Fatal Fury is often touted as a Street Fighter II clone. It was, however, being developed at the same time. The similarities between the games come from the fact that SNK’s fighting games were created by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto, they had created the first Street Fighter. Its fair to say that Fatal Fury was everything that the original Street Fighter should have been. Its gameplay is sharp and there is the introduction of co-op two player mode. This means that two players can team up to fight against a CPU opponent at the same time. This mode helps the title stand out from other games in the fighting genre and makes the title worth playing today. After each co-op fight against the CPU, the players then turn against themselves in order to see who will continue.
I love fighting games which contain a narrative, it helps imbue the characters with personality. The story in Fatal Fury revolves around two men, Geese Howard and Jeff Bogard. They were training in martial arts in an American city called Southtown. Geese wanted to use his prowess to gain control over the criminals in the area. His martial arts master Tung Fu Rue (try saying that a few times quickly) didn’t approve of this and so made Jeff Bogard his successor. This maddened Geese, who after becoming a police commissioner had Bogard killed. All would have ended at this point, however one of Bogard’s kids, Terry, witnessed the event. He then traveled to Japan to train in order to enter Geese’s King of Fighters tournament to avenge his father. Terry also had a brother, Andy who enters the martial arts challenge with the same intent.
You can control either the two Bogard brothers or their friend Joe Higashi. For fans of Street Fighter II, this small character selection detracted from the enjoyment of the game. However, each character is perfectly designed and the controls are fairly intuitive. Fatal Fury is also innovative in the manner it utilizes the background and foreground. At any moment the fights can move between these, for example, the CPU frequently jumps into the background making the player follow them. There are also certain moves which allow the players to knock their opponent into the other plane. This is a bit of a novelty but welcome and is perhaps the precursor to using the environment in this manner by modern titles like Injustice: Gods Among Us.
You can also chain attacks from the basic ‘normals’ into ‘alternative attacks’. This happens when you perform two consecutive base attacks without them being blocked by your opponent. Then following up with a third attack which then kicks every subsequent unblocked attack into an alternative.
The visuals are quite attractive but not stunning by any measure. Its the background designs which hold the most interest rather than the characters of their animations. The level of depth perception in Hwa Jai’s level set in the cities streets is incredible. Geese’s tower level is worth a mention as well, giving a sense of its height – appropriate since, if you beat him, Geese will fall from his building. There is also a nice sense of detail as the game stages change from day to night evoking a sense of atmosphere.
A solid, fun fighter which doesn’t quite go toe-to-toe with Street Fighter II. Its a piece of fighting game history which has been lost in the shadow of its own sequels.
With innovative gameplay mechanics and solid combat, this is more than just an SNK curio. An essential game for 2D Fighting fans to experience, even though it has been overshadowed by its better sequels. A piece of gaming history.
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,