Fatal Fury Special Review Rewind
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On 01/01/2012 at 12:00 PM by Esteban Cuevas
Yes, Mai bounces in this one…
For hardcore fans of fighting games and SNK titles. Everyone else can pass on this one.
Released around the start of the rivalry between SNK and Capcom in 1993, Fatal Fury Special proved to be a real contender to Street Fighter II. It also followed Street Fighter’s example, as it was an updated edition of Fatal Fury 2. Now that the arcade classic has returned in the form of a downloadable title with online functionality, is there still a fire in Terry Bogard’s Burning Knuckle?
I’m not going to beat around the bush. Although the game remains intact for the most part from its original version, this is one extremely lazy port. Absolutely no effort was put into making this game look better and it’s presented in a way that suggests that the handlers of this port hated this game. The menus have no music, the sound effect while going through the menu is extremely harsh on the ears and nothing but the bare bones minimum is available in the options.
Graphics are also a disaster of sorts. You see, a lot of XBLA games that are ports of older games usually have the option of applying a filter on the pixel graphics so they look less blocky. However, this tends to also blur the graphics when not done right and instead makes the game look fuzzy and unfocused. Fatal Fury Special has this feature as well except that it isn’t optional. So graphically you do get an arcade perfect version of the game if you made your eyes go out of focus for the entire time you were playing.
Luckily, despite the filter the graphics got, the art direction itself is still well done. The beautiful level designs and backgrounds feature Midwest mountains, stampeding bulls, and sleazy nightclub sound screens. Although dated, they show creativity many games today have replaced with realism. Character models are also very distinctive and no two characters look the same, ranging from pro wrestlers to matadors. The game is presented in its native 4:3 ratio so no stretching has been done, although, again, the option would’ve been nice.
Sound is relatively untouched from the original and is a classic 90s fighting game soundtrack. If you played this title back when it was first released, you’re sure to remember the Mai sound bites, or the dramatic rock inspired track from Geese’s level. Unfortunately, it’s not quite arcade perfect as the sound quality seems to be slightly muffled when compared to the original. Many might not detect it but it’s worth mentioning as it is noticeable, if only by a little.
Now, I want to make something clear: I am a big fighting game fan. It’s one of my favorite genres and I am one of those people who follow the Mortal Kombat storyline and got all the versions of Street Fighter II. Furthermore, not only am I a fan of fighting games but I love SNK fighters. Samurai Shodown is one of my favorite franchises, I like the World Heroes games and I have a special place in my heart for the Art of Fighting series.
Having said that, I don’t think Fatal Fury Special has aged well. Its fighting mechanics are solid but dated. Jumps are more vertical than in other titles, there is no robust combo system, and movement is slow compared to more recent titles in the genre. Now this isn’t necessarily bad but it’s a style of gameplay that isn’t used that often anymore. It doesn’t help that the Xbox 360’s D-pad sucks for fighting games. Unless you played the game when it was new, you probably won’t be able to adapt.
Strangely enough, although there are many things that make the game feel old, such as less impactful attacks and less than lenient input commands, the different planes in the game have rarely been done again, if at all. In Fatal Fury Special, you can move into the background and return to the foreground at will, allowing you to dodge attacks and projectiles no matter where you are. This adds a surprisingly good amount of strategy to the game and keeps things fresh.
This game definitely wasn’t made for online players, as there’s no online community to speak of. I couldn’t connect to one match. This can be frustrating, especially for achievement hounds since they can’t get about half of the achievements now. For multiplayer, local play is the way to go. Go old school, just like the title. A quick side note: there’s a feature that allows you to have the arcade style move list on the side of the screen. This works in single player but not in multiplayer, local or assumingly online.
With all the bad aspects I’ve brought up about the game, I still had a lot of fun. Playing against the computer is still fun and very challenging as the game still suffers from SNK Boss Syndrome (although many will probably be able to complete the game on the easiest difficulty). I do have nostalgia for the game however, so it may be my own personal bias. However, I think that’s the target audience: those who enjoyed this game when it was first released in the arcades.
Maybe some improvements to the presentation, as well as more options, would have made this more appealing. As is, what we got is a shoddy port of a old game that will appeal to only major fans of the game and series and even then, there are better versions of this game than this that I would recommend first, such as the Fatal Fury Battle Archives on the PS2 or the Wii Virtual Console port. It’s disappointing that this title didn’t receive better treatment. SNK’s first fighting franchise deserves better.