1 to 2 Players
T4964808 50043 7
September 9, 1994
The year is 1992 and Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 has been out for about a year. It’s popularity skyrocketing, it was clear fighting games were here to stay. One developer, SNK, had already released their first fighting game Fatal Fury on their new arcade hardware, the Neo Geo MVS. Looking to expand that series, but from a different angle, SNK decided to something pretty incredible for the time. Their new game would take place in the same fictional world and city as Fatal Fury, but happen years earlier. Essentially taking the first steps into a unified universe, much like Marvel’s cinematic universe today. That game would come to America as the Art of Fighting.
Your basic single player set-up involves martial arts master Ryo and his friend Robert. Turns out Ryo’s sister Yuri has been kidnapped, and with their father nowhere to be found, the friends head off into the city of Southtown to find her.
Both characters essentially play the same, with your standard uppercut, fireball, spinning kick, and hundred ligament wave all on display. While you were only allowed the option of our two heroes in single player mode, versus mode allowed the use of all 8 main story line characters.
Art of Fighting may not look it by today’s standards, but it did introduce 3 of the most commonly used features in modern-day fighting games. The first is the use of a Power Gauge. With Art of Fighting, every special move you use (for example, the fireball) would require a certain percentage of the Power Gauge. As the bar dwindled, you’re abilities would not only lose strength, but also become almost useless and non-existent. Rapidly pressing the A Button or holding Down A, B, C would allow the character to regain Power. This added a bit of strategy to the gameplay, as it prevented the player from simply spamming the special moves repeatedly. Using the Taunt Button allowed you to drain your opponents bar, which could quickly devolve into a game of cat and mouse taunting.
The standard move set is essentially 2 Buttons with Punch and Kick, and then a variety button. The latter, at C, released a different attack based on the context of when it was used. Jumping over an opponent provided a backwards cross-up, pressing it right after punch or kick allowed a stronger version of the chosen move, and so on.
The second introduction is that of the Desperation Move, or Super Art for you Street Fighter folk. Hidden among the game’s 3 bonus stages was the chance to learn the SUPER DEATH BLOW. By performing the half circle motion 6 times, you unlocked a huge fireball move that drained your Power Gauge completely. If it connected, it did an unholy amount of damage making it worth the risk. The other two mini games allowed you a slight expansion to either health or your Power Gauge.
Last on the fresh ideas was the zoom function. As you characters got closer to each other, the game’s camera would move in closer, creating giant on-screen characters. While admittedly a bit jarring at first, once you got used to the zoom it became quite a dramatic battle. Even better, it allowed a better view of the game’s awesome little touch of facial damage to the characters. Besides knocking off various sunglasses, and leaving giant purple bruises, you could also cause King’s shirt to burst open revealing she was in fact a girl posing as a guy.
If you don’t have a Neo Geo system, you can find it on the Wii’s Virtual Console, along with its sequels. PlayStation 2 owners can snag the Art of Fighting Anthology, while truly old school gamers can find ports on the Super Nintendo and Genesis as well. If you’re into importing, you’ll also find a surprisingly faithful, if slightly gimmicky version of it on the Turbo Duo – so long as you have the Arcade Card.
25 years after its original arcade release, Art of Fighting has aged in a curious direction. While it was never a combo heavy or centric fighter, it’s limited arsenal of moves combined with a depleting energy bar has created a sort of strategy fighter. There’s more back and forth, a bit more caution in the choices you make and the times you want to make it. So long as you go in looking for a tug of war match and not a 65 hit combo fest, you’ll still find plenty of enjoyment to be had. To quote Han Solo, “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
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- Jean-Claude Van Damme was clearly the inspiration for Robert Garcia’s look on the cover.
- The game deliberately leaves you hanging on the game’s final plot point, which is then gleefully resolved in the intro of Art of Fighting 2.
- Defeat King with either Fireball to have her shirt burst open to reveal her bra.
- Released on AES, MVS, and CD.