The Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury universe (龍虎の拳/餓狼伝説, Dragon Tiger Fist/Legendary Hungry Wolf) is a collective fighting game series, taking place in the same universe created by SNK. Originating on the Neo-Geo MVS Arcade System in 1991, the collective fighting game series had officially started with the Fatal Fury series, and chronologically in 1992 via the Art of Fighting series, the latter itself being a prequel to the former. Fatal Fury became world-renowned as one of SNK's most lucrative franchises than its prequel Art of Fighting, where the latter would soon became a part of the former via their respective storylines. Both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting would eventually become a part of The King of Fighters series, the title itself being a spin-off from the first Fatal Fury game's sub-title, King of Fighters and that KOF itself would serve as an alternate continuity from the Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury continuity, in which the Art of Fighting characters would be able to fight alongside the Fatal Fury characters without having to age the former. In addition to this, KOF would also introduce original characters while bringing in various characters from other SNK franchises such as Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury stars a multitude of characters whose sights are set on their life goals within the SNK universe and that the series itself takes place from within the fictional city of South Town. Its main protagonist and sole playable downloadable fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Terry Bogard had debuted in Fatal Fury.
Created by Street Fighter producer Takashi Nishiyama after his tenure at Capcom, both franchises take place in the same timeline, with Art of Fighting generally being a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, and share the setting of the fictional American city of South Town, USA. A state unidentified metropolis, the city is based upon backdrops and settings evocative of late 1980s and 1990s martial arts action films and TV shows, including Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City. Long considered a place of extreme disparity, where the financially disadvantaged and impoverished struggle and live to the rule of the "survival of the fittest" in contrast to the well to do and financially able, South Town has harbored a deep hotbed of underworld crime and infrastructural corruption in its streets since its founding, and as such, street fighting and even gang warfare is a common occurrence to its citizens. In turn, this has drawn martial artists all over the world to its hard knock streets, be it through destiny or to start a new life in the city.
Fatal Fury revolves around the story of Terry Bogard, his young brother Andy, their friend Joe Higashi, and various assorted friends and foes throughout both South Town and the world. Fatal Fury is well-known for introducing Mai Shiranui: a beautiful kunoichi and Andy's self-proclaimed girlfriend, who is also considered one of video gaming's most well-known "sex symbols." Art of Fighting is set about 10 to 20 years prior to Fatal Fury, and revolves around the affairs of the newly founded and rigorous Kyokugenryu Karate School, including masters Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, as well as Ryo's father and Kyokugenryu Karate founder Takuma, and Ryo's young sister Yuri.
Fatal Fury introduced a multi-plane fighting system where characters could either jump into or be launched into the background or foreground of stages to simulate 3D battling. The first game had also allowed for two player co-operative play in order to take on a boss, though both players would have to face each other afterward.
Art of Fighting is usually looked down upon by players, but in fact had introduced a lot of mechanics to the world of fighting games that many games and players take for granted nowadays. This includes dynamic zooming cameras, visible battle damage (character sprites would show bruises and swelling on their faces as they took damage) and desperation moves that could be performed when a character was low on health. AOF had also introduced a unique gauge system that determined how many times a player could perform either a special and super move and that they would have to usually charge it back up in order to continue using such attacks, thus adding a strategic element when it came to battling from within a fight.
The two franchises had occasionally crossed over in some way or another. Art of Fighting 2 allowed skilled players to face off against a young 1970s era Geese Howard, the main villain of the Fatal Fury series as a hidden final boss if certain conditions were met by them while in Fatal Fury Special, players who did well in arcade mode could face off against Art of Fighting's Ryo Sakazaki as a hidden bonus boss if certain conditions were met by them as well. It is believed that Ryo's inclusion in Fatal Fury Special had served as both the inspiration and springboard for The King of Fighters, where Terry, Ryo, and their friends and foes make frequent playable appearances.
List of games in Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury franchise
- Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (1991): The series' first installment, Fatal Fury plays akin to the first Street Fighter, in that the player must face off against non-playable opponents akin to a boss rush, but the player can choose from three characters to play as and can even fight together with another player, with the caveat of both players facing off against each other and the victor continuing onward. Set within South Town during the early 1990s, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters documents the Bogard brothers (Terry and Andy) and their friend Joe Higashi in the local King of Fighters tournament, to rise up to the top and face off against the tournament's founder and sponsor, the infamous city crime lord Geese Howard.
- Fatal Fury 2 (1992): The series' second installment, Fatal Fury 2 would see the King of Fighters tournament expand itself to a much-more worldwide stage, and with invitations to not only last year's winner, Terry Bogard, but also to both Andy and Joe as well. After Geese's death, the tournament would be hosted by a German aristocrat and Earl of Stroheim named Wolfgang Krauser, who had sought to meet and defeat the man who struck down Geese himself. This is also the first game where Mai Shiranui: a beautiful kunoichi and Andy’s self-proclaimed girlfriend had debuted.
- Fatal Fury Special (1993): An upgrade or revision of Fatal Fury 2, Special increases the roster, with the four non-playable boss characters becoming selectable, three characters from the first Fatal Fury (Duck King, Tung Fu Rue, and Geese Howard) making their return, and Art of Fighting protagonist Ryo Sakazaki appearing as a hidden bonus boss (and also being playable in the home console versions of said game). The game itself is considered a cult classic in Japan for being a direct competitor to Street Fighter II, as well as having its own merits as a fighting game.
- Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory (1995): Coming back to the city of South Town, Fatal Fury 3 establishes itself as a citywide chase and a race against time, with the official return of Geese Howard. This time however, the quest around South Town presents an even greater threat itself as it enters into South Town's own streets: the coming of the Jin Twins (Chonshu and Chonrei), who desire the scrolls of the Hakkyoseiken School and its secrets in order to not only achieve and attain immortality, but also to reestablish the tyranny of the Qin Dynasty into the modern world. With upgraded graphics and a cinematic and dynamic presentation, Fatal Fury 3 helps to establish itself as the martial arts action film inspired series with dialogue and character interaction with story in its arcade mode.
- Real Bout Fatal Fury (1995): The first of the Real Bout sub-series installments, Real Bout Fatal Fury attempts to further push Fatal Fury's dynamic pacing while reconnecting with its roots. With Geese revealed to be alive to the public and in possession of all of the Hakkyoseiken Secret Scrolls of Qin to achieve and attain immortality, Geese immediately hosts another citywide tournament in order to settle things once and for all with Terry. To establish this feeling of a grand citywide tournament, players enter into a simulated "round robin" tier system against the entire roster with the exception of boss characters (Yamazaki, Billy, and Geese), and tiers are hosted at a few different locations; at each location, three predetermined characters are fought in that locale, and each fight features different times of day. Further introduced are the mechanics of breakable far corners and "walls" for ring outs, be it the destruction of a fence to the surrounding body of water or the endurance to hold out against a ledge, and three tier lane systems to fully introduce a sense of interaction with the environment.
- Real Bout Fatal Fury Special (1997): A second installment to the Real Bout sub-series, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is one of the first of a few gaiden or side stories that would make up the rest of Real Bout after the canonical death of Geese Howard. A "what if" story in consideration with the late 2000s sound novelization of Memories of Stray Wolves and the Fatal Fury 2 anime feature film, Real Bout Special reintroduces the return of Krauser post the death of Geese, and his invigoration to defeat Terry once and for all for his past defeat. Real Bout Special is considered one of the paramount installments of Fatal Fury due to its upgraded graphics and mechanics, gameplay, presentation, and overall feel, and as an arcade sleeper hit in comparison with its more popular competitors and sibling series.
- Real Bout Garou Densetsu Special: Dominated Mind (1998): Released only for the Sony PlayStation, Dominated Mind is another gaiden side story set post Geese Howard canon. In the vacuum of Geese's passing, many criminals and aspiring crime lords attempt to claim South Town for their own, and at the end of this brutal struggle, the crime lord known as White stands as its victor. However, inspired by Terry's tale to avenge his father at the hands of his killer, an aerial-based acrobatic fighter named Alfred Airhawk comes forward as he seeks to stop White's new reign and put him to justice.
- Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers (1998): The last installment of the Real Bout sub-series and something of a send off to the classic Fatal Fury before SNK's bankruptcy, Real Bout 2 ran on SNK's Neo Geo Giga Power Pro-Gear cartridge spec, allowing for games that could compete with Capcom's CPS-3 arcade technology at the time. Another gaiden side story game, The Newcomers entails two new fighters from South Town's streets: a casino prize fighter named Rick Strowd and a female Kung Fu prodigy named Li Xiangfei, and incorporates all fighters from the Real Bout sub-series. A game made for the arcades, Real Bout 2 is made in mind with all out no frills presentation and with immediate entry into the fight with processing speed provided with the Giga Power Pro-Gear cartridge line.
- Fatal Fury: First Contact (1999)
- Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition (1999): Fatal Fury's first entry into 3D, Wild Ambition is a retelling of the first Fatal Fury with some of the reoccuring central cast and up to date gameplay. The game experiments with the Heat system, a super meter system that combines the typical fighting game super gauge system with the stun system to get players to be careful of their actions in the fight and maintain a steady flow in combat.
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves (1999): Akin to the Street Fighter III sub-series, Garou: Mark of the Wolves takes place ten years after the events of Real Bout: Fatal Fury in the nearby city of Second Southtown in 2006, and follows the story of Rock Howard: the son of Geese Howard and Terry's protégé. When a new King of Fighters tournament, dubbed "Maximum Mayhem" is hosted in Second Southtown, Rock and Terry (the two of them knowing the origins of South Town's fighting tournaments) are drawn to enter into its battles and investigate its sponsor in order to figure out on who is trying to keep alive Geese's infamous legacy. With a new generation of fighters, fluid gameplay, and 2D sprite work touted as some of the best at its era, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is widely enjoyed as one of SNK's masterpieces before their bankruptcy into the 2000s. The game is known to introduce the Tactical Offensive Position mechanic, in where certain portions of the life gauge are sectioned and chosen to allow for a special state of increased stats, beneficial effects, and access to character specific powerful guard shaving attacks dependent on the player's taste for playing fighting games.
Art of Fighting
- Art of Fighting (1992): The first chronicle of the adventures of Kyokugenryu Karate masters Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, their story begins upon the kidnapping of Ryo's young sister and Robert's love interest Yuri Sakazaki at the height of Ryo's local fame as one of South Town's best street fighters, and their quest to uncover the perpetrator and save Yuri. Touted as a "super real action game", with a more developed dynamic story and presentation in its arcade mode after its sibling Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, players take control of either Ryo or Robert in order to face opponents and unravel the story's mystery, or play with the entire cast in versus mode. The game is known to make use of a spirit gauge that is consumed with using special moves and allows them their optimal performance, and encourages good performance in bonus games in arcade mode in order to increase stats and gain access to super moves.
- Art of Fighting 2 (1994): The second chronicle of Art of Fighting, as the Sakazaki family are reunited and safe from the hands of the crime organization that dared to pit them against one another. A year later during his rigorous martial arts training, Ryo receives an invitation back to South Town. The event: a new tournament made for the strongest of fighters, the first ever King of Fighters tournament. The game is known to have an infamous reputation with being one of the hardest fighting games due to its impeccable opponent A.I.
- Art of Fighting 3 (1996): The third and final chronicle of Art of Fighting, the story comes to focus on Robert, who happens upon a chance coincidence of meeting with a childhood friend in South Town. However, immediately disappearing as he was on his way to a date with Yuri, this prompts Ryo to search for him while being accompanied by Yuri, and to where clues point to the fictional city of Glasshill, Mexico. The game is noted with its improved graphics for its motion captured sprite work to properly depict fluid and believable fighting moves and character movement.
- Buriki One (1999): A Hyper Neo Geo 64 arcade exclusive, Buriki One focuses on a more professional sports styled event known as the World Grapple Tournament in the Spring of 1999, in where the best representatives of different fighting styles in the world clash to be known as the greatest practitioner of their respective martial art style. Noted for its unique realistic styled gameplay setup, players instead guide the character's movements with a left or right button and block by pressing both down at the same time, while the d-pad is instead used to control the strength and manner of attacks. Ryo Sakazaki makes an appearance in the game as the Kyokugenryu Karate centered figure Mr. Karate, doubling as the next generation successor Mr. Karate II.
- Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters is the first three-in-one third party universe of Super Smash Bros., due to the both of them being connected fighting games of the SNK universe. Thus, the SNK fighting game series universe itself is the second known fighting game series in Smash, with the first one being Street Fighter.