In its infancy, the Neo-Geo system gave birth to many franchises; one of them was the Fatal Fury series. The original Fatal Fury introduced the Bogard brothers, Terry and Andy, who enter the King of Fighters tournament to avenge their father’s death. Hosted by Geese Howard, the King of Fighters tournament is more of an elaborate ruse to lure the Bogard brothers into a trap. Since Geese was responsible for killing the Bogard brother’s father, Jeff Bogard, he plans on finishing the job by killing the brothers if they make it to the end. Enter Fatal Fury Special, a sequel of sorts to both the original Fatal Fury and Fatal Fury 2. Unlike its predecessors, FFS is more robust and the boss characters are now playable. Fan favorites like Duck King, Tung Fue Rue, Billy Kane, Axel Hawk, Lawrence Blood, Geese Howard, and Wolfgang Krauser round out an otherwise solid cast of fighters. This is where it all began, and for those who are wondering, this is where the idea for the King of Fighters tournament came from.
The action takes place on a 2-level playfield that can be maneuvered by bother fighters, This element of gameplay – which was considered innovative back in the day – allowed new strategies to be introduced into the genre. Instead of being stuck on a single 2D plane, you can move in and out of the background to avoid attacks. You can also punch or kick your opponent into the adjacent field and then jump at them with a second attack.
The CPU’s AI is no push-over in single-player mode. Even on the easiest setting, expect the fights to be a grueling test of your endurance. Sometimes it borderlines the cheap, but all too often the CPU will throw you out of mid-move or punch you into the adjacent playfield. This can be frustrating at times, but FFS is known for its unforgiving gameplay. It takes practice, patience, and nerves of steel to learn the art of defeating this game, and beginners may find this title a bit too unforgiving for their taste.
FFS holds up well despite being a classic title. The graphics are still strikingly beautiful despite being well over a decade old. A smoothing filter was also added to the graphics to remove pixelization. The backgrounds show their age when compared to titles like SF4 and KOFXII (they suffer from 3 frame crowd animations), but we’re talking the 1990’s here. Back then this was considered the pinnacle of high-tech gaming.
One feature worth noting (and present in the XBL Arcade version) is the Enable Tip option. When activated, a sidebar appears to the right of the screen containing a move-list of your chosen fighter. This feature can be quite helpful if you are learning a new fighter for the first time. Kudos to SNK Playmore for adding this feature!
FFS is a testament of SNK’s greatness. While it may not be for everyone, FFS delivers as a classic. It’s not expensive either; FFS sells for 400 points in the XBL Arcade MarketPlace. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Mike ‘STGuy1040’ Pittaro
Score: 9 out of 10