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 Higashi, enter the tournament to get their revenge on Geese.

Iss'at Mayweather?

In many ways, Fatal Fury was SNK's answer to Capcom's wildly successful new 2D fighter Street Fighter 2 (released in early 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), and fighters their way up 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. After defeating the first four opponents, the player will then face off against Hwa Jai, Raiden, and Billy Kane (in that order) before fighting 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 also 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.


I'm glad Terry lost the high-tops.


Comparably to the arcade smash hit that was Street Fighter 2 (and yes, we must compare the two)... Fatal Fury's gameplay engine feels a bit stiff competitively. In short, character movement is slower and less responsive than that of Street Fighter 2. While an impactful title at early 90's arcades for several reasons, Fatal Fury's controls and gameplay did not last competitively or directly evolve from sequel to sequel like Capcom's SF2 series.

However, Fatal Fury characters can move around a bit "differently" than characters from Street Fighter. The most unique and noteworthy gameplay innovation of Fatal Fury is the ability to "jump" into the background or foreground and continue fighting. Character sprites will appear smaller in the background, and then grow larger and clearer in the foreground. This graphical effect looked unorthodox yet impressive in some ways (albeit slightly weird). 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 did allow 1P and 2P to fight together against a CPU AI. This idea was interesting, but SNK decided it didn't do justice to the "heroes" of the game and seemed like a cowardly thing. lol.


Two Vs. One.. against an old man? And you guys call yourselves "heroes"?!


Fatal Fury
's original character designs are unique and memorable in their own right. Many of them had an a rough start but had plenty of room to grow as designs. Over the years, Terry Bogard and the gang have certainly come a long way from the first game... and this is easy to see. The original cast was lacking in some areas, again, when compared to SF2's vibrant (and all playable) roster. Fatal Fury's personalities still had some serious development to do (and thank goodness they did in the later games). 

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, as it was more technically sound. 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 a pretty impressive sprite for 1991.



Page Updated: March 19th, 2021
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

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, 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: It was an earnest attempt by SNK, but let's be honest... Fatal Fury wasn't a "great" fighting game at its core. It presented innovative ideas and interesting characters, but it was not a competitive smash hit like SF2. (Not even close.) It was playable at best, but not many games had a chance at competing with SF2 at the time (that's how crazy good that game was). Fatal Fury 1 almost seemed like it was competing more with SF1 and it is arguably better than that game, for sure. But, real talk: SF2 was already out for many months before Fatal Fury 1 hit arcades, and Capcom didn't take long to update their game with CE and Turbo versions. You do the math.

SNK went in a different direction after Fatal Fury 1 and released other compelling 2D franchises: Art of Fighting and Samurai Shodown both of which were vastly more impressive and influential in the genre. SNK also decided to completely redraw all characters and change the engine for Fatal Fury 2 and beyond (another divergent from Capcom's strategy). All this to say, SNK definitely a long way from scrapping together Fatal Fury 1's logo which was basically a direct "rip-off" of SF2's. (Same color scheme and everything.)

Fatal Fury had some developing to do... and "The King of Fighters" name eventually became its own series with tons of sequels. That said, Fatal Fury was definitely an important stepping stone in SNK history... a monumental one that would pave the way for so many future hit fighting games by SNK many than still to this day include characters from this very title. Most importantly,... Fatal Fury's characters eventually developed to incredible new levels in later sequels and genre-defining SNK (and Capcom) crossover titles.
~TFG Webmaster | @FIGHTERS_GEN


Click here for official comic by Shinkiro!


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