Art of Fighting Anthology PS2 Review
With the release of Art of Fighting Anthology, this is the perfect arcade port of this series of games. I can’t stress enough that these are arcade conversions and NOT console versions. For people who have only heard the name Art of Fighting will ask ‘What’s the difference?’ Whereas the others that have played both will know.
Basically the differences are that with the Arcade version, just like all arcades, the owners of the machines could change the difficulty, usually left on default which is MVS, which I will explain later. The console versions have the options to change round time, how many rounds and the difficulty of the game. When you load up this game you are welcomed by a Title Screen with some artwork from all three games. Press start and you are welcomed with a choice of basic options, sound, visual and control configuration as well as save and load so you don’t have to do these settings over and over. Also a nice little feature is that you can change the colours of your favourite AoF characters, so if you thought Ryo looked good in black with white hair, do it! Now onto the history.
Back in 1992 SNK released Art of Fighting after the success of Fatal Fury; SNK released this series as their technical/realistic fighter. This goes against them, but also with them at the same time. Against them because of the success of Street Fighter, it was hard to top something as playable and enjoyable. It went with them because of the technicality of the game which just gave other developers ideas to make fighters more intricate.
Art of Fighting was still a success but it was a niche, and a nice change of pace from Street Fighter. The realism in this game was that depending on where you hit someone was how much damage they received and also you could see their face swelling and getting bloody. What made this game stand out from the rest was that it was story driven. Now a lot of people won’t say that’s special but what makes it special with AoF is that in-between fights there was dialogue, only a few lines of text but it added depth to the story of the game its self.
The story of the series is that Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, friends and rivals, travel into Southtown, then around the world looking for Ryo’s sister Yuri who has been taken by a shadowy underworld figure. After they rescue her, the story unfolds and gets deeper than they imagined. What awaits them, only the streets know. . .
You have one punch and kick button, then you have a throw button and taunt button. Now that isn’t much for a fighting game because usually it’s 4 or 6 buttons. With it only having 3 buttons of attack, it takes away a lot, but adds a little. To do different attacks, you press different directions and also the timing of the buttons produces combos. For special attacks, you have a Rage Gauge which governs how many times you can do a special move, but also how strong it is. You can recharge the gauge by pressing and holding punch and kick. The problem with that is that it leaves you defenceless, so use it wisely. The taunts in this game diminish your opponent’s Rage Gauge, but again leaves you defenceless, so it’s about timing, just like the moves in the game. This is where the technical and realism comes into it like in a real fight; you wouldn’t just go diving in throwing everything you have got. You would take your time, recover stamina and so on. This can slow gameplay down in taking time and so on. You didn’t need it for this, the game itsself is quite slow and clunky, but again, adding to the realism style of the game. A lot of people will argue the fact that it’s not real in the way that you can do special moves like throwing fireballs and the like, but without that similarity to Street Fighter, this series would’ve almost definitely fallen on its arse.
The story mode lets you choose between Ryo or Robert. Basically the Ryu and Ken of the series! Both are practically the same, but Ryo is all about punches for his specials and Robert about kicks. That’s their main difference. While going through the story, you come across the same characters, but with a few different lines, with the story aiming towards the same goal. In AoF 2&3 you can go through the single player with any of the characters, but only Ryo and Robert have stories. The other characters are just filler if you want to practice when you don’t have a friend to play with and since this doesn’t have a practice mode, it’s perfect in that sense. With regards to difficulty on this game, well I can say, even on the easiest difficulty, it’s still hard as nails because you have to think more, rather than about doing certain combos and the such. The difficulty selections in this game are Easy, Normal, Hard, and MVS. The first three are self explanatory; MVS is basically the arcade difficulty, somewhere between Normal and Hard. So if you ever played this in your local arcade and got your butt whipped, put it on Easy!
As with all fighters, it’s all about 2 players! With the 2 player in this, there are 32 characters to choose from! That was quite a lot for a fighting game back then. Though it was obviously not 32 all in one game. The fans of the game will question it and SNK Playmore count each character in each AoF game as separate. So all three Ryo and Robert re-incarnations are counted separately which is quite misleading if you read the back of the games box which says “33 characters, each with their own unique fighting styles” which is wrong because in the manual there are 32 characters and that’s counting the main characters and hidden boss characters. In the 2 player mode of the game you get at your disposal of each character in that game in the series, so you don’t have to mess around to unlock the hidden characters.
The general graphics of this game were very good for its era. They haven’t stood the test of time very well at all, the majority of the characters now look constipated and very disgruntled. One unique thing about it though is the automatic Zoom in/out feature which they put in to create more dramatic looking fights. It zooms in when you are both next to each other so you can feel the grit of the sprites kicking 10-bells out of each other and zooms out when you’re far apart and composing yourself.
The music in the game is typical SNK style. Quite funky, tries to be hip and cool but just fails, even back then. Practically every stage tune had some sort of horn instrument in it to give it a kick up the arse which to be honest, makes most of the music sound very slapped together and very half-hearted. Also the speech and special effects in the game are very muffled and sounds like they have just recorded staff coughing into a microphone.
One main problem is that with other fighters that have a much bigger fan base such as Street Fighter, Tekken, Soul Calibur and Guilty Gear; Art of Fighting, even back then felt quite ancient. A reason for SNK to keep making these games is because they are intertwined with the Fatal Fury series in the way that it’s before Fatal Fury’s timeline and you see some younger versions in AoF than their adult counter-parts in Fatal Fury. Then SNK all together mashed them both together to make The King of Fighters, the first cross-over fighting game which was very exciting and which kept people playing both series of games as King of Fighters, which was basically for the people that were going: “AoF is better!” “No, Fatal Fury is better!” So SNK said, lets settle this with a mashup of both the games!
With all that said Art of Fighting, although a very good fighting game, is the weakest of its kind compared to some of the bigger series like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear due to how these games have evolved and the AoF series hasn’t. For example, the way in that the sprites have just got nicer looking, which this game cannot compare to. In my opinion, this is only suitable for collectors or hardcore fans of the series. It is just a novelty for fans of fighters or even just SNK in general. The RRP is £12.99 but with Amazon and other stores already selling it for £9.99 it represents fairly good value for money.
Very good for fans of fighting games, otherwise stay clear.