PS2 Review - 'Art of Fighting Anthology'

by Rusty Bailey on June 6, 2007 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

Art of Fighting Anthology is a comprehensive collection featuring the entire Art of Fighting trilogy. A total of 33 classic SNK characters are included, each with their own fighting styles and unique moves.

Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Crave
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: May 17, 2007

Among the mass of 2D fighters, there are a few that get lost in the fray. Even gamers who aren't big fans of the genre have heard of Street Fighter and King of Fighters, and maybe even Guilty Gear. However, Art of Fighting is just one of those fighters that was overlooked by gamers who were trying to wade through the slew of fighting games. Art of Fighting Anthology features the three Art of Fighting titles that came out over a span of four years.

The Art of Fighting series focuses on two main characters: Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia. In the first game, Ryo's sister, Yuri, is kidnapped and they must travel to Southtown to rescue her.

At the beginning, you are able to choose between story mode and versus mode. In versus mode, you have 10 characters to choose from, and you can even fight against a friend, while in the single-player mode, you can only choose Ryo or Robert's story.

The game is reminiscent of Street Fighter II, but it plays in the style of a classic SNK fighter. You have standard light and heavy punches and kicks, but the real difference is in the rage meter. Unlike Street Fighter, where you can Hadouken to your heart's content with no side effects, when you use special moves in Art of Fighting, it uses up part of your rage meter. Therefore, the lower the rage meter is, the less powerful your special attacks will be. This gauge can be raised again by engaging in battle or by holding the punch or kick button to restore your rage and charge the gauge. You can also lower your opponent's rage meter by using taunting your opponent.

The pace of fighting in the first Art of Fighting game is extremely slow. In fact, when you input the quarter-circle command, you can't perform it as quickly as you may on a more recent fighter. Also, when a character falls to the ground, he lies there for quite some time. Of course, this leaves time to use taunt moves or charge your own rage gauge.

Curiously enough, Art of Fighting was one of the first titles to feature super special attacks — special moves that required a long string of directional and button commands to execute and used up a lot of energy. They are usually just bigger versions of regular attacks, similar to Ryu's Shinkuu Hadouken from the Street Fighter series. However, only Ryo and Robert can perform the super special attacks in the original AoF, and they can only do so after they've learned it in a bonus game during story mode.

While the graphics and presentation of the first game look eerily similar to Street Fighter II — close enough for many to shout, "rip off!" — there are some distinct aesthetic differences. First of all, the camera zooms in and out to focus on the movements of the characters, a style that makes the battle action seem more dynamic than other games. Also, as a fighter gets more beaten up, it is reflected in the cuts and bruises on the character's face. Lastly, a very minor but interesting detail is that at the beginning of each round, fighters are face to face and then they jump back to a set distance away from each other. It's not a big deal, but it's kind of different from most fighters that allow you to move around before the round starts.

In Art of Fighting 2, the pace changes dramatically, as the characters move and attack much faster than the previous game. Now all characters have super attacks and hidden special attacks; the super attacks can be used at any time, while the hidden special attacks are like super attacks, but can only be used when you have less than 25% remaining on your health bar. Aside from these few changes, there are only two more characters than in the original offering, and there's only a slight graphical improvement.

However, The Path of the Warrior: Art of Fighting 3 is a major overhaul from the first two games. Graphically, Art of Fighting improved tenfold in this iteration; the animations are much smoother, and character models are more detailed. It is usually compared to the upgrade from Street Fighter II to Street Fighter III, but it doesn't reach that level of complex gameplay. The story focuses on Robert and his childhood friend, Freia, who is on a mission to Grass Hill Valley. Robert decides to act as her bodyguard.

The pace of the game is a balance between the slowness of the original Art of Fighting and the intense speed Art of Fighting 2. This time, each round starts out with the characters closer together, and there is no jumping-back animation at the beginning. Also, you can now perform moves to attack an opponent while he is on the ground. In addition, when your health bar is below 25%, you enter Heat Mode, where your character flashes red and attacks are 20% stronger.

One aspect that was notable, however, was the difficulty level. When playing the first Art of Fighting, you really have to get a feel for the game before you can advance, as the AI is pretty tough. You can choose from easy, normal, hard, or arcade difficulty, which is somewhere between normal and hard. While initially playing on easy mode, I had a difficult time beating the first opponent! The pacing is different from other 2D fighters and requires more patience. However, by the time you get to the third game, you see that the developers had found a better balance, and the single-player portion is much less daunting.

As a retro collection, Art of Fighting Anthology doesn't offer much more than the three mentioned games. There are no unlockables, art galleries, or anything of the sort. If you access the options, you can customize each character's color scheme, and through the music options, you can change the music from original tunes to remixed pieces. The main menu is slick and simple, but once again does not present anything that a supposed "anthology" usually would.

Overall, Art of Fighting Anthology certainly did not stand the test of time, and the titles definitely don't have anything on current 2D fighters. Additionally, for retro fans, this collection offers nothing of nostalgic value, aside from the actual games. Unless you have some friends to play this with, the single-player experience will not keep you coming back for more. However, at a budget price of $15, this may be worth it for huge SNK fans, assuming you realize that these three still pale in comparison when compared to the likes of Street Fighter III and Capcom vs SNK 2.

Score: 5.5/10

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