Retro Round-up for October 12th

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posted 10/12/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
Platforms: Multiple
Every week Cyril Lachel comes down from his giant castle in the hills to provide the final word on all of the classic downloadable games and retro compilations. This is the Retro Round-Up, your official guide to the best (and worst) in classic gaming for the Nintendo Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Join us as we shed some light on what games are worth your five or ten dollars, and what games you should avoid at all costs. For more information about these games (and retro gaming in general) we invite you to check out Defunct Games. It's the moment we've all been waiting for, the Neo Geo is finally on the Virtual Console. There's just one problem, not a single one of them is worth your nine dollars. But that's not going to stop us from telling you what we think of Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and World Heroes. I bet you can't guess which one we like the most? Find out now when you read this week's Retro Round-Up ...

Art of Fighting (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Released in 1992, Art of Fighting was a story-driven alternative to Street Fighter II. You play one of two characters, Ryo Sakazaki or Robert Garcia, as they battle the evil Mr. Big and retrieve Ryo's kidnapped sister, Yuri. But don't get too excited, because the original Art of Fighting is an absolutely dreadful game. At the time the game had a few things going for it, such as large detailed characters, a somewhat interesting (albeit cliche) story and a camera that zoomed in and out of the action as the characters got further apart and closer together. But with the good comes a lot of bad, such as a control system that is sluggish and frustrating. The biggest problem is that the moves are just too difficult to pull off, at the end of the day you're stuck just mashing buttons hoping for the best. Street Fighter II is so revered because it combined interesting characters with solid gameplay, yet both of those attributes were thrown out the window when coming up with this ugly mess of a game. Thankfully the Art of Fighting series did improve over time, but this first installment is an absolutely dreadful game that should be avoided at all cost.

Does It Still Hold Up?
A lot of fighting game critics contend that the genre hasn't improved much of the last ten years. In some ways they are right, the basic structure of one person fighting another person hasn't changed. But all it will take is one play of Art of Fighting to appreciate how far this genre has come since 1992. There was a time when it seemed like only Capcom could make a good fighting game, but now we live in a time when everybody else is making better fighters than Capcom. Art of Fighting is a terrible game, it was back then and it is now. I love the Neo Geo, but this is not the way to debut the system.

Is It Worth The Money?
Of the three Neo Geo games released this week, Art of Fighting is by far the worst of the bunch. The graphics may be pretty (in that early 1990s kind of way), but the gameplay has been completely sucked out of this horrible fighting game. Believe it or not, the 16-bit Super NES version of this game is actually superior, if only because it featured slightly improved controls and more characters. If you really need an Art of Fighting game then go out and buy Art of Fighting Anthology for the PlayStation 2. Not only is it dirt cheap, but it also features Art of Fighting 3 (aka the only good Art of Fighting game).

Fatal Fury (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
Don't ask me why, but for some odd reason there are a lot of people who really enjoy the Fatal Fury series. To be fair to those sorry, mixed up gamers, the Fatal Fury series has improved over the years (Mark of the Wolves is actually a really solid game). But the original Fatal Fury is just about the worst fighting game on the Neo Geo. I would call it the worst, but Art of Fighting reminded me how much worse a fighter can be. Fatal Fury allows you to choose one of three characters, including Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard and Joe Higashi. The three of them take on a whole mess of bizarre fighters with increasingly stupid names, such as Michael Max, Tung Fu Rue and Duck King. And just in case you can't get enough of characters named after birds, the final boss is the extremely cheap Geese Howard. How threatening of a name is Geese Howard? In this world of people changing their relatively normal names to something with more glamour, you would think that a gang leader like Geese would change his name to something that puts more fear in your heart. I'm just spit balling here, but what about Crazy Eddie or The Thunder. How cool would it be to have a name like The Thunder? I'm just saying. But I digress, the fact that talking about better character names is more fun than actually playing the game is not a good sign. The game does have a few things going for it (the fact that you can jump in and out of the screen is very interesting), but those tend to get lost in the mix thanks to the horrible gameplay, lack of special moves and limited character selection.

Does It Still Hold Up?
At this point it may sound like I'm just picking on the Neo Geo, but I assure you that I'm not. There is nobody on this planet that wants to play good Neo Geo games on the Wii more than me, yet all I'm getting are the three worst fighting games SNK has to offer. If ever there was a time for SNK to give us Last Blade or Samurai Shodown II, now is that time. The fact that we're given three fighters that are all basically the same is frustrating beyond belief. Like the other two Neo Geo games released this week, Fatal Fury does not hold up.

Is It Worth The Money?
You would be better off saving your money for one of the better Fatal Fury games, such as Fatal Fury 3, Real Bout Fatal Fury or Fatal Fury: First Contact. What's more, the $9 seems a bit steep considering that the Fatal Fury collection was recently released at a budget $15 asking price. It's almost as if Nintendo (and SNK) are trying to sour people's opinions of the Neo Geo right from the start. I think it's a bad strategy; the companies would have been better served by giving us one of these three fighting games along with Magician Lord and Cyber Lip. At this point you might as well save your money for one of those games.

World Heroes (Virtual Console)
What Is It?
While a lot of people remember Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury, it's World Heroes that proves to be the best game released this week. Keep in mind, when I say it's the "best game" I mean that only because the other two are total garbage. World Heroes is in no way a stellar game, but when put up against two fighters that control so poorly that they are practically unplayable it starts to look better. Unlike the other two SNK fighters released this week, World Heroes doesn't take itself too seriously. The gimmick of World Heroes is that you play characters loosely based on historical characters, such as Janne D'Arc (loosely based on Joan of Arc), Rasputin, Julius Carn (loosely based on Genghis Khan) and Kim Dragon (who is a dead ringer for Bruce Lee). The other big innovation is that the levels fight back. In some levels you will find large spikes on the sides that you can get stuck on if you get too close, or in another level you will get burned if you get too close to the flaming rings on either side. These additions alone don't make for a great game, but it is interesting to see this kind of innovation long before 3D fighting games (like Mortal Kombat Dead Alliance) started to do the same thing. The odd thing about this game is that it's all very entertaining in a completely cheesy sort of way. Sure, it doesn't hold up when compared to Street Fighter II and other popular fighting games of the era, but it's perfectly enjoyable in the same way that watching a B-rate horror movie is fun.

Does It Still Hold Up?
The problem I've had with all of the SNK fighting games so far is that none of them have had very good controls. Both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting are sluggish and hard to control, which is definitely not the combination you want when buying a fighting game. The good news is that World Heroes is pretty easy to control, it's never sluggish and it always moves at a pretty fast speed. The only real problem I have with the controls is that the characters feel a bit floaty and a lot of the moves are terribly unbalanced. The game does hold up, but just barely.

Is It Worth The Money?
This week you would be better service by buying one of those Super NES Street Fighter II ports for one dollar cheaper. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Nintendo has added the Neo Geo to the Virtual Console. But is it too much to ask for one game worth buying in the debut week? If you really must buy a Neo Geo game this week then World Heroes is the best of the bunch, but that's only because the other two are practically unplayable.





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