SNK on the PlayStation 4 – Part II

Click here to read Part I, or click here to read Part III!

In this part we’ll be looking at the eccentric fighting games of Fu’un Super Combo, Greatest Of All Time fighting game contender Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and three installments of the King of Fighters series. This is also a good place to remind players that every game covered in part II of this article, even The King of Fighters XIV, has legacy support for PlayStation 3 controllers! So if you have a USB arcade stick that works on the PS3 it will work on any of these games too! Personally I’d consider picking up a pair of these Neo Geo X sticks to be as authentic as possible, but you can also click here to see wide the variety that’s available.

Fu'Un Super Combo. PlayStation 2 (2007). Contains Savage Reign and Kizuna Encounter.
Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – FU’UN SUPER COMBO
Original Release – PlayStation 2, 2007
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/20/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99

This is a port of one of the Neo Geo Online compilations SNK released on the PlayStation 2, but unlike ADK DamashiiFu’un Super Combo feels like a more complete package. It may only have two games, but one of them is fun while the other is an absolute blast to play. Super Combo includes both the original and arranged soundtracks, and both games can be played in Japanese, English, or Spanish.1 It’s also possible to customize every character’s color palette if one gets sick of the default outfits. The only thing missing is the online play, it’s still on the game’s menu but won’t be able to connect to anything.2 As for the two games…

Savage Reign title screen. A Neo Geo arcade game from 1995.

Original Release – Neo Geo, 1995
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/20/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (Included with Fu’Un Super Combo)

Savage Reign for Neo Geo.

The great presentation is offset by
inconsistent controls.

Savage Reign is one of those games that tries to do so much, but is less than the sum of its parts. The soundtrack is excellent, it has great, colorful graphics, huge sprites and background, and a small but bombastic roster of fighters.3 Unfortunately the underlying concept that ties it all together fall short. The game mixes in elements from all of SNK’s previous fighting games, the most frustrating of which is its special moves requiring some unintuitive motions, making many of them a bit difficult to pull off consistently. Every character also has a weapon, and can press the D button to leap from the foreground to the background of the stage and vice versa. There are several simple weapon techniques and ways to dodge and jump back and forth between each stage’s two planes that are universal across every character. This is cool at first, but the game falls apart because of it. Characters each have a unique array of punches and kicks along with several special moves typical of the genre, but using those weapon attacks and judiciously switching planes at the right time ends up being a much more beneficial way to play the game. By focusing so much on dodging and weapons, what seems like a complex and interesting game on the surface ends up being too simple and repetitive. The fighters may be unique and full of personality, but there’s just too few fighters available to create any real variety in how the game is played. Fortunately, a year later SNK would follow this game up with…

 

Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle available for Neo Geo, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 4.

Original Release – Neo Geo, 1996
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/20/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (Included with Fu’Un Super Combo)

The sprites are slightly smaller than in Savage
Reign
, but the action is more intense.

This game is great! The plane switching of Savage Reign is gone, and attacks are now performed with a control layout closer to SNK’s later and highly regarded Last Blade series. Instead of jumping into the background of each level, players can now tap the A+B buttons to side step an incoming attack, or tap forward+A+B to dodge around and behind an opponent!4 SNK has always played around with different evasive moves throughout their games, but this is one of the earliest ones where it’s consistently smooth and useful.5 The roster also has two awesome new characters, Rosa and Kim Sue-Il. Unfortunately they replace Carol and Nicola, meaning folks still only have ten fighters to choose from.6 But players will be choosing two of them at once because like the title screen says this is Kizuna Encounter: SUPER TAG BATTLE!

Video games are art.

Rather than being able to tag characters in and out at will, it can only be done in certain zones on each player’s side of the stage, but even if there was no tag team action at all, Kizuna Encounter would still be awesome. The sprites are a bit smaller than those of Savage Reign but the characters are just as bombastic as ever, the game moves fast, and both special moves and basic combos are now very easy to learn and consistently execute. Being able to tag out adds an extra layer to the game where players can try to zone their opponent out of being able to switch partners, something important to keep in mind since only one character has to be defeated to end the match. The game also offers a unique feature for a fighting game, cooperative play! Instead of beating each other up two players can control one of two characters on a single team and go up against the computer. SNK’s very first fighting game, Street Smart, offered this back in 1989, but it’s rare for the genre to let two players play cooperatively through the entire single player game. If you’ve already played the big names to death Kizuna Encounter is definitely worth your time.

 

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – GAROU: MARK OF THE WOLVES
Original Release – Neo Geo, 1999
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/3/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99

An impressive amount of detail is
animated into every move.

Garou: Mark of the Wolves, the last game in the Fatal Fury series and one of the best fighting games ever made. Unlike the last two installments, this one is set entirely in Southtown7 giving us a single location with more personality to set the action against instead of the vague globetrotting of those last two games. But also like those older games the backgrounds are still nicely varied.8 The biggest visual standout however will be the characters themselves. The roster is small but the sprites, their animation, and the animation of the various special attacks and energy blasts everyone can produce are absolutely gorgeous. The Fatal Fury series went through several major stylistic changes from 1994 to 1998, and while each of them look great, none of them look or feel quite as fluid to play as Mark of the Wolves.

 

LAST WEEK, on Lucha Underground

The only returning character is Terry Bogard, but the spirit of some of the classic roster lives on in a few of the new characters. The main addition however is the “Tactical Offense Position.” In past Fatal Fury games, players would have access to better super moves and some other benefits when their life bar decreased to a certain point. In Garou the TOP lets a player decide before the match what part of the life bar these benefits are conferred during. Being able to choose what 1/3 of the player’s life bar is effected9 adds an extra layer of strategy to the game. That smaller than expected for an SNK game roster is also used to its fullest, and like the best Samurai Shodown installments one could almost build a small fighting game roster worth of content just around the moves and abilities of any one character in the game. SNK may have removed a lot of features that were standard in the Fatal Fury series, but in doing so they have created a perfect balance of making a game that’s very accessible to new players while still having a lot to offer beyond casual play. A must own for anyone interested in fighting games.

 

The King of Fighters '94 title screen.

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – ACA NEOGEO THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’94
Original Release – Neo Geo, 1999
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/3/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $7.99

Athena Asamiya in The King of Fighters '94.

Cool backgrounds and hard hitting
special moves abound.

As great as the presentation in The King of Fighters ’94 is, it might seem hard to recommend when some of SNK’s much more advanced fighting games are also available on the PS4. Players with $7.99 to spare however will find a pretty interesting, but limited game. This was a landmark release for SNK, combining many characters from different SNK games of the past, and creating a single cohesive title with a roster of 2410 characters to choose from (a massive number by 1994 standards). Shooter fans may notice a similarity in the art style as well as some of the fiery animations to the R-Type series and other Irem games from the late 80s and early 90s. There’s a good reason for that as several people who worked on R-Type II did work for SNK, first on Last Resort,11 and then on The King of Fighters ’94 itself.12

The end result is a unique looking game that is both detailed, but quite a bit grittier than SNK’s previous hits like Art of Fighting or Fatal Fury Special. The King of Fighters series has gone through many changes and shakeups over the past twenty-two years, but ’94 still stands out for its consistently good soundtrack, and fun atmosphere. It’s also an outlier for the series, with many characters bearing a stronger resemblance to how they controlled and moved in their previous appearances than their behavior in any other King of Fighters game, giving it a unique identity even compared to its immediate successors. It does have one major caveat: it can get boring since players can only choose pre-set teams of three fighters instead of any three characters they want.

 

The King of Fighters 2000 title screen.

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – THE KING OF FIGHTERS 2000
Original Release – Neo Geo, 2000
US PlayStation Network Release – 12/3/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99

Slick backgrounds and a pumping techno /
rock soundtrack perfectly complement the
fast action.

It all began in ’94,” but The King of Fighters 2000 is where it almost all ended. This was SNK’s final Neo Geo game before they declared bankruptcy in 2001. Like Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Metal Slug 3, however, that sense of impending finality can be felt in the quality of the game itself in the best way possible. Rather than end on a whimper, KoF 2000 is packed with 36 characters,13 six of which are completely new (plus a new boss, the Freddie Mercury-esque Zero). But that’s not all, this game has players using teams of four instead of three. Players control three of those characters, while the fourth can be called in to provide an assist attack. However, in addition to being able to use anyone from the game’s roster, there’s an additional 54 assist characters.14 Giving us a massive representation of characters from SNK’s entire history of fighting games along with some other long forgotten mascots. At a glance one might wonder why more of these characters aren’t actually playable in the game proper, but the result is a game with a solid look and sound and tons of variety for its characters. No one here feels redundant or boring15, and if it clicks the variety of assist attacks and team combinations will give players a ton of content for their money.

 

The King of Fighters XIV logo.

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIV
Original Release – PlayStation 4, 2016
US PlayStation Network and Retail Release – 8/23/2016
PlayStation Network Price – $39.99, but just $29.99 for the physical disk!!!

All signs point to The King of Fighters XIV
being awesome.

This is one of the best fighting games released in the past few years, and as far as recent entries in the genre go it is the single best one available on the PlayStation 4. The graphics may not have that AAA level of polish to them but everything else about the game does. It has a fifty character16 roster right out the gate (with four awesome DLC characters if folks are so inclined) and every one of them is fun to use. The roster is a perfect mix of fan favorites and newcomers, with eighteen17 original characters. It’s a stunning debut for a game with a new engine and models.18

SNK did a great job getting the special
moves to look like their 2D counterparts.

Like the game’s expansive roster, the soundtrack also achieves this perfect balance of nostalgia and new content,19 a balance SNK had struggled to find with the franchise for several years until 2010’s King of Fighters XIII got the series back on the right path. With XIV we have plenty of new tracks that, despite having left the Neo Geo hardware behind, sound exactly like King of Fighters music.

Since its release, The King of Fighters XIV has been very well supported. Besides the DLC characters there have also been free downloads of new backgrounds, costumes, and even a massive patch that not only re-balanced the game but also added a real time lighting engine, noticeably improving the game’s graphics!

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  1. A feature common across almost every Neo Geo game, but inconsistent on their many ports to other systems. Typically Portuguese is an available language option as well, but only one of the two games on Fu’un Super Combo includes it.
  2. If playing PlayStation 2 games online in 2017 interests you, stop by PS2 Online Gaming.
  3. Check out this intro! Though I have to question a non-Batman product that has both a psychotic clown named Joker and a cop named Gordon in it.
  4. Don’t even think about trying to defeat the game’s final bosses without mastering this.
  5. Sorry Samurai Shodown III.
  6. Plus two ultra-powerful bosses if you want to want to input this cheat code on the character select screen!
  7. TECHNICALLY it takes place in Southtown’s sister city, the creatively named “Southtown Secondus.”
  8. Though the more urban backgrounds seem to evoke New York City more consistently than the odd NYC/LA/Miami hybrid of the original Southtown.
  9. See a full breakdown of those effects here.
  10. Plus one boss, the hilariously powerful Rugal Bernstein.
  11. This challenging but awesome shooter is in many ways the “real” R-Type III, read more about it here. They would also work on the gorgeous and excellent Pulstar, though some could say that one gets a bit TOO close to R-Type II for comfort.
  12. You can learn a bit more about this connection by reading this interview with Last Resort‘s creators.
  13. This was a nice surprise as the previous installment had an unusually small roster for King of Fighters.
  14. Normally that number would be less but this is a port of the PlayStation 2 version of the game which has a few extras.
  15. The previous game, The King of Fighters ’99, I mean I love it, and the soundtrack is incredible, but it has a less varied roster, and three of them are different versions of Kyo Kusanagi.
  16. A few months earlier players were expected to drop $59.99 on Street Fighter V, which had fifteen I’M JUST SAYING.
  17. Astute players will recognize one of them is actually a warrior from Garou: Mark of the Wolves with a new gimmick.
  18. If you want to be technical, several of the rigging models used as an animation guide for The King of Fighters XII and XIII‘s sprites were used as a base, but the playable content is all new.
  19. Along with one reused track from Melty Blood of all things, compare them by clicking here. Melty Blood is the work of a doujin group, so figuring out an individual name will be challenging but we can assume one KoF XIV‘s composers was responsible for both songs.
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Chris Rasa
Chris’ only known functions are learning about video games, watching movies, and writing about both. Much of his published work can be found on Hardcore Gaming 101, where he has worked as a contributing editor since 2004 and, more recently contributed to HG101’s ever growing selection of books.