It’s almost Christmas in 1999 and a young, long-haired me was passing by a local video game shop that is now long gone, replaced by a food delivery place. I decided to see what new games had hit the store and say hi to the owner, who was indeed a good bloke, though he knew nothing about games. I remember checking all the shelves without noticing anything in particular, in fact, I was about to leave when my eye caught a very distinctive face in one of the cd boxes. It seemed to be… but no, it couldn’t… but those eyes… could it be… Geese Howard? Oh yes, it was him indeed, and right in the center of the box a very lousy looking title read “Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition”. That was all I needed to take the game home.
The 32 bit era brought a tacit command: all beloved gaming franchises should go 3D. Some of them -very few- were enhanced but many, many more were simply terminated by this rule. In the case of Fatal Fury, well, the opinions vary. Some say it is a horrid abomination of nature and the creators will spend an eternity in hell for creating it, and some others say it is how the Fatal Fury saga was perfected. Me? Well, I will stick to a gray area here, since I don’t really believe the game is that bad (I played it for countless hours), but under no circumstances I would recommend it to a non SNK fan, unless I wanted to be shot.
When it comes to graphics, the game evidently doesn’t want to be in 3D. I loved the graphics of the plain old 2D SNK fighters and the jump to a new dimension doesn’t add anything good to the game. Having said that, I must clarify that they are not extremely bad. They can even be good, if you don’t compare them to those in the previous 2D versions of the game. The characters are a bit blocky, that’s right, but the animation is fluid. The characters expressions vary, which was something rare to see in a game back then, and the backgrounds are well designed if not impressive. Sometimes the camera angles create some strange perspectives and the lightning could have been much better, especially in some screens.
Can you hear the drums and those crazy guitars? Hell, yes. FFWA’s music rocks. The new theme tunes sound quite unique and provide a cool vibe when you are facing an opponent ready to eviscerate you with a super powerful move. The sounds, however, won’t get the same praise from me. The punches, kicks, falls and whatnot are standard and don’t really add or subtract from the experience, but the digitalized voices seemed to be copied and pasted from the old games, and might as well be. If SNK had renewed their entire graphic engine to take the game to a brand new level, was it too much to add new sounds to the game? Plus, for some reasons, all voices seem to be muffled, as if they were coming form the bottom of a very deep pit echoing all the way up.
The 3D conversion of Fatal Fury was a response to Capcom’s Street Fighter Ex Plus Alpha. SNK couldn’t let Capcom get away with something entirely new without presenting a proper battle, even though SFEXPA was an awkward experiment that did not satisfy SF fans nor general players. For those of you who don’t know anything about Fatal Fury, Wild Ambition retells the story of the first King of Fighters Championship and how Terry, Andy and Joe wanted to crush Geese Howard (the story’s baddie)‘s face with their knuckles, knees and elbows to avenge the assassination of Jeff Bogard, who is Terry and Andy’s foster father.
Fatal Fury Wild Ambition presents a good roster of fighters to choose from. Many characters from the original Fatal Fury returned: Terry, Andy, Joe, Raiden, Billy Kane, Duck King (as a secret character for the PS version), and Geese Howard. Mai and Kim from Fatal Fury 2 are present too along with Yamazaki from the third instalment of the game. Mr. Karate shows up also as a secret character from the old school sagas of SNK while Tsugumi and Xiangfei are totally brand new characters.
The controls are tough to master, which is something that should not occur in fighting games. While the hit detection is almost flawless and the game uses the same Rush system of the previous Real Bout and KoFs, the controls are too imprecise for my taste. Sometimes I would be hitting the same combination of keys to through a fireball or a fierce attack and my character would simply stand there doing nothing or punching/kicking the air.
If you pick this game for a good relaxing time, then you are not going to have one. The AI after the fourth match is relentless, so be ready to keep blocking punches, kicks and fireballs until you can break your opponent defenses and counter attack. But be quick, or be dead.
Verdict:- Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition for the PlayStation is one of those games that doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Moreover, it is its many flaws that made me want to come back to it and beat it, despite its unstable controls or the AI. Surely it is not a fighting experience everyone will enjoy, but it is undoubtedly a fun game to try at least once.
For that reason, it gets a pass and a recommendation from this reviewer! A fine entry into the series and a spin-off worth of your time. Even if that is shortly spent.
Second Opinion:- Transbot does love him som...WAIT A MINUTE!! THIS GAME IS NOT IN 2 DIMENSIONS!? WHAT SORT OF BLASPHEM...
Actually, yeah. Miracleman is right. This aint bad. It's not great, nor is it even close to one of the very best from SNK - that said, those are more reserved for Neo Geo's anyway. Plus their ports on the super sexy Saturn and Dreamcast.
As far as something that isn't Tekken on PS1, this is playable.
Transbot Scores:- 6.5 out of 10