After several releases in the Fatal Fury franchise, SNK decided to create a sub-series with the release of Real Bout Fatal Fury. The game didn't deviate too far from the experience that fans had come to expect, but there was a certain intensity and flair that needed to be explored and perhaps that was the reasoning behind the Real Bout titles. It seems a bit strange that SNK released the two sequels onto the Virtual Console service first, but perhaps for completion sake they've decided to make this first release available to Wii owners. Is it really worth investing in when both Real Bout Fatal Fury Special and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers are already available?
With 16 fighters to choose from, there's plenty of variety to go around. You won't find a lot of added fluff in the game as it sticks to the standard one-on-one fighting system and little more. You can choose to take on the CPU in a single-player affair or go up against a second player if you've got a friend on hand. It might seem a little lacking in the playing modes arena, but this game is all about the brawling and it tends to stick with that very distinction.
Each fighter has their own unique move set and there are plenty of special moves choose from. This time out you've got one punch button, a kick button, and a power move button. The three plane system of Fatal Fury 3 is back and allows you to quickly sidestep into the foreground or background with a quick push of a button. This can be extremely useful for avoiding attacks and sneaking up on an opponent who's not expecting it. Of course it can also become a bit of a distraction if you spend too much time moving from plane to plan, especially when you come up against a rather aggressive opponent.
To add a little oomph to your arsenal the game gives you a power gauge that you can slowly fill up and use to unleash a devastating attack on your opponent, and the usual bag of combos and reversals are intact to give the game a nice added layer of depth. Play controls are responsive and tight, but not quite as fluid as in the future releases of the series - something that fans of the other two Real Bout titles will almost surely notice right from the off.
While no slouch, the visual presentation in Real Bout Fatal Fury isn't quite on par with its two sequels. The areas are still well constructed, but there's just a slight lack of detail in them that make them seem a tad bland. The animation in the characters isn't quite as fluid, but it's still more than adequate to carry the different fighting styles of the characters with little trouble. It's just worth remembering that this is the first Real Bout release so expectations have to be kept in check when comparing it to it's successors.
There's plenty of synthesized rock music tracks to go around and a nice variety between the various tunes. They're not going to set the world on fire, but they do a solid job of carrying the action of the various areas you'll find yourself fighting in. The voice announcer is also rather impressive with his deep bass voice and the over-the-top sound effects the series is well known for are also intact.
Real Bout Fatal Fury certainly isn't a bad game by any stretch - in fact, it's a rather solid 2-D fighter. But given that SNK chose to release the two superior Real Bout titles on Nintendo's Virtual Console first, it does make it quite a bit less appealing now. Neo fans who just have to pick up every SNK title that's released will still find plenty to enjoy with the game, but those players who've already purchased Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 or Real Bout Fatal Fury Special already have the better of the sub-series releases and might want to pass on this first edition. Compared to the other two titles, it's just a bit rough around the edges.