Saturday, March 12, 2016

Garō Densetsu Shukumei no Tatakai (SFC) Review

Received: December 25th, 2015 / Written: March 6th-12th, 2016
Alternate Title: Fatal Fury: King of Fighters
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developed and Published by: Takara
Licensed by: SNK | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  The year 1991 (yay, my birthyear) saw the release of a one-on-one fighting game that would take the world by storm in arcades, and that game was Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, courtesy of Capcom.  Although its 1987 predecessor was not that well regarded or even popular for that matter (yeah, remember that one?  Not aged well one bit), Capcom decided to focus on crafting fighting games and beat'em ups after their 1989 coin-op Final Fight was a smash hit.  So, kudos for that!  =)  It also ended being the most successful fighting game at the time, and as a result it ended up sparking a movement that resulted in more games of the genre.

That November SNK created and released their first fighting game for the arcades and a month later for the expensive Neo Geo console, Garō Densetsu Shukumei no Tatakai (which translates to "Legend of the Hungry Wolf: The Battle of Destiny"), or as people would more likely identify as Fatal Fury: King of Fighters.  This actually also ties itself to the first Street Fighter, as its creator Takashi Nishiyama considers today's game to be a spiritual successor to said 1987 game (given he made that one as well); and it was made at around the same time as Street Fighter II--unfortunately no one outside development knew that in its initial run as people branded Garō Densetsu to be a Street Fighter II clone.  Thankfully the record has been settled since then and many consider it to be good fun in its own right (and I'll explain why that was).

Since both games were successful at arcades naturally this meant that there would home conversions, namely on the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo.  Street Fighter II came out first during the Summer of '92 while Garō Densetsu followed suit in November 1992 in Japan (and 1993 for the West as Fatal Fury).  While Capcom converted their own fighting game to the Nintendo 16-bit, SNK's take on the genre got ported by Takara;... and while the former conversion was still good on its own merits something went very wrong with the latter conversion.  =(

In the fictional American city of South Town a "King of Fighters" tournament is being held by and sponsored by the crime boss Geese Howard.  Ten years preceding these events he killed martial artist Jeff Bogard, and avenging the loss of their father is incentive enough for Bogard's two sons Terry and Andy as well as their childhood friend Joe Higashi to partake in these fights and make Geese pay for what he's done.

Kick to the knee
In Garō Densetsu you only take control of Terry, his brother Andy Bogard, or Joe Higashi.  There are only eight stages in each playthrough, but at the start you're given a chance to choose which one of the first four you want to be in first; everything that follows will be randomly chosen.  There are three main controls here and those are punching (Y), kicking (B), and throwing (A), while jumping is accomplished by just holding the up button while going to either the left or right or just staying in the same position.  You can also walk forward or backward, and if your foe is to launch a projectile attack or try to hit you then you can block it with your defense stance as you hold the direction button behind you (left if you're facing right and vice versa), and duck by holding down.

Tornado punch
Each member of the trio has their own combo moves which will deal in a good amount of damage to your foes; unfortunately not all of them got translated to the Nintendo 16-bit conversion.  What survived were Terry's Burning Knuckle (down, down-back, back+Y) and Fire Wave (down, down-front, front+Y) attacks; Andy's power blast (back, down-back, down+Y); and Joe's tornado blast (back, down-back, down+Y), from what I could accomplish anyway.  The catch in this port is that the reaction time for these combos is a tad slow as they don't do it for or at least take a second after you performed your combo on the controller which can leave you at a big disadvantage if your opponent is right next to you (or if they pull a combo on you).
After every second stage in SFC Garō Densetsu you're brought to a bonus stage at the beach where the goal is to kick as many runaway tires as you can in the allotted twenty seconds; and it is actually the easiest part of the game as you can just stay right in the middle and do the normal kick maneuver to take them out.  It is possible to get all of them to get a "perfect" status, but I found that on several occasions if I missed one tire I still got the "perfect" status (which I should not have).  '_'  Did no one playtest this prior to release?

"Whoa, back up, guy!"  <=O
One thing that made the original arcade edition of Garō Densetsu stand out from other fighting games at the time (before having become a franchise a year later) was the fact that if you played with two people it would be a two-on-one match and occasionally when battling your opponent there were two planes: foreground plane and background plane.  Of course in the first game you had no control of it, only when the enemy was on the opposite plane, but it was unique.  This Nintendo 16-bit rendition, however, instead opted to be a one-on-one fighting game set on a singular plane.  You just went from doing something different to being like every 2D fighting game out there.  I know its original SNK incarnation was super powerful and some things would obviously be lost in transition when it came to porting it, but did Takara not have a grasp at how to incorporate Garō Densetsu's trademark two-plane fighting system the first time around?  o_O  As a result this Nintendo 16-bit edition feels less like Garō Densetsu and more like Street Fighter II (which does not help).

If you look real carefully in the background you'll
spot cameos by Axel and Blaze from Streets of Rage
Another game that turns twenty-five this year!
This wouldn't be an issue if the end result was still fun like the original arcade version or at the very least decent, but sadly that is not the case here.  =(  There is a sense of balance that more often than not is missing, and a lot of that comes from the delayed combo attacks and controls that don't always feel responsive for your end.  It is possible to pull through to the next round(s) and stages if you play your cards right, but this Nintendo 16-bit edition feels like it relies more on luck (and being extra careful) than it does skill; which is the worst thing you could do for a post-1991 fighting game.

Jump-kicking foes at the beach
One thing Nintendo 16-bit Garō Densetsu has got going for it is that it looks really good.  The amount of detail is really good, especially in the backdrop as for the most part there are crowds that are raising their arms or other stuff like crashing waves.  The main characters' and opponents designs and animations are solid; such as Terry's Burning Knuckle and Tung Fu Rue transforming himself to a hulking beast or being reverted to a martial artist.  One thing that's thankfully been kept intact in this conversion is how each round changes the time of day (the first round being set in the day, the second round being set during midday, and the third round being set at night... except for the Dream Amusement Park); and it's cool how the second and third rounds of the Howard Arena have got nice rain effects.  Too bad every time you cut to story mode you'd always see Geese in his same profile even long before fighting him (whereas in the arcade original there was more than that, obviously).

Power blast
The music in the original SNK arcade version of this game was really good and catchy, but the Nintendo 16-bit music... umm, wow.  The SFC/SNES is known for having really good (or even outright outstanding) music, but Takara has chosen some very questionable sound samples and weak composition for this conversion.  Hwa Jai, Richard Myer, and Geese Howard's themes are unexciting to name some examples, and the player select music is not as cool-sounding as it once was.  Right after you defeat the penultimate opponent there is a weirdly upbeat and triumphant cue with a trumpet and some garbled instruments playing in the background as you talk with Geese prior to fighting him, to which I find myself thinking: "What da-hell am I listening to??"  O_o  The sound effects sound slightly better than the music, and it's cool that some soundbytes were retained (such as when Terry and Andy use their combos), though it is disappointingly lazy that everyone's KO (including Geese's) all have that same echoic sound when they bite it.

Kick to the face
So you know how in my previous reviews since the start of the year I've continuously brought up how I received a Super Famiconsole along with five Super Famicarts on Christmas '15?  Well, Takara's port of SNK's Garō Densetsu was one of those five.  Now I have had experience with Fatal Fury: King of Fighters before (on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console and on the awkwardly titled SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1) and found it to be fun several years ago, but since I knew the Nintendo 16-bit treatment was not well-regarded I knew it wasn't going to be as good as the arcade original.  I mean, how bad could it be, right?  Well,... it's not good, I'll concede that much, but its unresponsiveness at times and relying on luck over skill (not too much straying far from the intended play control) does not exactly make the port redeemable.  Although personally, I can't find myself getting mad at it; I mean yeah, it's bad but I did get it for Christmas and it was interesting to see firsthand what the fuss was about as far as this Nintendo 16-bit port were concerned.  Also, that Christmas I also got the SFC port of its direct sequel too (my first time playing the second Garō Densetsu in any format), which helps!  =)

"Fire Wave"
Of course pretty much everyone during the early '90s (long before video game compilations became a thing) and afterwards either admonished or just came out heavily disappointed in Takara's effort to translate SNK's arcade/Neo Geo classic to Nintendo's 16-bit power machine.  As a result Nintendo 16-bit Garō Densetsu came under a lot of heavy fire and became a prime example of how not to port a fighting game to a home console; so much so, that my favorite online video game reviewer RVGFanatic declined to review SNES Fatal Fury and opted to talk about SNES Fatal Fury 2 instead, which after having tried both ports myself (albeit on the SFC) I find that decision to be both very reasonable and highly understandable... actually, I think most anyone would rather do that.  I do genuinely feel bad for people who expected the Nintendo 16-bit port to be solid only to discover that it was anything but; there's nothing worse than to be disappointed in an iteration or a port of a game (series) that you like.  =(

I keep bringing up Takara's effort as a port but haven't said how it is on its own merits as its own game.  The thing is if that even if you didn't play the original arcade/Neo Geo version prior to its Nintendo 16-bit port it still would not work regardless; frankly, it works neither as a port nor as a game.  I'm not sure what happened here; was porting SNK's hit fighting game too tall an order for Takara?  o_O  Or for that matter, was there no time to polish up its controls and make them responsive and more convenient by the time of release?  Was Garō Densetsu Shukumei no Tatakai's port rushed into production?  It's hard to tell, but it doesn't matter because this does not feel like its source material.  There are eight difficulty settings, and the full ending (and credits) is not seen until after you beat it at Game Level 4 (sans watching Geese Howard's comeuppance).

If I may offer better alternatives in lieu of SFC Garō Densetsu on the SFC/SNES, may I recommend:
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior: the smash Capcom hit that sparked the one-on-one fighting craze, it's got a good sense of polish and balance, immersive parallax scrolling environments, a good cast of characters, great controls with special moves that are sometimes difficult to master, and a whole lot of fun to offer.  =)
Shōnen Ashibe: this too adorable for its own good Japan-exclusive platforming effort by Takara may lack in challenge and depth, but at its core it is lighthearted fun and solid feel-good entertainment while it lasts.  <=)
Garō Densetsu 2 Aratanaru Tatakai (Fatal Fury 2 in the West): a huge improvement over its predecessor on all counts, Takara redeemed themselves in their 1993 port of the 1992 SNK arcade follow-up with the highly augmented character count (matching that of Street Fighter II's at eight), two planes which can be shifted towards any time to your heart's desire, improved and highly polished (not to mention responsive) controls with added combos, and is very entertaining to play (and is the best Takara game I played on the SFC as far as I played).  =)

Or better yet, 90% of the Nintendo 16-bit library (regardless of the region you're in and/or are importing from).

If you were curious to know what the original Garō Densetsu/Fatal Fury arcade game was like and wanted to play it (without resorting to shelling out tons of money for a Neo Geo console) it is available on SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and the Nintendo Wii; or if you wanted to play more than just the original arcade and experience its first three sequels as well then I suggest you look for Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Vol. 1 on the PlayStation 2 (or backwards compatible PlayStation 3, whichever option works for you).  Those are good introductions for the first in this revered SNK series; Takara's port on the Nintendo 16-bit, not so much.  If you do decide to play this version (for whatever reason), be forewarned that you will miss the very element that made it (and its subsequent follow-ups) discernible from the rest of the fighting genre and that it may not be as responsive or fun as you'd like.

My Personal SFC Garō Densetsu Score: 3.5/10
<( v-v)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(v-v )>
P.S. I just want to say that if you were disappointed by this review (on account of how small-scale it was compared to the bulk of my SFC/SNES reviews or if you didn't feel it was informative enough) then I am sorry.  If that was indeed the case I promise my next review will be sufficient StarBlog reading material.  But then, I don't normally review fighting games...

P.S. 2 So I have a question to ask?  Ummm,... is Andy Bogard Jewish?  Because his profile after each win shows he has a big nose.  But then why would Terry's nose be smaller, then?  o.O  Maybe I'm just looking too much into his profile design...

P.S. 3 So I'm at a loss at the recent announcement that Wander Over Yonder is getting cancelled.  That show is awesome, and its latest episodes were making the show even greater than it already is; I can't believe it's coming to an end (it may be the last good Disney animated show I'll ever see, I feel).  =(  I don't want it to end, but I guess all good things must come to that point eventually.

P.S. 4 On the bright side: judging by Disney's recent string of theatrical animated outings, there's always something to look forward to.  =D  Between Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and their latest effort, Zootopia (having seen it last week on 3/5/16) may just be the best out of all of them.  Brilliantly entertaining and intelligently in-depth movie!  =)  I say bring on Moana this November... though considering the near unanimous praise Zootopia got, I predict that the newest Ron Clements/John Musker animated feature will be a hard act to follow.  Eh, none of their movies disappointed me yet, I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun.  =)  *crosses fingers* Please be good!

P.S. 5 Arrrgh!!!  >O<  Twice!  Two Saturdays in a row (including this one) I tried to DVR an episode of Bunnicula to catch up on the series, but instead it only showed its credits and recorded Wabbit instead!  >X(  I'm starting to have a growing enmity towards post-2015 Bugs Bunny's show, which I'll fully address when I review Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage... on March 26th!  I don't like that Bunnicula is only playing on Saturday mornings.  =(

Happy 25h Anniversary, Garō Densetsu!  =D
(The Arcade/Neo Geo original, that is)

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great Winter day, take care!

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