FATAL FURY: MARK OF THE WOLVES

by Rade Kuruc

 

US Title: Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves
Japanese Title: Garou: Mark of the Wolves
By: SNK, (US release by Agetec) 
Year: 2001
System: Dreamcast
Other Versions? Neo Geo: AES, MVS

 

Review of the import version Garou: Mark of the Wolves for the SEGA Dreamcast, by Rade Kuruc

 NOTE: Thank-you for taking your time to read my short review on the conversion of Garou:  Mark of the Wolves for the venerable SEGA Dreamcast.  A full, robust and excellent review on the original release can be found in the NEO GEO section.  It would be redundant for me to write all of that and I believe BonusKun wrote an excellent piece.  Please refer yourself to it if you are in need of a deeper explanation of the original gameís merits and shortcomings.  Regardless, on with the review!

Never has a NEO GEO game so pushed the boundaries of its relatively ancient hardware, the MVS, that it has even outperformed modern 2D based amusement machines.  Truly, a feat of experience and programming ingenuity, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a triumph of game-play, audio, and visuals: The holy trinity of video gaming.  The MVS hardware has never performed better and nothing has topped this level of performance, this balance, since itís 1999 release.     

2001 marks the release of the anticipated SEGA Dreamcast version.  The Dreamcast is a natural fit for the re-release of Garou: Mark of the Wolves (henceforth known as MOTW) and it could not have come at a better time.  The Dreamcast has been somewhat lacking in the department of a consistent level of quality and quantity games as of late due to itís impending demise and September has been kind so far.  Capcom vs. SNK 2 just released earlier this month, as did Shenmue; two high quality games that further add to DCís dwindling fire.  Thankfully, we also have MOTW, a shining example of 2D greatness, available for the first time to the greater mass of DC owners.  If any modern SNK game deserved more recognition from the mainstream, this is it. 

 The first thing you will notice different about this new rev is that SNK went all out and included an arranged, nay, enhanced soundtrack.  The effect is not what most would expect.  It pretty much sounds just like the original version, only cleaner.  It works well for the most part.  You will be able to distinguish the difference in quality immediately for tunes from the fighter select screen, and Rock Howardís stage. Other tunes, like Hokotumaruís sound identical to their cartridge counterpart and some are a downright disappointment, like Griffon/Tizocís stage.  Fortunately, most sound as good as you would expect them to and if you donít like these new tracks any, you can just chose to listen to the original cart music, which is superb.  Regardless, it is best to file this new soundtrack under that category of re-mastered, as apposed to being arranged.  It would be remiss of me not to mention a shortcoming that bothered me.  In the cart versions, when you win a match, the victory music carried on to the portrait of the character and his post battle witty comment.  In the DC version, the sound cuts out after the screen switches to the portrait, which isÖunsettling, especially when you played it on MVS forever and you expect it.  In addition, sometimes on the MVS original, you would perform a move and no sound would register.  I did not notice any sound cutting out on the DC version which is yet another improvement upon the original.

Graphically, the game stays true to its original form.  As proven with previous ports, the Dreamcast is more than capable of handling any NEO GEO game.  I did not notice any disparities in sprite size from the MVS version and everything looked dandy.  They have changed the way the shadows look, and strangely eliminated the reflection of sprites on Kainís stage.  Unlike the two King of Fighter conversions, which used 3D backgrounds, MOTW uses the well-drawn and awfully stylish original backgrounds.  These are among the best backgrounds in SNK land, by the way, and it would have been a shame to mare the good work with an unnecessary 3D facelift.   

All of the character sprites have been ported over perfect and look as good as the day they were released on the NEO GEO.  These are bar-none, among the most well drawn and animated sprites on the system, nay, ever.  The attention to detail is stunning and will make you question you preconceptions of the MVSís limits. 

        Of course, the amazing game-play is fully intact.  I was able to do the same things I did on the MVS version and noticed no difference, for better or worse.  This is all a good thing of course, as MOTWís plays world class.  This game is smooth like a hot dick through pussy.  

        The cover art, as many of you have already noticed at the top of this review is Rock solid.  Very well done, very stylish and admirably clean.  The Japanese put a lot of thought into cover art and this game is no exception (well, to be fair, Americans put just as much thought into cover art as well, but the thought used is equivalent to that of a third grader).  You may have already seen the art for the US version; Iím sorry.  Nothing wrong with the source material used, itís just the way they placed it.   The instructions are of good paper quality and are full colour.  The pages are thick and it is put together well. The GD has a close up picture of Rockís face, some Japanese lettering, and is in Black and White; kind of a let down compared to the cover art. 

Notable extras include the aforementioned improved soundtrack and an art gallery.  In the gallery you have three sections.  The first section includes the character art, the second section has the actual art gallery (has a few images available, but most need to be unlocked) and the third has the endings (once earned, of course).  These are cool features that separate, and makes the DC version superior to the cart release. 

Load times must be addressed; besides the initial load (which is 5 seconds) the game loads as quick as any other fighter on the DC; fast.  

In conclusion, this game is a perfect must-purchase for the SNK faithful, Dreamcast owning crowd without the means of getting the MVS or Home Cart versions.  It is also a must for the folks who already own the cart version.  In fact the DC version has inspired a few on the boards to sell their original copies (including myself-I sold my Japanese MVS copy). Donít wait for Agetec to release a screwed up domestic version like they did with Last Blade.  Just buy this game now and rest easy knowing you have an un-raped version of one of the cooler fighting games out there.  The price is right and the system to play it on is readily available and cheap.  Enabling your Dreamcast to play this game can cost you anything from nothing to 40 dollars.  It all depends on how you do it.  The preferred method by most is boot disc, and all that costs you is the Internet connection and a spare blank CD (free if you have a generous friend).  Personally, I had my DC modded as I could not stand using boot discs anymore and with the current flood of Japanese only DC releases, it was a good choice (fuck, I seriously need to stop talking about my frigginí modded DC).  If you ever do decide to get your DC modded, let NCS do it, they had my DC back in a week. 

  Scores: 

Music and sounds:  9-Arranged is just as cool as the original-minus a few disappointments here and there but it holds out well.  Of course, the excellent original stuff is there too.   Sound effects are crisp and clear.  

Graphics:  10-Mind-melting stuff when you consider it was originally being pushed by hardware thatís been around ever since Michael Jackson was still black.  It remains true to the original release (unlike Michael). 

 Gameplay: 9.5-Yíaint going to find much different here.  Which is good.  MOTW plays like butter. 

Overall:  9.5-What else can I say?  A great game made for great people.  A few extras for good measure and for the folks who only played it on an arcade monitor, a chance to play it on a big screen.  Itís not as cool as Michael Jacksonís Thriller, but that was an album and therefore I really canít compare them.  I guess I can say that it is WAY better than Michael Jacksonís Moonwalker game.  Enjoy!

[US cover: unlike the US Neo Geo version, they actually translated "Garou" -Ed.]

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