Format reviewed: Neo Geo
Fatal Fury is definitely one of the best-known Nineties fighting franchises, having succeeded in both the arcade and home over the course of ten games. Beyond that, much of the cast has transferred to SNK’s crossover spin-off The King Of Fighters, and there were even animated films. Fatal Fury definitely left its mark, then – but time hasn’t been too kind to the original game.
Arriving some months after Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury was directed by Takashi Nishiyama – the same man that had directed the original Street Fighter. It’s very much a spiritual successor to the original Street Fighter, from the limited character choices to the ability to choose your opponents from different parts of Southtown, the city in which the game is set. However, this means that it’s missing some of Street Fighter II’s key innovations – forget fluid combos, this game is about landing special moves (and that’s tricky). That means that it feels relatively stiff by today’s standards.
Of course, back in the day it was still comfortably better than most other fighting games, and it definitely still retains some appeal. The vibrant backgrounds are very cool, and character design is especially notable – you certainly didn’t see the likes of Tung Fu Rue’s transformations or Billy Kane’s unarmed cowardice elsewhere. Additionally, there’s one of gaming’s greatest final bosses in Geese Howard, a notoriously tough guy with an iconic theme tune and a particularly memorable defeat.
If we’re looking to play Fatal Fury today, we’ll plump for one of the sequels – but it’s still worth recognising where it all started.