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Fatal Fury Special

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Released: 1993

Genre: Beat-’em-up

Format reviewed: Neo Geo

Publisher: SNK

Developer: SNK

Submitted by: Hereward Proops

Fatal Fury Special was SNK’s answer to Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition. Released less than a year after Fatal Fury 2, it was less of a sequel and more of an upgrade. The game was sped up, a basic combo system was added and a few moves were tweaked here and there. Most importantly, the character roster was expanded from 8 playable characters to 15. Like SF2:CE, the game now allowed gamers to play as the boss characters (staff-wielding Billy Kane, boxer Axel Hawk, matador Laurence Blood and the huge pink-haired Wolfgang Krauser). The game also saw a return of 3 popular characters from the original Fatal Fury (the breakdancing Duck King, the vertically-challenged Tung Fu Rue and original boss Geese Howard). Completing the game without losing a match unlocked a hidden character: Art of Fighting’s Ryo Sakazaki.

The graphics in the game are not too different from Fatal Fury 2. Sprites are large and colourful. Animation is smooth and there is a great deal of variety between the characters – no palette-swaps here! The stages all look good too. Backgrounds have a lot going on in them and some have destructible sections. Modern gamers might think it all looks a bit basic but when the game was first released back in 1993 it was one of the best-looking and most colourful fighters out there. The sound is good too, with meaty sound effects and good vocalisations. The music has as much variety as the stages and is well matched to them, from the acid-house in Duck King’s stage to the Mozart at Wolfgang Krauser’s imposing chateau. Of course, this is all subjective. Those of us who remember playing the game back in the arcades will probably feel stronger about the graphics and SFX than those who are approaching it for the first time.

Most importantly, the game still plays brilliantly. Though the graphics aren’t as dazzling as they were back in the 90s, Fatal Fury Special remains a top-notch one-on-one fighter. The amount of praise the game received when released on XBLA and Virtual Console is testament to this. Controls are responsive and the huge variety of special moves and desperation attacks mean that players are unlikely to get bored quickly. The large, well-balanced character roster ensures that there is plenty of variety. One could complain about the game’s unbelievable difficulty – even experienced players will regularly get their arses handed to them – but this is besides the point. The game is a classic, certainly the best in the original series of Fatal Fury games and quite possibly one of the best one-on-one fighters ever made.