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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Fatal Fury Special

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A year after the re-imagining of the Fatal Fury series in Fatal Fury 2, SNK blew everyone away. The third entry, while it may seem like a quick cash-in, is easily one of the best games of the core Fatal Fury series. Special throws everything into one title, including the compelling gameplay, and comes through with one of the best fighters from the early era of the Geo hardware.

Resurrecting characters that were dropped from the sequel, the massive roster containing 15 fighters easily beat out any other fighter on the market for its time. It now competes amongst the Live Arcade offerings as well. Bosses Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser were playable for the first time. Sprites from the first sequel are been re-used, while others like Duck King were upgraded to fit in.

Gameplay has hardly been compromised. All special moves were performed on any stage, so there are no limits depending on the chosen character. The same feel is here, with somewhat floaty jumping that may turn people off from what they’re accustomed. Even with the all the characters, the balance here is spectacular, and the two head bosses are toned down in multi-player struggles.

The biggest gripe is here, the multi-plane fighting field. It has always felt out of place, and even though it’s a trademark for the franchise, gameplay benefits are unfounded. It can bring a quick end to an otherwise tense struggle, and in a fighting game, that’s hard to forgive. It’s too easy to accidentally move up or down as well in this four button brawler, leading to unintended moves.

All of that is seemingly forgotten as player’s battle in Krauser’s stage, which is unforgettable. It’s widely considered the pinnacle of fighting game stages, where any of the quirks of the engine are instantly ignored. Blaring Mozart in the background was a brilliant move that adds to the majesty of knocking out one of the top characters in the game. Other stages have been taken from Fatal Fury 2, while others have been revamped for the better (Tung Fu Rue especially).

Online play is the obvious addition for Live fans. While play is smooth, the number of current players is staggeringly low. The only other change are the filtered graphics, with no option to turn them off to their original pixilated glory. With those being the only edits, you can’t stretch the screen on a widescreen display.

This is a classic Geo game, easily catching up to the Street Fighter series with each new addition. While further efforts such as Mark of Wolves would become a new standard, Special’s simplicity makes it oddly compelling and easier to get into.

Fatal Fury Special is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence.


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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.