PS2 Review: Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 1

Players:1 - 2

Price: $14.95

Platform(s):PlayStation 2

Developer: SNK Playmore (Conversion by G1M2)

Publisher: SNK Playmore

ESRB: Teen


For more than fifteen years SNK has published some of the most original and cool fighting game franchises. Fatal Fury is one of those franchises, amongst others, which has set its legacy in stone via amazing gameplay, excellent timing and great fighting mechanics. And Volume 1 of the Fatal Fury: Battle Archives is a perfect example of why we fell in love with SNK and Fatal Fury more than a decade ago.

As much as I’m a sucker for a nostalgic experience, I’m also easily put off with older games that are past their prime. Going back and playing the original Doom leaves little to be desired – just as going back and playing the first two Art of Fighting games left me staggering with frustration and disappointment. However, I’m extremely pleased to say that all four Fatal Fury games on the Battle Archives Volume 1 disc were easily enjoyable and very fun to play.

It may come as a surprise that the original Fatal Fury is much more playable than other games that came out around the same time. The controls were still very responsive and the timing, while slightly off, was still better than some fighting games put out on stores shelves today. Yes, the original Fatal Fury looked terrible and the animations were not very good. Yet it was impressive to play a fifteen year old game and actually have fun with it. The introduction of two-plane fighting (i.e., moving into and out of the screen) worked wonders for the game and was more entertaining than any of the Soul Calibur games, seriously.

It took me about 45 minutes to get up to Geese, but it was because there were so many close battles that left me millimeters away from victory each and every time I lost. The balanced fighting mechanics were really tight for a game this old. And I have to tell you, any game that instills intensity, a competitive AI and a fair chance is a game that’s worth every minute you invest into it. And in this case, I don’t regret a minute I put into the single-player portion of the original Fatal Fury. Sadly, however, the two-player co-op mode did not work as well. Players can haphazardly cause damage to one another and both players more times than often get in each other’s way more than they help. If you want to ruin a friendship, keep playing the co-op mode in the original Fatal Fury.

On the plus side, every other Fatal Fury game on the disc proved to show very little faults. Other than the ugly sprites and choppy animations for Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special, both games managed to bring back all the great fun that the original Fatal Fury contained. FF2 introduced a few new faces (since the original FF only allowed players to pick from Andy, Terry and Joe) and FF Special added a couple of extra characters to FF 2's already decent lineup of fighters. Now Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special are practically identical, with the exception of a few new stages and characters. Still, both games contained fighting mechanics that were easy to get into and still retained the effective two-plane fighting system that worked so well in the original. My only complaint for Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special is that Big Bear, in both games, had an unfair reach advantage that made it difficult to hit him and block his attacks effectively. It’s a minor gripe but an annoying one, nonetheless.

Thankfully, Fatal Fury 3: Road To The Final Victory carries a penchant for near fighting perfection. The sprites look like they’ve had a make-over so they appear to be sharper and modulated for high-definition televisions. And even though the animations show their age, the fighting mechanics and timing are remarkable in the Fatal Fury: Battle Archives. This game also introduced a three-plane fighting system that worked the best out of the entire Volume 1 Battle Archive. Moving into the background and out into the foreground added whole new levels of fighting strategy and tactics, which easily increased and prolonged the replay values of Fatal Fury 3. Plus, this was the game that first introduced my favorite character out of the King of Fighters series...the violent gangster with Orochi blood flowing through his veins, Ryuji Yamazaki. FF 3 also gave fight-fans new additions like Bob Wilson and Hong Fu, amongst others, but it was Yamazaki who went on to play a major part in the King of Fighters series. Although, that’s another review for another set of games.

One thing that must be pointed out, though, is that the audio for all the games on the Fatal Fury Battle Archive is extremely polished, even for the original Fatal Fury. The sounds and impact noises are very clear and the music is mostly spot-on amazing. I will admit, however, that some of the tunes are fairly cheesy and suffer from the early 90's pop-rock themes (i.e., Terry Bogard and Duck King’s music). However, Tung Fu Rue’s arranged music from Fatal Fury Special is just fantastic, and Joe’s song isn’t half-bad either.

Overall, Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1 is an extremely good package for only $14.95. Any gamer who enjoys fighting games owe it to themselves to pick this up for their PS2. While the Art of Fighting Anthology contained gameplay that was only limited to the most skilled of fighting fans, the Fatal Fury: Battle Archives goes out on a limb by providing entertaining bouts for any gamer remotely interested in the Fatal Fury series. From Fatal Fury to Fatal Fury 3: Road To The Final Victory, Volume 1 of this Battle Archive is an all-around great set of games. A definite must-buy.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.