Garou: Mark of the Wolves Review

Garou: Mark of the Wolves arcade screenshot

Excellent 2D arcade fighting in the classic Fatal Fury universe.

Story

Ten years have passed since the death of the crime lord Geese Howard. Southtown has since become a more peaceful place. But the peace is about to be broken as a man called Kain is striving to become the new top crime lord of Southtown. With the motivation to find Geese Howard’s son Rock Howard, he creates a fighting tournament to lure him out. Twelve fighters join the tournament with their own reasons for participation, but only one can emerge victorious.

The Game

Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a competitive and technical 2D one-on-one fighting game and it’s known as the last game in the Fatal Fury series. Comparing it to previous Fatal Fury games, it can be said that some similar features and functions are still present, but this time around the developers have learned from their mistakes and the result is an incredibly deep fighting system sure to please anyone looking for a great fighting game.

The game uses four buttons as your main attacks, but by combining different motions and button presses you can perform special moves as well as other devastating moves.

Controls

Garou: Mark of the wolves is designed to allow for various different play styles, but this isn’t a game that you can button mash your way through.

All twelve playable characters play differently but they all have some basic moves in common.

garoumarkofthewolves5Dashing allows your character to quickly move forwards or backwards. This is however character specific as some characters run instead of dash forward. Dashing backwards however, is the same for all characters and it’s a great way to escape danger because you are granted some invincibility frames making it possible to escape attacks that otherwise would have hit you.

Dashing forward and running are offensive tools and can be used to pressure your opponent as they both allow you to attack out of them.

Dashing is done by simply tapping forward or back on the stick twice. The only difference is when running as you need to keep holding forward to successfully run. You can halt your dash or run by pushing the stick into the opposite direction.

Another great defensive move that is available for all characters is called “Just Defense”, which allows you to block any attack as well as give you some life back. This is done by pushing the stick away from your opponent just before his attack lands on you. This is similar to the “Parry” function found in Street Fighter III but with less risk. If you perform a special move during the time you successfully perform a “Just Defense” you can follow it up with a “Guard Break” which means that you can immediately attack out of your guarding position. This means that an attacker must be smart not to keep repeating the same attack patterns as otherwise the defender will catch up and be able to counter the attacks, breaking the attacker’s momentum.

The attacker has some options of his own as most characters have a general overhead attack meaning an attack that must be blocked while standing. Some characters get an attack that hits low instead. These options are a great addition to any fighting game and it makes it much more exciting.

All characters have Super- and Potential moves. These are devastating attacks that are unique to all characters but they are all performed with the same motion commands. Each one of the characters have two of these moves and they are performed by doing two quarter circles forward motions followed by either a punch button or a kick button. The Super gauge determines whether or not you can perform these moves; if it is half full you can only perform Super moves and your gauge is depleted after usage. A full gauge allows you to either use a Potential move or two Super moves before the gauge is empty. The Super gauge is be raised by landing attacks, taking blows or performing special moves.

Special moves often have much longer recovery time as opposed to normal attacks, but this can be countered by successfully using the “break” function. By immediately pushing light punch and light kick you can “break” the move you are currently doing – the move however will still be able to do damage but it’s range and damage are reduced. “Breaking” a move is a general way of landing a big combo or Super/Potential move – for example breaking an uppercut lifts your opponent into the air and sets them up for a good juggle combo as you will recover in time to perform another move.

Being able to “break” special moves is a good feature and can make for an exciting game, but the ability to “feint” is what makes this game less enjoyable. “Feinting” means that you trick your opponent into thinking you are doing a special or Super move – this is simply done by pressing both punch buttons and either forward or down on your stick. Your character will yell out the special or super but never actually do it, but this is not all that it allows you to do. “Feinting” can be used to cancel the recovery time of normal moves making it possible to connect two attacks that otherwise wouldn’t connect, making for some very weird looking combos and gameplay. When seeing professional players play the game this will be more apparent and can in some cases make for some bad gameplay.

The last ability that every character has but is once again unique is the “TOP” meter. When you select your character you can decide the location of the “TOP” meter – it can only be placed in three different locations on your health bar: either at the beginning, at the middle or at the end. When your health reaches the “TOP” part your health will gradually increase and you will deal extra damage, so this is when you character is at his peak. This is a very interesting mechanic and it adds a lot of strategy into the game.

Content

There are quite a few unique characters featured in the game. The character roster is as follows;

  • Rock Howard

  • Kim Dong Hwan

  • Hotaru Futaba

  • Khushnood Butt

  • Hokutomaru

  • Kevin Rian

  • Freeman

  • Tizoc

  • Bonne Jenet

  • Gato

  • Kim Jae Hoon

  • Terry Bogard

Being an arcade game, you can play a single-player mode where you battle a series of CPU opponents and a boss battle at the end to reveal the story and aftermath for each character. The main attraction is of course the two player versus mode though.

There are 15 stages, some of which have day/night variations, all beautifully rendered and animated.

Graphics

The graphics are comprised of excellent 2D art. The characters and the backgrounds are well animated and packs an astonishing amount of detail. The game has a lot of cool looking special effects making it extremely flashy and interesting to look at and play. Everything about this game is visually polished to sheer excellence. In many ways this game is a landmark for 2D graphics – it really pushes the Neo Geo MVS hardware to its very limits and for its time it’s visually mind-blowing to say the least. Also, it runs flawlessly at a steady 60 frames per second.

Sound

This is all accompanied by a great soundtrack and some great sound effects. All the bashing and smacking noises are spot on!

There are many great melodies playing during the matches, including a rocking, cool song heavily inspired by Robert Miles’ hit song “Children”. But the above mentioned “Feint” feature makes the sound effects incoherent and annoying as it so happens that someone repeatedly yells out their special move multiple times per second. But other than that the game has amazing music, great voice acting and good sounds overall.

Summary

Garou: Mark of the Wolves never really made it big, as it was overshadowed by many other fighting games already in the market, and as such a diamond was forgotten. This is unfortunate because this is a very underestimated game in many ways and it has a lot of potential. Those who played this game still play it for its multiple refreshing and innovative mechanics and its solid cast of characters. This is one of those games you can get back to over and over again and still have great fun with it. Check this one out if you ever get the chance, it’s a gem waiting to be discovered.

Developed By: SNK
Published By: SNK
Version Reviewed: Arcade
Genre: Fighting
Players: 1-2
Also Available On: Neo Geo, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Xbox 360
Released: 1999-11-11
Website: Click here

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