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Fatal Fury (1991 video game) - Review

Terry Bogard. That name rings familiar, you say. You might've been triggered by his appearance in Smash. But, maybe you are interested in his past. His poorly translated past...

It is the fabulous(?) year 1991.
Capcom's iconic Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior was dominating at arcades everywhere, with little to no competition. Its success lead to other companies trying to ride the coattails of Street Fighter 2, making rather unimpressive fighting games of relatively poor quality. Of course, most of these games had their insides squeezed out by Capcom's feet... ew...

What must be said about Fatal Fury however, is that it was being developed at the same time as Street Fighter 2... Infact, the director of the original Street Fighter, Takashi Nishiyama, went on to produce Fatal Fury after finishing work on the former... Perhaps that's why this game seems to resemble the original Street Fighter more than that game's sequel.

Fatal Fury, created by the technically-but-not-really-defunct company SNK, saw its first release in arcades in November 1991, when Street Fighter 2 was already out and annihilating the competition. This game was released on Neo Geo hardware, which allowed games to be as big as 716 megabits of RAM. The Neo Geo was later released as a console (The Neo Geo AES), selling for $650 at retail, while games were sold for around $250, due to the games being arcade-perfect and having a large capacity. Fatal Fury, while having a fair share of interesting and innovative ideas, never managed to defeat the almighty Street Fighter 2... Is there a reason for this? Or did the players back then just have bad taste? Reading is your first step to a brighter future, so go ahead and do it.

Story

The story goes like this:
10 years prior to the events of Fatal Fury, local crime lord and professional funnyman Geese Howard murdered a man named Jeff Bogard. 10 years later, Geese holds the "King of Fighters" tournament, located in the fictional South Town, located in the south. The late Jeff Bogard's 2 sons, Terry and Andy Bogard, along with their close friend, Joe Higashi, after finding out about the tournament, participate in it in order to avenge their father and defeat Geese Howard.

Rather simple and easy to understand, but fighting games don't really need a compelling story anyways. This game's story does remind me a bit of Street Fighter 2; the villain of that game also did some pretty messed up things, and then hosted a tournament, and some of the playable characters do seek revenge... Basically, what I learned from these games is that you should not be hosting tournaments if you are a wanted crime lord, or else martial artists will come and get your booty~

What I think this game did slightly better than Street Fighter 2 is the story presentation within the game. After every fight, there is a short cutscene of Geese making a few remarks. At first, he just thinks you are a strong fighter, but after beating multiple opponents, he starts to raise suspicion and tries to get information about you... resulting in him finding out about your true identity!!! He will get angrier and angrier with every fight, until he finally has enough and decides to try and kill you in a battle to the death! Truly dramatic. After having your butt kicked by Geese, the master of Cheese a couple million times, you finally defeat him... And push him off a skyscraper, making him fall to his death!! And the best part is, you don't go to jail for that! And that, my sweeties, was Fatal Fury.

"The prologue of a new legend..."
The game says, as your character is standing on a cliff, looking at the beautiful view. Did I really just spoil the ending? Yes, I did. Are you angry? I'm sorry, but it's not like you were actually going to play this game, right? Well, sorry nonetheless. I hope you can forgive me. Anyways...

Street Fighter 2 didn't really have any cutscenes. You only learn about the story during the endings. Of course, you could argue that Street Fighter 2 doesn't really need cutscenes, given the basic nature of the plot. Still, an intro or a cutscene describing the plot wouldn't have hurt. The only cutscene (besides the endings) in that game was the intro... Which featured a nameless white guy punching a nameless black guy in the face. Not exactly what I'd call deep... Or harmless... I had to.

Admittedly, Fatal Fury doesn't exactly have a very good intro either; it's just a playable character standing on a cliff... Hey, this seems familiar...

I just like it when fighting games go the extra mile to incorporate the story into the game itself, and not just in something like a manual.

Only bad thing about Fatal Fury's story: All playable characters have the same ending... It ends after they stand on the cliff. How unfortunate... Looks like Street Fighter 2 wins in this regard.

Story: 7/10 - Easy to follow and somewhat similar to that of Street Fighter 2, but still effective

Graphics

One thing I must say is that the sprites are very colorful. It is almost always easy to tell what is part of the background and what isn't. The sprites are a reasonable size. This game also takes advantage of scaling graphics, so that's neat. Fonts are unique and easy to see. The HUD during a fight bears some resembling to the HUD of Street Fighter 2, however it is different enough to be considered unique. Also, some projectile sprites are reused by other characters. Character close-ups have an interesting artstyle, but some aren't exactly appealing to look at. The promo-artwork I do like, though...

During a fight, every round, the time of date changes. In Round 1, it's day, in Round 2 it's evening, and if you manage to reach Round 3, you will be greeted by the night. Background characters are tinted differently depending on the round aswell. Street Fighter 2 only had one time of date per stage, so this is a nice touch.

The animation in this game is mixed. Most characters are kind of choppy, a few don't even move at all when standing still. Background characters tend to only be a measly 2 frames, making some animations, like dribbling, extremely choppy. Scaling is cool, but scaled-down characters staying that way is a common occurence during gameplay (see below), and it just looks a little strange at times.

When comparing with Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior, this game has the more colorful graphics, but the animations are no match for Capcom's giant squeezer. Compare Terry's standing animation with that of Ryu's, and you'll most likely prefer the latter. The worst are the characters who don't move at all... It just screams laziness.

Graphics: 5.5/10 - Colorful sprites, but the animation leaves something to be desired

Music & Sound

The music in this game is, surprisingly enough, not that bad. Many of the tracks are good, memorable even. My personal favorite is Geese Howard's theme: Lots of guitar with a somewhat melancholic melody. Actually, Geese himself is pretty awesome... and hilarious too, sometimes. I like how casual his henchmen are. "Dude, Geese is calling you! Come with us!" Very cute. Uh, anyways...

Some of the music in this game is also quite unique, using various different instruments. Examples include Richard Meyer, Tung Fu Rue and Hwa Jai's themes. Raiden's theme is also worth a listen; Masahiro Sakurai approves of it.

The sound is a mixed bag... The voice acting is pretty bad in every line, and sometimes it's hard to tell what they're even saying! The announcer is alright, and without him, I probably would be pronouncing Billy Kane's name wrong right now... You pronounce it like this: Billy Khan. Thanks, announcer!

As for sound effects... Eh. They do the job. A problem I have though, is that when you hit someone with a projectile, it doesn't really sound satisfying to me. It's even worse when you consider how much damage projectiles do in this game...

Overall, it's alright. When you can tell what they're saying, it sounds much cleaner than in Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior, but most of the time it's average. Sound effects are unremarkable... There's not much else to say about them. The music is catchy, and some themes are just great. Though, some tracks are a bit repetitive.

If you get tired of listening to Guile's theme (somehow), or are just curious, why not take a listen? It's not a masterpiece, but it's worth a listen.

Music & Sound: 6.5/10 - Good music, but the sound effects are mediocre and unremarkable

Characters

Sir, I have bad news... You will not like it... There are only 3 PLAYABLE CHARACTERS in this game.
THREEEEEEEE!!!!!
The rest are only controlled by the computer. How disappointing! Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior had a whopping eight playable characters... No wonder this game failed to defeat the fighting game giant! ;_;

Let's not go too far ahead of ourselves, shall we? How about I introduce them to you? The playable characters, I mean.

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Terry Bogard ... The main character, and surprisingly enough, not a complete ripoff of Ryu. I'm pretty sure he's American.
Andy Bogard ... Terry's brother and kung-fu practitioner. Uses some funny tricks, according to Geese. His voice has a weird echo for some reason.
Joe Higashi ... Terry and Andy's friend. He practices Muay Thai. Walks around shirtless in boxershorts... Has abs, too. Can summon hurricanes out of nowhere.

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Now that I've introduced them to you, how about we discuss their move lists? Each playable character has 4 special moves, or "death blows". Here is a table with all moves:

Terry Bogard Andy Bogard Joe Higashi
Burn Knuckle Zan Ei Ken Slash Kick
Slam Attack Sho Ryu Dan Machine-Gun Punch
Super Shot Kick Ku Ha Dan Tiger Kick
Power Wave Hi Sho Ken Hurricane Upper

You may say "Dang darn, four moves for each character? That's generous!"... Unfortunately, it's not what it looks like. Let me tell you what moves each character has, from top to bottom:

  • A quick rush attack that others can jump over (Burn Knuckle, Zan Ei Ken, Slash Kick)
  • An anti-air attack (Slam Attack, Sho Ryu Dan)
  • Aerial rush attack with long start-up (Super Shot Kick, Ku Ha Dan, Tiger Kick)
  • Powerful Projectile (Power Wave, Hi Sho Ken, Hurricane Upper)
  • Essentially, each character has the same death blows. The only move that's really unique is Joe Higashi's Machine-Gun Punch, which is similar to Chun-Li's Hyakuretsukyaku, only he punches instead... I hope you could figure that out on your own.

    Now to be fair, the moves aren't exactly the same. For example, Terry's Slam Attack makes him jump high straight, while Andy's Sho Ryu Dan has him jump slightly diagonally. Terry's Power Wave is a wave of energy that covers the ground, while Joe's Hurricane Upper is a literal mini-hurricane, and so on.

    By the way, the death blows do a respectable amount of damage, especially the projectiles: They destroy 1/3 of the lifebar!! ...Actually, there is a reason for this: As you progress through the game, you "learn" the commands for new death blows (though you never learn the command for the quick rush attack o.o). You learn one move every two fights, and the projectile is the last move you "learn"... But, you see, you don't actually learn them for real; you are only told the commands for the death blows. Essentially, right from the start of the game, you have access to the amazing projectile! Your opponents will be crying in their graves... Just don't spam it, OK? Chances are it won't work very well.

    The cool thing about Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior characters is that not all characters had the same moves; yes, some characters had similar moves (Blanka and E. Honda), but most of the time they were original. I must give some credit to Fatal Fury for giving characters four moves, as Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior generally only had two moves per character (Save Ryu and Ken), but I think I still prefer that game's moves over this game.

    Moving on from the playable characters, how about I introduce you to the CPU-only characters? I hope you don't mind... I don't want you to groan. Loudly, anyways.

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    Richard Meyer ... Capoeira dancer. Able to move on his hands. His theme is pretty interesting, and I have to give him props for having a normal sounding name.
    Michael Max ... The worst Balrog clone in the world. His signature death blow, the Tornado Upper, is literally just Joe's Hurricane Upper... That's just lazy. I can't even remember how he looked like right now. The best thing about him is his theme, "The Sea Knows".
    Tung Fu Rue ... Master Roshi but green. He can transform into a super buff senior who can throw super powerful Hi Sho Kens in both directions. Oh, and he can fly like a helicopter. Cute.
    Duck King ... Excuse me? DUCK King? Can anybody actually take this guy seriously? His death blows don't have much to do with ducks, unfortunately. Pretty generic, even. To be fair, not having him throw rubber duckies at his opponents probably was a good idea.
    Hwa Jai ... Shirtless, bald Muay Thai boxer, and Joe's rival. Doesn't have a particularily pretty face. When low on health, he drinks chili to become extra powerful. It is during this state that he can use his Dragon Kick, which you can easily avoid by ducking. Bam!
    Raiden ... Shirtless, thick wrestler. Sometimes misspelled as "Riden" in the game. Has the amazing ability to puke whenever he wants. His theme is pretty good, but something about his face seems strange.
    Billy Kane ... Annoying brat who wields a rod. His death blows have absurd range, but if you can get close enough to him, you can throw him to death.
    Geese Howard ... My favorite crime lord. Acts somewhat childish, but he is brutal in battle. His death blows are to be feared! He might also be a weaboo, but this is only a guess of mine.

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    Basically, half of the characters in this game suck. ;_; Well, a third of them atleast. It doesn't help that there is only one ending for all characters, meaning nobody has a real chance to show personality outside winquotes... And judging by the winquotes, I assume Joe Higashi is a sadist? "Sleep forever! Ha,ha!" Pretty mean thing to say, Joe.

    To be fair, the move lists aren't bad... Atleast they tried something different instead of ripping off Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. The characters themselves on the other hand tend to be more on the bland side, especially Michael Max... I hope I never have to see him again.

    Characters: 6/10 - Bland characters, alright move lists

    Gameplay

    Now, this is where we come to the crux of the matter: How is the gameplay? Is it fluid or stiff? Are there combos? Let's find out.

    First off, it must be said that this game is not very combo-heavy; it focuses more on death blows. Indeed, the only combo I can think of at the moment is a jump-kick into a ground-low kick... If you can call that a combo. I am not a combo expert, unfortunately... What's also unfortunate is that this makes for less interesting gameplay; combos are an extremely important part of a fighting game and can make for more interesting gameplay, as shown in Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior (even if the combo mechanic in that game was accidental).

    The gameplay in general feels clunky; something as simple as a punch or a kick is fairly slow; even the death blows are clunky and slow. As a result, matches can be somewhat uninteresting.

    This game uses only 3 out of the 4 Neo Geo buttons: A to punch, B to kick. If you are close enough to your opponent, you can press the C button to throw them. The D button is just there to collect dust, and is never used.

    The game plays like a typical fighting game: It's a best-of-3 match between you and your opponent. However, there is a major addition that turns this game upside down... But what is it? Well, remember when I was talking about scaling in the Graphics Section? Well, this is where it comes into play:

    I introduce to you, Sidestepping!

    Well, it's not really sidestepping per say... Let's call it sidejumping instead. Basically, during a match, there are two planes you can battle in: The front, and the back. Both opponents start the match in the front plane, but under certain circumstances, you can SWITCH to the different plane by jumping! You can even attack your opponent while switching planes by pressing A or B.

    The only problem? Well, regarding the circumstances... You cannot sidejump on your own; you have to wait until either the opponent sidejumps themselves or either you or they land a super strong hit. This means the sidejumping mechanic is quite limited when only human players are playing... And even with CPU players, it's still not very intriguing. As a result, this mechanic feels somewhat clunky and unrefined, and the scaled down graphics don't help much, either.

    One can't fault SNK for trying to innovate, though. While it was very much unrefined, it definitely was unique. The sidejumping mechanic would be later improved upon in the sequel, Fatal Fury 2 (though it still feels somewhat clunky there).

    Speaking of innovations, a slightly less notable innovation is the ability to choose your first opponent when you start a new game. Upon choosing your character, you can choose between 4 opponents: Richard Meyer, Michael Max, Duck King and Tung Fu Rue, in that order. Who you choose as your first opponent changes the order of opponents you fight afterwards, so if you choose Richard Meyer, you will fight Michael Max next, but if you choose Michael Max, you'll fight someone else next instead. After fighting the first 4 opponents however, you will be forced to face the next 4 opponents in a set order: Hwa Jai, Raiden, Billy Kane and finally, Geese Howard.

    This innovation is pretty neat, not gonna lie. Later SNK fighting games, like Fatal Fury 2 (duh) would also have this feature.

    Now, let us discuss the multiplayer features. In the game, two players can fight against eachother, like in Street Fighter 2 and every other fighting game ever. However, there is a very interesting innovation regarding multiplayer: The ability to fight a CPU with two players simultaneously. Yes, you heard that right. The two players can work together in order to defeat the enemy, which can be quite helpful in harder difficulties. This innovation was never seen in another fighting game again, most likely due to concerns that it makes the game too easy... And it makes the "heroes" of this game look like cowards... Especially when both fight someone like Tung Fu Rue. I get that he's a martial arts master, but atleast be fair to an old man, jeez... (Unless he's OK with it, in which case, what are you smoking, and what's your training plan?)

    Oh, and regarding the character selection screen, the thing is, well... Two players cannot play the same character. This is especially bad when you consider that there are only THREE playable characters... While Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior also had this problem, atleast there were enough other characters to choose from. Here, it's just not good at all.

    Lastly, I must say that this game lacks in the bonus game department. Every two matches, you play the only bonus game in the game... In it, you must mash A as hard as you can and defeat the virtual buff man on the arcade screen... While two blonde-haired dragons watch you perform. Personally, I prefer smashing cars. That doesn't destroy my hand (unless I use Chun-Li), unlike this bonus game.

    Unfortunately, while innovations are always great, what matters the most is the gameplay... and Fatal Fury does not really deliver in this regard. It is certainly better than the gameplay of the original Street Fighter, but considering Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior was already out months ago, this game simply cannot compare with that game.

    Gameplay: 5/10 - The innovations do not save the slow, clunky gameplay

    I'll be honest with you: There's not much reason to play this game, aside from the music and the fact that this is the game Terry had his debut in. Everything the original Street Fighter did, this game does better, and everything this game does, Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior did better.

    It's probably best for you not to buy this game and expecting to play a fast-paced, competitive fighting game. If you really want to play a Fatal Fury game as introduction, buy Fatal Fury Special instead. Only one character is unplayable, and it's generally more fun to play. I probably wouldn't call it one of the best Neo Geo fighting games, though.

    I'll be honest, though: I did have a little bit of fun playing this game. Granted, Billy is a jerk, and Geese needs to stop throwing me to death, but it wasn't so difficult that it wasn't fun. Usually. Maybe I had fun because I was playing on the easiest difficulty... I'd rather not find out about Geese on Level 8...

    I think I have said I all can say about this game. Think very hard before buying this game, or just go with a better fighting game instead. I hope you somewhat enjoyed this to some extent.
    I'll see you in my dreams.

    Pro Con
    +Good music -Small amount of playable characters
    +Innovative -Bland bonus game
    +Story cutscene intermissions -Unimpressive animation
    -Movelists are similar
    -Slow and clunky gameplay
    -Two players cannot choose the same character

    Score: 5/10

    - Mediocre -