Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves Preview
We take a look at a US build of Mark of the Wolves for Dreamcast. Find out how it stacks up to its Neo Geo counterpart.
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If you've ever been to an arcade, chances are you're familiar with SNK, or at least the developer's long-lived arcade platform, the NeoGeo. Despite SNK's recent, unfortunate problems, the NeoGeo hardware has been around for more than a decade and has had lots of great arcade games, especially puzzlers and platformers like Metal Slug; however, it's best known for its 2D fighting games. And SNK made a truly great 2D fighting game in 2000--possibly the last great NeoGeo game ever. That was Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves, a colorful fighting game that was the next chapter--and is evidently the last chapter--in SNK's long-running Fatal Fury fighting series. Agetec, a company that's made something of a name for itself by porting NeoGeo games to the Dreamcast and PlayStation, has gone ahead and ported Mark of the Wolves to the Dreamcast. And after playing this version for a bit, we're pleased to announce that by all indications, Agetec has done as good a job as ever of translating the cartridge version of this NeoGeo game.
Mark of the Wolves takes place some 10 years after the previous Fatal Fury games, in the fictitious city of Southtown--a colorful, modern city that resembles Miami in the US, as well as the central location of SNK's original Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series. The only old character that appears in this new game is Fatal Fury's perennial hero, the legendary lone wolf Terry Bogard, though Terry's put on a few pounds and traded in his baseball cap and ponytail for a shorter haircut and a leather jacket.
Terry's joined the latest King of Fighters tournament in Southtown, and he's joined by a cast of 11 brand-new characters plus two new boss characters, which brings the game's roster to an even 14. Fatal Fury fans will remember that in the ending credits of Real Bout Fatal Fury, Terry had adopted a young, blonde-haired boy--the bastard son of Terry's archnemesis, Geese Howard. That young boy was Rock Howard, and Rock's grown up to be a wiry but fast teenager who uses the powerful attacks of both his evil father, Geese, and his mentor, Terry. (Rock also appears in Capcom's recent fighting game Capcom vs. SNK 2.) Mark of the Wolves' roster also includes Kim Dong Hwan and Kim Jae Hoon, the two sons of Fatal Fury's tae kwon do hero, Kim Kap Hwan, who himself isn't playable--but he does make a cameo appearance in the game. In addition, the game features a boy ninja named Hokutomaru, the disciple of Terry's ninja brother, Andy Bogard; and Khushnood Butt (that's right, "Butt"), also known as Marco Rodriguez, a disciple of the Kyokugen school of karate practiced by the heroes of SNK's Art of Fighting series. The game also features completely original characters such as Griffon, a professional wrestler, and B. Jenet, the high-spirited, scantily clad leader of a group of bandits. In addition, there are two new characters that use traditional Chinese martial arts: Hotaru, a moon-eyed teenage girl who's looking for her long-lost brother, and Gato, a sullen kung fu master who denies ever having had a long-lost sister. There are also the new characters Kevin Ryan, a SWAT officer investigating his partner's murder, and Freeman, a mysterious and elusive murderer. Finally, there are the game's boss characters: Grant, a tall, muscular man who, for whatever reason, likes to wear a cape, a mask, and flowing breeches while barefoot and bare-chested, and Kain Heinlein, the mysterious sponsor of the tournament, who has an even more mysterious connection to Rock.
Controlling Your Fighter
Mark of the Wolves uses the classic four-button control setup that SNK fighting-game fans will recognize instantly--a light punch, a light kick, a strong punch, and a strong kick. The original Mark of the Wolves had excellent, responsive control, and the Dreamcast port seems just as good, even on the standard DC controller. The DC version of Mark of the Wolves has all the tactical button command options as in the original arcade game, including the standard overhead attack (light punch and light kick), and the standard defensive attack (down, light punch, and light kick). By default, the game assigns light punch and light kick to the right shoulder button, which makes performing these maneuvers even easier, and assigns taunts to the left shoulder button. In addition, the DC version of Mark of the Wolves perfectly reproduces the original NeoGeo version's "T.O.P System," which lets you choose a certain part of your character's life bar as a T.O.P. zone. Once your character goes into T.O.P., it will slowly gain life back and be able to use a special T.O.P. move when you press strong punch and strong kick. The DC version also faithfully features Mark of the Wolves' "just defended" feature, which lets you block an incoming attack at the very last moment to "just defend" it; if you're successful, you will regain a small amount of life and will be able to cancel your blocking animation into a counterattack.
From what we've seen, everything in the DC version of Mark of the Wolves--every frame of animation and every sound sample--has been ported over perfectly, and the DC version even features both the original arcade and arranged CD soundtracks. What's more, every single one of Mark of the Wolves' challenging combination attacks seems to be in place in the DC version, including the ability to "brake" (cancel) certain special attacks by pressing light punch and light kick (or in this case, the right shoulder button) and then quickly juggling your falling opponent with another attack.
Mark of the Wolves for the Dreamcast seems like it'll be another perfect NeoGeo port for Agetec. And as you might expect from an SNK fighting game, its colorful, completely original, fluidly animated characters have lots of personality and are a refreshing change of pace from constantly recycled fighting-game sprites in other games, despite the low resolution of the graphics. If you're any kind of fan of SNK's fighting games, or of fighting games in general, you'd do well to keep an eye out for Mark of the Wolves, which will be out this November for the Dreamcast.