Fatal Fury: A Thorough Review by Bobak!
The game that started it all, Fatal Fury was SNK's first foray into the fighting genre on the Neo Geo. Was it a rip-off of Street Fighter II? A lot of people thought so, but the answer is no, it wasn't. Fatal Fury had been in development at SNK since 1990, around the same time (some claim even before) Street Fighter II's development (both were released in 1991). There is proof of this relevant age in Fatal Fury's title screen: Terry looks at a poster with the title and a copyright 1990.
Regardless of cross-influence between Capcom and SNK (although there certainly was after 1991), Fatal Fury blazed the way for a system that became known (rightfully so or not) as "the fighting system." Before I move on the rest of the review, I want to share some other interesting trivia:
- Originally called Real Bout, SNK opted to change the title to Fatal Fury, (although the words Real Bout can be found everywhere in the game, and by its fourth sequel the game had changed to Real Bout Fatal Fury).
- The tournament in Fatal Fury is to determine the "King of Fighters." Apparently, this concept stuck with SNK...
- The cabbie driving the taxi that drops of Terry is the original SNK mascot, G-Mantle. I find this interesting because (take this as you will) I think its a symbolic "passing of the torch" to Terry as SNK's new mascot.
- In one of those moments that skirt copyright infringement, the folks at SNK seemed to have unwittingly drawn a corporate logo onto the Amusement Park level. Happy Star, the symbol for fast food giant Carl's Jr., is seen holding a sign that says "SNK Land." I assume the Japanese programmers had no idea of their coincidence for their own sake.
- The US box also has one of the most embarrassing typos in Neo Geo history: The game clocks in at 55 megs. The box even says 55 megs on the cover and spine of the insert. Yet on the back in the game description, it says "46 MEGS."
- In another internal contradiction. Raiden is spelled Riden in the manual, is called Riden by Geese Howard in a cut scene, and then is announced/spelled as Raiden in his match. No one ever said content is easy, I guess...
- According to the announcer in Fatal Fury, the pronunciation of "Billy Kane" is not as simple as it looks. Kane is actually pronounced "Khan." In the film industry, these are the types of mistakes that get the script supervisor fired.
- Fatal Fury was the first game to have two planes of battle (which ended up disappearing from the series).
- Finally, Fatal Fury was the first and only game that allowed both player one and player two gang up on the CPU opponent. Instead of instantly throwing the two players into a versus match, the game lets both fight the same opponent, then places the two hoodlums against one another to see who advances. Needless to say this gave the players a big advantage over their opponent and was never seen again in the series...
When it came out in 1991, Fatal Fury had some nice graphics. However, since then SNK developed much better detail, much bigger characters, and the zooming feature that was pioneered in the Art of Fighting -making Fatal Fury now look very dated. Still, there are some nice colors and detail in all the backgrounds. It's also interesting to see the original portraits of Terry and Andy, and the famous final death scene of Geese Howard (well, supposed death). The one character and stage I should mention is Tung Fu Rue. An old martial arts master, he starts fight as a normal old man, then, after a few hits, he transforms into a muscle-bound behemoth -this was a stunner in the early days of fighters. Also, his stage goes from stormy clouds to a full on rain. While the graphics are not impressive today, this was another break-through when it first premiered in arcades (and it found its way into King of Fighters '99). Fatal Fury's cut scenes and bonus levels are drawn well, too.
The sound effects and voices in Fatal Fury are good, the only problem is you can't really hear them. Fatal Fury is another victim of SNK's early experiments with sound. Fortunately, Fatal Fury also marks the beginning of SNK's amazing forays into fighting game music. The music for the Pao Pao Cafe, Hwa Jai's stage, and Raiden's classic theme song are all outstanding. Overall not bad.
Fatal Fury isn't perfect in this category. There are only three selectable characters (to be more accurate, heroes within the storyline). The punching and kicking is so-so, but some of the special moves are inherently unfair (benefiting the player). If you keep using Andy's elbow dash over and over again, you can keep your opponent form ever getting up. Barring that technical boo-boo, some of the other special moves are not very responsive. The two planes of battle (on some stages) do add to the complexity of the game, but SNK ended up giving this whole category a major overhaul in Fatal Fury 2. Still, the game is playable.
If you want to see where it all started on the Neo Geo; if you want to enjoy times of the past; or if you just want to get an inexpensive and amusing Neo Geo game, give Fatal Fury a whirl. Don't expect to see zooming, don't expect to see strikers, don't expect to see many weapons (other than Billy's pole)... just expect to see your old pals Terry, Andy, and Joe fight against the evil Geese Howard and his army of henchman to avenge Jeff Bogard. Or as the insert puts it, "Revenge by Death."
He'll be back...
...anyone who can fall that far and STILL live for three hours must be immortal.
Bobak!: is working on cloning an army of mutant sentient hamsters. Unfortunately, much to his chagrin, it is not as easy to do as it seems (he wonders how so many evil scientists could be wrong). The one cloned hamster that was sentient ended up being a pacifist and now lives on a beachfront pile of newspaper shreddings in Boca Raton, FL.