After bringing the first Art Of Fighting game to Switch, HAMSTER made the typically HAMSTER move of skipping ahead to Art Of Fighting 3: The Path Of The Warrior. That instalment offered a different, but more accomplished fighting experience and now the gap between those two is plugged with Art Of Fighting 2 which story-wise picks up from the first game’s cliffhanger and gameplay-wise offers the same kind of combat.
Visually it’s similar too. The animation may not be as slick as in Art Of Fighting 3, but it takes the first game’s look (already impressive for the time) and improves upon on it. Once again big sprites battle it out with a facial battle damage feature making blood and bruises appear as the bout progresses. There’s more detail in the surroundings and background animations too, with a good variety of streets, gyms and other locations battled in. Good touches include steam, water drops and glowing lights of various colour or things such as the fountain outside the Garcia home or a carousel in the background of King’s stage.
There are 12 characters to pick from, the bulk of which come from the first game including Ryo and Robert - the Ryu and Ken of the series - as well as boxer Mickey Rogers and the imposing Jack. Newcomers include ninja Eiji and previously damseled Yuri. In the first game, only Ryo and Robert could play through the arcade mode and although the rest of the lineup could play in VS matches, two of the characters had to be reached in a single player playthrough first. This time around all 12 fighters can be picked from the start for two-player battles and for the single player arcade mode. Unlike the first game, however, there are no story scenes playing out between fights, but there is some humorous chats before each encounter.
As before, you have a spirit gauge that decreases as you perform special moves which still drops quickly, meaning you only have a few chances before they become ineffectual. You can recharge it by holding a button down, but rarely do you actually get a chance to do this. Taunts can be used to deplete your opponent’s gauge, but unless you have a screen’s distance between you, you’ll most likely receive a swift kick to the face. With this system in place you’ll find fights quickly turn to the use of regular punches and kicks which lessens the enjoyment somewhat, but it works a little better than in the first game. While you have them available special moves connect easier than they did before and there are no slow startup times.
Another change is that there are now two strengths of punch and kick, depending on how long you hold the buttons down for. Separate buttons would be preferable, but it works better than the first game’s approach of having a 'strong' attack that is a punch or kick depending on which button you pressed last. That method is still available however, should you be out of throw range (which the button is otherwise used for).
If looking to get to know the fighters and their moves, a two-player matchup is recommended as the single-player game is difficult from the get go. The difficulty can be bumped down in the options menu (default: four of eight), but even then there’s little room for error with your opponent punishing any misstep with a counterattack or knocking you out of the air with each misjudged jump. If your special moves fail to connect you're in trouble as you won’t have chance to recharge your gauge for another attempt. The other settings include the usual button remapping options and ability to add scanlines to the image. Number of rounds and the time limit can be adjusted as can the game’s language; for some reason even the English version is in Japanese by default.
Playing through the game can be a frustrating experience, but there’s some incentive as each character has an ending for you to see. If you are looking to see the endings and find you are getting good at the game, it’s recommended you throw a round at some point otherwise you’ll get an extra fight at the end against a youthful Geese Howard. An extremely difficult fight in an already tough game, Geese will annihilate you while you are busy blinking. If you’d like a good challenge, however: go fight Geese.
Two-player battles are more enjoyable than the arcade mode as you are not dealing with the high difficulty of the CPU, allowing you to experiment with the various moves and special attacks of each fighter. There’s not the range of options available in other fighters and once the spirit gauge is depleted you’ll usually resort to basic punches and kicks, but there’s still some entertainment to be found.
Art Of Fighting 2 takes the first game and improves on it in a number of ways. There's a slight increase in available fighters and some visual improvements too. More importantly the game plays better with the multiple strength attacks implemented in a smoother fashion and special moves being more effective. Use of special moves is again limited, your swiftly depleting spirit gauge is depleted forcing you to resort to basic attacks. This could be seen as encouraging other methods of play (no fireball spamming here), but generally it just lessens the enjoyment. That mainly applies to the two-player mode as in the single-player arcade mode you'll mostly be concerned with survival. There is satisfaction in defeating the tough opponents, but the fights themselves are not as entertaining as they could be. Art Of Fighting 2 isn't a bad game, but there are better options on Switch - including the superior third instalment.