Review by discoinferno84

"And I'm hungry like the wolf..."

SNK had a problem: How do you make Fatal Fury 2, arguably the best fighter they had circa 1993, and make it kick ass even more? The combat mechanics were solid enough; you had the light and strong punches, tons of special moves, a lengthy single player mode, and a learning curve that made a joke out of Street Fighter II. How can you improve upon such a game? Well, duh. You follow the gold rule: When in doubt, copy your competitors. And thankfully, SNK did just that with Fatal Fury Special.

Bottom line, SNK took every character from Fatal Fury 2 and made them playable. No, I'm not just talking about Mai, Kim, Cheng, Big Bear, and Jubei; I mean every character. Yeah, that's right. I'm talking about playing as Axel, the overweight boxer extraordinaire. Laurence Blood, the super-sexy (and probably super-psychotic) matador with a thing for red capes and cheap stabbing attacks. Don't count out about Billy Kane, either; you'll get to use all his usual dirty tricks and badass staff-based combat skills. Even Krauser, the armored German juggernaut himself, is ready to abuse his ridiculously overpowered boss maneuvers at your command. There's even a certain bonus boss that Art of Fighting fans will appreciate. Oh, and I almost forgot: you'll also get to play as Geese Howard, the apparently undead criminal mastermind and easily one of the most badass fighting game villains to ever grace your Neo-Geo. Let me repeat that: you get to play as Geese ****ing Howard. If that isn't the best idea that SNK has ever conceived, I don't know what is.

Forget about abusing Joe Higashi's sliding kicks. Ditch Mai (that may be hard for some of you) and her fast-paced fan attacks. Cheng just became even more useless than usual. Been there, done that. This is all about the bosses now. After getting your ass kicked by them so many times in Fatal Fury 2 (and you have, don't deny it), you deserve the ability to use them. If you've ever played one of the older Fatal Fury games, you've got to be itching to give Billy Kane a test drive; all of his devastating staff combos can be performed with the usual array of button commands and control pad movements. The same goes for Duck King, Axel, and all the rest of them. Of course, you'll likely skip right to Geese; his flowing leg maneuvers, powerful projectiles, and handy counter moves can decimate even the toughest of foes.

It's not that Fatal Fury Special is any easier than its original counterpart. Far from it. It still maintains the incredibly high level challenge (even if it does offer additional difficulty settings), as well as the fast-paced combat that made the previous title great. Each character can still perform light and heavy punches and kicks, as well as a few handy throws on top of their special moves. Geese, for example, can smash through his opponents' defenses by using combinations of weak and strong kicks; all it takes is a few quick thrusts to knock them off guard, then follow it up with a strong mid-level kick that can send the foe sprawling. Thankfully, the newer characters have been balanced out to compete evenly with the older contenders; despite having a few fancy moves, they can still be beaten. The speed of the combat hasn't declined either; you'll get to experience plenty of frantic, evenly matched battles throughout the tournament.

Too bad SNK didn't do anything about the dodging system, though. All of the characters can jump back and forth along the battleground, thus granting them the ability to fight in the background as well as the foreground. That way, you can dodge a powerful oncoming attack or buy yourself some time if you prefer relying on the time limit to get your victory. Since you can still perform punches and kicks while jumping between the planes, you can get in an extra shot or two before switching over. Considering how tough the computer tends to be, however, your attacks will likely end up being blocked. Many of your opponents will abuse this system as well; you might end up chasing each other all over the level before landing a hit. At least the destructible statues, walls, and other obstacles have returned as well.

So the dodging system still needs an overhaul. Not much of a surprise there. At least the character sprites remain as detailed as before; you can still see Terry decked out in his Americana outfit, grimace at Cheng's gut bulging out of his green shirt, and…uh, observe Mai's pixilated endowments. Fans of the series will feel pangs of nostalgia as they watch Billy (jeans, bandana, and all) execute all of his multi-frame staff tricks, or when they watch Krauser rip off his armor plating before going to town on his opponents. Geese is more imposing then ever before, complete with streamlined attack animations, flowing red-orange hakama, and a sinister victory quote that'll remind you of why the Bogards hate him so much. Even though the stages haven't changed since Fatal Fury 2, you'll still get to kick ass all over Duck King's dance floor, take on Tung Fu Rue on a rickety bridge in Japan, and defeat Laurence amidst a raging bull stampede and cheering audience.

SNK accomplished what they set out to do; they made Fatal Fury 2, the best fighting game in their arsenal, an even better title. Sure, the combat has changed much, but aside from the lacking dodge mechanics, that isn't a bad thing. Characters can still perform a wide variety of basic punches and kicks while utilizing plenty special moves and tactics. Of course, Fatal Fury Special's greatest feature is the ability to play as the boss characters; who can argue with being allowed to kick ass with Billy Kane, Geese, or the rest of the super-powered freaks that made the previous game such a challenging experience? Not many. While Fatal Fury Special uses the same playable-boss-character concept as Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, it still comes out as not only better, but also one of the best fighting game of its time.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/12/07

Game Release: Fatal Fury Special (US, 12/22/93)

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