Fatal Fury: King of Fighters

STORYA martial arts tournament known as the "King of Fighters" tournament, is being held in the fictional American city of South Town and sponsored by local crime boss Geese Howard. Ten years prior to the events of the game, Geese murdered a rival martial artist named Jeff Bogard who was on his trail. Now, Jeff's sons, Terry and Andy, along with their friend Joe, enter the tournament to get revenge on Geese.

Terry Bogard... the hero of Fatal Fury / Garou series.

Known in Japan as Garou Densetsu, which literally translates to "The Legend of the Hungry Wolf," Fatal Fury was SNK's answer to Capcom's wildly successful new 2D fighter Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (released in February 1991). In Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (which you might refer to as Fatal Fury 1), the player takes control of one of three heroes (Terry, Andy, or Joe) fighting their way through the tournament circuit. The first four CPU opponents are Richard Meyer, Duck King, Tung Fue Rue, and Michael Max. Players can select the order of their opponents a unique attribute to Fatal Fury over other fighting games of the time. After defeating the first 4 opponents, the player will then face off against Hwa Jai, Raiden, and Billy Kane (in that order) before encountering the final boss, Geese Howard.
Fatal Fury was not the game's original title during its development. The early version of the game was actually called Real Bout, confirmed by SNK's Youchiro Soeda. The words "Real Bout" can even be seen in many stage backgrounds on billboards and signs. About 4 or 5 years after the launch of Fatal Fury, a reboot of the series with a new art style called Real Bout (1995) was released.


Fatal Fury 1 character selection screen... Only 3!

Unlike Street Fighter 2, the story of Fatal Fury was a prominent aspect of the game. The player would see several cutscenes while playing through arcade mode, most which hype up the oncoming encounter with big boss Geese Howard. Fatal Fury 1 also features a bonus arcade arm-wrestling game between rounds, comparable to the likes of Street Fighter 2's barrels and car bonus modes.
Fatal Fury characters can move around a bit "differently" than those from the likes of Street Fighter. One of Fatal Fury's distinguishing gameplay systems is the Line System enabling the ability for characters to "jump" into the background or foreground and continue fighting. During a Line Switch, characters appear smaller as they jump into the background and larger and clearer in the foreground. This unorthodox graphical effect was hit and miss, but overall worked to set Fatal Fury apart from other recent 2D fighting games making a huge impact at arcades (looking at you, Street Fighter 2).

Considering how SNK used the 2D sprites, this "3D effect" was pretty innovative and also graphical achievement and enabled SNK to soon distinguish themselves in the fighting genre (as other SNK fighting games used similar visual effects). Other unique elements to 2D fighting games? Fatal Fury also allowed both 1P and 2P to fight together against a CPU AI. This idea was interesting and an impressive feat at the time, but SNK decided it didn't do justice to the "heroes" of the game (and seemed like a cowardly thing), so they removed this option in later titles.

2 vs. 1 against an old man? The Bogard bros are jerks.

In my eyes, the original Fatal Fury was an interesting "alternative" to Street Fighter 2 (perhaps to collect some of the overflow players who lost their quarters / tokens over at the highly-populated SF2 machines.) There's no denying SF2 was more playable long-term due to its complexity and it being more technically sound for competition.
Little did we know in 1991, Fatal Fury still placed some of the groundwork of what would become one of the most iconic 2D fighting game franchises of all time and one that would introduce many memorable characters, including those who eventually joined many other fighting game franchises and iconic crossovers.

Raiden was an impressively large 2D sprite for 1991.

I think the weakest part of Fatal Fury 1 was its actual gameplay, which wasn't anywhere near as responsive or playable as Street Fighter II's engine. (Not to mention, only 3 playable characters.) At the very least, Fatal Fury 1's "Line System" laid the groundwork for the mechanic being used in several future installments. Fatal Fury's original roster was memorable for the most part, although several opponent-only characters definitely lacked personality and flash (especially when compared to their competition at camp Capcom).
Indeed, many Fatal Fury characters were rough around the edges in the beginning, but thankfully, later developed further in future SNK fighting games. Over the decades, Terry Bogard and company have certainly come a long way from the first game. Overall, Fatal Fury 1 made a name for itself thanks to its innovative gameplay, focus on story, and memorable heroes.





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Page Updated: June 13th, 2024
Developer(s): SNK, Takara
Publisher(s): SNK
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Sega Genesis, SNES, PS2, Wii Virtual Console, PSN
Release Date(s): Nov. 25th, 1991             Arcade
Dec. 20th, 1991             Neo Geo
Nov. 27th, 1992              SNES
April 1992                          SNES
Apr. 23rd, 1993               Genesis
Sept. 9th, 1994              Neo Geo CD
Sept. 21st, 2007             Wii VC
Oct. 8th, 2007                  Wii VC
Dec. 21st, 2010             PSN
Characters Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi, Richard Meyer, Duck King, Tung Fue Rue, Michael Max, Hwa Jai, Raiden, Billy Kane, Geese Howard

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Featured Video:

Related Games: Street Smart, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury 3, Fatal Fury Special, Real Bout Fatal Fury, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, Real Bout Special: DM, Real Bout Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition, Fatal Fury: 1st Contact, Garou: Mark of The Wolves, Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves, International Karate, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Street Fighter, Street Fighter 2, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, The King of Fighters '94, KOF '95, KOF '96, Capcom Vs. SNK, CVS: Pro, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, SNK Vs. Capcom: MOTM, SNK Vs. Capcom Chaos

Gameplay Engine

 6.0 / 10

Story / Theme

 7.0 / 10

Overall Graphics

 7.5 / 10


 6.5 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 6.0 / 10


 6.5 / 10

Art Direction

 7.0 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 7.0 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 6.0 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 6.0 / 10


 6.0 / 10


 6.3 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words: SNK deserves credit for thinking outside the box and focusing more on character storylines, but let's be honest... Fatal Fury wasn't a "great" fighting game at its core. There's a reason Street Fighter 2 was a competitive smash hit and Fatal Fury was not. In fairness, not many other games could really compete with SF2 at the time (that's how crazy good that game was). However, Fatal Fury 1 almost seemed like it was competing more with SF1 and it is indubitably better than that game, no question! But, real talk: SF2 was already out for months before Fatal Fury 1 hit arcades, and Capcom didn't take long to update their game with hugely-popular CE and Turbo versions.

After Fatal Fury 1, SNK went in a different direction to stay competitive, releasing two other highly-compelling 2D franchises: Art of Fighting and Samurai Shodown both of which were vastly impressive and influential in the fighting genre!

Also worth mentioning, SNK decided to completely redraw all characters and change the engine almost entirely for Fatal Fury 2 (another divergent from Capcom's formula). This trend would continue with the series in several installments, with a mix of new and past gameplay systems. All this to say, SNK definitely a long way from scrapping together Fatal Fury 1's logo also basically a complete rip-off of SF2's. (Same color scheme and everything.)

Fatal Fury would eventually lose "The King of Fighters" part of its title, which as you probably know, became its own long-running series with decades of sequels. Needless to say, Fatal Fury was an influential and important stepping stone in SNK history... truly a monumental one that would pave the way for countless other hit 2D fighting games by SNK many that still to this day feature characters from Fatal Fury 1. Most importantly, Fatal Fury's characters eventually developed to incredible new levels of personality in later sequels to the franchise, as well as genre-defining SNK (and Capcom-developed) crossover games such as Capcom Vs. SNK.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen


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