Real Talk By: The Wizard
Ah yes, The Art of Fighting. One of the games that brings back childhood memories of hanging out at Putt-Putt Golf n’ Games on Super Saturday. Blowing most of my 100 tokens in the Neo Geo machine. Unfortunately, back then The Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior wasn’t out yet. But the trusty old Art of Fighting 1 was. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, The Art of Fighting, or AOF for short was one of SNK’s retaliation’s to Street Fighter. SNK said: “You made Street Fighter, now see what we can do” They delivered. For the most part. It was a good game. It looked better than SF, Sounded better, and in general just had a cooler vibe. But AOF was not without its faults. It suffered from a horrible two player mode. That was the main complaint, which made this little gem forgettable to diehard Capcom fans. Then part 2 came out. It improved the game in every way, but for some reason it just wasn’t as good as AOF 1. Not to mention it was incredibly hard. Finally in 1996 SNK released AOF 3 in hopes of turning the series around and showing all the fans that SNK was where it was at. Unfortunately, by this time SNK was near doomed with its expensive Neo Geo AES system. So, many people didn’t even know this game existed. The console wars were in full swing, (Neo Geo in last) and people were playing Street Fighter II at home. All the while the Barone Family was digging SNK USA into an early grave with their poor management strategies. So don’t feel bad if you have never heard of this one. Most casual gamer’s have not. So how good is AOF 3, and more importantly, does it stand the test of time?
The first two games revolved mainly around Ryo Sakazaki, or Ryu as some people like to jokingly call him. But AOF 3 switched things up a bit and went with Robert Garcia as the main focus. The story basically involves Robert disappearing in search of his friend Freia Lawrence whom he finds in Mexico. Freia’s is wanted by the main antagonist Wyler to create an elixir that was created by his, and Freia’s fathers. The elixir is said to give whomever uses it super human strength. I know it’s really mind-blowing. But at least it is original.
One of the first things you will notice in the Art of Fighting 3 is the music. It is a mix of Jazz and electronic. And I can faithfully say, having played every single Neo Geo title that the music is among the best on the system. Maybe even the best. It really is that good!
AOF 3 has a good atmosphere. It takes place mainly in Mexico which I thought was a really cool move. The battlefield has a nice South American feel with lots of cool stages. If you have ever read any of my reviews before then you know I am a huge background fan. I love playing and discovering new stuff in the various environments. AOF 3 has you covered in that department.
This game looks superb! Though it is not as large as some of the later Neo titles, it still holds its own. For the era, this game had the best animation seen in any fighting game. There are 2-D fighters today on PS3 and 360, that can’t touch AOF 3.
I do admit gameplay does feel a bit awkward and mechanical at first, but it works really well. SNK was going for a more realistic fighter here and I think they did a damn good job. The characters have lots of unique moves that are fun to use. It is also worth mentioning that there is a new Ultimate K.O. System. With this method, you can pull off a special move that will end the entire fight. So basically you only need 1 win instead of 2 to win a matchup. Cool if you are in one player mode, but bad if you are popping quarters in an arcade cabinet and some 13-year-old embarrasses you. There are a few things holding the game back though. They did clear up the difficulty issue. The difficulty is just right. There still remains however the lack of a good 2 player game. Yes you can play 2 player, but the selection of characters is still minimal. Better but minimal. Most of the characters are also not very appealing. This is something that just destroys the game. If not for the lack of a solid 2 player game this would be on the top 5 of Neo Geo fighters. Unfortunately this is inexcusable and will cost AOF 3 a point.
Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior is not without its flaws. If you are alone and looking to play a good fighter AOF 3 is easily a mandatory pick up. Just be aware that this is not a game you will probably have a lot of fun with in 2 player mode due to a lack of characters. If you want a more 2 player friendly fighters I would suggest picking up first, either of The Last Blade games, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, King of Fighters 96, 97, or 98, Waku Waku 7, Ninja Masters, A Real Bout game, or Fatal Fury 3. However, if you don’t care about 2 player then you will be treated to one of the best and original fighting games on the Neo Geo. Art of Fighting 3 is one of the best fighting games on the system. You simply can not be a Neo Geo fan and not own this one.
The Art of Fighting 3 Gets
4 out of Five
+Music is great
+Animations are the best of the era
+More realistic fighting
-Not enough characters leads to a lacking 2 player game (this is where a point will be deducted).
-Ultimate K.O. could be good or bad depending on your style.