Back in 1990, a lot of the best games were in the arcades, and a lot of the best console games were the best-possible ports. The idea of getting one absolutely spot on, however, was unthinkable - unless money was no object, in which case you could have a Neo Geo. Compared to the other consoles, scant few of us ever saw one, but those who did will be well aware it outlasted the rest of the fourth generation. SNK's been through a transition or two since, but it's tried to hang onto its principles, and the latest result is a trio of compilations. We thought we'd follow the publisher's lead and round them up in one place.
World Heroes Anthology
Born amidst the turmoil of Capcom's success, World Heroes struggled to be heard over the white noise of SFII clones, but fans won't care. The PS2 disc has Neo Geo-perfect ports of World Heroes, World Heroes 2, World Heroes 2 Jet and World Heroes Perfect, bringing the likes of Joan of Arc, Rasputin, Hattori Hanzo and Bruce Lee and Hulk Hogan (likenesses, obviously) back to our screens, thanks to the game's wacky scientist-and-a-time-machine character roster.
The result isn't too bad, as the eclectic mix of combatants answers a few unasked questions in the back of our fighting heads, and as the series progresses a few more fictional alternatives are introduced, including our favourite, Sun Wu, aka Monkey, in World Heroes Perfect. But the controls are also faithful to the flawed originals, which means the special moves lack the variety and imagination that beat-'em-ups fans generally demand.
As a result, it's hard to look at the four games as anything more than budget range knock-offs of SFII, which is ironic considering they were stupendously expensive anti-knock-offs 18 years ago. It also falls down next to other SNK stuff like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, and the inflated price is peculiar considering the Art of Fighting Anthology we liked so much was cheaper and better. It's certainly one for the fans and Neo Geo completionists, but curious retro-heads and fighting game fans might get the wrong impression of SNK if they buy this particular compilation.
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 1
There aren't many tournament fighters from the early '90s that you can't accuse of cloning SFII, but Fatal Fury is one of them, since it was in development at the same time. However, you can accuse it of not being as good as SFII, since it isn't. Much like World Heroes Anthology, it's a faithful replication of the Neo Geo games, although it now has a character colour editor and an accessible menu system to scoot between the games. Also like World Heroes Anthology, it's a faultless recreation of slightly faulty fighters.
Fatal Fury had only three playable characters, and they weren't diametrically different or anything. It did introduce two planes of depth in the environments, which became something of a series signature, but it's actually put to relatively little use, particularly in the first game. The annoying thing though is the controls, once again faithfully ported with misplaced faith, as triggering combos and special moves is frustratingly inconsistent.
Things got better with Fatal Fury 3, but not amazingly, and again we're forced to question how much value you're getting for your fifteen quid compared to Art of Fighting. There's four games here, but Fatal Fury Special is basically Fatal Fury 2 with a few extra characters and a different speed setting (gosh, that sounds familiar), and ultimately you'll have to win a difficult argument with yourself to justify the purchase. Good luck.