The good folk at SNK are really trying to do their best to fill in the noticeable gap that Nintendo is currently leaving their players of no Virtual Console games. Given what we heard about the Nintendo Online services having NES games and the newly announced SNES Classic, it’s not surprising, but it’s still frustrating. So I do appreciate that SNK is offering up a slowly expanding bevy of NEO GEO titles from all stations of the console’s life, and is focusing on their bread and butter, fighting games. Fatal Fury 2, while an important part of the series’ history, is by no means their shining example of greatness, but can still be deeply appreciated for what it was and what it meant to the series.
Fatal Fury 2 does an excellent job of continuing and boosting the Fatal Fury/King of Fighters storyline by moving forward from the original. With the death of Geese Howard and the appearance of an unknown patron sponsoring this new, worldwide tournament, this is essentially the start of the King of Fighters franchise as we grew to know it. Mai and Kim, two of the most well known characters after Terry and Andy (sorry Joe) debut here, and this is SNK proving that they weren’t going to let their incredibly lauded premiere title simply be forgotten and fade away.
Fatal Fury 2 takes everything about the first one and improves upon it. Moving between the lanes has become more fluid, and the introduction of moves to knock opponents into different lanes became a serious strategy point. After all, if you could kick or punch someone into a position where you essentially had an extra second of breathing room, that could mean all the different. Additionally, stage hazards and desperation attacks created new ways to play, where you didn’t just need to rely on your own abilities. In fact, creating a strong move that required you to be seriously injured became a new way for champion arcade fighters to play: lure opponents into a false sense of victory, then pivot to an amazing comeback that broke expectations and souls.
Graphically, Fatal Fury 2 is only slightly better than its predecessor. During a golden age of 2-D, 16 bit fighters, you wanted to make sure everything was recognizable, and I think SNK was nervous to overhaul the original characters too much in fear of alienating their fan base. Also, I don’t think it really mattered how it looked, as long as it played well. I do enjoy the way some of the stages pop, as I feel that the Alice Springs level still holds some of the most personality you could find in a classic fighter. All in all, the NEO GEO delivered more in 16 bit than most other systems at the time were even capable of, so even “simple” by today’s comparison is still pretty damn impressive.
The unfolding of the story mode is slightly bizarre by today’s standards, but enjoyable. When you start up the game, you choose who you’ll be fighting against, almost like you’re doing a vs. spar, but this is actually how the “main game” begins. After the first fight, you relinquish choice control and just go wherever the game throws you, but, I’ll admit, I was a bit confused at the beginning. Then again, having the fighters “challenge” you gives more of a purity to the fighting concept, which does fall in line with the game’s ideology.
Additionally, this was the first SNK game that I’ve gotten multiplayer to work on the Switch. After some serious digging on the internet, it turns out there’s a strange way to “trick” the Switch into seeing and recognizing two JoyCons, meaning you need to have the Switch already aware of two controllers prior to starting up the game. You know how most Switch titles will allow you to pair controllers on the fly and add in players as necessary? Due to the way the game is emulated, the NEO GEO titles simply won’t know there’s a second player unless you tell them ahead of time. That was my mistake for not considering that at first. I suppose I just got too comfortable with the game asking me when I started playing instead of telling it ahead of time.
So why the disappointment? SNK has chosen a weird way to release their games onto the Switch, and I think they’ve shot themselves in the foot with this one. The original Fatal Fury came out a few months back, and then they jumped way ahead and did Garou: Mark of the Wolves just last month. Though the play styles are different (Garou doesn’t use the lane system), it’s still a huge graphical improvement, as well as being more fluid and more similar to fighting games of today. Fatal Fury 2 is a boosted version of the original, which might leave new players confused and dissatisfied. If you want to see where the game was, that option already exists. If you want to see more what it became, that also already exists. Fatal Fury 2 is simply the middle child with great skills and abilities, but no one to really appreciate them.
The SNK collection for Switch continues to be one that appeals to collectors and NEO GEO diehards, but still seems a little distant for new hires. The online leaderboards are fun, I enjoy caravan mode, and I’m hoping for something to totally blow me away when it comes to having the original Japanese version as an option alongside the translated, Western release. Still, SNK is getting some good feedback and releasing more titles, and I, for one, think supporting them for their endeavors is worthwhile in and of itself. If you want to own a strong piece of Fatal Fury lore, then Fatal Fury 2 is an important part of the digital storytelling library. If you’re looking for a classic fighting game, you could certainly do worse. However, if you’re as big of a fan of Garou as I am, you might want to save your pennies until the sequel comes out someday.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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