Nintendo Switch is not short of one-on-one fighting games, but here’s another ACA Neo Geo release anyway. Fatal Fury 3: Road To The Final Victory again provides the typical best of three rounds fighting action as you beat up a variety of people en route to an ending. Compared to previous instalment Fatal Fury Special there’s been a reduction in playable characters with just 10 fighters available. Series constants Terry, Andy and Joe return along with Mai and the always up-to-no-good Geese Howard. Newcomers include the popular Blue Mary, kickboxer Franco Bash and nunchaku-swinging detective Hon Fu.
After choosing your character you can pick your starting opponent (from a selection of four), with fights afterward proceeding in a set order, ending with a showdown against Geese. There’s then potentially three additional fights against new boss characters Yamazaki (who you also fight in a single round earlier in the game) and siblings Chonsu and Chonrei – the latter requiring you to have played well during your playthrough. As an indication of how well you’re playing each successful round now grades your performance based on time taken and points scored.
Fights feature the usual variety of regular moves and special attacks, either for an odd hit when possible or strung together in a combo. As with all ACA Neo Geo releases an electronic manual can be brought up to check the input commands for the special moves, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for information on how to pull off desperation (and hidden desperation) moves. Desperation moves (available when your health bar is nearing full depletion) are tough to perform, but can quickly turn things around in a fight.
Unsurprisingly, the various Fatal Fury games have similarities to one another, but across the series there are differences in their use of buttons and the multi-plane fighting system. Like Fatal Fury 2/Special four buttons (two strengths of punch/kick) are used for your attacks, but this time around there are three planes. As before you can move into the background, but as in Real Bout Fatal Fury (which followed this game), you can move into the foreground as well.
For this game, button combinations (helpfully mapped to Switch’s Z buttons) are used to move between planes. Where previously you could stay there until you chose to move (or were knocked) back, here you will automatically return to the middle lane after a moment. Basic punches and kicks can be thrown from the other planes, but moving there is now primarily for avoiding attacks. The short time spent there speeds up fights as you avoid getting into situations where fighters move back and forth trying to get on the same plane to continue brawling.
The game is well presented with some catchy music, sometimes quite rocking or jazzy, other times quite mysterious. Visually, there’s a similar style to before, but with redrawn sprites and more detailed stages. The highlight is Hon Fu’s stage where the action takes place on a platform that’s carried through the air, with a city visible in the background. A new fun feature to stages is the way the end of match blow can send someone flying into the foreground or background to hit against something or maybe to unceremoniously land in a body of water. Characters chat pre and post battle and these tend to be amusing such as, “Call me Jin Chon Shu. Why? Cause that’s my name, fool!” or a defeated Geese (surrounded by flames) asking Joe the important question: “Just where did you buy those shorts?”
Later games would introduce a power gauge and up the character count, but Fatal Fury 3 still entertains as you find ways to utilise your various skills in pursuit of victory and your chosen character’s ending. The usual eight difficulty settings are available to adjust the challenge to your liking, although while it is no pushover the fights against the CPU are not as tough as before. HAMSTER’s usual Hi Score mode is available if you’d like to try and beat the game (default settings) on one credit, or you could try and score as many points as possible in the five-minute Caravan mode. As always these (and the arcade mode) include online leaderboards for you to try and move up, but being a fighting game more replay value is naturally found from two-player versus matches; a second player can buy into the regular arcade mode at any time to challenge you to a fight.
Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory is an entertaining game with a good presentation and the new lane system gives a slightly different feel to fights (mainly used for short-term evasion) that works well. There's been a reduction in characters, but there's a good range leading to plenty of enjoyable fights. The Real Bout games that followed would build on this however, so although Fatal Fury 3 is a competent enough fighter, it's not a must download title.