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Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2

It’s over. The Lonely Wolves failed. They had all the right moves, the plans, and power to win the day. But in the end, they were outsmarted. Contrary to popular belief, Geese Howard wasn’t killed; in fact, he’s back and better than ever before. Considering the fact that he’s stolen the Jin Scrolls – the mystical writings that can grant him immortality – it’s little wonder why he’s in such good shape now. Armed with his newfound powers and a lust for vengeance, he’s poised to bring Southtown to its knees. The only things standing in his way are the fighters that have caused him so much trouble. This isn’t just about avenging murders or taking down crime any more. The future of the city now rests on this final showdown in Real Bout Fatal Fury.

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Needless to say, the Bogard Brothers are getting desperate. Terry and Andy have trained their whole lives to take down this guy, yet they can’t seem to get the job done. Joe Higashi is still hanging around to help, but it’s not like he’s been very useful. Rather, the Lonely Wolves are going to have to rely on the rest of the crew from Fatal Fury 3. Blue Mary and Mai have come to support their men, both in and out of battle. Duck King and Bob Wilson aren’t about to go back to their regular lives as Southtown socialites, either. Franco and Hon Fu have their own scores to settle with Geese as well. Of course, they’ll have to get by the now-fully playable Billy Kane and Yamazaki. In the meantime, the demonic Jin Twins are still out to nab the scrolls for themselves to fulfil their destinies. In this convoluted struggle for power and vengeance, it’s hard to determine who really wins in the end.

Expanded roster aside, nothing else in the game seems particularly new or intriguing. The combat is still based on the formula from Fatal Fury 3. There is an emphasis on fast-paced combinations and super moves via button inputs and building up energy to use for projectiles. The game utilizes the Sway System introduced in the previous game as well; your character can sidestep into the background or foreground, thus dodging enemy attacks and setting up combo chains. While such combat mechanics are revolutionary for a fighting game, they are barely developed further than their Fatal Fury 3 versions. However, faster framerates and fleshed out movesets make up for it. Unfortunately, there are a few balancing issues; several of the attacks have become ridiculously overpowered while others have been greatly toned down in terms of speed and strength. The most glaring flaw, however, comes with the ability to knock your opponents off the fighting stage. Kicking your foes into electrical cables or through a fence might sound awesome, but game’s detection is horribly off; you could be an entire body length away from an edge and magically stumble backward into oblivion.

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Real Bout Fatal Fury Special fixes many of these problems. The movesets were altered yet again to allow for faster, weaker combos and stronger supermoves. Rather than forcing your enemies out of the ring for a cheap victory, you can knock them back into the destructible environments in each stage. There’s something awesome about smashing someone through a chicken vendor cart or into the side of a wall. Accordingly, the game places a greater emphasis on its presentation; both the fighters and the stages have been revamped with smoother animation frames and details. You can see Franco’s arms slightly gyrate as he breathes, or how Billy Kane’s bandana flaps with his every move. Speaking of Billy, he and the rest of the characters from the original Fatal Fury Special have been added to the cast; Tung Fu Rue, Cheng, and Laurence have returned to dish out some old school punishment. Geese, however, has been replaced by Wolfgang Krauser to fit with the current storyline. But considering how the game runs even faster, smoother, and more balanced that Real Bout there’s a little reason for anyone to complain.

However, you’ll likely forget about it once you get your hands on Real Bout 2. While this game does little to progress the storyline from its predecessor, it features Geese as a selectable character yet again. Along with him are two newcomers: Li Xiangfei, a Chinese waitress with some mystical Quan Fa arts, and Rick, a Native American boxer. With a hidden new boss lurking around, the game’s roster is bigger than that of any previous Fatal Fury title. This game utilizes the sway system of the last few tournaments, but there have been some considerable upgrades. The combat is incredibly fluid and fast paced, which makes racking up insane combos and mastering sidestepping, forward rushing, and evasion strategies easy to pick up and difficult to fully master. No longer are fights won on simply overusing special attacks; the sheer amount of available moves makes for plenty of versatility for each character. The most noticeable change, however, comes with the graphics; all of the characters have been revamped with better proportioned and detailed sprites. Terry isn’t just some blond in jeans, but a tanned, muscle-bound juggernaut. The levels are much more stylized as well; you could be easily distracted by all the neon signs, the crowds of cheering children, or even the wild pigs running around in the background. Needless to say, the Fatal Fury series has progressed from its humble beginnings.

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Unfortunately, SNK fans might be a little disappointed. Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 only features these three games, making it arguably the smallest anthology of the SNK collections. There is no Dominated Mind version of Real Bout Special. Those who have been holding out for another release of Mark of the Wolves won’t have their dreams realized, either. Instead, you’re given the features typical of all the other anthologies: A Practice Mode, Color Editing, and audio and display options. There’s nothing in terms of unlockable art, interviews, or extra content. Indeed, this collection comes up short of what you might expect from most of the newer fighting games available. But considering the high quality of the three games you have at your disposal, chances are you’ll forget about such shortcomings before long.

Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 is easily the best SNK anthology currently available. So it’s a little spares on the extras. Yeah, there are only three games to play on it. But those three games make up some of the best titles that SNK has ever offered. It develops the gameplay so much further than the older trilogy; you’ll be able to see the series evolve from simplistic combat mechanics into an intricate array of strategies rivaling those of current fighters. The sidestepping system lays the foundation for some incredibly intense and fast-paced battles. The sheer amount of playable characters offers more than enough variety to keep you coming back for more. The graphics increase in quality with each successive title, letting you see the characters morph from pixelated sprites into fluidly animated fighting machines. So don’t just pass this collection off as just another re-release of SNK’s archaic titles; if there was ever a reason to prefer quality over quantity, this game is it.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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