit for tat (SFIII dumps all other popular characters except for Ryu and Ken / MOTW dumps everyone else except for Terry -- SFIII has young agile free spirited ninja (Ibuki) / MOTW has young, agile free spirited ninja (Hokutomaru) -- SFIII has twins with contrasting personalities (Yun and Yang) / MOTW has twins with contrasting personalities (Dong Hwang and Jae Hoon) -- SFIII has a Brazilian martial artist emulating a renowned martial artist's style (Sean emulating Ken) / MOTW has a Brazilan martial artist emulating a renowned martial artist's style (Marco emulating Ryo). This is very lazy and quite pathetic on SNK's part. I wonder what work, if any, was actually done by SNK since 99% of their resources were from Street Fighter III.

(Note: I used to think Marco Rodriguez was cool, until the twerps at SNK changed his name to Kushnood Butt and made him say a line about his favorite food being fried chicken. I'm sure the geeks doing the translation at SNK thought they were unbelievably *witty* and hilarious. They should do stand up comedy. Really. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when the only black character is chosen for an absurd and humilating name change. To add insult to injury, they make him a stereotype by saying he likes fried chicken. Ha. *sarcasm*)

(Another note to SNK: not every white person has blonde hair and blue eyes. There are actually some with brown hair and *gasp* brown eyes. Between Terry, Rock, Kevin, B.Jenet, and Kain, you get 5 blonde bombshells. Talk about variety. Go out once in a while, people.)

Replay Value: 1

With the small character cast, unbalanced gameplay, and poor damage control, I find it really hard to find a compelling reason to play this repeatedly. Versus matches are not ideal and are either incredibly short or incredibly long, depending on you and your opponent's ''Just Defense'' skills. If you are a KOF fanatic, Garou die hard, or a flat out SNK fanboy/girl, add 9 points to the Replay Value score.

Overall: 1

When a game has this much hype surrounding it, you expect it to be good. When it is named Fighting Game of the Year for Dreamcast by Gamespot, you expect even more. I am at a loss for words.This game is not that good. With so many obvious flaws in this title, I don't know how anybody, except for a mental patient or die hard SNK fan, can act like this game is perfection. If there is anything positive about this game, it's only because Capcom paved the way for SNK with SFIII. SNK had TWO WHOLE YEARS to analyze SFIII, to learn what works and what doesn't. If they are going to shamelessly rip off, at least analyze Capcom's mistakes and make sure you avoid them. SNK completely missed the point, and as a result made game that's even more flawed than SFIII: New Generation. I simply cannot believe this is from the same company that has released classics such as Garou Densetsu, Samurai Spirits, and the crown jewel in SNK's repertoire (and a superb fighting game overall), the epic and legendary Samurai Spirits II. The original Garou Densetsu back in 1991 had 1000 times more innovation and originality than this shoddy game released in 1999.This game is quite a disappointment. Out of the 15 current reviews for this game, 5 reviewers gave this game a perfect 10/10, 5 people gave it a 9/10, and the remaining 5 gave it scores of 8 and below. I seriously cannot fathom how any can give this game a rating of higher than a 7. Either those 10 positive reviews were influenced by: A.) reefer B.) massive consumption of alcohol C.) Gamespot's biased bootleg Top Fighting Game of 2001 award or D.) they must be Terry Bogard fanboys. There is no other logical answer.

Take SFIII, eliminate the whole cast, throw in Terry Bogard and an entire cast of lame characters, reverse the Parrying motion, make the graphics and sound real crappy, make sure the gameplay blows, and what do you have? Mark of the Wolves.

Another thing that bothers me is how everyone ripped apart and critically panned Street Fighter III: NG when it was first released for various reasons, including gameplay and character design. SNK makes a game that is blatantly inferior to SFIII, yet everyone jumps on the bandwagon and praises it as being the best darn 2D fighter ever. WTF? Hypocrites........anyway, remember the immortal words of the rap group Public Enemy: DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!

(If you're going to play an SNK fighter, make sure it predates 1996, as anything after that year has been trash)


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/04/03, Updated 05/04/03


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