Real Bout Fatal Fury (RBFF) is the fifth game in this long-running series, and the second to be released for the Sega Saturn. Unlike Fatal Fury 3 before it, this game requires the use of a RAM cart to play. Thankfully, this is a nigh-on perfect conversion of the Neo Geo hit and one that comes with a hearty recommendation from myself to all beat-em-up fans.
As a prequel to the highly-anticipated "Realbout Special", this game delivers the goods to an extent which will keep fans of this series more than happy until the next instalment comes along. The storyline for this game is quite complex for a fighting game, but bear with me as I introduce you to the background events.
The brothers, Andy and Terry Bogard, have returned to Southtown to exact sweet revenge on the formerly deceased Geese Howard. GH killed Andy and Terryís father prior to "Fatal Fury 1", and Terry supposedly killed Geese at the end of that tournament. Nevertheless, Geese has obviously mastered the art of reincarnation as he is now back in Southtown, safely retaining his status as the areaís Crime Boss. Naturally, once everybody hears of Geeseís return, a new fighting tournament is announced.
RBFF takes the characterís from FF3, adds a few to make 16, and also changes the rules slightly. The Saturn version appears to be lifted straight from the SNK version as the demo focusses on the four-button/arcade joystick configuration. There is only one mode of play (arcade), although players can adjust the difficulty level, select a time limit, and choose a background for two-player bouts.
The unique sway-line system which enables the player to jump into the foreground or background to dodge an attack or launch a cross-line counter is still present. To a certain extent, this almost makes RBFF seem like a 3D game at times movement-wise. However, you can only stay off-line a moment before your character walks back into position.
New to this version are boundaries at the edges of the playfields. If you are knocked against either wall enough times, it will eventually give-way and youíll find yourself out of bounds. I think this is the only 2D fighter Iíve ever seen with ringouts! This aspect doesnít harm the gameplay, however. Itís not particularly difficult to avoid falling out as you can always jump into the background to sneak in behind your opponent. The stages, although relatively few in number, have night and day variations for different fights, and also possess plenty of animation. Although they lack line-scrolling floors, GHís no-boundaries level sort of compensates for this factor as it is almost unique for this type of fighting game.
The play control in RBFF is typical SNK, which perhaps isnít as complimentary as stating that a Capcom produced game has "trademark control". Super moves and Desperation moves are complex and time-consuming for many characters, and unfortunately this can lead to a little frustration creeping in at times. This eventuality does not favour strategy because the aforementioned moves are slower than ordinary attacks. The slowness of some of the moves leaves the player vulnerable and make it more difficult to compensate for acquired damage. Additionally, there are periodic responsiveness problems, something that I abhor in all games, but especially beat-em-upís, where timing is everything.
You may think that a fighting game with only three attack buttons lacks sufficient depth, you would be wrong in the case of RBFF. This game adopts the Rush Combo system which allows you to chain attacks together most easily. 3-hit comboís should prove no problem for beginners, but with practice, this number can escalate quite appreciably. Each character has between six and eleven special moves and an excellent gameplay feature is the ability to turn around in mid-air after you have jumped over your opponent and kick them in the back. This is not cheap as it adds variety to the fights and actually takes a little while to master.
Those of you who are familiar with the Neo Geo version of this game will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of this version, I feel. Granted, there is a little animation missing in comparison, but I think that a newcomer to RBFF would be hard-pushed to tell the differences between the two. The graphics and in-game art are excellent, the sound is commendable without exactly setting any new standards, and the gameplay is solid enough.
There are only three endings to the game, for the main characters, and I was a little disappointed with this aspect. Although the loading-times can grind on your nerves somewhat, the English language option is a well thought-out addition to this package, obviously someone likes to ensure that us import gamers are taken care of. Despite some strategy flaws, I can certainly recommend this title on a couple of conditions. The sequel to this game is currently slated for a Saturn release and includes some nice new additions and three new characters, so it may be wiser to hold-off until that comes out. Additionally, if you arenít a complete die-hard junkie for this type of game, you may be better off seeking your thrills elsewhere, as this may not pull your chain to a level at which you deem to be worthy. Overall then, an above-average fighting game, but certainly not up there with the likes of Vampire Saviour and X-Men Versus Streetfighter.
Review By: Michael West