Fatal Fury: First Contact Review

Fatal Fury: First Contact neo geo pocket box art

Portable pushover arcade fighting featuring many renowned fighters from around the world.

Story

Once again it’s time to enter the ring to face fierce and brave fighters from all around the world. Who will stand victorious in this tournament? Is Wolfgang Krauser the strongest fighter of them all? Place your bets, the fight is on!

The Game

Fatal Fury: First Contact is an arcade style 2D fighting game in which you pick a fighter and enter a tournament to fight against other fighters in over-the-top blazing hot battles. The exact story is unclear, but as each character enters the tournament with their own agenda and goals. The story is pretty much open-ended and conceptional at best.

The game is based on the arcade game Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers which was released back in 1998. Perhaps you could say that this is the hand-held version of that game because it basically plays the same and looks very similar.fatalfuryfirstcontact1

Controls

To control your fighter you use both the A and B buttons to perform punches and kicks depending on what fighting style your character has. You can even taunt your opponent by pressing the Start button and pushing to either side on the D-pad. Special moves are performed by combining commands on the directional pad and pressing buttons in various combinations. The special attacks are easy to perform, and the controls are very forgiving. You can basically just tap buttons and press back and forth on the directional pad to perform just about any attack in the game.

Content

There are eleven playable characters (plus two unlockable ones) in Fatal Fury: First Contact and each fighter has its own fighting style and special moves. The fighters you can play as are;

  • Andy Bogard – Terry’s younger brother, fighting with ninja techniques.

  • Terry Bogard – mixed martial artist and street fighter.

  • Joe Higashi – the champion of Muay Thai.

  • Geese Howard – a high-ranking criminal who fights with ancient martial arts.

  • Billy Kane – the heavy metal loving Bōjutsu Stick Fighter who works for Geese Howard.

  • Kim Kaphawn – a Taekwondo master and a protector of justice.

  • Wolfgang Krauser – a German underground warlord.

  • Li Xiangfei – a Chinese-American girl fighter.

  • Mai Shiranui – a Butterfly-fan wielding female ninja.

  • Rick Strowd – a casino show boxer.

  • Ryuji Yamazaki – a self-taught brawler and killer.

  • Alfred – a pilot.

  • Lao – a styled-up fighter.

Every character in this game is important to the Fatal Fury lore and there are many good and bad relations between them. The best way to get to know the characters in a fighting game is to play the game and keep an eye out for their special moves and attributes. Seeing that the characters all have very interesting personalities, you’re sure to find your own favorite fighters once you’ve tried to play them all.

The game difficulty can be adjusted on the Config screen, but even at the “Hard” setting the AI controlled opponent doesn’t prove much of a challenge – as long as you keep pounding away at it, it’ll basically just try to block your attacks, but even at that it fails.

The game features a power gauge which builds up as you deal and take damage and perform special moves. Once the power gauge reaches a certain level your character can unleash powerful attacks, and they come in three variations; Breakshots, Supers and Potentials. Potential attacks are the most powerful and can only be done when your power gauge is maxed out and your health is at 50% or less. The main function of these powerful attacks is to give the underdog player a tool that can be used to eventually turn the tables in a fight.

There are two game modes in Fatal Fury: First Contact; one player mode and two player mode. The two player mode can be played by linking together two consoles together with a link cable and is a basic one-on-one match.

The single-player mode is a basic arcade style where you fight eight matches in the tournament to see if you can stand victorious in the end. The one who wins two rounds first is declared the winner of the match. If you lose a match, you can either retire and face the “game over” screen, or continue the tournament by retrying the match in which you lost. You can choose to retry the same match for as long as you want, and as an extra help you can select an optional handicap such as gaining a full power gauge or that your opponent’s health starts at 25%. You are even allowed to switch characters if you would want.

The game plays all right in terms of frame rate and playability most of the time. It does suffer from some jerky animations every now and then, especially when characters are jumping and performing attacks in the air. It’s hard to tell hits from misses sometimes.

Since the sound is so stripped-down it makes it only harder to tell when your attacks land on your opponent and when they miss – the audio-visual feedback isn’t exactly there all the time.

Graphics

The graphics in this game is amazingly detailed for a Neo Geo Pocket Color game. The graphical style has a pretty childish look thanks to the fact that the characters heads are unnaturally big in an anime-style way. The hands and feet of the characters tend to grow enlarged when punching and kicking. On a hand-held console this art direction fits well and it does look unique.

The backgrounds are nice but the thing that really stands out as amazing is the amount of details that they have compressed into these few pixels – even though the characters only have three colors you can still see all their facial expressions during the fight. Most animations are also great, but they’re stuck in a rather choppy gameplay.

Sound

Each character has its own theme music and it’s all represented here in rather crude blip-blop style. The melodies are great, but you’d need to have an affection for low-tech video game music in order to appreciate it fully. It should be noted that the music in this game mimics the music in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers, and that’s pretty incredible.

The sound effects aren’t fantastic, but at least there’s something there to keep things alive.

Summary

Fatal Fury: First Contact is a portable arcade fighter but even though it is charming and has many characters with many special moves its biggest drawback is that it’s too easy to beat. The game can also feel kind of jerky at times and sometimes it’s impossible to see what exactly is going on in the game.

If you are a fan of the Fatal Fury series you should of course check this out, and if you’re looking for a fighting game for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, this is a good choice.

Developed By: SNK
Published By: SNK
Version Reviewed: Neo Geo Pocket Color
Genre: Fighting
Players: 1-2 (Link cable)
Released: 1999-10-01

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