Ladies and gentlemen, here's a quite unusual match, since it's a clash between two major VS fighting games. Accusing together more than one Gigabit at the weighing, packing top notch gameplay and realization. On one side, the ultimate Capcom's 2D Street Fighter, Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. Facing him, one of SNK's most impressive title on the Neo Geo, also standing as the latest episode of Fatal Fury, here it is: Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The Neo Geo system is dealing here with the monstrous CPS-III, and the stats are clear: on the resolution, the slight advantage dating from CPS is preserved: Neo Geo 320x224, CPS 384x224. The displayed colors are another advantage for Capcom's beast: 32768 simultaneously from a palette of 16.7 million, against 4096 on a 65536 palette. Not to talk about memory, processors' speed, filters, sprites size or other considerations, SNK's system is dropped on this chapter. Neo Geo makes the maximum with a 688Mb cartridge for Garou, against 562Mb for Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. Will Mark of the Wolves' realization take the shock in front of its impressive competitor?
To be clear, both games are great. SNK's work is incredible, and push the Neo Geo to its limits. Street Fighter III.3 uses a more powerful machine, certainly, providing gorgeous backgrounds and an amount of details pretty remarkable for the characters. It reaches perfection of 2D graphics, no less. In one case as in the other, the character designs, backgrounds, sprites, and intermediate screens, are superbly made, elevating videogames to the rank of art. If SNK characters are - once again - the most charismatic, Street Fighter stages are deadly awesome. Garou's performance is impressive, each stage is a success, but one must admit the victory by a short head for Capcom's game, produced on a machine that can provide perfect graphics.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3........ 99%
Here's another chapter in which our two rivals show a very, very high level. Both games' animations almost reach perfection. They're fluid, highly decomposed, smooth... this is simply a splendid work of craftsmanship on both sides. Garou's backgrounds are a little more lively, while Street Fighter III 3rd Strike's sprites are a little larger... However, what makes the difference here is nervousness and rhythm: Garou is a step up to its opponent in this area, with a more nervous and faster-paced gameplay.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3......... 97%
Street Fighter III 3rd Strike musics are showing impressive quality. The songs are full of samples, voices, and subwoofer is working hard. Despite a very high end, the style might not be the one players are dreaming of: it's all about Hip-Hop soup, not really fitting with a fighting game. This time, it's a personal feeling , but the themes for the characters are a bit lost in the endless flow of words and saturated low-frequencies. We feel sometimes like in a lounge bar, sometimes in an elevator... some will love it, but for sure many will hate. But for this duel, we have to retain only the high sound quality. In SNK's game, the melodies are exactly what one can expect from a fighting game: they perfectly fit characters, and some bring back memories from Fatal Fury. As for the new themes, most are very successful and feature a high-fly orchestration worthy of the very best Neo Geo titles. About effects and voices, the two firms perfectly master this part in their respective games. The sound effects and vocal digits are premium on each side, carefully selected, powerful at will. Those are great pieces of work with a very slight advantage for Garou, which seems more lively and more varied in terms of voices, also using a larger panel of sound effects.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3........ 89%
Our games are not ultimate references when speaking about roster: fourteen characters for Garou, nineteen for Street. However, each fighter packs a wide range of moves. Garou's story mode is more intense, more exciting, and feature a great storyline... But the five more characters of Third Strike still provide it a small advance for replay value, with one caveat, however: if every warrior in Mark of the Wolves is interesting to play, the same can't be said for Capcom's title, which roster contains some strange and unbalanced ones. Clearing the game is a little longer however in Garou, as SNK included a big challenge for players: to face the final boss, and then see the true end for each character, they'll have to defeat all the enemies by obtaining a certain grade in combat (AAA,S,SSS, as in Real Bout). And let's say they'll have to improve their techniques before achieving this. VS modes for our rivals are necessarily the most interesting part, opening doors of infinite play. About Garou, the various modes offered on the console (practice, VS, story, survivor) bring something more to the life, which are details absent in the pure arcade version of SFIII 3rd Strike. The latter, however, offers some fun bonus stages which provide some diversity.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3........ 95%
SNK made a clean sweep of past Fatal Fury episodes. No more double planes, no more double life bar: gameplay was completely redesigned. And it's a masterpiece! The game features incredible smoothness and perfect controls. Four buttons are used, like in a Kof. Dodge, Dash, Guard Breaker with A +B, Feints, Cancels, Super Special Moves (usually two or three for each character) a legion of combos and of course Break Shots, as in the Real Bout series. The two other big news are the 'Just Defended', which consists in blocking an attack at the last second, which allows to regain some life, and enjoy a faster recovery time; and the TOP System, which allows you to select a part of the lifebar during which the character can perform an additional special move with C + D, but also see his attacks becoming more powerful. The reversal are complemented by the Guard Cancel; hits must be placed in a specific tempo, and can override the opponent's guard, even with special moves. Juggles, two levels of jump, attacks on the grounded opponent, counter-throws, and so on... Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a wealth of technique. Progressing through the game is exciting, master your favorite character can take weeks and improving provides great satisfaction. Street Fighter III 3rd Strike on the other hand, takes the foundations of the old episodes (six buttons, three levels of punches and kicks) by adding more and more combos, an even accurate timing, the choice of Super Special before the fight, and the Parry system, which is equivalent to Garou's Just Defended, but here you have to block in the right timing by pushing stick towards opponent, which is slightly more difficult. In addition, "EX" special moves can be achieved when your life bar is low, by pressing two buttons simultaneously. SNK's masterpiece shows here a little more technical than its competitor, but it drives the point on the energy and intensity of its action, a cut above SFIII.3.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3....... 95%
SNK makes a technical feat with Mark of the Wolves, holding a candle to Capcom's best CPS-III game. Graphically better and offering five more characters, SFIII.3 tilts on crucial points in a VS fighting game. The pace, intensity, technical side. Garou definitely packs more personality, a richer game system and more energy. Attention to detail that has been allocated to it is simply amazing. Street Fighter III Third Strike loses this high-end duel, facing the last jewel of the great SNK.
STREET FIGHTER 3.3