Neo Geo Station - Art of Fighting

Art of Fighting features fantastic fight mechanics and fabulous graphical presentation, but suffers from a lackluster single-player experience.

By Tressilate, Posted 17 Feb 2011

Numerous hit titles like Fatal Fury and Street Fighter  II make it difficult for an arcade fighter to carve out a niche for itself, let alone maintain it. Nevertheless Art of Fighting, originally released in 1992 on the Neo Geo, manages to do just that thanks to its well-implemented fight mechanics and graphical superiority. However, a lacklustre single-player experience and uninspired sound render the first entry in the Art of Fighting series average at best.

Official Trailer for SNK’s Art of Fighting.

In the main story mode players fight their way through South Town, the same locale found within the Fatal Fury Universe, as either Ryo Sakazaki or Robert Garcia in an attempt to rescue Robert's kidnapped sister, Yuri. The story is ridiculous, and seems to be both intentionally and unintentionally funny, but is nonetheless partially enjoyable to experience. Gamers will, in addition to fighting, engage in mini-games that can increase their fighter’s Spirit Gauges, and unlock other bonuses on three separate occasions during a single playthrough of this mode. Furthermore, although all special moves are available from the onset of the game, players are introduced to them in a somewhat well-presented fashion as the title progresses and becomes more difficult.

Nevertheless, despite these aforementioned complexities, the single player experience is extremely limiting as gamers are only able to use one of these two aforementioned fighters in the main story mode. A further lack of depth exists as both Ryo and Robert feature similar fighting styles meaning that players, by the start of the second play through of the less than thirty minute story, will have almost exhausted the entire experience. The only viable option for players to experience something slightly different is to ramp up the difficultly as the hard mode is substantially more challenging than the easy, medium, and arcade settings.

Neo Geo Station Art of Fighting Review

Now although the other characters in Art of Fighting are understandably off limits for the sake of the story, the game goes too far as the other fighters cannot be used in any other single player capacity. Essentially gamers looking to experiment with any of the other findividuals in the game can only do so in the versus mode. The limiting story would not be such a large issue if this mode wasn’t multiplayer only meaning that players cannot compete against computer controlled fighters with any character other than Robert and Ryo. Luckily the multiplayer experience is extremely enjoyable whether players engage in it locally or online with the only downfall being in the latter approach as the online community is dead. Nevertheless, there are several interesting fighters with varying styles that are all fun to experiment with as their appearances, back stories and move sets differ quite nicely. The aforementioned exception to this is the overlap of Robert and Ryo who often end up feeling like the same fighter.

Art of Fighting’s biggest strength is that it features well designed fight mechanics. Fights, though sometimes very short, are often strategic and methodical requiring both patience and persistence by the gamer. Individuals running in with attack after attack will often lose very quickly while those who take a more cautious approach will often be victorious. In these fights there is a wide array of moves to be employed including kicks, punches, throws, specials, and desperation attacks in tandem with the fighter's ability to dodge, dash, and jump off walls. Utilizing these moves to perform combos is not impossible, but rather takes practice and precision timing to perfect. Furthermore, the well designed controls are extremely responsive and intuitive allowing individuals who’ve never played an arcade fighter to pick up the game and understand the basics of both physical and projectile attacks. However, Art of Fighting’s biggest strength is that amidst the exchange of punches and kicks there is a fantastic Spirit Gauge system which limits the number of special moves that can be preformed.

Neo Geo Station Art of Fighting Review

As players execute special moves their Spirit Gauge diminishes requiring them to rely on more fundamental, less damaging manoeuvres. Individuals who throw all their special moves out in the first few seconds of a fight will thus put themselves in a dangerous position for the remainder of the bout. The Spirit Gauge can also be depleted by taunts by the opponent and filled by the player. The latter is accomplished by standing still while holding down an attack button. This dynamic leaves both fighters vulnerable at times, and thus players have to pick and choose how to use their Spirit Gauge as it is of quintessential importance in winning any given fight.Graphically, the game looks magnificent and does a fantastic job in presenting the true art in fighting.  The arenas, due to the well designed zooming feature, feel open and include fabulous backdrops that fit the mood of each level quite well. Additionally, the large fighting sprites look great due to the unique aesthetic details that have gone into their design. However, it is the fighters’ animations in getting bloodied up and showing other damage over the course of the fight that really makes the graphical appearance one to marvel at. Even the background screen that protrudes around the edges of the Neo Geo emulator is well done and doesn’t pull the gamer’s eyes away from the action all that often. Furthermore, replays of fights can be recorded, and are always enjoyable to watch as the attention to detail in both the fighters and the background goes a long way in making the fights feel both exciting and real.

Oddly enough, in the face of the great audio experience that often comes standard with SNK games, Art of Fighting features a couple really good tracks, and some good sound effects, but is lacking in many respects. A lot of the music is easily forgettable, some sound effects are inexplicably quirky, and the vocalizations are almost universally sub-par. The sound isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t anything worth noting nor listening to in the Sound Player, and consequently fails to add to the overall game experience.

Neo Geo Station Art of Fighting Review

In short, Art of Fighting features fantastic fight mechanics and fabulous graphical presentation, but suffers substantially from a lacklustre single-player experience. The ability for gamers to play as all characters against computer opponents would’ve gone a long way in solidifying Art of Fighting as a top of the line 2D fighter. This aforementioned exclusion, when combined with the ridiculous story and overlap in style between Robert and Ryo, dilutes the successes of Art of Fighting and subsequently renders this an average arcade fighter at best.

Joshua McCaul, NoobFeed.

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General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): SCEA
Developer(s): SNK Playmore
Genres: 2D Fighting
Themes: Arcade
Release Date: 2010-12-21

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