Friday 19 October 2012

Art of Fighting: Anthology Review (PS2)

Art of Fighting: Anthology

Art of Fighting was one of SNK’s main franchises between 1992 and 1996. For those who don’t know, it is a one-on-one fighting game, and often over-shadowed by more high profile tiles such as Street Fighter 2 and Fatal Fury. Now PS2 owners can pick up all three titles in one anthology.

Another big selling point at the time was the fact the games had a real story to them. Although looking at them now, it is hardly the stuff of legend. Basically, it revolves around two rivals: Ryo Sakazaki, the ‘invincible Dragon’ and Robert Garcia, the ‘Mighty Tiger’. To start with, they both have to put their differences aside to rescue Ryo’s sister. The second game is a simple tournament and the third title has Robert walking around with his childhood friend, Freia, as her bodyguard. It’s hardly gripping stuff.

Though never as popular as Capcom’s brawler, it has brought a few innovative features to the genre over the years such as the ‘Rage Gauge’, which depletes each time a special move is used. As the series progresses, you begin to get things such as ‘Heat Mode’, which increase characters’ strength by twenty percent when they are low on health, and the ‘Ultimate KO’ move, which, if performed, will see you win in one round.

It’s all very progressive, but since the series stopped back in 1996, it does feel very outdated now. Almost all of the features have been improved upon in games such as Street Fighter 3, Alpha 3 and even later SNK games such as Garou: Mark of Wolves.

One of the tricks that is quickly noticeable is an automatic zoom in and out feature. What this boils down to is simple: as characters move away from each other, the screen pans out and they get smaller. It is hardly a feature worth bragging about but it does stop you getting stuck on the side of the screen. At best, it means a cunning opponent can’t trap you into falling into a projectile attack like in Street Fighter 2. At worst it is distracting and might make you feel sick.

The sprites are large and well-drawn and the backgrounds are nicely done and contain a lot of character. All the titles manage to contain a fair amount of personality and the different fighters on offer are quite varied. In terms of the how the games play though, the first in the series is pretty slow and forgettable.

things do improve with the second and third games, and either of these is worth a look if you are a beat ‘em up fan. That said, it is only the most hardcore player who will stick with them for any length of time when there are so many better options available now. There is of course the obligatory VS mode, but there are certainly no bells and whistles here, with players only be able to take part in one-on-one fights.

The no thrills approach is also apparent in the fact that the only extra is the ability to customise the various characters’ colour schemes. This is a shame as it is hardly the sort of game that a casual gamer is going to pick up at his local supermarket. The only gamers likely to buy the anthology will have to be specifically looking for it and a little more in the way of special features would have been nice.

Art of Fighting acts as a decent foot note in beat ‘em up history, but it is unlikely that anyone other than fans from back in the day will look twice at it. It certainly isn't going to win any newcomers over. The fact there is also a Street Fighter Alpha 3 collection and the excellent Guilty Gear X2 available on the PS2 makes this even more redundant.

It is nice to see some of the forgotten games from SNK’s past making their way onto systems where everyone can enjoy them, but there are so many better titles that we wish they would dig out. We can only hope some of the better and rarer games (such as Last Blade or Mark of the Wolves) will be getting a release soon. For now, even at a budget price, this particular art is best left in a museum.


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