If you own a Neo-Geo, you might as well get this classic, because it's a great game at a price that doesn't break your bank.
"I'll chisel your grave...sleep well!" are the words of Wolfgang Krauser as you enter the 15th stage of Fatal Fury Special. Soon enough Mozart's music kicks in and you are blessed with pure gaming bliss that is the Neo-Geo.
The year is 1993. Street Fighter 2's success has become enormous and soon every game company in their right mind begins throwing out carbon copies of the classic game. That meant two things: 1.) you had a large variety of choices at your local arcade. 2.) only a few games were actually...GOOD!
Fatal Fury Special is actually the third game in the Fatal Fury series. In 1992, Capcom decided to release an updated version of their already critically acclaimed masterpiece, Street Fighter 2. Its title was Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition, and it is still considered by me to be the single greatest video game of all time. Capcom's archrival SNK decided to counter-strike, as always, with a game of their own. Fatal Fury Special is the update to the hit Fatal Fury 2. It features an increased number of characters (from 8 to 15) and new stages, added to the already great Fatal Fury 2.
Graphically, the first thing that caught my eye was not the semi-cartoonish character graphics, but rather the intricate and impressive backgrounds. Each background is uniquely animated with flashy and vibrant colors, putting the Neo's color palette to excellent use. (Is it just me or does SNK never use this palette again?) Backgrounds range all the way from Terry's now classic train stage to a Spanish bull fighting ring. Other great stages include Krauser's complete with Mozart's background music as well as the overly flash dance club of Duck King's, which will probably give the viewer a seizure if the lights in the room are low. Amongst the great backgrounds, the game also features overly large, old school, looking SNK character sprites. These sprites are enormous, definitely showing the game's age. Nonetheless the character graphics fit fairly well with the backgrounds, but some objects, like the text used in the character select and versus screens portray the vintagenish (is that a word?) of the game. Mai Shirauni even demonstrates her soon-to-be-trademark "bounce".
Fatal Fury Special sports some great sound effects as well as an excellent musical score, making it one of the Neo-Geo games you will actually want to play with the volume up! I was thoroughly impressived with the amount of speech in this game, especially for it being made in 1993. (Remember, the Neo was bigger, badder, and better!) The voices are crisp and clear, compared to other versions of this game, such as Super Nintendo. The musical score is also extremely impressive, especially for when this game was made. Then again, as I think of it, all SNK games have great soundtracks. Most of the songs were reused from Fatal Fury 2, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some great songs include Terry's (which has become a classic being featured as a secret in Capcom vs. SNK) as well as Mai's, which serves as a great introduction to who will soon be the hottest woman ever to grace a fighting game. (And to top that off, she listens to heavy metal!) Ok, enough. The sound effects are also good and add a fair amount of cheesiness to the game. (You have to love it when there is actually a sound for a blocked attack!) Overall the sound is even more superior to the graphics.
The graphics are good and the sound is excellent, well what about the game play? The game play appears to be spot on, except for one huge factor: control. For better or worse, the game's control is too tight. This may be good for some players, but it also makes some of the super moves unremarkably difficult, especially for casual players. To top that off, the difficult, as with all SNK fighters, will become overly tough, especially on the more difficult settings. While this can become frustrating, you will be blessed with a different ending sequence for each time you beat the game. If you beat the game on beginner difficulty, you will see a lame ending. If you beat the game on easy you'll see a somewhat better ending. If you beat the game on MVS, I don't know what you'll see, because I can't recall ever doing it. The higher the difficulty, the better the ending, which is a great incentive for players to keep trying. However, only die-hard Fatal Fury fans will have the patience to master this game.
At first glance, Fatal Fury Special will look somewhat dated. No, you won't see 60 hit combos, or super meter bars, nor "instant" or super easy death combos. Instead you'll see good old "big damage really quick" style game play, which most hardcore 2D fighting fans will still love. If you have played ports of this game on other systems, don't base this game on them, because we all know that if you play a Neo game not on the Neo, you aren't playing the game. Play this game on it's original platform and you shouldn't be disappointed, unless you hate old school 2D fighters.