Where can I begin? The past? The present? Or the future? Following a rather impressive release of King of Fighters 99: Millennium Battle, SNK has finally released from their arcade stables a home version of Garou: Mark of the Wolves for the Neo*Geo cart system. Weighing in at 688megs, I sit here and realize that this is a 10-year old piece of hardware pulling off 2D animation comparable to Street Fighter III. The backgrounds are equally impressive with a lot of color and in some stages (such as Hotaru's stage) there is a LOT of stuff going on and moving in the background. How is this possible? I wish I knew. Also, the music in some of the stages is ok while other stages, I really enjoyed. SNK has quite literally revamped the engine and done away with almost everything that any of their previous Fatal Fury games had. The combat system now has several tweaks which I will go into detail on how each works.
Super Move & Hidden Ability
You have 2 levels of power. S-Power being level one supers which are almost usually performed with A or B. P-Power are level 2 supers which are performed with either C or D. The main plus in this is that you can now 'stock' your super unlike the previous Fatal Fury games that once it was built up it starting going back down slowly until it was gone or you either used it. P-Power moves no longer require your life to be in the red as in the previous games. (Note: Certain characters have the ability to follow up on supers and be able to go right into another. I.E. Kim-Jae-Hoon where you can pull a Phoenix Wing Womper and it leaves just enough time to follow up with a Phoenix Flattener super). I did notice that in the case of supers the fall back animation is not invincible against anyone pulling off a well timed super to juggle them with.
This adds an interesting twist. You can add power to your character's abilities by setting your T.O.P. bar in the Front, Middle or Back, depending on your personal fighting style. The T.O.P. will go into effect either when you 1st start the round or your life decreases to depending on the point where you have it set. You can adjust the size of the bar from 1.25 to 1.5 to 1.75. The smaller the T.O.P bar the more damage you can inflict overall.
With this you can draw in an opponent's attact and block at the last minute either on the ground or the air. This is what would be easily explained as a reverse parry system. For example, instead of tapping foward, you tap back at the last second. If you perform this right you can get life back, your guard endurance gets stronger (like the Alpha 3 Guard meter) or you can Guard Cancel into a counter move. (Note: The life recovered varies on what types of moves you just defended on.)
Ahhh! Now we are talking. This ability allows you to cancel certian moves and follow up with some devastating combos. Some characters are made for this while others take some skill to fully use this ability. To perform a break, simply perform the correct special move and then usually at the start of the move quickly hit A & B at the same time to break. I've have been able to pull off everyone's break moves and followed up with some combos that just bleed your life away. A simple but perfect example of a break move combo would be to do Terry's Power Dunk, Break and then follow up with Buster Wolf Super. It's like super cancelling but, unlike super cancelling, You can just break and do nothing.
The story takes place 10 years after Real Bout where Geese dies by his own hands. However Geese's line did not die there but, continues on with his son Rock who being orphaned was adopted and raised by Terry as his own. Now the Battle starts once again with a new generation of fighters stepping into the ring to battle it out for the title of King of Fighters. As with any good fighting game, a story helps the overall look and feel to make an excellent title. Let's get some lowdown on some of these characters.
His name says it all. He's the son of one of the most well known SNK boss characters and carries a lot of his fathers moves and some of Terry's old moves to boot as well. He's a well rounded fighter and the game for a change is focused on him instead of Terry with Rock trying to find the possible wherabouts of his mother.
You've played him in Fatal Fury & King of Fighters so there is no need to explain who this legendary character is. Gone is the trademark red windbreaker and red cap that identifed this guy as the Lone Wolf. He is the only returning character in the series and he's loaded for bear. He lost the Rising Tackle which Rock now uses but, the Power Dunk more than makes up for this in power and sheer overriding ability.
Kim Dong Hwan
The first born son of Kim Kaph Wan is nothing like his father. He carries a strong sense of justice like his dad but, It ends there with his carefree personality and his unwillingness to train as hard as his brother. He's got a nice array of moves overall and can dish out some serious damage.
Kim Jae Hoon
The second born son of Kim Kaph Wan, He has followed loyally in his father's footsteps and is pretty much his father in essence. He carries almost all of his dad's trademark moves and several others exculsive to him. I will go and say off the bat that he can be one of the cheesest characters on the board. His ability to link both of his supers is quite scary. It's as if you have your T.O.P bar set at 1.75 and pull off both of them, You would usually end up doing about 95% damage to your oppoenet's life. *shudder*
She doesn't enter that battle for personal gain but to try and locate her older brother who left home years ago. She's not an overpowering character but she has some moves which make it easy to do combos with. Also, she can also reflect fireballs back at opponents which makes it very annoying for certain characters.
This guy is a loner. He fights only to gain more power and works to increase his abilites in battle. Gato possesses one of the most interesting set of moves in the game. He follows a Kung Fu style that blends a lot like Gen & Makoto made into one.
Leader of a group of pirates called The Liline Knights, Jenet's only desire is to win and steal the treasure of the sponser. Her abilites are pretty much like keep away tatics in as she constantly can supress and counter an enemy to death. A good turtle fighter if I ever saw one.
Butt? I wonder who thought that one up. This guy is a hot fisted follower of Kyokungen Karate. Trained by Ryo Sakazaki, He is a wall of discipline. There isn't much to say. I would best describe him as a WAY better version of KoF 95 Ryo. He's very powerful and can recover fast from a lot of moves.
This kid was trained in the Shiranui Ninja arts and after awhile got bored and decided to go out and test his skills in the world. He uses a lot of range attacks and can make your life miserable if you don't pay attention carefully how he moves. He has several quick up close moves and even sports Andy's Ku ha Dan move to boot.
This guy is a nutcase. He only lives for battle and is very evil in showing no mercy to his oppoenets. This is a skill fighter. He has no real power moves except supers and is fast as hell with slashes and overhead attacks.
A wrestler looking to improve himself and regain his lost glory, Tizoc goes in to battle to show his fans that he is the best there is. Can we say Zangief? This guy sports 360 and 720 moves and dishes out damage comparable to ole school SF2 Zangief which makes him a charcter you do not want to get close to.
His friend was slain and he has entered the tourney with revenge on his mind. He travels with his friend's son and they work together to bring their enemies to justice. Kevin is a brawler, as he could be very much passed off as Alex from Street Fighter 3. Even though his moves aren't impressive, His ability to chain almost all of them together makes him a force to be reckoned with.
A sorcerer who loves to battle it out with his fists, he sold his soul to the devil to acquire more power to crush his enemies. He's a boss character so naturally he carries a level of cheapness WAY above the other characters. This guy is nothing more than a cheesy powerhouse.
Kain R. Heinlein
Following Geese's last wishes, Kain sets out to create a society where only the strong will rule. He is Rock's uncle and seeing as how family goes, Is powerful and very strong. Kain is a charge character but, that doesn't stop him from being any less cheap. If you succeed in beating him one round, the next round will have it where his T.O.P. meter will cover his entire lifebar making him do double damage all over the place.
Well, the character lineup for the game is impressive. Although it is not as high as Alpha 3 or 3rd Strike, there is enough depth to each one that more makes up for the lack of characters. You have a total of 14 characters to choose from including the boss's Grant and Kain which are unlocked on the Home system without having to input a code. Each character has a nice touch to them and even the character designs for their selection pics are excellent. I dare say that SNK has finally stepped up and relaized that they could learn a lot from Capcom and vice versa. With Metal Slug 3 just around the corner and a possible Mark of the Wolves 2 in the future, SNK just keeps pumping out titles for a system that should have gone the way of the Dodo. If you happen to own a cart system and need something fresh then, I would suggest this fighting title as a must. There is no word on a Dreamcast version but, it would not amaze me if it happened. Here's to SNK, a company that seems to be just like a fine wine that keeps getting better with age.