Reviewed in 2011 by Tibe

VERSUS FIGHTING CAVIAR

by Tibe

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We are in 1999 when comes Garou: Mark of the Wolves on the Neo Geo. The SNK company, as players have known it so far, is living its last months of existence. Programmers of the firm will reward their machine, during these dark hours, with some of the most beautiful titles its has ever known... Just think it back, all those hits were released between 1999 and 2000: Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 3, The King of Fighters 99 ', The King of Fighters 2000, and of course our game reviewed here, the fabulous last episode of Fatal Fury. The Neo Geo has always been the queen of fighting games. Having had its heyday with Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, KOF series and many other games, in this end of millenium era (if one may say), we weren't expecting more than our annual King of Fighters opus. And now, we have SNK releasing the ninth game of the Fatal Fury series.

MOTW, it's handcrafted, the cream of the crop in VS fighting.
MOTW, it's handcrafted, the cream of the crop in VS fighting.

The two latest episodes were powerful mega-hits (see the reviews of Real Bout Special and Real Bout 2), and those accustomed us to a comprehensive and fun gameplay, way easier to learn than before, focusing on amusement more than technical. Garou starts back from zero since those installments as it strictly keeps nothing from them, so forget all about the past: a brand new fighting game system is born, and it really packs all SNK's wisdom. The soft features a highly technical approach, with a deep and particularly catchy gameplay. New mechanics have made their appearance, as we'll see later in this review. Speaking of clean slate, Terry is the only character coming from the past of the saga. As a result, we are granted a completely renewed roster, full of newcomers. The affiliations are still numerous - and logical: Kushnood Butt learned Kyokugenryu Karate with Takuma, Rock is Geese Howard's orphan son, Dongh Hwan and Jae Hoon are Kim Kaphwan's twins... And there's even more to discover! 

FF2 is back! After many years, Terry is back fighting on his train!
FF2 is back! After many years, Terry is back fighting on his train!

If you're curious and want to learn more about these new fighters, take a ride through the story of Fatal Fury available in the articles section of Neo Geo Kult. Let's review now the brand new gameplay basics, with interesting new capabilities appearing: TOP is a mode you set in your lifebar, allowing you to perform an extra move and more powerful attacks. Just Defended allows to regain a little life, by blocking  enemy attack in a split second before being touched. Cancel Moves are integrated too, along with all ancient good mechanisms which are kept in the process (two levels of furies, many combos, juggles, etc). SNK gave up the ancient two-planes gameplay, which is not a big loss anyway. With fourteen characters - as the two bosses of the game are playable - Garou is pretty long to discover, and especially to master. In fact, do not rely on the roster quite limited for the time - remember, Kof 98 and its forty-two characters or Street Fighter Zero 3 and its twenty-six - as each character is a wealth of possibilities.

Backgrounds, characters, effects: programmers did great art here.
Backgrounds, characters, effects: programmers did great art here.

Finally, we are granted an even more exciting alternative to the eternal Kof series! Besides a very special atmosphere, that installment of the Fatal Fury saga has many options and game modes, which is quite a rare feature for an arcade game (Stage Select, Vs Mode, Survivor, etc...). I will conclude talking briefly about the realization, which simply makes Garou one of the most sublime fighting games ever made. Programmers and designers have provided an exceptional piece of work. Connoisseurs will recognize in this game the SNK' s 'Belle Epoque' style. The stages are splendid, with a few that are among the most beautiful ever seen on the Neo Geo. The characters are granted a fast and smooth animation, providing them even more presence and charisma. And the music and sounds are absolutely perfect, with famous themes from the ancient FF games and top-notch effects. Presentation and intermediate screens give even more atmosphere to Garou.What else to say, except that we are witnessing one of the finest and most advanced VS fighting game of all times.


GRAPHICS

98%

Fine and colored characters, evolutive backgrounds full of details, perfect character design: Everything is sublime in Garou.
ANIMATION 98%
Fluid and fast... Character's animation is a model of the genre, plus the stages are lively.
SOUND 96%
Famous themes from Fatal Fury are back, new ones as excellent appear... while effects and vocals are perfect.
REPLAY VALUE 94%
Fourteen characters 'only', but a catchy game system that will require training, even from seasoned players. Story is great and the VS mode gives all a fighter would need... it's all right!
GAMEPLAY 98%
Easy to take on, but technical enough to keep you in the game for hours and hours. The room for improvement is huge.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

97%
The best fighting game on Neo Geo, along with the King of Fighters 98'.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The game is expensive. Its value, which had indeed declined in recent years, is now rising since a few months. It can be found for about 300 euros in japanese version, and even more for the U.S. one. Useless to say that it's still an investment. A major title, anyway ...

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