Garou/Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves

ESRB:T
ONLINE:N/A
INSTALL:440MB (PS4)
RELEASE DATE:November 26th, 1999 (Original); November 5th, 2001 (Dreamcast); June 30th, 2005 (PS2); June 24th, 2009 (Xbox Live); December 3rd, 2016 (PSN); May 11th, 2017 (Switch); August 16th, 2018 (XB1/PS4); March 28th, 2019 (NA PS4)
PLATFORM:NEO-GEO AES Home Console (Reviewed), NEO-GEO MVS, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
PUBLISHER:SNK Playmore
DEVELOPER:SNK Playmore
ONLINE PASS:N/A

So. I did a little reminiscing recently. Wanted to see if the Wayback Machine had archived my old portfolio. It did. And fairly well, too. No images or anything. It mostly looks like an original webpage – no layout, just text and hyperlinks – but it was there. And it turns out, so was the original version of ReviewHaven! I had forgotten it used to be a subsection of my old portfolio (This was back when it was still kind of a hobby, back in 2008). On top of it being mostly preserved, some of my old reviews were retained as well!

Most of them aren’t great by comparison of what I write now, but I did notice that my writing style hasn’t changed too much. At least a few of them could be updated to match what I do now.

This is one of those reviews (Metal Gear Solid 4 is another, as is Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.)

I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit and update this review of one of my favorite fighting games of all time.

Story


Garou is an old school fighting game.

While there is a “Story Mode” – it’s just the usual Arcade ladder. Go through a series of random fights against the cast, and then face off against the game’s sub-boss and final boss. Beat them, and you get an ending for your chosen character. Sometime those endings are canon to the rest of the series, sometimes they aren’t.

As much as I love this game & this series as a whole, I’ve never really known what the overarching plot has been.

There are a few modes – but “Story” is the only place to get what tiny amount of plot there is to have.

It’s always been convoluted and goofy – and the localization has always made for some absolutely hilarious dialogue and seemingly out-of-character moments (“Oooh, you make me so angry, ya big silly!” Terry says to the crimelord of Southtown, Geese.). That’s no different with Garou.

It’s no different to most other fighting games, really.

There’s also a reason most people consider this to be the “Street Fighter III” of Fatal Fury/Real Bout – and it’s not just the massive change in roster (Only Terry returns out of all 14 characters in the game.)

One of the main reasons is the plot – the basic jist of it is this: 10 years have passed since Geese was killed. The city of Southtown has become more peaceful, and things seem good.

A new tournament is announced – King of Fighters: Maximum Mayhem – which brings in all of the characters of the game – a lot of them being related to past characters in one way of another. Disciples, children, brothers/sisters, friends, etc. Not everyone is connected to the past (This isn’t Soulcalibur V), but most characters are.

Other than that, the story is as basic and cliche as a fighting game story can be. Luckily, most people don’t play fighting games for the plot.


Presentation


By far some of the best, and most smooth 2D visuals I have ever seen. Particles, backgrounds, character sprites, animations, everything looks amazing. It’s actually hard to believe the game came out in ‘99. Even harder to believe that it’s running on the same technology that the original Fatal Fury and King Of Fighters were running on.
The colors are bright, the animations are very smooth and flow into each other very well. It’s very impressive.

These are some of SNK’s biggest, cleanest, and most well animated sprites ever.

Seriously – the game is gorgeous across all versions (With the NEO-GEO version being my favorite, and the PS2 port being a close second [It runs at a slightly higher framerate, which can be a little weird to get used to]).

It’s not just the visuals, though. The game sounds great as well.

Most versions, anyway.

I’ve always loved SNK’s style for supers. The way the background drops out entirely so that the flash is super prominent.

The original version (And the NEO-GEO home version) only feature the somewhat crushed sounded original music. It sounds good, don’t get me wrong – it just doesn’t sound “clean”, which can end up making the game sound old in comparison to other versions that feature the “Arranged” soundtrack, which has nice sounding remastered music (Which I would hazard a guess to say is actually the original, uncompressed music since DVDs/CDs could hold more than a cartridge (At least, an early 00s cartridge.)

I much prefer the arranged music as it’s just not as grating, and I wish the actual sound effects got the same treatment.

That said – the original sounds kind of give the game some of its character, so it’s probably for the best that they weren’t changed.

Now – most versions of the game look and sound great. The Dreamcast version, unfortunately, is not one of those.

Visually, the sprites and stages are nearly identical to every other version, but the Dreamcast version has a lot of problems that make it much less enjoyable to play. Particularly: input delay. One of the worst things a video game can have. Inputs are heavily delayed in the DC version for some reason and it makes an otherwise responsive game feel clunky. No other version has this problem.

There are also sound issues aplenty with the DC version: from sounds not playing at all, crackling and popping, delayed by as much as 2 seconds, or just outright being wrong (Some of Terry’s sounds, for instance, are from as early as Real Bout for no real reason.)

If you have the choice – avoid the Dreamcast port of the game. The newer ports are much better, although the PS2/360 versions are considered by most to be the best all around.


Gameplay


The game plays great. Very smooth and fluid. Specials are simple to pull off, as are both levels of Super moves. There are plenty of characters to choose from [14 total, including the Boss and sub boss characters.].

A small cast by today’s standards, but pretty sizable for 1999/2000.

It’s a pretty deep game as well, featuring, of course, special attacks, super attacks, as well as tech hits and a new “Just Defended” mechanic. Just Defended is a lot like Street Fighter III’s “Parry” system, in that you must perform a special block at a precise time in order to negate damage. Not only does it negate damage, however, it can also give you a small amount of health when you’re in critical condition, giving you a fighting chance at your last moments, rather than just being poked to death.

However, just like the parry mechanic, Just Defended requires precise timing and skill to pull off. Don’t think you’re just going to Just Defend constantly while you’re on the verge of death.

There’s one other big, new feature: The TOP System. TOP stands for “Tactical Offense Position”.

At the character selection screen, after selecting your fighter, you are met with a choice. You must choose where to set a blue bar that overlays about 1/3 of your health bar. This bar determines when you will enter TOP mode.

Once your health bar drop to the blue portion, wherever you place it – you gain a buff for as long as you’re in that section.

This can greatly effect a fight’s outcome, as while in TOP mode, the character is given stronger attacks, and is also able to slowly regenerate health. If you’re an aggressive player, set it at the beginning of your health bar to reap the benefits at the start of the match and tear into your opponent. More defensive or comeback prone players will want to set it towards the end of their life bar.

Its position can actually be used as a way to mess with your human opponents as the flash stops the game for a moment, throwing off their timing.

You also gain access to a new special move while in TOP mode – done by pressing both heavy attacks together (C + D in SNK terminology.)

The game features the basic modes you’d expect from a fighter, including Survival, Versus and Time Attack.

Versus and Time Attack are straight forward, but the Survival mode features a bit of a twist in the form of powerups. These range from adding more time to the counter, giving you more health, filling your Special meter AND draining your health. I’m not sure if there’s a set way to get these, though, as they appear to come out at random. I do know that they come out of the opponent, so attacking is the only way to get them, but whether there’s a specific way to attack, I don’t know.

The only change I didn’t really like was the removal of the ability to shift between foreground and background, like in previous Fatal Fury titles. I’m not entirely sure why they got rid of it, but it added an extra, fun strategic layer to the Fatal Fury games and helped them stand out more against Street Fighter

Overall, Garou was a big shift in gameplay for the Fatal Fury series (In the same way Street Fighter III was). So much so that they decided to make the core gameplay a lot more like Street Fighter – which ends up making this a really good place for Capcom players to try their hand at SNK fighters, which were always a lot more…strict?

This games inputs feel very simple – I don’t remember any pretzels or anything, something King of Fighters and Fatal Fury were kind of notorious for.


Replay Value


Truthfully, this is the weak point of the title as it is with most fighting games. I don’t hold that against it too much. Other than the story, time attack and survival modes, there’s very little here for a solo player.

If you have friends who enjoy the game, then you can have a blast in versus – and the recent versions feature decent online multiplayer.

All versions but the Arcade feature at least a gallery where you can unlock images and character endings to view whenever you want – but that’s about it.

There aren’t even any hidden characters. They’re all available from the start of the game.

The more modern ports also feature trophies/achievements, but there’s nothing too outlandish – just beat the game with every character and get a decent win streak online.


Final Verdict


Garou was pretty much a complete reinvention of the Fatal Fury series, featuring almost all new characters, better graphics, and better gameplay than any of its predecessors. There’s really nothing wrong with it at its core.

If I had to choose anything about the game that was bad, it would be that it suffers from the dreaded “SNK Boss Syndrome”, and that they removed one of my favorite features of the previous games (The LINE system).

The parry-like “Just Defended” system gives skilled players on their last legs a fighting chance against a relentless opponent once they’ve mastered it. The TOP system adds even more strategy to the game by allowing player to choose when they want its beneficial effects to come in, and can really turn the tide of a fight.

Overall it’s an excellent, possibly even the best, entry into the Fatal Fury series. It’s a shame it’s also the last one.

I really hope that one day, with the resurgence of SNK and fighting games in general, we can get a new Fatal Fury.

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PROS CONS
  • Beautiful visuals. Probably one of the best looking SNK games of all time. It still looks good over 20 years later.

  • Simple, more Street Fighter-esque inputs make the game great for Capcom players looking to try out an SNK game for the first time.
  • The Dreamcast version has a lot of problems that make playing the game awkward. Avoid it if you can and go for one of the others.

  • Fans of Fatal Fury/Real Bout's two-plane "line" system may be disappointed that it's gone with this entry.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    Gamer & Fractal Artist. // Lover of giant robots & Fighting in Streets. I've been gaming for over 20 years, and writing reviews for over 10 now. ReviewHaven is my baby.
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