What worked as a budget arcade machine wasn't nearly as practical as a game console with a premium price.




It's funny that this quick vacation to Mexico, intended as a side quest of little importance to the South Town storyline, turned out better than the first and second Art of Fighting games combined. 

Art of Fighting 3 is just more fun to play than its predecessors thanks to a redesigned game engine inspired in part by Virtua Fighter.  In addition to the typical Art of Fighting special moves (thankfully including Ryo's devastating Machine Gun Punch), players can now link a series of light punches together, hit fallen enemies, and redirect attacks, catching their foe's fists or feet and throwing them to the ground.  Neither player takes damage in this counter, but it's easier to do than similar moves in 3D fighting games and will make your opponent think twice about getting too close.

All of this, plus the reduced energy required for special moves, reduce the frustration of the spirit meter and result in fast paced, fun battles... a big surprise after the first two, rather clumsy Art of Fighting games.  Art of Fighting 3 is still somewhat limited in comparison to Capcom's best fighting games or the Virtua Fighter series, but it's nevertheless a very well done hybrid of those two game engines.  Even the fighting game pioneers at Capcom haven't been especially successful in bringing these two genres together... just look at Rival Schools!

The fantastic sound and graphics are like a cherry, or perhaps more appropriately, a salidito, on top of the Art of Fighting 3 experience. I've always been blown away by the artwork in the series... when I first saw the original Art of Fighting, I never thought in a million years that the graphics could be improved, but SNK did just that with Art of Fighting 3... those enormous characters look even better when they're cleanly drawn and smoothly animated.  There are even large, animated win portraits, although they look a little strange... you'll be left wondering whether or not they were computer rendered.  The backgrounds are excellent, with fantastic detail and clever use of perspective, but still not especially memorable thanks to the subtle colors and humble, centralized setting.  Somehow, fighting in the center of a sleepy little Mexican town, a weather-worn trainyard, or an alley blocks away from a festive celebration just isn't very exciting.  Fortunately, the music helps get you back into the action with hard hitting tunes that detour from the well travelled road SNK's other fighting game soundtracks have followed.  You can definitely tell this is SNK music, but it has an odd mixture of majesty and menace you won't hear in Fatal Fury, The King of Fighters, or even previous Art of Fighting games.

Art of Fighting 3 isn't a complete masterpiece... some of the new characters, especially the thirst-quenching, steroid-charged boss Wyler, are pretty bland, and there's not much depth to the battles.  Even with its faults, you'll definitely agree that Ryo and Yuri needed this vacation from the mediocrity of the past Art of Fighting games.


FIGHTER (don't be surprised)


SNK has had three epic series in their career--Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters, and Fatal Fury.  Each of those has had a "misstep" that threatened to derail the whole series--Samurai Shodown III, KOF'95, and Real Bout Fatal Fury (basically just FF3 with the new, messed-up control scheme).  And each of those has had a "rennaissance" of sorts--Samurai Shodown IV, KOF'96, and Mark of the Wolves.

At first blush, Mark of the Wolves seems to be the Fatal Fury equivalent of Street Fighter III--it takes place about a decade after the final demise of Geese Howard, Southtown crime boss, and involves a new tournament.

Terry Bogard, the hero of the series, has taken under his wing Rock Howard, the son of his father's killer.  He is raising and training Rock to be a fighter in the city of Southtown Secundus (Second South).  Oddly enough, a new King of Fighters 1-on-1 tournament, billed "Maximum Mayhem," has been started up by a mysterious man who is Geese's brother-in-law and Rock's uncle.

Meanwhile, there are other newcomers to the series--Marco Rodriguez/Krushnood Butt, student of Ryo Sakazaki and head of the Second South Kyokugenryuu dojo; Hokutomaru, Andy Bogard's disciple; Kim Dong Hwan, Kim Kaphwan's light-hearted older son; Kim Jae Hoon, Kim Kaphwan's other son who is more serious; Freeman, the enigmatic psychotic killer who has carved a path of destruction through Second South; Hotaru Futaba, the resident "cute girl" of the series, looking for her brother; Gato, the Kung-Fu master with a mysterious past; Griffon Mask/Tizoc, the Mexican wrestler with a strong sense of honor and fair play; and Kevin Ryan, Second South cop who is investigating the deaths of countless fellow officers.  Also, there are the masterminds of the tournament--Grant, the "Martyr of Might," a mysterious figure who fights with "Dark Karate"; and Kain R. Heinlein, Rock's uncle (mother's brother) who fights with purple flames.  When you fight him, after you beat him in one round, his entire bar is in "T.O.P." mode, and his attacks ALL DO DOUBLE DAMAGE.

The game has three new features--Just Defense, T.O.P., and Breaking.  Just Defense is a perfectly-timed block that adds some health, doesn't count against you in terms of guard breaks, and allows you to cancel into a counter attack.  T.O.P. (Tactical Offense Position) involves a selection of a third of your life bar, and when your bar is in that section, your attacks do more damage, you slowly recover health, and you can do a special attack by pressing CD.  And Breaking is a method of ending a move prematurely by pressing AB.

The game is graphically and musically spectacular.  The characters are animated beautifully, including the blurs on certain motions with Marco Rodriguez's fireball.  The controls are nice and tight; you can do whatever move you desire at a given time.  And the game involves a great deal of replay if you want to see the endings (and you will), because you have to be very good (average grade of AAA on a scale from C, B, A, AA, AAA, S, SS, SSS, Miracle) to get to the final boss in the first place.

In all, I give this game a 10.




K' and Maxima are on the run from NESTS after the KOF'99 tournament. A new plan is introduced by NESTS to take over the world. The Ikari Warriors have teamed up with a mysterious contact named Ling to lure K', Maxima, and possibly NESTS, into the open with a new KOF tournament. But there's more to this story than just what you see...

KOF2000 was one of the last games released by SNK proper. It was a followup to the different take on the series introduced with KOF'99--strikers added to the mix. One of the new features in the game, in fact, are Another Strikers. An "evolution" of the DC version of KOF'99's EX strikers, Another Strikers allow you to choose whether you want the "fourth wheel" to be the striker or an alternate. Many of the alternate characters come from other SNK games, such as Kaede from Last Blade, Duke from Burning Fight, or Kim Sue Il from Kizuna Encounter.

The new gameplay features include the ability to do SDM's at will, the ability to use strikers to taunt after an attack, and the ability to regain striker "bombs" by taunting. However, SDM's cost all three stocks, only certain supers have SDM versions, and it removes the power gauge entirely for some time. Also, "taunt" striker attacks cost one stock, as does taunting to regain striker bombs. So, you'll have to be careful here.

The new characters in this game are Vanessa, the sexy boxing secret agent; Seth, the new counter monster of the game; Lin, the Chinese Hizoku ninja with poison flowing through his veins; Hinako, the demure teenage Sumo girl (who's surprisingly not Sumo-like in appearance); and Ramon, the Mexican luchador who bounds around with kicks and suplexes for the whole family. Also added are sub-boss/secret character/playable character if you have the home version Kula, the Anti-K' who uses ice in her attacks, and the boss Zero, who has a cheap bladed cloak and a cheap full-screen super and who in short is very, very cheap.

Graphics are up to the KOF standard with everything you'd come to expect. Sound is great with music that sticks in your head and voices that bring the pain. Control is spot-on (as if anyone would expect any less), and the gameplay is good, if a little buggy (I'm told there are infinites for all; I've never researched them, as I may be tempted to use them someday X_X). However, it doesn't really add much of substance to the previous installment, so I'm forced to give it a 7. The cart is probably running about $199 now, so if you have a Neo, pick it up.




One of the saddest game stories of 2001 was the demise of SNK. The company had been in dire straits for the prior year or so, starting with their acquisition by Aruze and the subsequent shutdown of their non-Japanese markets. Knowing that their days could very well be numbered, they started farming out some of their projects, including KOF, to outside companies. The task of the next KOF game came to an obscure Korean company called Eolith.

The hardcore KOF fans were panicking left, right, up, down, and sideways over this news--could another company pack in the magic that SNK did, or for that matter, even bring the series back from the (said to be) disappointing 2000 installment? That question will be answered now.

In KOF 2001, there's another worldwide KOF tournament. There are some interesting twists in this tournament. No longer are you limited to the 3-on-3 fights that have been the staple of KOF games since '94. Now, you can choose how many characters you want active and how many you want as "strikers," helper characters called out at your whim. This isn't just a simple handicapping method--the number of active fighters in your team will affect your defensive abilities (fewer fighters --> less damage), your maximum number of supers (4 active fighters = 1 super, 3 active = 2 supers, etc.), and the length of the super meter (fewer fighters, shorter meter).

As for the characters, there are 40 characters in all, which makes for 10 teams. The teams range from Southtown's classic Fatal Fury heroes to fighting women to the Ikari Warriors to the N.E.S.T.S. Cartel's specially-arranged team of superhumans. There are some returning faces from KOF games past--Heidern, the Ikari Warriors' grim taskmaster; Xiangfei, the spunky waitress girl with the 100+ hit supers; and Daimon, the silent Judo king. Also, there are new faces in the crowd--May Lee, the aspiring Tae Kwon Do superheroine; Foxy, the fencing guardian of Kula from KOF2000; Angel, the new "fan service" fighter and homage to the many Mexican KOF fans, and K9999, the ruthless maniac in the NESTS team who looks and sounds like Tetsuo from Akira, right down to the mutated arm.

The gameplay is for the most part just as you remember it from prior installments, so I'll only mention the notable changes here:

-Certain attacks can knock an opponent into the wall, allowing you to get another hit.
-SDM's now only cost 2 stocks instead of 3.
-Super Cancels are possible.
-Armor and Counter modes no longer exist.
-Different joystick motions (F+BC, B+BC) will summon different designated strikers.
-Strikers now cost 1 power stock to use.

The graphics are excellent, as usual. The character designs are an acquired taste; the new select screens are certainly... surreal O_o''. The effects seem as nifty as ever, from the gouts of flame from Kyo and Iori's attacks to the flick of Heidern's arm as he attempts a Storm Bringer.

The sound is very good, also. The music seems to be mostly techno, not really differentiating one track from another, but the voices are as spot-on as usual.

The controls are excellent, which is a must in this installment, as many characters don't do the normal double fireball or pendulum motions for their supers; Angel does a strange b, f, d, df motion for her supers, and K9999 has the dreaded "pretzel" motion made famous by Geese Howard.

But does it play well? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. The new features add to the devastation that you can rain down on your foes, and new, complex characters such as Angel (master her "chain circle" and the opponents will pretty much gift-wrap your victory and say "you're welcome.") assure that there will be many players honing their skills to a fine knife's edge. The bosses are up to the SNK standard... hard and ruthless. Igniz, the last boss, has an SDM that takes off 80% of your life! 80%!! The sub-boss, Original Zero, plays like his predecessor, but has three strikers--a black lion; Ron, a ninja from the Chinese Hizoku clan from which Lin hails; and (Original?) Krizalid... yes, the Irish Tornado is back once again as a striker :P. With these bosses, you'll be cursing the game with your dying breath unless you can find their weakness. (Like I'm gonna tell you, though... suffer.)

Anyway, long story short, the game is as good as you've come to expect, if not better, with certain refinements that some people will like and others hate. Me personally, I like it. I give it an 8.







Since John's already talked about both of these games, I'll approach my own reviews from a different tack.  Here's a few notes I made while playing King of Fighters 2001 and its sequel...

* It's like history is repeating itself with both of these games.  KOF 2001 reminds me a lot of King of Fighters '97, since it has a stronger focus on the tournament rather than some villain's motivation for holding it.  You see a lot of cheering spectators in the background, and the introductions for each of the rounds reminds me a lot of King of Fighters '97, too.  Not that this bothers me or anything... I have fond memories of KOF '97 and anything that can revive them is all right in my book.

* KOF 2002, on the other hand, goes the same route as the disappointing King of Fighters 1998, throwing the storyline out the door and offering a dream team of characters from previous King of Fighters games.  The odd thing is, KOF 2002 isn't disappointing the way its counterpart from the nineties was.  It's hard to say why I feel this way... maybe I'll figure it out later.

* So what's new in these games?  Well, KOF 2001 has completely changed the striker system... and KOF 2002 has completely removed it.  That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because the striker system Eolith came up with is brilliant, and could have been even better in the sequel.  Here's how it works... you select four different characters as always, but you then choose which of them fights directly and which are used for support.  You can put all your characters in the ring, but they become more prone to damage, and your power meter suffers as well.  It's wise to select at least one striker, and you can make up to three of your characters strikers if you really wanted.  That puts a lot of pressure on the remaining fighter, but he or she will get to store up a lot of super moves and has plenty of help on the sidelines.

* As stated above, KOF 2002 doesn't have a striker system.  It doesn't have a lot of things, but surprisingly, this simplicity doesn't spoil the game.  It's actually MORE fun, because you'll spend more time fighting and less time trying to adapt to strange, and sometimes ill-conceived, new features.  If you liked all the customization options in KOF 2001, you probably aren't going to appreciate the fact that they've all been stripped from KOF 2002, but personally, I didn't miss them as much as I thought I would.

* Both games compare pretty favorably to SNK's own King of Fighters titles, but Eolith didn't replicate the style perfectly.  First of all, the graphics, while still pretty good, aren't up to the same standards as those created by SNK.  The backgrounds are dull and grainy, especially in KOF 2002 where you'll be seeing a lot of browns and greys.  They're more vibrant and have more animation in KOF 2001, but that game comes up short in other areas.  Remember the character portraits they'd show after every match?  Well, they look really weird in KOF 2001.  It was like Eolith tried to emulate the art style used in Garou: Mark of the Wolves, but went a little overboard exaggerating perspective and the characters' features.  Goro was never gonna get on the cover of GQ before, but now, he's just downright grotesque... it looks like he stopped a Mack truck with his face.  Luckily, this, er, distinctive style of artwork is toned down in KOF 2002.

* How do the games sound?  Well, about the same as the old ones, if you're referring to the characters.  The cast sounds just as good as it did when SNK was calling the shots, and the quality of the digitization is as crisp and clear as it's always been.  However, the music could definitely stand to be improved.  KOF 2001 contains a lot of unimaginative techno tracks (I could have sworn I heard the beat in the continue screen on The Powerpuff Girls...), and in KOF 2002, the quality of the playback is pretty poor... frankly, I thought the music in King of Fighters EX 2 on the Game Boy Advance was just as good.

* There's a pretty good selection of characters in both games... I'm partial to the roster in KOF 2001, although KOF 2002 brings back a lot of the fighters that disappeared at the turn of the century.  If you loved the New Face team, well, they're back.  Personally, I was never that fond of them, but I was excited to see that Mr. Mayhem himself, Ryuji Yamazaki, has made a comeback after being left out of the past three games.  It's a relief to know that Eolith was prepared to make up for SNK's past mistakes by including him here. 

* Sadly, Bao only makes a cameo in KOF 2002, but that's forgivable since I seem to be the only person on Earth who actually liked him (hey, he's better than the farting fogey the Psycho Soldier team's been stuck with since the series debuted...).  As for the newer characters, they're kind of difficult to use, particularly May Lee and Angel.  On the plus side, they're more innovative than what you'd typically get from Capcom or other fighting game designers.

* The gameplay's great, as you'd expect from any King of Fighters game.  Some of the super moves are difficult to do (and on top of that, they're usually blocked by the computer... grr...) but past that you'll find that the control is very reliable.  Nothing more to say here, really.

* There are subtle hints throughout KOF 2002 that it could be the last game in the series.  That'd be a shame, because it makes no attempt to advance or wrap up the series' long-running storyline.  There's not even much of an ending... Rugal is blown to bits (again) and you get to watch funny outtakes during the credits.  You never really find out why or how Rugal was resurrected... it was like the designers included him to further increase the nostalgia you'd receive from playing this throwback to the older King of Fighters games.  KOF 2001 answers a lot more questions in its ending, though.  If you wondered about the ultimate fate of the NESTS cartel that created K Prime and his friends, you'll discover it here.

* Neo-Geo games aren't cheap, so you're probably wondering which of the two releases you should buy (if you haven't already downloaded them from the Internet, that is).  I think the best way to decide is to think back to when you were playing King of Fighters '97 and '98.  Which of those two games did you like best?  If you preferred the extensive character selection in KOF '98, KOF 2002 is the perfect companion to it.  However, if a concrete storyline and customization options are more important to you, KOF 2001 will go very well with your copy of KOF '97.

* Did I say "KOF" enough times in this review?




The game Savage Reign was an obscure Neo-Geo game that allowed players to dodge and climb onto poles.  The game had an even more obscure sequel called Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle.

The game involves a tournament organized by King Lion, the crime boss with aspirations to conquer all of "Jipang."  The tournament is a tag team tournament.  This game was impressive because it was out at around the same time as X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1996.

The game has several returners from Savage Reign--Hayate, the boomerang karate fighter; Eagle, the US wrestler with the axe; Joker, the funny-man; Gordon, the fat police officer; Gozu and Mezu, the saboteur ninjas who have mastered fire and water; Chung, an old fighter with a magical cane and a hat from the "Legendary Wolf" (wonder who that is? ;) ; and King Lion, the organizer of the tournament.

Two characters are introduced to the series--Rosa, a sword-wielding woman with a hidden agenda; and Kim Sue Il, a Taekwondo cop who looks more than a little familiar.

The game involves a "tag zone" for each side.  When you're in the tag zone, you can press D to tag your partner in, and the resting player will recover a bit.  You can also do a team-up move when your active player is desperate (first life bar is gone) by doing a reverse dragon punch motion and hitting A when you stand in the tag zone.

The graphics are very good for a 1996 game, almost to the quality of the graphics in Real Bout Special/2.  Even the attention to detail is great--Kim Sue Il's Hou'ou Kyaku even has embers coming down.  The music is a bit forgettable, but the voices are pretty good.  The control, meanwhile, is tight, but is at times hit-or-miss.




One of the best-known series put out by SNK was Samurai Shodown. The game provided everything: weapons, animals, lovingly-detailed characters, blood flowing like wine, and an innovative "rage meter" that would increase as you got hit, allowing for more powerful strikes. The peak of the series, as is the peak of most series, was the second game: Samurai Shodown II, or as it is known in Japan, Shin Samurai Spirits ("shin" meaning "new"). The game had many additions to the already good first Samurai Shodown game, including a new super move that would temporarily disarm your opponent, with varying results (some characters could get along fine without a weapon, while others would be like fish in a barrel waiting to be shot), and a "doll move" that served as a glorified taunt. Also, the referee in the background is a secret character now, with a massive array of projectile attacks.

The backgrounds are excellent in this one, with such features as destroyable objects (like barrels and grass) and changes from round to round. If you look closely in Gen-An's background, you'll even see that he has some Alien boiling for after the match. As for the gameplay, it's dead-on. It's not particularly combo-happy, but in a game where one well-aimed slash can take off a fourth to a third of an opponent's health, combination attacks don't really matter that much. This isn't fast and furious fighting--it's fairly deliberate, preventing you from just rushing in to attack your opponent, especially since being blocked will stagger you slightly, leaving you open to attack. It's well-balanced between powerful attacks and timing. The music is excellent, but considering that this is Samurai Shodown we're talking about, that's to be expected. It has everything from flutes to drums to electric guitars (yes, I said electric guitars; it's an interesting anachronism).

Speaking of anachronisms, there are some "creative liberties" taken with Western History--apparently, not only Texas, but California was part of the US in the late 18th century, and Prussia was still a feudal state (my understanding of history may not be the best--it was never my favorite subject--but I'm pretty sure that feudalism went out some time after the Rennaissance). But let's face it, if creative rewrites of history are the worst thing you can find about a game, is a 10 that unbelievable? Not to me. This is pretty much the defining game of the Samurai Shodown series, and possibly one of the most innovative 2-D fighters ever.

A few more notes: This is, among other things, the game that turned Ukyo from a rival to Haohmaru into a haiku-writing wandering swordsman suffering from tuberculosis. Also, even the Japanese dialogue for Galford has some decent Engrish, including "There's a heaven above you, baby." and "Everyone need love! Do you know that it is true?" For a game this good, the unintentional hilarity generated by SNK's (on-)crack translation team is the icing on the cake. It's the sort of thing that has separated films like Plan 9 from Outer Space from other, similarly cheesy '50s movies, and it does well in separating SNK's games from other fighters.




Here's another doozy for the JessCREATIONS*,Co. "Why was this made" files... SNK's mediocre closer to their epic series of sword-based fuedal fighters, appropriately titled Samurai Shodown 3. Well, maybe calling this Samurai Shodown isn't as appropriate as one would think... sure, it plays like the last two games, and it looks like the last two games, but it sure as hell isn't as inspired as the last two SamShos. A lot of the characters which had practically MADE the series have been removed entirely and were needlessly replaced with awkward imitations, and those that weren't so lucky have had both their appearances and fighting techniques altered (usually not for the better, as you may have surmised by now...). And as innovative as this may be, the ability to select a good or evil character is just totally worthless... it simply changes your fighter's color and switches on or off certain special moves. Of course, this prompts the reaction "Why not just give every character all of their available attacks from the onset?", but this wasn't exactly the first thing to pop into my mind upon discovering that the more sinister incarnation of Galford (my favorite character from the first two SamShos) must go it alone without the aid of his wolf Poppy... stuffing my size 10 1/2 Taiwanese sneakers squarely into the Neo Messiah's ass would be more like it. After having to suffer through Samurai Shodown 3's gross lack of innovation, subpar audiovisuals, and lame-oid new cast of characters, the LAST thing I need is to discover that I've wasted fifty cents on an 'evil' version of Galford that is in fact 15 times worse than the original model. Oh, yeah... and the AI is, as Ross Perot would say, "just sad". You can literally make it past the first cinema scene by using just one button (the hard slash), and the characters are seriously unbalanced... Gen-an's replacement (Basara, the Lord Raptor look-alike with the mace star thingee) is nearly impossible to defeat, whereas Nakoruru's kid sister is an incredible pushover by any definition of the term... her ice attacks are predictable and ineffective.

I'd go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that SamSho3 offers players far less than its two predecessors had, and seems contrived, almost as if the programmers ran out of ideas in mid-design and shuttled it off partially finished with the loose ends stapled together. It's not nearly as bad as Gowkaizer, and could actually prove to be a lot of fun for anyone who's easily entertained or hasn't played a tourney fighting game in the last five years, but if you don't fall within either category, it'd be in your best interests to sidestep SS3 and preserve your current opinion of the series.




Pros: Not quite as bad as feared.
Cons: Considering how bad I'd heard it was, that's not saying too much.

Shinoken.  The name sends shivers down the spine of the discriminating fighting game fan.  Because of its seemingly inscrutable story, its odd style of artwork (it's supposed to be done in the same way as Killer Instinct) and its overall disappointment factor, the game has not been well-received.

I decided to give this game a chance.  I've crawled into the belly of the beast before... I've rented Rise of the Robots, I've bought Dragon Ball: Final Bout, I've even played Shadow: War of Succession (sort of like Way of the Warrior, except more obscure) and suffered no serious dysfunctions.  Compared to this, Shinoken should be a breeze to play and review.

Well, I was... right, really.  I can't say I was disappointed, mainly because I had heard that this game was one of the worst fighting games ever.  The graphics aren't really that impressive.  And they weren't that impressive in 1996, either.  But the animation is actually pretty good.

The music is actually pretty good, too, with a couple of the tunes finding their way into regular rotation in my head.  One of the characters, Son Gokuu, has stage music that sounds like it came from the old Dragon Ball series.  However, his hair remains its normal color.  The controls are okay; they generally work pretty well, but it's typical 1996 Neo-Geo fare... you've got to input insane joysticks motions to activate the super attacks.  However, there's an interesting system in this game; each character has two dominant elements out of Lightning, Wind, Fire and Water.  When you charge up with one element or the other, certain moves are enhanced, and the symbols for the super keep charging up (up to three at a time) until the meter runs down.

The characters are somewhat of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, there are the gimmicky characters like Chichi/Nene, a pair of twins who have different moves depending on who's dominant; and Syuten-Dozi, an ogre-like guy who charges his chi by drinking sake.  On the other hand, you have more interesting fighters like Shina, a mermaid girl who has one of the most innovative counters in any fighting game ever (let's just say it involves a mirror and timing); and Egret, an angel of death whose attacks involve giving you an out-of-body experience and using his scythe to "zone" you.

Also, much of the game involves dashing and attacking in mid-air, as well as attacking out of mid air or rolling from a throw.  But with the controls being occasionally hit-or-miss, it's tough to get the timing down to perform many of these moves.

This game is better than what I'd feared, but still not that much to get excited about.  With that, I'm putting it on low average- 5/10.  And one final note... I've heard rumors of Aruze having yakuza ties, but I think Saurus might have had some very powerful friends to get this game released as it was.




I was a late-comer to one-on-one fighting games... I didn't really start enjoying them until the mid 1990's, when the exceptional Darkstalkers series debuted.  It was hard for me to understand years later why the gaming press had become so hostile toward the genre, printing reviews of tournament fighting games that read more like page-long complaints.  Maybe they weren't enjoying the games anymore, but I certainly was!  However, after playing the latest collaborative effort between Capcom and SNK, I can begin to see their point of view.

There's nothing wrong with SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos.  It's a competant effort, with crisp graphics, solid gameplay, and a soundtrack that lends urgency to the already intense fights.  Unfortunately, it only succeeds as a fighting game... it never excels.  SVC Chaos doesn't make the same strong impression that Capcom had with its own contribution to the South Town/Street Fighter crossover, Capcom vs. SNK 2.  In fact, SVC Chaos is only marginally better than the first Capcom vs. SNK, which many gamers considered a disappointment.

You could easily blame SNK vs. Capcom's shortcomings on the fact that it's running on SNK's outdated Neo-Geo hardware.  That's fair criticism, because the Neo-Geo, as hard as it tries, just can't reproduce the gorgeous polygonal backgrounds or the crisp CD-quality sound that you'll find on the Dreamcast.  It also lacks the six button control panel that lets players more precisely control the power and speed of their attacks, and the memory necessary to handle frantic tag-team battles.

However, the Neo-Geo isn't solely to blame for SNK vs. Capcom's inadequacies.  The sad fact is, the game just isn't very imaginatively designed.  The gameplay hearkens back to the early days of tournament fighting games, where fights were always against a single opponent and there was little in the way of innovation.  The only thing that really distinguishes SVC Chaos from those games is the super move system, which cleverly combines ideas from both the Street Fighter and King of Fighters series.  The super meter has three levels, but once you fill the meter completely, your character shifts into overdrive, enhancing their abilities until time runs out.  Also, there's an especially strong Exceed attack which can be performed when your energy is low... but unlike the desperation attacks in Fatal Fury or the earlier King of Fighters games, it can only be used once per fight.

Another point in the game's favor is its charismatic dialogue, as well as the sly references made to Capcom and SNK's other games.  Before each fight begins, the two characters will have a brief conversation.  The dialogue varies depending on the selected character and his opponent, so the two fighters actually seem to interact.  Some of the comments made are quite memorable too, particularly the hilariously deluded statements made by everyone's favorite karate chump, Dan Hibiki.

There's also a reward for players who can finish the game without losing any rounds... after defeating the last boss, they're taken to heaven (or hell, if they didn't fight fairly) for one more battle against a character from Capcom or SNK's past.  It's a welcome surprise in a game that's a little too predictable for its own good.

If you're looking for a high-quality fighting game, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos will suit your needs... but it won't go out of its way to impress you, either.  You'd probably be much more satisfied with Capcom vs. SNK 2, or even the Neo-Geo Pocket classic Match of the Millennium.  They're packed with the innovation that SVC Chaos is lacking, and they cost hundreds of dollars less.




Pros: Interesting fighting system, humorously brazen disclaimer
Cons: Incredibly derivative of so many things, needlessly difficult supers

When Data East brought out Fighter's History, they were sued by Capcom for infringing on their trademark, based on characters that were very similar to their own. However, Capcom had largely ignored the greater ripoff by ADK, a relatively small Japanese game studio that brought out a video game called World Heroes.

The game was a ripoff of SFII in many ways, right down to the two main characters being head-swaps. However, it had one innovation: Deathmatches--levels that contain hazards like exploding walls or spikes. But enough about the history of this series; on with the review.

The game opens with the following disclaimer (more or less): "This game is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely coincidental." Of course, this disclaimer is complete and utter BS to anybody who's even seen this game. The following characters are unabashed ripoffs of real-life people:

J. Carn (Genghis Khan)
Janne (Jeanne d'Arc, aka Joan of Arc)
Jack (the Ripper)
Erik (the Red?)
Captain Kidd (there actually was a Captain Kidd)
Muscle Power (Hulk Hogan)
Rasputin (hmm...)
Dragon (Bruce Lee)

On to the way the game plays: A and B (and A+B) punch, C and D (plus C+D) kick. BC in combination with the control stick do taunts (neutral, left or right) and a fake dizzy (down), and each character has a move done by pressing A+B+C at the same time. This move can function as a fancy taunt, a counter, a fake, or a power-up. Also, each character has a "Hero" gauge which fills up with attacks; throws that involve multiple hits fill this meter up very quickly. When the meter is full, you can perform an enhanced version of one of your moves, causing it to do more damage/hits. Also, when your life bar flashes red, you can perform a desperation move. When your life bar flashes red AND your Hero gauge is full, however, you can perform a super desperation move.

The controls are fairly easy, except for (of course) the supers. Almost every Neo-Geo fighting game made in the mid-'90s had to have inhumanly difficult motions for the supers, and this is no exception.

The music is pretty good, if somewhat unremarkable, and as you progress through the game, you go through time to face the futuristic overlord, Zeus. However, by the end, he may very well be the least of your problems...

In short, I give this game a 6 for being a Perfectly Acceptable fighting game. There's nothing that makes it particularly awful, but there's also nothing that makes it particularly good, either.


tech specs


Motorola 68000


12 MHz




carts, max 80MB


YM2610, 15 channel


custom chipset









best games

Blazing Star
Bust-A-Move 2
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
King of Fighters '99
Metal Slug
Metal Slug X
Samurai Shodown II
Twinkle Star Sprites
Waku Waku 7

worst games

3 Count Bout
Aggressors of Dark Kombat
Art of Fighting 2
Battle Flip Shot
Burning Fight
Crossed Swords
Fight Fever
Gururin (Jpn)
Legend of Success Joe