Fatal Fury: King of Fighters otherwise known as Garō Densetsu Shukumei no Tatakai which translates to Legend of the Hungry Wolf: The Battle of Destiny is a head-to-head fighting game released by SNK for the Neo Geo arcade and home platforms in 1991. As a youngster I played this in the arcades on one of the red Neo Geo multi slot cabinets and loved it, I brought its megadrive port upon its release in 1993 and eventually for a while a few years later I actually owned a Neo Geo AES home system and this game (along with other 4 games). The important thing to realise is that the Neo Geo AES cart was exactly the same as the arcade machine (Neo Geo Arcade machine carts are referred to as MVS carts but there is no real difference between playing an MVS or AES cart they hold the exact same game one is just made to plug into an arcade system and the other a home system). I didn’t play the SNES version till much latter.
Over the years some people have looked at this game and kind of dismissed it while saying something on the lines of oh sheesh another street fighter 2 wannabe, yet others have loved it, an important thing to remember is that the game was designed by Takashi Nishiyama who was the creator of the original Street Fighter game. Fatal Fury was never a copy of street fighter 2 Nishiyama envisioned it as being a spiritual successor to the original Street Fighter it wasn’t pieced together by copying street fighter 2 as it was in fact being developed at the same point in time as Street Fighter II. So the obvious question everyone will have at this point is, well is it as good as street fighter 2 or what?
Well the gameplay follows the usual formula of one on one fighting games from this time period, basically you play against the computer in a best two-out-of-three contest. You move with your dpad/stick but unlike street fighter 2 and its 6 attack buttons covering 3 different strength versions of punch and kick here you only basically have 3 three attack buttons one punch button, one kick button and a button for throws. Each of the characters in the game has their own special attacks that are performed by inputting specific commands and combinations many of them being the same sort of motions you would find in street fighter 2 however here they are much harder to pull of demanding exact procession.
The main problem with this version lays with the conversion. When you look at street fighter 2 people have called the SNES version a perfect conversion which while it is not true you could see how people would think that it is. Unless you have a SNES and an Arcade machine running side by side it wouldn't be easy to point out any major differences, yet while the home Neo Geo AES version is an exact replica of its arcade counterparts the other ports were no way near so lucky.
If your used to being able to play the arcade/story mode as pretty much anyone in the line up of characters featured in a game then your in for a surprise here as in this mode you only get to pick from one of three fighters Terry Bogard a cocky baseball hat wearing american street fighter out to revenge his fathers death, Andy Bogard his younger brother who has a far more graceful Japanese fighting style and Joe Higashi A Japanese Muay Thai fighter and friend to the Bogard brothers. This in and of itself is not a huge problem although it does cut down on 1 player replay value, it is also true for both the original and this port. The story is also not going to win any awards you are either one of the Bogard brothers or there friend and your entering the martial arts tournament to beat everyone else so that you can face off against the man who killed your father/friends father and that's as complex as it gets. Makes sense for the two brothers after all if someone killed your dad you'd probably want to at least kick there ass and murdering him probably wouldn't be that far from your mind, you can imagine the whole you killed my dad now die speeches that would be made yet Joe's reason feels a little lacking ''erm you yeah I was told you killed my friends dad I am going to kill you'' doesn't sound quiet as epic or likely don't get me wrong I have liked some of my friends dads over the years but id be more likely to buy them a beer and comfort them or phone the police for them than go try to win a whole martial arts tournament and kill a man in cold blood for them maybe I am not as loyal as some or maybe I just don't like the idea of serious prison time and being grabbed in the night during my sleep for a surprise type of naked cuddle by a fellow inmate. Still the point is less playable characters doesn't just mean less playable characters it means less stories, less endings, less variation.
On the Neo Geo this game had an interesting mechanic where there was two lanes of play an upper and a lower, you could switch between them to avoid projectiles and such and this gave the game a unique flavour this however is missing from both the SNES and Megadrive ports which really does the game a disservice. The game looks fine with nice sprites and a wide variety of opponents and decent sounds and music but it is all very forgettable when put by the side of street fighter 2 which is a darn shame. You can find some enjoyment here but it will be limited you'll most likely struggle with the specials, and when you get to the last boss the broken mechanics will have you pulling your hair out as he cheap shots you again and again, still those used to SNK fighters will be a little more used to bosses who seem to have near god like status so will be used to repeatedly having to retry at that point. I feel really bad that I have kept brining up street fighter 2 while discussing this game because I feel the Neo Geo version at least offers something that is very much its own game, however with this SNES version and how things have been cut down it feels a lot worse and it doesn't surprise me that a lot of people would have played it and gone ''ahh its another street fighter 2 knock off''
I do think this game is much better in multiplayer with friends, when both of you have the same handicap of hard to perform specials it just feels a lot more competitive than you struggling to pull of some form of fireball and the computer repeatedly doing them with ease.
I am a big fan of SNK fighters but this is not the place to start a love affair with them, at least not on this console. I find myself having to give this game a 6 out of 10 on the SNES and would only recommend it if you really want a new fighter and have lots of the better ones already. I would also say that if you have more modern systems and just want the game as opposed to a SNES cart for your collection that you look at ways to instead play the Neo version (which I would score as around 7.5). I am sure it has been released on various online stores for more modern machines (PS3 and Wii certainly) and can also be found on the SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 compilation which was released for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Wii. If you need a SNES cart for some reason then the cheapest Pal ones I have seen were around £15 and its also worth noting that Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury special also hit the SNES which I wont be reviewing as I don't own them but I tend to remember them as being much improved.