Colorwind Reviews Art of Fighting 2

Art of Fighting 2 (“Ryuuko no Ken 2” in Japan) is an interesting title because it was released during a time when SNK had a number of big hits in the arcades. Fighting games were getting more complex and being released at this time was Super Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat II, Killer Instinct, and Virtua Fighter. SNK’s big fighting games were Fatal Fury Special and Samurai Shodown. It had been a year and a half since the first Art of Fighting game and the fighting game genre was becoming more and more crowded. 1994 however proved to be one of SNK’s busiest years and Art of Fighting 2 was one of the first to be released that year. However, the game didn’t receive as much attention as the first one did. I personally never even saw this game. Unfortunately, this iteration is probably what pushed this series from a top contender to a secondary franchise. Now, this could be attributed to the over saturation of the genre, making it a casualty. Maybe the game just wasn’t as good as the first. I know that this game has many improvements over the original and in many ways, is what you expect from a sequel. More of everything from the original with tweaks and changes made to correct problems in the first. So what’s wrong with this sequel? Is there anything wrong at all? Let’s find out as we take a look at the Arcade version of Art of Fighting 2.

All the character from the first game, with the exception of Todo, return to this game as well as three new characters. Temjin, a Mongolian sumo wrestler, Eiji Kisaragi, a ninja assassin, and Yuri Sakazaki, now a playable character instead of the damsel in distress. The story is that a year after the events in the first game, a new tournament called the King of Fighters is being held. The cliffhanger is also resolved in the opening cinematic, revealing *SPOILER* (not really) that the final boss in the first game is actually Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo and Yuri’s father. He was blackmailed into fighting for Mr. Big, who was Yuri’s true kidnapper. However, now the premise is that the first game has been resolved and now everyone in South Town is now entering this tournament. Although the premise in the first game wasn’t all that compelling to begin with, this is a step down from the first game. All fighting games involve a tournament that they’ve entered. It’s a cliché concept and at least the first game was a little different than the others. There’s still dialog between the fighters before the match but now it’s just smack talk since there’s no need to advance the plot. You’re just beating up your opponents until there aren’t anymore left. In the grand scheme of things, it may not matter but it’s worth pointing out since the first game actually did something different. Also, as far as I know, all these characters just want to be number one and win the tournament. No one’s after their murderer like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat or looking for their mother like Blanka from Street Fighter. I don’t mind the game being more lighthearted than the original but I do mind it being generic.

The zoom effect from the first game returns and the graphics look just as gorgeous as they did in the first place, if not better. More detail was given to the backgrounds and the stage design is more inventive. Ryo, Robert, Mickey, John, Yuri and Mr. Big’s levels are all well designed. I like the stages in this game more than in the first game. Also, characters look great as they have received more detail as well and thankfully, the animations are a bit more fluid, if not still completely. Sound, just like in the first game, is just serviceable but it does it’s job well. However, one problem is that the characters are no longer as big as they were in the first game. They scaled it back and while they look good, at first you’ll think they look worse. You no longer get the extreme close up, enabling you to see the pixels and graphic detail magnified. Perhaps this was at cost due to the now more inventive backgrounds. Luckily, the presentation is better. Characters have multiple colored outfits to choose from, the map is more detailed, menus and transition screens look cleaner and everything is less bare bones. However, the vs. screen is still just a black screen with just the picture and names of the fighters and no music. Why? Fatal Fury has music, the fighter’s names, some attack animations and a freakin’ map in the middle, showing the stage you’ll find on. That map then turns into a “VS”. Did SNK just forget something like this?

The controls in Art of Fighting 2 has something that I detest so much in fighting games. The pressure sensitive buttons. Why does this bother me so? I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t work. Period. You can’t have pressure sensitive attacks on arcade or joy pad buttons. They’re not designed for that. Only for analog triggers does that work, like on the Xbox 360 controller. Fighting games that do this drive me crazy because one of two things will happen. One: you’ll hit the button and because how hard you hit the button is overly subjective, you’ll either do the attack you wanted if you’re luckily or you’ll do something completely different. Dead or Alive does this and it frustrates me to no end. Art of Fighting 2 uses this method in order to fix the previous controls of having to hit the punch button before the strong attack button for a hard punch and the kick button before the strong attack button for a hard kick (I don’t like explaining that). However, the way that Art of Fighting 2 handles it’s pressure sensitive attack is the other possibility of how this method of control goes wrong. Two: you’ll have to press and hold the button in order for the understanding of a hard attack being executed is registered. The problem with this is now you don’t have responsive controls. If you want to do a hard low uppercut on your opponent who’s about to jump kick you, TOO BAD! In fighting games, controls are key in making a compelling combat system. If it’s delay, the entire game is broken. Pressure sensitive button are best used when your concentration is fixated on careful calculations, like a racing game. You need to know when to let go of the gas and when to brake and when to accelerate so you know how tackle a corner without the loss of much speed. Fighting games require your concentration to be purely adrenaline based. You must quickly adapt to gained footing and countered attacks. You can’t be worried about the amount of inertia you applied to a button. The silver lining is that although I hate the pressure sensitive buttons, I’ve had less trouble with this game that with other fighters that use a similar mechanic.

The game mechanics remain the same as the first game and I appreciate that. The mini games are back, now every three rounds, and they still upgrade your health bar and spirit or rage meter. The spirit meter works the same way and limits your ability to perform special and super moves, although for some reason, the bar is now referred to as the rage meter. I don’t know why. Taunting still takes away reserved rage energy, and holding a button still recharges your meter. I did notice that most of the special moves are not as powerful as in the first game. This makes special moves more common and the gameplay is not quite as much about timing anymore. It still is but it’s more open to new players. The wall bounce is back but is not as powerful as it used to be and I actually miss the way it used to work. However, that’s my own personal preference and the way it’s done now prevents matches from becoming acrobatics, which some I know will appreciate. The game isn’t as stiff and the game is much more smooth. You can even recover from throws by pressing a button right when you hit the ground. In this way, Art of Fighting 2 made a lot of improvements to the original. However, the difficulty of the game was increased. Too much, I have to say. The enemy AI is absolutely ruthless and this is one of the hardest fighting games ever. The secret boss, Geese Howard, is absolutely impossible and overpowered. Yes, the AI is incredibly cheap. Luckily, the versus mode is much better in this game, due to all the characters being fleshed out and having full move lists, as well as the previously mentioned better graphics, mobility, and presentation.

Art of Fighting 2 was released for the MVS arcade board, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, Wii Virtual Console and is also on the Art of Fighting Anthology collection on the PlayStation 2. There is also a Japanese only port of this game on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo here in the USA). Art of Fighting 2 does so much right but commits the ultimate sins by having pressure sensitive buttons and overly difficult AI. It’s like if your friend invited you to a rock concert, front row center stage, drove you to the venue, paid for everything, bought you a few T-Shirts and other stuff at the booths, got you beer and food and anything and everything you could want there and then you find out the band that’s playing is Alvin and the Chipmunks. I suppose it is possible to get used to the pressure sensitive controls but especially when you’re playing against the impossible enemy AI, it soon becomes Art of Fighting 2’s Achilles heel. I personally enjoy the first game more but this is still a solid fighting title. However, I understand why it was forgotten during the time it was released. Mortal Kombat II, Super Street Fighter II, Samurai Shodown, and Killer Instinct are all better games, as are the other’s I mentioned. Fatal Fury Special was released only a few months before Art of Fighting and it blows this game away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m listening to the Chipmunk’s cover of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

Final Verdict: 3 out of 5


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