If you are a veteran of the late 80s early 90s arcade scene then you no doubt have heard the name Fatal Fury. It’s no secret that back in the glory days of social gaming (and no Xbox Live doesn’t count kiddies) in the arcades Capcom and SNK had a friendly rivalry that spawned some of the greatest 2D brawlers ever created. While the former has released countless compilations of its revered franchises SNK has been a bit late to the party, but they are about to make up for it with Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 1 for the PlayStation 2.
This four game compilation comes packed with the first three titles in the Fatal Fury series as well as a special edition of the second iteration simply called Fatal Fury Special. Regardless you are essentially getting three full games for fewer than fifteen bucks which if my math serves me correctly is less than five bucks a game. Now I know that anyone who has visited an arcade will attest that five bucks for all the free credits you can handle is a steal.
While there is certainly a plethora of content to be found it is also worth noting that this package comes without any sort of extras. No art galleries, no making of videos, and sadly no online multi-player. Instead you get exactly what it states on the box; four arcade titles ported directly to the PS2 hardware. This means that anyone who already owns these games in some form or fashion would be better off skipping this collection as there is nothing here to warrant a re-purchase outside of having them all on one convenient disc.
Much like its rival franchise Street Fighter, Fatal Fury is a progressive series that simply got better with age. When you boot up the original game you will quickly notice the sloppy controls, limited cast of characters, and stiff animations. Once you graduate through the other titles you will begin to see the evolution that these games went through over their years in the arcade. Controls are more refined, backgrounds more animated, and the cast of fighters nearly doubles, at least until you reach the third game where, for some odd reason, the roster shrinks in favor of a more advanced control scheme.
Granted this “advanced” control scheme will certainly feel prehistoric to gamers today, but if you can remember playing these games in the arcades then you will appreciate how much each game improves upon the other. All is not always well in the world of Fatal Fury on the PS2 however; as you will quickly come to realize that the Dual Shock controller is not as responsive as those trusty arcade sticks. Despite having a relatively simple control scheme some of the moves are brutal to pull of on Sony’s controller. Special moves are twitchy and even after spending countless hours mastering the Xbox 360 d-pad to play Street Fighter I was still fumbling some of the special moves.
It is also worth noting that fans of current fighting games will likely find the cheap AI frustratingly difficult in these older titles. You see these games were designed to eat your quarters and eat your quarters they did. Even on the easiest difficulty this game will likely hand you your ass. If you manage to make it to the final boss (without breaking a controller mind you) then you will understand why we old-school gamers complain about difficulty in today’s world. This stuff is brutal and cheap not to mention it would be totally unacceptable in today’s games, but it does bring back those fond memories of actually taking down these cheap bosses on one quarter.
The presentation is classic arcade cheese complete with random comments after each match that literally make no sense at times. Visually the game hasn’t aged well and watching some of the character animations in the first and second game are downright painful. The color palette still manages to impress and the backgrounds are still more entertaining than even some of today’s fighters. The music and sound effects are typical arcade cheesy goodness with heavy metal guitar riffs blaring on every stage and an annoying announcer spouting one liners as you progress through the story. All of the audio still sounds as good as it once did and you will begin to reminisce about the goofy sayings each character spurts when unleashing a special move.
Fans of old-school brawlers like Street Fighter and King of Fighters would do well to snatch up SNK’s newest compilation. While the features are non-existent and a lack of online play really bogs down the overall value it is only fifteen bucks. All four of these games are worth that based on nostalgia alone, not to mention having them all in one place for convenience. Hopefully SNK will continue to bring their classics to the mainstream with more of these compilations and who knows; someday we may even see some extras on the disc to liven up the deal.