It\'s been awhile since a review of mine has graced the public community, but I felt I owed it to myself, and SNK, to do another one soleley for this fighter which I have been waiting for since it was announced in May at E3. Here\'s the review:
Garou Densetsu, meaning Legend of the Hungry Wolf in Japanese, was also known to the United States as Fatal Fury back in the early 90\'s and was presented by SNK as the more "challenging" answer to Street Fighter boasting several different move clusters, a sensible story and flesched out characters that were all related in some form. It was a more civilized and taught fighter for a more civilized age shortly before Tme Killers, Mortal Kombat, and several other violent copycats flooded the market with their psudeo-realistic motion captured trash. Ranting aside, from the looks of SNK and capcom nowadays, we can easily tell which one was the more popular of the two franchises, but Fatal Fury held a spot in my heart from the first time I played it at that little Mexican food restaurant, which is now of course a Mexican produce store.
However, despite all of this, SNK managed to release around six different Garou Densetsu titles that progressed the series before it inch by inch until finally coming to a title where the sons and daughters of the heores of the original participated in these tournaments in their places, except for the original Lone Wolf, Terry Bogard, arguably the strongest fighter on Earth (Read: killed a God in the animated Fatal Fury movie). Therein is where the Fatal Fury games become memorable, through their story and cast of colorful characters. Lets run down just one story arc shall we...
First we have Geese Howard, a powerful mego-billion-millionaire who has a love for the martial arts and is one of the most powerful individuals on Earth who takes what he wants by force if necessary. In a scuffle, Geese manages to kill Terry and Andy Bogard\'s (brothers) parents. Feeling sorry for Terry and Andy, Geese took them under his wing and cared for them for most of their childhood life being the adapted father that was never there for them. Later, they enrolled in the Hakieo-kuseiken school of martial arts where they learned most of their techniques they use today.
Still with me? Good.
Terry Bogard now engaged to a new girlfriend, later discovers that Geese is plotting something diabolical, but in his hastiness to intervene, Terry\'s girlfriend dies at Geese\'s hands. Enraged, Terry scarred Geese for life just before jumping to his own possible death (as he does in all relevant FF game endings, including the first Capcom Vs. SNK). It is later discovered that a young man named Rock was the genuine son of Geese Howard sporting many different fighting techniques and styles of his father including his powerful Raising Storm attack. However, Terry discovered Rock at a very young age and taught him everything he knows to present fashioning one of the greatest fighters known to man.
That\'s one hell of a mouthful to be sure, but it\'s deeper then any Street Fighter plot I\'ve ever heard and it\'s interesting as Hell when you consider the ramifications of father and son at eachothers throats or worse yet, working side by side as one. It\'s just much more interesting than all this Shadowlaw (Shadowloo?) nonsense present in STreet Fighter and to me it definitely makes for more likeable chracaters and a more likeable game overall.
However, playing the game doesn\'t throw itself too far off from Street Fighter. In most traditional Street Fighter games, quarter circle forward (QCF) and Half circle forward (HCF) were the most traditional of moves that executed a single move for any one character in the Street Fighter universe. SNK, particularly in their King of Fighters series strongly edged away from that format producing odd variations and twists to that format offering longer motions and stray button taps coupled with multi-hitting single combo moves. Mark of the Wolves strays from that traditional SNK format and goes moreso with the Street Fighter format using the basic moves and producing the same multi-hit attacks of SNK old. The problem is that the timing suffers in this version from slow gameplay and rediculously overpowered characters.
I never felt this same difficulty on the original MotW version for the Neo Geo cart based system, but perhaps the issues with speed and recovery are those related to a poor port of the final version. What\'s even worse is the total lack of options present for the game allowing you to personally tweak and customize your battles. Present are the bout time, the number of rounds needed for a victory, and of course the difficulty settings, but there is no speed adjustment present anywhere in this title keeping it the same bogged-down pace through the entire game.
There are a few original tweaks to the overall gameplay style that make for a more exciting game. Short jumps are back in classic SNk fashion allowing you to nail those turtling enemies with relative ease while a new "Just-defended" option has been added to the mix increasing your super meter as you block just shortly before your character is attacked. It\'s like a reverse parry where you are rewarded for blocking in the nick of time rather than taking a tremendous risk by not blocking at all. It\'s a mixed setup, but it does add to the overall style of the game. Also included is a T.O.P. guage that intersects with your own life guage allowing you to recover life, increase strength and perform certain special moves. This system adds quite a bit to the overall game, but it just makes it more offensive than defensive in nature.
MotW does excel when it comes to animation however presenting some of the greatest animated chracters this side of low-res rivaling those found in Guilty Gear X. Just seeing Terry aged and tired brings a smile to my face each time I choose him to continue a game or two with a friend. The load times are non-existant and the music is fairly standard techno fare for fighters. Garou is also on eof the last fighters to have totaly original and comprehensible endings that buiild on the SNK Fatal Fury storyline with great detail, something I sorely miss from the STreet Fighter franchise.Bottom LineGarou: Mark of the Wolves is a beautifully animated fighter wrought with character and story details that make the game feel full of depth, but the gameplay elements for this port are relatively limited given the poor options and the slow nature of the gameplay. Pick this one up if you are a diehard fighting fan or a diehard SNK fan, but the casual Street Fighter fan should be able to get their fill of Fatal Fury greats like Rock Howard, Terry Bogard, Joe Higashi, Mai Shiranui and Kim Kaphwan on the PS2 or DC import version of Capcom Vs SNK 2.Final Score: 7/10