Review by discoinferno84

"In touch with the ground..."

Revenge. That's what it's all about. Never mind the money. Screw the fame. This is the first and likely only chance the Bogard brothers will ever get to avenge their murdered father. They've been training for so long, preparing themselves for this tournament. Andy wandered abroad, learned some fancy ninja moves, and came home with a Muay Thai practitioner named Joe Higashi. Terry, on the other hand, decided to wander the gritty slums of Southtown, the place the Bogards would always call home. Now, after years of living in fear, nursing a festering hatred for the man who destroyed their family, and developing their own fighting styles, the Bogards have returned to kick some ass.

Well, that's just dandy. Too bad the man they're trying to kill is Geese ****ing Howard. That name might sound a bit ridiculous, but the citizens of Southtown quiver in terror whenever they hear it. This man not only murders people on a whim and runs the majority of the city's criminal activity with an iron fist, but is responsible for terrorizing the Sakazaki family in the Art of Fighting series. He's also trained in multiple martial arts, allowing him to fire off multiple energy waves, move at insanely fast speeds, and counter just about any attack known to man. Basically, the bastard is invincible. To make things even more daunting, Geese has assembled the toughest lineup of hitmen, Kung Fu movie rejects, and generally stupid-looking goons to finish off our heroes before they can even dream of touching him.

But hey, don't count out the heroes just yet…even if the three of them are the only playable characters. Each fighter packs a standard punch, kick, and throw, but these are so ridiculously overpowered and unbalanced that it makes getting through the initial fights a breeze. Accordingly, the game's learning curve spikes up after a couple of matches, pitting you against foes with incredible range, even cheaper moves, and impossibly fast reaction speeds. Instead of mindlessly button mashing your way through every fight, you'll have to make use of the characters' plentiful special moves to win. A quick button combo can send Terry's Power Wave (that's POWAAAH WAFE! to you) flowing across the ground or deliver a Burning Knuckle to his opponent's forehead. In between Andy's multiple forward rushes and spinning combos and Joe's apparent ability to make fireball punches and summon mini-hurricanes, they're more than able to slaughter Geese's forces.

That's assuming, of course, that you actually have enough patience to master the characters. The unbalanced combat is bad enough as it is, but the horribly awkward and unresponsive controls make it even worse. The game shares several of the button inputs as those of Street Fighter II, but none of the fighters reacts nearly as smoothly or quickly. Firing off a POWAH WAFE sounds simple enough on paper, but you're going to end up mashing the same button commands over and over again, watching hopelessly as terry does nothing but throws punch after overpowered punch. The fact that most of the characters can outmaneuver you doesn't help much, either. By the time you actually make it to Geese (after using dozens of continues on a nigh-unbeatable Billy Kane) your nerves are going to be frayed enough that you actually consider giving up.

To make up for such shortcomings, Fatal Fury introduces a unique two-plane combat system. Fighters can leap further into the background, allowing them to dodge attacks and buy a little bit of time if they're waiting for the timer to run down. It also serves as another method of attacking; since characters can still punch and kick as they're jumping between the playing levels, it offers a chance to get in a few cheap shots and hopefully get an advantage. On the other hand, your opponents will be just as quick to abuse the system; you'll frequently find that you're unable to keep up with an enemy because he keeps switching back and forth and racking up combos in the process. Given the lacking combat mechanics, you'll end up obsessing over countering instead of developing offensive tactics.

But even if the gameplay reeks like pureed durian, it's definitely got some style. The rise of Terry Bogard and Geese Howard's subsequent fall from grace are depicted with some of the greatest B-Movie quality you'll ever see. Between each fight, you'll see a somber- looking Geese observing his would-be killers, noting their strengths and becoming increasingly agitated as they come closer to achieving victory. After he's kicked your ass a dozen times –and he will, no matter what the difficulty setting – watching him viciously taunt the Bogards over their murdered father makes you genuinely hate the man. The rest of the game seems lighthearted, almost comical in comparison. You'll get to snicker at the Duck King's MC Hammer-esque pants, beat the Hell out of a snot-spitting luchador in the middle of a deserted carnival, smack a kickboxer around a bustling café, and even take on the bastard lovechild of The Hulk and every generic Kung Fu Master you've ever seen.

Well, it's a start. Fatal Fury is not the crappiest fighting game ever conceived, but it's a far cry from its Capcom rivals. The character-driven story and dialogue are impressive, considering how few games at the time even bothered to include a plot. The diehard foes and ridiculously tough learning curve will test any seasoned fighting game fan's patience. Despite having simplistic controls and fairly fast-paced gameplay, the sluggish controls and unbalanced combat mechanics make the game a chore to complete. Even the two-plane system, while definitely innovative, adds little depth to the already disappointing gameplay. But hey, this is the start of one of the greatest fighting game sagas ever made. It can only get better from here.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 09/12/07

Game Release: Fatal Fury (US, 12/20/91)


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