Review by colexo_vizion
the first great Neo Geo fighting game
FF (Fatal Fury) lost its edge as a premier franchise a while back, but in 1992 while SNK was battling it out with Capcom to topple the Street Fighter 2 arcade king, the company had already released the original FF, Art of Fighting and World Heroes. While popular in arcades, neither of these games had the spot-on controls or inherent depth of Capcom's 90's classic. When SNK released FF2 in the arcades, it was the first fighting game to come close to matching Street Fighter 2's prestige amongst fighting fans. Eight world warriors with SNK's trade-mark memorable characters filled the roster. Intensely unique fighters like the de-masked Raiden/Big Bear, the nimble plate throwing Jubei and rolling obesity that is Cheng Sinzan were cool enough to be taken seriously as fighters without all the over the topness of Alpha Denshi's goofy World Heroes tribe. FF2 also inaugurated several fighting game staples that remain with us today: Terry, Mai, Billy amongst others (how Laurence has fallen into obscurity is beyond me). While the superior upgrade FFSpecial is the franchise's masterpiece, FF2 holds a place in the Neo Geo's library as the first truly great fighting game that was playable, artistically distinguishable and full of replayability.
Graphics: Graphically, FF2's sixteen bit graphics look dated, but hold up well enough. All the fighters animated well and have some impressive special moves. Every fighting stage here is gorgeous, and the 150 meg size of the cartridge is put to excellent use. Details in FF2 are abound everywhere. Watch the backgrounds closely, and you might find some strange characters quickly popping in and out of the screen, certainly for no reason or effect to the game play but very fun to watch. The character art is a bit bland during cut scenes but at least they're accompanies by funny and sometimes nonsensacleone-liners. The Neo Geo's trade-mark zooming feature is used to minimal effect, as characters jump to and from the foreground and background seemlessly and without any nasty pixelizaion that would sure effect lesser sixteen bit consoles.
Sound: FF2's soundtrack is pretty forgettable, until you get to the final boss, Krauser's German theater with a famous classical orchestration appropriated for the the levels grandiose orchestral setting. The soundtrack on this levels ranks as one of the great musical scores in the history of video games. Unfortunately the rest of the music is pretty generic, though it sounds good. Character voices are fantastic, with each fighter having their own distinct vocality. Krauser silencing line "I'll chisel your grave, sleep well" is the best scripted fighting game line in all of fighter's history.
Game play: Because this game is over a decade old, and was part of the first generation of fighting games, a lot hasn't held up to well. For starters, the roster of playable fighters is pretty slim: eight characters and three sub-bosses and a boss. Though like SNK's best, the game play is balanced to perfection making all fights fair game. Another problem is the speed. Even in 1992, FF2 was slow. Years later it feels even slower. The control scheme of two punches and two kicks is flawless, but characters move at the unnatural pace of stone. The line-sway mechanic, where characters can fight on both the foreground and background plane hampers the fluidity of battles. It is very easy to keep hopping back and forth to avoid character attacks, and this kind of cheap dodging becomes very annoying very quickly. The ability to do quick attacks from plane to plane could work as a good countering mechanism, but experience players will quickly learn how to block or dodge these attacks as they are easy to see coming. Getting past these faults, FF2 at its core is a great old-school fighting game. Characters have multiple special moves to pull off. There is also an excellent two-in-one combo system here that isn't as expansive as Street Fighter 2's, but it is more difficult because of the nature of the game play. Once you get your combo groove going, massive damage will start to be ensued on your opponent.
Overall: FF2 is trumped by more complex brawlers in the Neo Geo's library, but FF2 marks the first great fighting on the system. Dedicated players will have a lot to find here. From each characters ending to the multiple difficulty settings to hone your skills. Two player battles are always awesome. If you don't take FF2 too serious you might find yourself playing this great fighting game for quite sometime, until you decide to move onto FFSpecial. For the hardcore, FF2 AES cartridges come relatively cheap today. Better yet, you can pick up the excellent Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 1 on the Playstation 2 to get a real taste of what the FF series has to offer.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Fatal Fury 2 (US, 03/05/93)
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