Generally speaking, the "special" SNK releases are generally used as an upgrade to iron out kinks found in the previous releases of the game. Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is no exception and actually goes quite a long way at upgrading the previous Real Bout Fatal Fury title, even tossing in a bunch of new goodies for fighting game fans to sink their teeth into. Now SNK has released the brawler on the Virtual Console, and it may very well be the best of the Neo fighting titles currently available.
Over the course of the series, Fatal Fury has featured fairly gradual improvements to its gameplay system, but SNK really made some nice upgrades when it put this title together; it gave this entry one of the smoothest and most responsive 'feels' the series had featured up to that point.
Most fighting aspects of the series return, but Real Bout Fatal Fury Special kicks the speed and combo system up a few notches to make the game a more intense experience. The ability to slide into and out of the background gives it far more defensive prowess than most 2D fighting games of the time period, and when you combine that with the wealth of counters and special moves, you've got a lot of firepower at your disposal.
All of the original characters from the first Real Bout release return and SNK was also thoughtful enough to toss in a few new fighters to mix things up a bit. Play controls remain simple, with a punch, kick, and hard attack at your disposal, but you'll soon find the need to put together combos, which is the part of the fighting action that will require some time and practice. While this system might, at first, seem a bit simplistic, it doesn't take long to see how the speedy and responsive player package comes together to give the game a serious selection of strategy, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint.
New tunes abound in this title and once again they're a solid blend of rock and synthesizer, along with a nice array of region-specific tracks to lend a little authenticity to the scenery. The characters all got impressive visual upgrades, complete with a much smoother look and silkier animations. And when coupled with the increased speed of the action, it makes for a rather significant graphical update over the original.
There's no denying that Real Bout Fatal Fury Special is one smooth one on one fighter. And barring a release of Garou: Mark of the Wolves, it will likely be some time before SNK releases a better fighting game on the Wii Virtual Console. If you like your brawlers fast, furious, and hip deep in combos and defensive moves, you're gonna love this intense and rather well-rounded SNK fighter.