Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers marks the seventh release in the series and the third and final release in the Real Bout sub-series. While there has always been a lot of debate about whether this game or Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is the better overall fighting game, it's nice to see SNK-Playmore giving Virtual Console fans the choice by releasing both titles. Of course, Neo Geo fans expecting a significant upgrade might be a tad disappointed.
The fighting engine in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 feels a bit like a combination of the first Real Bout release and Special. The two line system is still intact, but this time it's used in a "sway" system that allows you to slide into the background with a quick press of the D-Pad. It feels similar to the system used in Special, but performs a bit more smoothly and feels more necessary this time around. While you still use the regular punch and kick buttons, they don't do as much damage this time around, forcing you to rely more heavily on your strong attacks and special moves.
The speed of the game feels a little more deliberate this time and not being able to just hack an opponent to death with weak attacks lends a nice added layer of balance to the matches. The Break Shot system allows you to guard cancel and you'll find yourself getting back on your feet much faster as well. It's little touches like this that produce fights with a lot of strategy and maneuverability.
The majority of the characters from Special return, but the developer was kind enough to toss in two new fighters to spice things up a bit. Neither character offers much in the way of advantages, but their new moves and fighting styles are fun to toy around with. The bonus modes have also been nixed, leaving either a standard single or two player mode. In truth, most hardcore fighting game fans considered these little more than added fluff anyway.
The visuals have received some cosmetic changes, but it's certainly far from a complete overhaul. The characters are still extremely well animated, especially for a sprite-based game from the time period. There are some really fancy round intro and ending text graphics that zoom and rotate around the screen to add a nice bit of eye candy to the experience for those who appreciate touches like this.
Much like the graphics, the music has remained pretty much the same. But then again, if it isn't broke, why fix it? The round announcer is solid and fairly clear-voiced this time around; a welcome relief from some of the grating voiced dialogue Fatal Fury fans have endured in past years.
While not quite the significant upgrade some Neo Geo fans were expecting, Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 does exactly what the final release in a series should do by taking everything good from past releases and just basically smoothing out all of the rough edges. Given the amount of polish and balancing this title offers, it might just be worth a purchase, even for gamers who've already dropped the change for RBFF Special.