A fighting game that makes you work for your wins.
Okay, you know what I’ve learned from reviewing a bunch of Neo Geo games lately? All old games are the same. With the limitations of the hardware, every single game was like another, but with one or two nifty differences. Really, with no in depth story or online features or even huge differences in art style, things just kind of ran together. You had to really try hard to separate yourself from the competition. Like Kirby. Name another game like Kirby? Damn right there isn’t one! But this isn’t about Kirby. This is about Art of Fighting, or as I like to call it, “Street Fighter: The Harder Version.”
It’s basically Street Fighter. Two fighters enter, two rounds go by, one fighter leaves. Same basic idea, okay? But, like I said, there are a few key differences. For example, you only have one punch button and one kick button. You have a special button that does a whole bunch of wacky moves. You also have a taunt button. But if that seems too limiting to you, don’t worry, you still have special moves. One of the first things I did was see if I could do a Hadoken. Yup, it’s in there. Ah, but here comes nifty difference number two: you have a meter below your life meter. When that runs out, no more Hadoken – or any other special moves. So, you need a bit more skill to use these attacks than you do in Street Fighter. You can’t be that asshole who constantly throws Hadokens in order to lodge your opponent into a corner. God, I hate that asshole.
You can also snag a new super move, but you have to earn it. That’s right, earn it. You know those fun little bonus stages in Street Fighter? Busting a car up and stuff? Yeah, complete Art of Fighting’s version of those and you get a new move. That right there is nifty difference number three.
This game really reminds me of Street Fighter. But not of Street Fighter II, oh no. Sure, it’s obviously trying to cash in on the sequel’s success, but this game feels more like the first Street Fighter game. Yeah, that game. Asshole Street Fighter. The one that makes it nearly impossible to whip off a Hadoken. The one that only robots from the future sent back in time in a mad and highly illogical plot to win old video games from the 80’s can beat. That game. I hate that game. But don’t get me wrong, Art of Fighting is nowhere near as punishing as Asshole Street Fighter. It reminds me of it in a good way. You have to fight with skill instead of spamming your favorite move. It is nowhere near a button masher. Where Street Fighter II could be beaten by your girlfriend hammering on the controller and Asshole Street Fighter could be beaten by… well, pretty much nobody… Art of Fighting can be beaten, but you have to learn how to do it. It’s a nice blend of casual and hardcore fighting.
So yeah, there’s enough to differentiate Art of Fighting from the rest of the pack to recommend a purchase. It does some other cool things, too, like showing your fighter getting bloodied and beaten as the fight progresses and attempting to have an actual story throughout the single player game, but mostly you should buy it because it’s a fighting game that takes off the kid gloves. Kind of ironic, considering that this game came out when we were kids. But that’s a thought for another time.