Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Every Tuesday join Cyril as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
It's a slow week on the Virtual Console. After several weeks of multiple releases, we're back to the drips we're used to getting. This time around it's a classic fighting game for the Wii Virtual Console. Is Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special the reboot the franchise desperately needed or just another boring sequel? Find out below when we dig into this week's one and only retro release.
Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special (SNK)
[ Release: August 9 | Price: 900 Points | Console: Neo Geo | Year: 1997 ]
What Is It?
Of the last eight titles released on the Virtual Console, six of them have been classic Neo Geo games. I think it's safe to say that SNK (or rather, D4 Enterprise) is singlehandedly keeping the Wii Virtual Console stocked with games. And that's good news, because there are still a lot of amazing Neo Geo products just waiting to show up Nintendo's download service. If the pace keeps up, they will be forced to release WindJammers.
Real Bout Special is the sixth installment in SNK's popular Fatal Fury series. While Real Bout acted like a reboot to the franchise (tinkering with basic controls, life bar, etc.), Special brings back much of what we loved about the earlier Fatal Fury titles. In some ways the game has been simplified, such as stripping one of the attack buttons. But the changes SNK makes to the core mechanics ultimately make the game more accessible and a deeper experience.
But as many changes as they made, the developers left a lot the same. Fights still take place on different planes, allowing the fighters to jump in and out of the various layers of the screen. You get all of the characters from the original Real Bout (Duck King, Mai, Billy Kane, Terry, Andy, Joe, etc.), along with the cast from the Fatal Fury Special, including Tung Fu Rue, Cheng Shinzan, Lawrence Blood and Wolfgang Krauser. Sadly, Axel Hawk is nowhere to be found. Somebody should send out a search party.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The gameplay feels a lot like an SNK fighting game, which is to say the controls are a little stiff. On the other hand, the graphics are expertly drawn and still look amazing seventeen years later. The music also stands out, thanks to a strong collection of dramatic orchestrations. Real Bout suffers from a lot of the same problems you can level against most SNK fighting games, but is significantly better than the first few Fatal Fury installments.
Is It Worth The Money?
Despite recently releasing The King of Fighters '96, World Heroes Perfect, The Last Blade and Samurai Shodown IV, Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special still has its own unique style. I often forget how big of a difference jumping in and out of the different planes makes, even if it started out as a silly gimmick. The cast is strong, the gameplay holds up and the presentation is the usual SNK quality. If you're not already sick of fighting games, then this Virtual Console game is easy to recommend.