Oh, Fatal Fury. So underappreciated. So many contributions to the fighting genre over so many years, and yet the vast majority of people don’t even know you. And even fewer would wish to return to the times when you were trailblazing the genre in ways that ultimately became commonplace years later. From the genre’s first attempts at non-strictly 2d fighting (that is, it attempted to do something resembling 3d gameplay with its multi-plane fighting), to the early concept of the ring-out, to the bouncy heroines that eventually spring forth…it all started with Fatal Fury. Sure, Street Fighter gets a lot of credit for having brought the genre to the forefront of the gaming industry (and deservedly so), but Fatal Fury, arguably, did more to make the fighting game genre what it is today. Not too long ago, I reviewed Fatal Fury Special, which was released over the Xbox Live Arcade (complete with Live compatibility), and the main problem I had with it was that it was just too outdated to be especially enjoyable. The good news? The Real Bout Fatal Fury series feels significantly faster, more fluid, and generally more-enjoyable than Fatal Fury Special did. The bad news? It’s on the PS2.
Battle Archives Vol. 2 contains the entire Real Bout Fatal Fury series, being Real Bout Fatal Fury, RBFF2, and RBFF Special, which are generally considered to be some of the best games in the Fatal Fury series, and it’s easy to tell why. The old Fatal Fury titles is that they just plain felt slow…I'm not sure if I'm just too young to have played the by-today’s-standards-sluggish fighting games, or maybe it’s just the three years of Guilty Gear and Marvel Versus games…but all the original Fatal Fury games just dragged to me. This isn’t an issue with the Real Bout games, which find the perfect balance between super-complicated 2d fighting games of late (not that there's anything wrong with being super-complicated), or the super-simple games of old (noth that there's anything wrong with being simple. The Real Bout games don’t handle quite like other SNK fighting games. Rather than the typical two-punch, two-kick and some fifth button mapped to whatever special feature that game has, RBFF uses four; a punch, a kick, another attack button, and a sidestep button. The buttons do exactly what they sound like they’re used for, so I won't bother explaining them in-depth. Sidestepping has some unique properties and, as said, was pretty much a faux 3d fighting game, and it really takes gameplay in a unique direction. All this amounts to having a game that allows typical gamers to pick it up and play it without much difficulty. Individually, each game has value, and with versus options and the graceful addition of a practice mode, something many ported fighting games lack, there's an incredible opportunity for both fun and hardcore play. All this equates to Fatal Fury Battle Archives vol. 2 being one of the best fighting game compilations yet (right up there with the two Street Fighter compilations).
As with most SNK games, there isn’t anything impressive when it comes to graphics or presentation. These are decade-old sprites that were on hardware released in 1990, and there isn’t really any point to making especially impressive menus for when you’re picking which version of the game you want to play. However, the game still does have some nice sprites relative to many other games, and it looks generally better than most King of Fighters games, while being clearly below Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Street Fighter III (because graphics get better with time, obviously). The voices are the same as ever, which is important after sixteen years of hearing the characters speak with the same voice, having a different one would be near heresy, but this doesn't make up for the crappy music.
Cutting to the chase, Fatal Fury Battle Archives vol. 2 is not a bad purchase by any means. At the bargain price of $20, there’s a lot of fun to be had. As per usual, though, fighting gamers will have rushed out to pick up their copies of this game at this point, and nobody else will even give it a second look. Well, if there’s somebody out there looking for some inexpensive fighting game fun, and they don’t care about graphics (as they shouldn’t), then this game is worth getting. If you're a fighting game fan…there's no excuse not to already own this.