Reviewed in 2010 by Tibe

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Giant Sprites and Huge Fireballs

by Tibe (2010)

If there's a game that marked a milestone in the life of the Neo-Geo, and more broadly in the history of arcade versus fighting games, Art of Fighting could be this one. Sure, it probably didn't match the impact that Street Fighter II had on the genre, but speaking about technical improvements, this installment was a tremendous blow. In parallel to Fatal Fury and Samurai Spirits series rocking hard in the early nineties, the title is one of the first to exceed the magical one-hundred megas limit (better known as the 100 Mega-Shock!). It's also one of the earliest SNK versus fighting productions to stand as a high-quality game of combat on the system. Released the same year as World Heroes, which was also back then a desirable title on the Neo, this soft fits in the purest tradition of the company, pleasing massive crowds of arcade players. Oldest players might remember that it's one of the first serious alternatives to the legendary Street Fighter II, and also one of the few games which managed to turn heads of the Capcom's game fans!

But first, let me remind you briefly Art of Fighting's scenario involving the Sakazaki family, as it was pretty cool and way more original than those from SF installments. You'll feel like watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme cheesy movie, so sit confortably, relax. Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia are two childhood friends, who grown together and are like brothers. Kyokugenryu Karate experts since years, the guys were breastfed with martial arts trainings, and became regulars of face destruction on paved grounds and ass-kicking with wooden flip-flops. Ryo's sister Yuri has been kidnapped by a mysterious martial arts expert, known as 'Mister Karate'. Familiar with Southtown underworld, our friends they don't hesitate a second: not one, not two, they go in search of miss Yuri throughout the city, and believe me, they are very, very angry. Almost as much angry as Steven Seagal finding a booger in his basmati rice. In other words, some folks gonna have their asses kicked hard. Very, very hard.

If the gameplay is pretty different from the standards brought to the masses by Street Fighter II, it gives Art of Fighting all its personality and its so particular atmosphere. But the realization of the game immediately makes everyone agree about who's the boss. The game runs on the Neo Geo, motherfuckers. And even in the arcades, such huge and beautiful sprites were never seen before in a fighting game. The graphics are outstanding, characters ultra-detailed, gameplay fast ... and believe me, sound effects and musics are doing at least as good. Moreover, innovations are many: zooms occur during combats, fighters' faces get hurt when they receive blows, there are original and fun bonus stages, the spirit gauges restricting the use of special moves... but above all, there's the devastating hidden furies, featured for the first time in a VS fighting game. Art of Fighting is not stamped SNK for nothing, and it feels good to breathe the 102 megs spreading all their power.

The single player mode consists of the main story, which is enriched with a few nice cutscenes punctuating fights and bonus stages: these are really fun and also pretty interesting for your progression through the game. If you succeed them, depending on which one you have chosen you'll be granted new competences. You can learn how to perform the Haoh Sho Koh Ken, improve your lifebar or spirit gauge - which is the energy bar allowing to enter more or less special moves. The only drawback of this mode is that you can only embody either Ryo or Robert. This is few, but fortunately the versus mode allows to pick among the eight characters (and even ten with an universe bios). Some of them are rather limited with their moves and less interesting to play than others. We must also note that the animation, whether it's doing good, is not extraordinary about its amount of steps. This first installment in the Art of Fighting saga is still an incredible game, which, if it has aged less good than some other titles, was back then one of the best VS fighting game on the whole market.



So impressive back then, Art of Fighting was packing the most detailed graphics among arcade games. Stages and sprites are very well drawn and the size of the fighters is very impressive, still today!
The action is fast-paced, with nice zooms during the combats, but the fluidity and smoothness can still be improved.
The game features inspired tracks, very clear and nice voices, cool sound effects and powerful impact noises: it's the Neo, no doubt about it.
There's only two characters available for the Story Mode, but eight for the VS games. Hopefully, AOF is a hell of fun and players come back for more, even playing alone.
Disappointing in the beginning, afetr some training, the gameplay is definitely mastered and controls respond perfectly.



One great game to possess for a collector, witness of the SNK savoir-faire in the early times of VS fighting games.


You'll get what you spent if you buy Art of Fighting. For thirty euros on average to acquire an AES, you'll get a taste of early nineties versus fighting. If you won't spend your entire life with it, there are a few good hours of fun in perspective anyway!

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