Thursday, 8 November 2012

Max 330 Mega The Premier Collection - Round 3


Fatal Fury just has to be up there with one of the very best fighting franchises the world has ever seen.

The Bogards’ hatred of Geese, South Town, multiple planes, the bitching, the banter, an engrossing story and signature nukes are all synonymous with this beautiful beast.

That’s just the beginning…

It can never hope to be as famous as worldwide superstar King of Fighters but that doesn't mean it’s any less spectacular.

Anyway, Terry, Andy and Joe et al are better to play in their original pixels.

It wasn't always brilliant though as it started off more ordinary than a struggling car salesman.

Throughout the series, if you are beaten you get the choice of theoretically winning the next match with ease as you can choose an advantage upon continuing.

These bonuses include the CPU starting with less energy and having an automatically charged nuke.

Like a fine wine, these things take time to mature and SNK rewarded those who stuck with it to eventually create the most balanced and most enjoyable set of brawls anybody could hope to become part of.

I invite you to toss your cap and become part of Fatal Fury.

Fatal Fury series, SNK 1991 - 1998

Introducing the Lone Wolves

Let’s start with its child like infancy.

As this is a gaming and not silver screen franchise, the original is predictably fairly woeful.

This was released after Street Fighter 2 so you can imagine the backlash from Capcom heads.

Designed by the guy behind Street Fighter, it built upon the unplayable shower released in 1987.

Like Ryu’s red barnet, it’s best forgotten.

Fatal Fury with the subtitle, King of Fighters saw you partaking in a fighting tournament organised by nasty South Town kingpin Geese Howard.

He is the sworn enemy of the Bogard brothers as he killed their father, Jeff.

Oh, pal Joe jumps on the motion bus.

This is where Fatal Fury is deeper than Street Fighter as this actually has a story.  The banter between your beloved brawlers develops superbly as the franchise progresses.

The first short intro features Terry looking at nothing particular on the edge of a cliff with Fatal Fury scrolling horizontally in huge red writing.

It then got pretty odd as a taxi pulls up and out pops Terry.  He seems mesmerised by a Fatal Fury boxing poster.

Obviously, if this was a famous poster of equally famous boxers, then the words Fatal Fury are totally irrelevant.

Whatever, I've missed the crack and what a waste of a fare.

Be prepared to take an age in deciding on a char…

Three is a magic number (again).

Only the original Art of Fighting has less (Ryo and Robert) so you have the startling choice of Terry, Andy and pal Joe.

Is there a one on one fighting game that only boasts a solitary char?

Well yes, and it’s in the inspirational 1985 Konami classic, Yie ar Kung-Fu as you are forced to play the hero Oolong.

Okay, you have no choice but it’s the nearest thing that qualifies.

Is there another?  I don’t think so.

So after mulling over who you fancy using and which CPU opponent you want to start against.

Off you pop.

The CPU only maulers are Richard Meyer, Michael Max, Tung Fu Rue, Duck King, Hwa Jai, Billy Kane and of course, Geese Howard.

Michael Max = Balrog and/or M. Bison?

I’d be lying if I didn't agree.

Apart from Terry, Andy and Joe, some of the above did become mainstays.

Things start to make no sense very quickly as each match or char is classed as a round.

Err, no, that’s a match, fight, battle or whatever but not a round.

Your char does have a name on an introduction basis but not in-game as you’re just known as 1P.

Why?

After each victory, Geese waffles and gets more and more pissed after each ‘round’.

I wouldn't expect too much from the backgrounds because at best, some are only adequate.

Richard resides in a Pao Pao Café with a handy railing that he uses to his advantage, Michael on the other hand plies his boxing trade on Sound Beach with crashing waves and palm trees.

Of those that have appeal are the Howard Arena and Dream Amusement Park.

The former features blowing trees and a heavy rainfall and the latter with what you’d expect to associate with such amusement such as a Big Wheel, pirate ship and carousel.

In truth, Tung’s stage is boring but the heavy weather just about saves it.

Speaking of Tung, he amusingly transforms into a muscle bound tarzan and as a result, uses upgraded moves.

Others get help as Hwa Jai receives a bottle of chilli sauce from the crowd to power him up and I’m sure that when Billy loses his poke stick, the crowd also throws it back to him.

Is it chilli sauce or cherryade? Who knows?

Most stages have crowds so expect some wolf whistling from excited spectators.

These spectators suffer from the old one frame movement and the result is rather funny, if incredibly awful.

Throughout this tournament, you are forced to participate in pointless bonus stages that were ubiquitous with fighting games released in the early 90s.

In this one, fancy an arm wrestle by way of button mashing?

It’s an exercise more pointless than freezing meat in a lit oven.

Still, a nice little ditty plays throughout that becomes well known in Fatal Fury.

It’s very basic but that’s the objective.

I’d say it’s the equivalent of always using the same plink plonks used in Zelda.  You know the one…

Fight your way past the drizzle and you battle Billy, Geese’s right-hand man.

You think it’s all over, but are then kidnapped by hoodlums and taken to Geese Tower to fight the main man.

Upon defeat, he does suffer a pretty famous demise as he’s literally booted outta the window.

Like Jason, he’ll be back, many times.

It is not short of notable innovations including a possible two on one match against the CPU, the two plane system which allows a player to move from the standard line to the background is again, a novel highlight.

Frequent day to night transitions following each round were again unheard of.

Where it falls down quicker than a chair with no legs is an unnatural and mechanical feel, powerful normal attacks and ultra powerful specials.

It’s a fascinating trip down SNK memory lane but it’s a prime example that this first effort rightly stood in Street Fighter’s shadow.

A remodelled Street Fighter 2?

Again, legendary men return.

A new tournament is organised by a mysterious figure and other pretenders are invited to strut their stuff.

The sequel improves matters immediately but it’s still a country kilometre away from correcting a plethora of faults.

The char roster has increased somewhat to eight and five brand new faces make their way into the fray.

I am not sorry to see some of original chars depart as the fairly dreadful Richard, Michael and Hwa Jai take a permanent break.

Anyway, together with these ‘legendary men’, the new boys are Big Bear, Mai Shiranui, Kim Kaphwan, Cheng Sinzan and Jubei Yamada.

Out of those five, you may hear from Mai and Kim again…

To save me repeating myself, from now on, Terry, Andy, Joe and Mai are a given for each new game.

Its layout is identical to the original Street Fighter II with eight selectable chars and four bosses.

The oddness of a name not been displayed in game has now disappeared and matches are now classed as ‘stages’ instead of ‘rounds’.

That’s still not quite right but at least it makes much more sense than before.

This is a global event and moves away from South Town.

The progress continues with the scenery as there are many that are worth viewing.

Countries include Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, U.S.A, Germany, Australia and Spain.

Some countries will be revisited but remain unique locations.

Australia is one of the best featuring a huge lorry, a heatwave sun and an amusingly animated crowd.

The real highlights are the scrolling efforts taking place in Italy, Japan and U.S.A.

Boasting all things Italian, watch gondolas and the leaning tower of Piza.

For the truly observant, an old guy riding a moped has apparently driven all the way from Korea to watch proceedings.

Either that or his identical twin managed to get himself and his wheeled relic through passport control.

Dancing with Terry sees you chugging along on a choo choo in South Dakota featuring an authentic looking Mount Rushmore.

The final movement is the most attractive as this multi-scrolling stage on a boat sees flowing water, filled with various stone statuettes.

Along the way, take a break from the violence and take part in some uninteresting bonus activity by attacking stone pillars and bricks.

Grab that frozen beef and light that oven again…

Taking care of each competitor will see four further challenges.

The bosses consist of Billy, Alex Hawk, Laurence Blood and Wolfgang Krauser.

Billy is his usual self set against new scenery of whirring cogs.

Hawk is a boxing replacement for Michael and is equally awful.  You fight him in a World Heroes style death match in a boxing ring with electrified ropes.

The penultimate boss is Laurence the matador in the appropriate setting of rampaging bulls.

The actual boss waits in Germany and he is the cool sounding Krauser.  You fight him in his church, complete with orchestra and candles which makes for a decent setting.

An interesting tidbit is that his theme is Mozart’s Dies Irae.

This is the first Fatal Fury to persistently set the trend for being able to perform inevitable nukes.

These acts of desperation can only be done when you’re vitality is flashing like an emergency siren.

In their earliest state, prepare for an inconvenient thumb-breaking motion.

Although undergoing an urgent expansion, this was nothing special.

Fatal Fury Champion Edition

Well Fatal Fury Special was an update and with a name like that, it’s an update of Fatal Fury but we all know that would make too much sense…

Let’s face it, nobody counts the original Street Fighter as been part of the franchise, even though it is.

Like Capcom’s update, it’s pretty lazy but it least it managed to get out of bed.

At the time, it had the most munificent char roster ever.

I don’t care how good they were, that’s a fact.

It’s on trial and its crime is quantity over quality.

Fatal Fury Special, how do you plead?

Guilty!

No point in arguing really.

A whopping fifteen chars sounds great but most of them are not worth the pixels they’re created with.

So along with the previous crowd of eight, you have others who are not new but are playable for the first time.

We have Duck, Billy, Axel, Laurence, Geese and Krauser and Tung.

The majority of backgrounds are exactly the same as before with a palette makeover, a la SF2 CE, but the new backgrounds are well worth queuing up for.

I reckon this was the first Neo game with pseudo stage intros.

Tung moves from Howard Arena to China and stage begins looking at an amazing grey sky, then pans down to the actual fight.  Mountains are laden in mist and a rickety bridge both feature.

When you saw that sky way back in 1993, it was fantastic.  It was that good, it looked like a photograph.

Duck’s new location is that busy, it could become chaos but thankfully, this is most easy on the eye.

It’s a packed disco with a light show, lasers, break dancers and bolted together monitor screens to form a large CRT.

Our man Geese has the proper stage intro as we enter his abode through parting art boards and it’s what you come to expect with statues and a large dragon tattoo on the floor where you’re stood.

Krauser is your obstacle between you and an ending.

He has some amusing pre-match speech with “I’ll chisel your gravestone, sleep well.”

Wow, I’m shitting Wolfgang.

His intro has the same panning principle as Tung’s but remains as before and Mozart can be heard again.

Is it over?

Well that depends on if you’ve fought a good fight.

Lose a round and it is, do it not and somebody has a little surprise…

You are then challenged by Ryo from AOF in a Dream Match.

This secret brawl is set in Japan with a wave splashing against rock and cameos from Todoh and even spectators from Kyoshiro’s stage in Samurai Shodown.

Todoh looks as though he’s either painting or cleaning a rock.  Whatever, it’s strange.

AOF came out in 1991 this was released in the same year as the original Sam so these cameo background sprites are a nice touch.

I always welcome a blooper reel of any kind and this is no different.

So yes, this is definitely the equivalent of Champion Edition, even if SNK were a game ahead of Street Fighter.

There is light at the end of this tunnel.

The potential is there for all to see

The proper third game was upon us and considering we were already treated to Sam 2, could SNK finally make a good Fatal Fury?

With a subtitle like Road to the Final Victory, it suggests the final game.

Then again, that would be incredibly naïve…

It went backwards and forwards with the char roster.

Backwards in reducing the choice to ten and forwards meaning that most are worth playing.

The story is focused around some very secret scrolls that promise immortality.

Humph, this is not the Holy Grail.

Attention, attention.  This must be played on Neo CD.

Why would you favour terrible load times over instant loading?  Well normally you wouldn't but this is one of those rare cases because the music is exceptional.

Hook up your Neo CD to a stereo system and let your ears feel some audio brilliance.

“Dark destiny once again outstretches its icy grip.”

“The Lone Wolves are back.”

Then the music kicks in…

Coupled with some emotional speech and Geese slamming his plates on the table, the intro is pretty good stuff.

Unlike previous outings, brand spankers are on show.

Hon Fu raises a toast with his flaming nunchuk, Sokaku is a mysterious figure with a Nicotine style staff who can summon a variety of ghosts, Bob Wilson dances Cooperia and Blue Mary counters while offering a bounce upstairs or two.

As for Franco – OH MY GGGGODDDD!

You now have an extra background plane so you can now move freely into the foreground and the background.

Another nice addition is that depending on how your opponent is defeated, you can force he/she into the scenery and see them making a splash and/or smash.

It’s like a family friendly environmental kill (even though this is only possible when they're already dead).

Chars can also be knocked into the foreground and that sprite will become enlarged via a pseudo scaling effect.

It gets boring pretty quickly though as there’s not a huge amount of variety, but even still, it's a nice innovation.

A grading system has now been introduced which is extremely important in deciding which boss you’ll fight and/or how the game will end.

The highest rank is S.

Does this stand for superb, sensational, special or stupendous?

Who can say?

This is the first Fatal Fury that really looks and plays nearly right.  There are still some functional problems but compared to previous outings, it’s good.

It retains the same idea as the first by being able to choose from a select few CPU opponents and start a scrolling journey.

This is where the banter (pre-match and after-match) really begins as depending on who you are, dictates the bitchiness, opponents’ sidekick and behaviour of others.

These sidekicks include Richard Meyer, a darling woof woof, a cheeky monkey and Billy Kane.

Fights between main stays usually attract amusing dialogue.

Most stages are great and due to their design, some allow more than the usual day, sunset to night transitions.

This is the first outing that looks rather attractive and scenery deserves some descriptive detail.

Franco fights in an airport graveyard and Bob invites you to the new Pao Pao Café 2 with KOF regulars Kyo and Kensou present.

When Franco taunts ‘c’mon’, the music starts…

Andy trades with Tung and moves location to a renovated Howard Arena and a lighter rainfall.

Take a trip to National Park where you'll find Mr. Higashi.  You’ll also find it’s a jungle out there with a tortoise, a croc having its teeth cleaned by a customary bird, lake and fireflies.

Jubei (not from Sam Shodown) can appear from the water.

East Side Park is in front of an aquarium with bubble streams, tuna, penguins, seals, coelacanth, schools of fish and even a whale shark.

All that I can say is it must be a very deceptively sized tank…

Jubei can appear swimming vertically again.

Mary and Pioneer Plaza features a detailed cathedral with chandeliers, stained glass and light shining through.

Fancy a ride?  Visit Port Town and mix it up with Hon Fu on a moving vertical platform.

This is a detailed affair so admire the scenery such as a fairground, various buildings and East Side Park.  Cheng hovers in his chopper and even takes the time to wave.

Dream Amusement Park has changed dramatically since Raiden occupied it and now looks like the Wild West with a broken wagon, 100 Hundred Fools and ground that is a tad dusty underfoot.

You get further company from torch jugglers, fire breathers, a guitarist and some dude on a unicycle.  That wagon also is subject to arson.

Sound Beach is a wonderful setting and the playful sound of seagulls is heard and the music doesn't actually start until his monkey hits the play button on his ghetto blaster.

It's great timing.

The pier, sky, water reflecting on an expensive looking boat, typical movement and seagulls swooping are the main attractions in a stage full of intricacies.

Geese Tower is standard but improved fare and it does become ignited depending on the char choice.

Terry still hasn't forgiven Geese…

During a normal game, before the match with Mai, Yamazaki appears at East Side Park in the form of an ‘accident’.

Now the dude is back for a proper match at South Station.  This isn't one of the best stages but a huge train zooming by which shakes the screen more than makes up for it.

Depending on your overall grade, there are a number of outcomes, endings or intermissions which can happen after this match and this is when it gets interesting.

Playing like a dog ensures this is the end of the railway line.

Fair to crap means a meeting with new boss Jin Chonshu.

A commendable effort will see Chonshu and a teasing appearance from bro.

However, a mighty fine fight will see you fight Chonrei after defeating Chonshu.

Each determination results in a different sequence of events and even decides the background.

Providing you at least fight Chonshu, this will guarantee a change of surroundings.

There are three possible variations of Delta Park and these are predictably well designed and meticulous.

The standard is a jungle covered in undergrowth but better players are rewarded with huge flags and dragon statues.

If you feel the heat with skeletons and skulls, chances are that you will fight Chonrei.

Chonshu looks a meek foe, but underestimate him at your peril.

A nice sequence sees brother defeated at his feet and this angers older bro Chonrei.

Whoah, is he pissed…

Before you fight him, observe Chonshu slouched on their throne and then shortly after, he can't take the heat no more and collapses.

His twitching fingers, his speedy and relentless nature ensures a worthy adversary.

On a cart, the music is perfectly adequate and the principle remains but swap mediums and it explodes into an audio spectacular.

While the others are suited perfectly to each stage, Sound Beach is just fantastic and Delta Park is an incredible composition.

The latter is so epic, it is worthy of any film score.

Judging this as a make of car, there are still some models that I don’t like.

The desperation moves are still overly awkward, the energy bar is still shorter than a broken ruler and some of the noobs are fairly restricted with some useless moves.

These numerous secrets (together with other bits and bobs) nicely spread the butter on this slice of bread and guarantees the best Fury yet.

Feeling the rush

SNK were now at the point of no return.  The 76th update of Street Fighter II had long since brainwashed its adoring and fanatical fanbase so could the fifth outing see Fatal Fury finally mature?

Put it this way, if this was a pint, they’d have to change the barrel.

Real Bout Fatal Fury was what the world was waiting for.

This was a triumph for a combination of reasons.

For the first time, sprites could really combo their rivals into submission.

Rush and Reversals is the name of the game.

Presentation is much the same as before Fatal Fury 3, as is the music and sprites.

Geese returns as the main man.

However, out of bounds and/or ring-outs are brought into the mixer.  This involves smashing an opponent against a destructible barrier who is then forced out of the playable area resulting in an automatic win.

This was very similar to Virtua Fighter but different enough to shut the rip off parade up as the effect was usually amusing.

Disgraced foes can be taken away on a train, be locked in a boat and literally take an early bath.

These ‘automatic’ wins take some effort to achieve, hence never as cheap and/or bad as they are in VF.

The line up is particularly good as this brings together the current and the old.

A choice of 16 and wow, what a difference!

As you’d expect, Fatal Fury 3 features heavily.

Franco, Bob, Geese, Hon, Sokaku and Mary all return.

Yamazaki and the Jins are now playable and to wrap things up, Billy and Duck throw their stick and chick into proceedings respectively.

Throughout a fight, the new bar typically changes three times.

H, S and P Power all can appear.

H allows cancels, S is a nuke and P is an upgraded and more spectacular version of the S variety.

P only becomes available when S Power is visible and your vitality is flashing.

The ranking system is retained with a greater variety of grades available with SSS been the most sought after.

Your vitality bar is still a solitary stretch but has a yellow and red variation which makes fights to be far more entertaining and exciting.

There are only a handful of backgrounds but these are pretty nice and the ring out dimension adds some depth and variety to each.

Each stage (apart from Geese Tower) has two types and two results for ring outs.

The colour palette seems to have been exploited as things seem a bit more vibrant than before.

The stereotypical colour change between rounds is ever present.

So the deal is that during 1P, there are three chars per stage each contested over normal best of three matches.

Familiar areas with new settings include East Side Park, Sound Beach and Geese Tower.

Sound Beach now adopts a very striking violet sky with seagulls, yachts, spotlights and Happopo Village.

East Side Park is now under a glass roof complete with spectators and dancing statues.

South Town Bridge is set in a harbour with an outstretched bridge and crowd.

West Subway is a pretty boring affair with a crowd and train and Geese Tower has torches, flags and South Town skyscrapers beyond the glass.

Defeating Geese with Terry or Andy sees an extra sequence with Mr Howard smashed through the fenced barrier with both brothers offering an outstretched hand to rescue him.

It’s all in vain as he refuses and again falls to death with a satisfied and arrogant grin.

This ending is related to an intro showcased in a future game.

Any other brawler will instead see him unconscious and sprawled spark out.

Regardless, each char have their own individual series of static screen endings.

The combos and the potential of these are what makes this baby such a joy to play and clearly separates it from the rest.

You finally feel as though you can really smash the hell out of people and for the first time, combos are the key to unlocking victory and not specials.

That double energy bar is necessary as a well placed nuke will happily nibble away at any length.

Yeah, those ring outs are there but a combo is usually needed to break such barriers.

With this instalment, Fatal Fury finally reached puberty.

Adding extra filling to an already delicious Panini

The next game didn't go backwards; it sprinted forwards and never looked back.

Real Bout Fatal Fury Special goes someway to be lot more ‘special’ than its previous namesake.

The intro proves that Krauser is not the meek geezer from yesteryear as he kicks the ass of Tel.

He’s wider than a gap of a badly fitted door and he’s not here to make up the numbers.

Like earlier games, you can only move into the background.

We retain the rush, reversals, the H, S, and P gauge change.

It’s all good and it soon becomes even better.

The presentation is new and results in far better portraits.

“How’s it going dude and let’s begin, choose yer’ favourite character.”

That really is the spiel you get at the char select screen.  Ha ha.

Various other humorous cheeses are sliced such as “Be tough or be dead big guy.”

About those chars, it’s the most impressive line-up yet.

Duck, Bob, Sokaku, Billy, Krauser, Laurence, the Jins, Hon, Yamazaki, Mary, Franco, Kim Tung and Cheng are all here.

So we have a total of 19 chars all busting a gut to knock each other silly.

To dispel any fear of anybody been useless, returning chars such as Cheng and Tung are nearly as good as anybody to use.

There are even hidden EX versions of Andy, Mary, Tung and Billy.  This isn't too radical as these have very similar moves and are even inferior to the true originals.

Chars now look chunkier and beefier than before and Franco enjoys been a brand new and more brutish sprite.

Ring outs have been banished and instead, you now have a breakable objects on either side of each stage.

If your hapless foe suffers such a setback, your opponent will have the further inconvenience of seeing stars.

Fragility includes a stack of monitors, huts, volcanic rock, statues and trees.

It’s a very smart idea and a suitable replacement for such a potentially controversial idea.

Audio has been given a coat of paint and sounds better than ever (even on cart).

Laurence is the subordinate to Krauser and Geese can appear as your worst nightmare.

After defeating Krauser, Geese can be fought but wow, the conditions that have to be reached are more stringent than any law that exists in society today.

You basically have to fight to near perfection.

It’s all based on top end grades, points and the pain in the ass of not losing a round.

If you wasn't under enough pressure, that points condition must be reached before you even fight Wolfgang.

Anyway, the demons out there who manage to be successful will know he’s basically the equivalent of Akuma who first appeared in Super SF2 Turbo.

So amidst all that, you have much scenery to admire and this is where it’s a marked improvement over the former as most are particularly striking and vivacious.

Stage intros are back, better and more bad-ass than ever.

The time of day conditions are used to brilliant effect.

Like Fatal Fury 2 and Special, we are back to fighting on an international scale.

Your globe-trotting exploits includes locations in U.S.A, Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, Korea and Brazil.

I’ll chew on the tastiest sticks of gum.

America can see you catching rays on a picturesque beach with a gorgeous sky, packed with a generous amount of fluffy clouds and seagulls freely swooping and soaring.

Insert palm trees, the tide lapping on a huge beach, lens flare and appropriate panning caps off an excellent stage.

Moving to Japan has cherry blossom trees, falling blossom, a large bridge and reflective puddles.

Chinese scenery presents scrolling bamboo, mountains with mist for company and light shining through a panda’s staple diet.

Staying with the oriental look, Hong Kong is worth visiting in the form of a complicated street scene.

Concorde flies above and it pans down to see pig heads, much signage, an interested crowd and stationary tram.

Oh, the black and white bear native to this country is happy to overlook proceedings.

The home of taekwondo uses a huge flapping flag to kick things off and sees you fight outside a snowy training ground with Kim wannabes practising and a light snowfall adding the style.

Visiting the home of Blanka is similar but different to China as we swap bamboo for a jungle with a rainbow, an intense waterfall and dense undergrowth.

Toucans fly and a large cat watches lazily on a tree branch making for another worthwhile setting.

We eventually force our way to Germany to deal with Laurence, Krauser and if you’re extremely good, Mr Howard.

You are in the grounds of a castle, the hub of which can be seen in the background.  It also boasts a sumptuous sky.

The setting turns to night for Krauser and lightning strikes.

For those who enjoy a nightmare, Geese fights in his classic locale and it looks better than ever with statues and giant lanterns.

There isn't particularly an ending as such but you are treated to a good old fashioned and most welcome blooper reel.

This basically builds upon the fighting mechanics of Real Bout and results in a lovely dollop of cream.

Chars who were previously avoided like the plague benefit from this flowing rush so this ensures a brilliant series of bouts.

Get in the ring !!!

Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers is the 7th episode and awash with weariness

I’d expect it from Capcom but not from SNK.

Although having said that, it’s still an awesome game.

The intros determine that choice of subtitle and see our new friends Rick Stroud and Xiang Fei strut their stuff in two blink and you’ll miss them intros.

Thankfully though, it’s easier to swallow than an indiscreet noodle.

So we predictably know that two brand new beasts are brought into the fold but what else is new?

Well in regards to the char roster, it’s as you were but with Geese now becoming a dream rather than a nightmare.

If you tot it up using whatever mathematical aid, you should get 22 chumps and with it, the largest Fatal Fury line-up ever.

The brand new portraits are goof free and look nothing less than mighty fine.

The removal van has axed breakable objects, stage intros and even the customary day to night transitions.

Day to night transitions do exist in a round about way as some chars share those daylight, sunset and night alterations with others as their ‘new’ stage.

They do have some subtle differences between them but even so.

SNK did make the effort of designing brand new stages and most are typically great.

Apart from the new chars, the music has gone through less change than the amount of days in January.

The gameplay is much the same as before which is obviously about as bad as being able to pick a winning scratch card at will.

If it worked before, why change it right SNK?

Unleashing Potential Power does display a very cool new flaming effect which makes it even more satisfying.

The 1P game follows the same predictable pattern with you choosing your opponent and fighting against some random chars, before eventually getting to Geese Tower.

Sadly, the map and banter have totally disappeared.

What a curious mixture of choices by SNK.

The tourism guide includes…

Terry forgets about Sound Beach and decides to chillax on a dirt track outside a gas station with a parked lorry and motorbike.

The sunset alternative belongs to Rick with much desertion with dust blowing and a burnt tangerine sky.

While this is a variation, it’s quite a scene.

Mai and boyfriend Andy enjoy different types of tranquillity with a huge cherry blossom tree with the petals falling.  The former chooses daylight and the latter is a more menacing occasion basking under the moonlit sky.

Kim and Tung share the atmosphere of Korea with Kim’s looking similar to Real Bout Special.  Tung waits until everybody has gone home to bed and although mysterious, it’s not really a lot to look at.

Another variation in presumably Germany sees a castle but this time the sun has set and flocks of birds are happy to fly past a heated sun.

I’m fairly sure that like the former game, the night variation is again occupied by Krauser.

Mary and Duck (I maybe wrong) hang out in a back alley with traffic signs, the rear end of a van and traffic zooming in the distance.

A stage set in the streets of China sees oink oinks causing a nuisance, a truck full of apples, runaway piglets and other comical crowd activity provides a light-hearted background for noob Xiang Fei.

Franco and Joe fight in a boxing ring buoyed by a huge audience.  The variations for each are sunset and night respectively with minor alterations in trainers and name cards in the crowd.

The elephants are unfortunately shy to even twitch which is pretty languid.

Bob may have a similar variation too.

A fantastic stage is engaged by the Jins and deserves the necessary praise.

You’ll never get bored of the main attraction with huge coiled dragon statues and the flames in glass balls occasionally producing a skull.  These proudly sit in a pond, the waterfall behind and stone fencing covered in moss ensures a proper SNK surrounding.

The boss reverts back to Geese with a rather smart setting in a dojo with the usual multi-armed statues, candles and art boards.  Billy chops and changes the art boards and colour scheme at the weekend.

A hidden surprise awaits the most battle hardened in the form of Alfred.

We fight this mysterious Biggles wannabe in front of his crashed plane in a desert.

He brawls better than he pilots a plane.

Again, it has something to do with achieving the necessary amount of grades throughout but the conditions are never as obscene as unlocking the previous nightmare.

Regardless, it doesn’t change the ending.

Despite some bitterness in regards to most stages been variations of those that already exist, it’s still an excellent series of bouts.

What of the new chars?

Xiang later appeared in KOF 99 and is more than capable of kicking butt and for Rick; this was his only appearance (unless you count your pocket).

That is outrageous because he’s a superb char full of combo potential and exciting specials.

In all honesty though, apart from the newcomers, it’s really not too different from Real Bout Special.

The waiting is over; the truly spectacular is now upon us.

Garou: Mark of the Wolves, SNK 1999

This is brilliant, absolutely fantastic and unnecessarily magnificent.

I’m going to slap my appendage on the chopping board and state this is the greatest fighting game ever made.

Yeah, I said it.

Street Fighter is awesome, this is beyond awesome.

You simply have to play it for the proof of such a wild boast.

If there is something to complain about, it’s the genius of SNK.

It’s often compared to Street Fighter III because of its technical wizardly, but it’s so much more than that.

You can expect a lengthy dissertation.

The story explains the new protagonist…

Remember how I mentioned the ending of Real Bout Fatal Fury was related to a future game, well this is that game.

Certainly, they existed…
Those blinded by ambition.
Those consumed with vengeance.
But here they do not exist.
Only winners
and losers here.
For here, the mighty rule!

A revamped ending of Real Bout (providing you defeated Geese with Terry or Andy) is replayed but only Terry is shown.

Note that Terry still has a long pony tail.

After which, we see Tel training up a boy in numerously detailed static screens.

He is Rock Howard and the protégé of Terry.  I suppose he felt guilt towards the death of his father.

The next intro is nothing short of stupendous, heads and shoulders above anything you've ever seen in a fighting game and still can’t fail to impress.

Tall buildings scroll down with the distant sound of traffic with the vampire eyed Rock stood stationary, then the music kicks in.

After various close-ups and stunning animation shorts of all new battlers, we reach the scene with Terry and Rock.

Protégé and master are squaring up and after a large split screen of each mug (vertically and horizontally), Terry’s charge is a mere blur and Rock unleashes a blue flame of anguish.

Describing it is one thing, but together with the timing of the music, it’s amazing.

You cannot tire of watching ‘that’ climax.

So the tournament of Maximum Mayhem is set sometime after and we now perform motions in the newly created Second South Town.

This city has such sights to show you…

Aside from Terry, this is Fatal Fury but not as we know it, Captain.

First off, there are no lines and the char roster has been drastically reduced to 12.

Totally omitting the lines is not an immediate problem but the other restriction could be potentially disastrous.

SNK are seasoned professionals and with this set, there was little chance of failure.

The new chars are largely connected to Fatal Fury and even AOF.

For example, Khushnood Butt is a dab hand at Kyokugen karate, Rock adopts his father’s Rising Sword and the brothers’ Grimm err Kim are the sons of Kim.

Special attacks are now called Methods of Mayhem.  Honestly, that is dreadfully corny.

After choosing your mauler, you can happily exploit the T.O.P. (Tactical Offence Position) which can be effectively a game changer in itself.

T.O.P. can be chosen to occupy either the left, middle or right of the vitality bar and kicks in when your energy bar hits your chosen area.

Genius!

The effect is increased attack, recovery and blocking refills your health.

The unique ‘just defend’ is also introduced and if you block at the right time, you’ll receive energy and immediately counter the unfortunate.

Vitality is now singular rather than plural but that doesn’t mean that fights are over quicker than hooker dropping her knickers.

It’s fairer than a toss of a coin.

The classic SNK continue service and grading system featuring SSS, SS, S, AAA etc are back with a bang and a Miracle can even be achieved.

Does it take an act of God to accomplish such a rating?  Probably!

You can feint, combo, taunt, cancel specials and supers.

We have a gauge and it fills like up as water logs.  There is no H, but S and P are reunited.

There are quite a few varieties and each is accompanied by an impressive light show.

Couple this with archetypical SNK emotion and you already have some game.

There are more special effects than a Hollywood spectacular and no expense is spared.

Our Tel has inexplicably discarded his cap, had a haircut and wears a new coat.

His barnet maybe floppy but his performance couldn’t be more erect.

The rest joining us for this fighting extravaganza are:

Butt, Rock, Jenet, Rian, Dong Hwan, Jae Hoon, Gato, Freeman, Hotaru, Hokutomaru and Tizoc.

Butt and Tizoc can also be known as Rodriguez and The Griffon respectively.

So that’s the immediately playable; the other dudes have a reserved seat.

The splendour of having a new line-up is that with it, you have to have new presentation.

You can expect to be impressed by portraits and be blown away by stage introductions.

These include swirling waterfalls, moving choo choos, a wrestler emerging from smoke and brawlers prepping for action.

It’s fairly pointless but another new addition is that each player has a unique winning symbol against their name.

Rock uses a wing without the prayer, Hotaru ties a ribbon around the old oak tree, Freeman shows his love for arachnids, Tizoc is as light as a feather and Terry proves that he’s finally a star.

I could go on but I believe you catch my wave.

There’s really nothing that SNK didn’t think of.  They basically told Capcom that Street Fighter is elderly and this is the new fashion statement.

So we now have the scenery and each is unquestionably worth queuing up for.

Each char is classed as a card and upon each stage intro; the name of that and opponent’s fighting style is senselessly made known.

Does it matter?  Not really, but it all adds sparkle.

I’ll pick the bones through each.

The gentile setting of the Philanthropy Belfry is where you’ll find Hotaru.

This has giant bells, doves landing and flags flying.  When you move to darkness, doves will be replaced with bats.

It cheers up any mood.

When you wrestle in on Tizoc’s territory, you’ll fight in the Universal Arena with a huge audience taking memento snaps, a light show and a large screen flashing up various images.

You could compare this to Savage Reign but its quality is undeniably far superior.

If you’re feeling lucky and fancy the Casino “Woo”, challenge Dong Hwan.

You’ll admire bunny girls, an audience, lights and skyscrapers.

This is not a rip off of Balrog’s stage.

Making a splash is Jenet and Blue Wave Harbour is a fitting location.  Her huge submarine, wrecked wooden boards, an agitated crew, search lights and flags complete a wonderful stage.

Throughout your fight, you’ll experience an intermission with a mysterious caped figure.

Hokutomaru certainly has the most gregarious situation.

When you take a taxi to 5th Ave and 2nd Street, you’ll marvel at a huge street scene with cars, a bus and a worthy audience but if that wasn't enough, that’s just the start of such charm.

Allow me to delve into what has more bits than a carpet.

En français s’il vous plait.

Un – there’s an a-board of Andy holding hands with Mai.
Deux – an advert from the first Real Bout with Geese sat in a chair, Billy and bodyguard Hopper.
Trois – a Real Bout 2 poster with Rick having the balls to crush Terry’s cap.
Quatre – another board this time displaying Alfred; and
Cinq – cameos of Moriya and Kaede from The Last Blade 2 and hi-jinks inside a car (which varies between rounds).

Apart from that, it's really boring.

Forget Niagara Falls, here’s Barbaroi Falls and with it, Gato.

This swirls with genuine excellence.  Watch as you fight in shallow water among raging waterfalls that flow in every direction with trickle through rocks.

It really is a stage to behold and with the time of day changing, you know a return visit isn't the worst idea.

Jae Hoon offers a bustling Yok Chong market with spectators, chickens and eateries.

It’s worth a chomp, rather than a bite.

Well bless my belly button; the Freight Express is simply inconceivable.

Pay whatever it charges, Terry basks in the best.

It’s a moving effort and motion sickness is beyond immunity.

On his Running Wild train, admire the magnificent violet and purple sky with the source of all our energy emerging from the water.  Trees, train, mountains and buildings also flash by.

Okay, now we arrive at the station with a daylight sky.  An old-fashioned steam train erupts smoke and the stationary train that can’t fail to be noticed eventually takes off.

It perversely isn't finished there as we are back with rendered girders, an air blimp and a city which is honed into view.

I can’t chat all day as we have to move on.

We slightly lower the quality with Slam “Free Field” and Freeman.

I haven’t yet figured out why he doesn't cry after he kills a man.

This is all set under a rail track and a train rumbling above.  The subtleties are inspired as the electric flows and the lights are reflected against a building.  The detail extends to a wrecked car and smoke emanating from the ground.

Sarah Forest believes that fighting a bear is normal and who would dare argue the point with Butt?

A hanging ball and chain, with light shining through the forest, a huge wrecked tree and wildlife that would make Nakoruru blush, exhibit more than a decent surrounding.

Taking on the law involves taking Rian in for questioning.  The interview room is engaged so I guess the only way to settle matters is on S.S.P. Maneuver Field.

We are in the open air and choppers are keen to grace us with their presence.  This is another that changes matters with a dust storm, crates, jeep, desertion and sky.

Rock is an R & B fan and this stage may well be known for another reason.

Live House “Old Line” demonstrates great opulence with parked cars, a lit bar and vehicles cruising.

Anyway, the theme does contain a sample that bears a curious likeness to Robert Miles’ Children...

Further to the intermission with a baddie, depending on what char you choose, that dictates the fight and banter you indulge in with a regular char late on in the 1P mode.

For example, Terry fights Rock and Butt attacks Tizoc...

So after kicking much ass, that baffling beast is finally revealed via a smartly dressed sequence.

We finally meet Grant, the Martyr of Might and who is a keen practitioner of Dark Karate.

What a sporting introduction to such a masked and caped crusader.

He won’t have Robin to protect him and nor does he need Penguin or Joker as he can more than handle his own.

There’s enough heat to satisfy a phoenix as within his temple, the plasma effect is displayed on stone pillars and embers contentedly float.

Your performance dictates if this is the end or nearly the end.

This will be made known after you vanquish this delicious deity.

If you face disappointment, try again and if not, take a deep breath and prepare for Kain.

Oh, you won’t need a wooden stake as he does not have a taste for blood.

For that insatiable lust, you’ll have to switch franchises...

A camera pan down with shooting stars perfectly introduces the final background as we enjoy eagle statues, flags blowing and leaves whistling all above the moon on a marble floor.

Who is that lady on a mosaic?  Ask Kain and Rock.

A commendable final sequence is the prelude to a proper ending and what endings these are.

They are the finest you’ll ever see in a fighting game and apart from occasional radiance, defies the stereotypical Neo Geo reward for completion.

I haven’t yet touched upon how pixels move and if the sprites weren't spiffing enough, it’s still completely bewildering of how breathtaking they go about their business.

SNK caress fluidity more than a mother fusses over her new born.

Rock smoothing his hair and Terry adjusting his gloves is among the intricacies.

The scenery is magnificent but we've seen intensity before but never with such imagination.

You have a regular winning stance but using a simple left or right joystick combo and you’ll see secret stances.

Rock has the best winning stance you’ll ever see, just watch his wings.

I've talked about much but there’s just too much to talk about.

If SNK were honest, this was personal against Capcom and Street Fighter III.

We all know who won, but I'd know which I'd side with.

Lone Wolf miscellany

Unlike previous members of the premier collection, there isn't really that much to tell.

Like KOF, there was a super-deformed Fatal Fury with the subtitle of 1st Contact.  This was an adaptation of Real Bout 2 and naturally was a minimised conversion of its chunky parent.

A dozen fighters and essential mainstays proved portable fun.

It did feature a never before seen fighter by the name of Lao.

He is actually featured in the blink and you’ll miss Rick and Xiang intros in Real Bout 2.

SNK took the unusual decision to only feature him in vs mode.  He has some strange Sokaku like spirit moves and a chin so huge, Dredd would blush.

So apart from that, there were only two others to speak of and even one of those was an ‘enhanced’ port of RBFFS.

Still, let’s go.

Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition first appeared on the Hyper Neo 64 in 1998 and was later ported to the PS1.

Do you wanna take a step back, I mean c’mon, changing the station to Hyper can only mean one thing...

A dimension jump.
The char line-up slightly varies as Geese, Xiang Fei and Billy aren't in the original but appear in the port.


Mainstays such as Terry, Andy, Mai, Kim, Joe and Yamazaki are back as well as new chars are Tsugumi and Toji.

Ryo appears as Mr. Karate and Duck is a secret char.

The original 64 version has a brief intro featuring Geese, a young Terry and Jeff.

On the PS1, apart from being a perfect excuse for SNK to create a lengthy CD intro, we see this was set 10 years ago so according to the timeline, 3 years before the original game was staged.

It includes insight into Jeff and Geese and explains how a very young Terry was made.

10 years later...

Terry notices Geese, his heavies and Billy emerging from a swanky car.  As usual, Geese sets his dogs loose.

Backgrounds are lifeless and devoid of any personality but that doesn't matter if this pulled a great pint.

Now why does a 2D monster never work when it turns to that infamous magic number?

Simple, it's because it can't be adapted to play in this way.

Even when Street Fighter turned 3D, that failed.

I wonder why SF4 isn't in such a perspective... 

Getting back to it, the moves are there but it just feels wholly unnatural.

The Heat Gauge permits a Heat Blow and/or Overdrive attack which are fairly obviously nukes but nothing can save this.

Rounds won’t last long and it tries to be Virtua Fighter but remains a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In the same year, Real Bout Special was ported to the PS1, with the subtitle of Dominated Mind.

It featured a great anime intro with Alfred (of Real Bout 2), Terry, Andy, Joe, Mai and new boss White.

Of White, he is blatantly ripped straight from Malcolm Macdowell’s char Alex from Kubrick classic A Clockwork Orange.

Apart from some fancy sequences, it’s the same brilliant beast we saw in 1996.

Well I say the ‘same’ in theory but as with all PS1 ports of SNK fighting classics, you do get a chopped down version which looks very similar, plays a bit less silky and loses more frames than a hopeless snooker player.

Okay, we’ll briefly touch on new boss Alex.

His stage is set against various mannequins with some odd visual movement.  It’s mediocre at best and lacks the necessary clout that is commonly associated with Fatal Fury surroundings.

There is a slice of originality which I can’t really recall been done in any other brawler?

When you defeat White in traditional and/or by any means, he’s down and you wait for the next round and/or ending.

Not so, he will shoot a projectile from his cane and if hit, you will be dead; regardless of how much energy you had when inflicting that decisive blow.

Anyway, after the initial surprise, it’s fairly easy to dodge and just clout him again to win.

The novelty wears off quicker than swapping a wired joypad for a wireless animal.

I don’t know what SNK were smoking when they dreamed up this bollocks but I certainly don’t want a drag.

I’m not really that bothered because this wasn't a true Neo game and if SNK are going to have a moment, they might as well pollute their shit on another system.

Final line

The world swore an allegiance with Capcom and even though heads turned, they were never going to side with SNK.

It’s one of those things that I suppose is obligatory.

I’ll admit that the first three could be probably discounted, if I was been really harsh, even the fourth, but of these, they weren’t without a little something which at least made you want to play the ultimate Street Fighter pretender.

From Real Bout onwards, SNK kicked Capcom’s ass and Garou just beat competitors into bloody pulps.

With a game like Garou and Real Bout(s), how could SNK still be largely discounted?

I struggle how any red-blooded male can fail to be seduced by the lofty bosoms owned by Mai and Mary that have more bounce than an out of control rugby ball.

Females will just sit up and admire such mammaries.

You’ve got to be jealous of Andy...

Stringing a combo, pulling off a motion or unleashing a nuke will never feel more satisfying.

If the Power Geyser is not one of the most iconic nukes ever, then Geese and the Bogards’ regularly go out together for a pint and curry.

I've checked the chamber and there’s only one bullet left to fire.

Instead of choosing to watch The Deer Hunter and re-enact the classic and uncomfortable scene of Russian Roulette, I’ll choose a more conventional target.

I hope you’ll join me next time for the final round.

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