Players:1 - 2
Price: $14.95
Platform(s):PS2
Developer: SNK
Publisher:SNK Playmore
ESRB: Teen
Website:Art of Fighting Anthlogy
Rating:

I’ve always favored the Art of Fighting games; they always had the art of fighting first and foremost before anything else. I also thought the series was unique in that it never made the main character, Ryo, game-kill on his rival Robert (unlike Capcom’s Ryu and Ken). It's too bad the series stopped after the third iteration. It would have been really interesting to see where the designers would have taken AoF (had it not turned into KoF). But pushing the arcade nostalgia aside, how well does this game fare? Are the three available titles on this all-in-one package worth the budget-price? You know the drill, keep reading to find out.

The Art of Fighting Anthology is a one-disc package of three classic games. Now some of you new-age gamers might not know the legacy behind the Art of Fighting, but it was this very series that helped fuel the original King of Fighters. Of course, KoF’s rise came out of both Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury, but we all know Ryo and the gang played a big part (especially Mr. Karate) in creating one of gaming’s most revered fighting franchises.

While the Art of Fighting series sadly went away after the remarkably animated AoF 3 in 1996 (because KoF kicked it into super high-gear in 1997, bringing about the Orochi trio), it still left a lasting flavor of appeal throughout the years. But what about the other two? What about Art of Fighting 1 and 2? Is this trio of games one good apple amongst two crummy seeds? Or is it possibly a good two out of three worth owning? Maybe three’s the charm and they all nail the lid on the coffin? Well...sadly it’s not the latter two.

Art of Fighting
The original AoF is still the same as its arcade rendition, save that you get unlimited continues and the music is arranged much better. But the AI is as redundantly ridiculous as ever. I remember playing the original AoF on the Sega Genesis and having to do a jump, hop, kick rotation to defeat Todo on the first stage. Well guess what? That same tactic still worked after recently playing the game on the AoF Anthology. The same duck, block, low-punch counter also still works for Jack Turner and pummeling Mickey into a pulp is just as easy as ever. So that’s a good thing, right? Wrong. It’s the exact same game from ages ago and sadly, the original wasn’t very fun. It's funny because around that very time the original Mortal Kombat was all the rave and deservedly so. Via comparison even now the original MK is still better than AoF...that says a lot. The clock-work gameplay of the original Art of Fighting takes away from simply enjoying the game and that hasn’t changed with its debut on the PS2.

Art of Fighting 2
Moving on...it’s time to discuss Art of Fighting 2, my second favorite in this trilogy of games. While the second AoF isn’t heavy laden with the same kind of fun-factors for the mini-games that the first AoF had – such as breaking wood or beating up a practicing dummy – Art of Fighting 2 focused more on refined gameplay. There were more characters to play and more moves to perform. The only downside is that the computer still fights like a maniac. They block nearly every attack – staying true to the arcade counterpart – and they avoid nearly every special attack thrown their way. At least, though, certain characters could be mastered and played in a variety of ways. The fighting was a lot less linear than the original AoF, and the sound and voices at least came off with crystal clear clarity. The jazz-pop soundtrack wasn’t bad either.

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior
My favorite of the group...this game actually surprised me when I started it up. It’s nearly been a decade since I last played it, thoroughly. But the detailed and fluidly animated sprites still look really good. I know a lot of you who may not have played any of the Art of Fighting games will think every game in the series looks awful, but for 2D fighting fans they’ll appreciate the sprites that were left intact for this game. Nevertheless, the main reason why I liked this third game so much, is because the fighting is so very, very smooth. Now personally, I liked the fighting more in this game than I did in all the King of Fighter games (except for KoF ‘98 and KoF 2001). You can pull of easy counterattacks in this game and the combos – instead of being restricted to button mashing or long string commands – are carried out with mainly just two buttons. It might sound really simple, yet it requires a lot of skill. The buttermilk smooth pace and unrivaled animations of Art of Fighting 3 easily make the AoF Anthology worth owning for this game alone. That’s not to mention the dynamic, hand-drawn shadows, character zooming and jazzy soundtrack. Now if only this game had a tag function...

Overall, though, the Art of Fighting Anthology isn’t anything new to the AoF series. And if you really have no idea what the Art of Fighting series is like, this DVD probably won’t leave you with any [positive] lasting impressions. But with the inclusion of a pallette editor, the original soundtrack for each game and the option to choose from 33 different fighters across 3 different games – not to mention the very wallet-friendly budget price – this anthology edges awfully close to the phrase “a must own for any SNK fan.”

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