Art of Fighting (龍虎の拳Ryūko no Ken, lit. "Fist of Dragon and Tiger") is a trilogy of competitive fighting game titles that were released for the Neo Geo platform in the early 1990s. It was the second fighting game franchise created by SNK, following the Fatal Fury series and is set in the same fictional universe. The original Art of Fighting was released in 1992, followed by two sequels: Art of Fighting 2 (龍虎の拳2Ryūko no Ken 2) in 1994 and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (ART OF FIGHTING 龍虎の拳 外伝Art of Fighting: Ryūko no Ken Gaiden) in 1996.
It was the first fighting game by SNK to feature the character designs of former illustrator Shinkiro, who would go on to do the character designs for the later Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters games.
The Art of Fighting series follows the conventions of the time in the sense that the player faces a variety of opponents in best two-out-of-three matches. Each of the game's characters have a unique fighting style and set of special techniques. The player has two basic attacks—punch and kick—as well as a utility button that switches between punches, kicks, and throws. A fourth button is used for taunting. Art of Fighting's contribution to the genre was the inclusion of a "spirit gauge" underneath the character's life bar. When characters perform special techniques, their spirit gauge is depleted and their special attacks become weaker. Players can also drain their opponent's spirit gauge by taunting them.
The Art of Fighting series was also the first fighting series to allow players to perform a "super attack." In the original Art of Fighting, the player's character learns a super attack (dubbed the super death blow) by completing one of the game's bonus rounds (this technique is available by default in the 3rd game). All three games also feature "Desperation Attacks" that can only be performed when the player's health is low and the life bar is flashing red.
The series also introduced graphical scaling into the genre: as the characters move away from each other, the camera will zoom out to keep both players on the screen. In previous fighting titles, the left and right sides of the screen acted as invisible boundaries; characters could only move as far from one another as the width of the screen permitted. Scaling allowed for a broader range of movement; the only boundaries in Art of Fighting are the edges of the stage. Character sprites in Art of Fighting change as the fight progresses to become more bruised and cut as damage is taken.
The games follow the struggles of the students of the Kyokugen Karate Dojo, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, in what appears to be the late seventies. Ryo is the son of the Kyokugen Karate discipline’s creator, Takuma Sakazaki, and Robert is the wayward son of a billionaire family from Italy. The initial two titles are set in South Town, a common location in SNK games that is also the setting for the Fatal Fury series, while the third appears to take place in a fictitious area of Mexico.
The plot of Art of Fighting alludes to Fatal Fury. Art of Fighting 2, for instance, documents the rise of Geese Howard, a character in Fatal Fury, from corrupt police commissioner to crime lord of Southtown. Takuma is said to be a contemporary of Jeff Bogard, father of Fatal Fury's main hero, Terry Bogard; Jeff Bogard's murder at the hands of Geese Howard triggers the events of the Fatal Fury series.
The Art of Fighting series originally served as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, taking place during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is reflected by the characters' official birthdates in the series and given ages in each game. This is made even more obvious with the appearance of a young Geese Howard in Art of Fighting 2. The Hyper Neo-Geo 64 game Buriki One and the PlayStation port of Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition features an older modern-day Ryo adopting his father's former identity of Mr. Karate. While The King of Fighters series features characters from the Art of Fighting series and alludes to events occurring in the games, it follows a completely different continuity from that of the actual Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury games. This was done so that the Art of Fighting characters could fight alongside the Fatal Fury cast and other characters without aging them; however, continue to maintain the existing stories from the other games.
Art of Fighting (1992)
In the first game, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia set out to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big. Mr. Big has taken the girl to entice Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo's father and originator of the fictional form of karate known as Kyokugen Karate ("Extreme style"), and because Ryo refused to work for Big. After they defeat Mr. Big, Ryo and Robert face the enigmatic Mr. Karate. Art of Fighting's story ends with a cliff-hanger; Yuri is about to disclose the true identity of Mr. Karate as their father Takuma.
Only Ryo and Robert are playable in the 1-player story mode although eight of the characters are playable in the 2-player vs. modes. Mr. Big and Mr. Karate can be played in the arcade version by reaching the final stage of the game then having a second player join in, and on the console versions via the use of cheat codes.
Art of Fighting's events are referenced often in the wider SNK universe; The King of Fighters '97, for instance, parodies the events of the game in its ending.
Art of Fighting 2 (1994)
Art of Fighting 2 was released in 1994. The second installment in the AoF series added the "rage gauge"; similar to the "spirit system" of its predecessor, it limited the use and effectiveness of special attacks.
The game's story is set a year after the original. Geese Howard, a rising star in South Town's criminal underworld, calls fighters to the city for a new tournament, "The King of Fighters." Howard was the final boss and series villain of SNK's other fighting game franchise Fatal Fury (though he is a secret boss in this game), whose story took place over a decade after the events of Art of Fighting.
Art of Fighting 2 was the only time Yuri Sakazaki was a playable character in the series. It also marked the only time that she donned her trademark outfit, which was made famous in The King of Fighters series. This game also marks the debut of Takuma Sakazaki without his Mr. Karate persona, as well as Eiji Kisaragi, who both appear in the King of Fighters series.
This game is also notorious for its difficulty, with it being referred in many fighting circles as having some of the toughest opponent AI in a fighting game.
Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (1996)
Art of Fighting 3 (Ryūko no Ken Gaiden in Japan) featured a new cast of characters with the exception of Ryo and Robert. Yuri Sakazaki is seen in the game, but only as a side character in Ryo and Robert's story mode.
The story switched focus from the Sakazakis to Robert Garcia. Garcia disappears to search for an old childhood friend, Freia Lawrence, and he tracks her to GlassHill, Mexico. Freia is wanted by the game's boss character, Wyler, to complete a powerful elixir that was created by his and Freia's fathers. The drug affects users in a similar manner as the potion in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
All three games were released for the MVS Arcade System, Neo Geo Home System, and Neo Geo CD with the first one being included on SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1.
- Art of Fighting for the PC-Engine (Arcade Card, Japan only), Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and SNES
- Ryūko no Ken 2 for the Super Famicom (Japan only)
- Art of Fighting Anthology (龍虎の拳 ～天・地・人～ Ryūko no Ken Tenchijin?) for the PlayStation 2
- Art of Fighting and Art of Fighting 2 for Wii Virtual Console
The SNES version of the first game features an extended ending which ties to the sequel Art of Fighting 2, rather than ending the game on a cliffhanger like the original Neo Geo version does. Additionally, the English localization of the port was censored. Many of the locations had their names changed (Mac's Bar was changed to Mac's Cafe), the No Smoking sign in Todo's stage was removed and the player can no longer expose King's bra without the use of a special or super move. The vehicle driving scenes have been omitted.
The PlayStation 2 version of Art of Fighting stays true to the original Neo Geo cartridge. However, the vocals in the opening title have been stripped, as have Ryo's vocals.
The Mega Drive/Genesis version lacks the zooming effect. The gameplay has been changed as well, the Ryuko Ranbu is blockable, Jack's drop kick only goes 2/3 of the screen, and Lee's claw spin has invincibility during the starting pose.
Appearances outside the series
Some of the Art of Fighting cast have continued appearing in other SNK fighting games (particularly in The King of Fighters) long after the last Art of Fighting game was produced. In the same way that Geese Howard appears as a hidden end boss in Art of Fighting 2, Ryo Sakazaki appears as a secret opponent in Fatal Fury Special. Unlike the battle against Geese in Art of Fighting 2, the battle against Ryo is depicted as a "dream match" and does not occur in the series' storyline.
As a result of these crossover appearances between the two franchises, SNK produced The King of Fighters series, pitting characters from both series against each other. As mentioned in the continuity section above, the series eschews the continuity of the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury games for the purpose of having the Art of Fighting cast fight against everyone else without aging them. Ryo, Robert, and Yuri have appeared in nearly every installment along with King, Takuma, and Kasumi, who are constant characters as well. Eiji and Mr. Big also made appearances as playable characters in the series.
The characters from the series have also appeared in the SNK vs. Capcom series and in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. Capcom's Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 features Ryo, Yuri, and King while Capcom vs. SNK 2 adds Ryuhaku Todoh to the lineup. SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos features Ryo, Kasumi, and Takuma under his Mr. Karate guise. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum features Lee Pai Long, Mr. Big and an aged Robert Garcia along with the older Ryo Sakazaki from Buriki One. In KOF Maximum Impact 2, Ryuhaku Todoh drives the truck in one of the extra games.
Introduced in Art of Fighting
- Ryo Sakazaki (リョウ・サカザキ)
- Robert Garcia (ロバート・ガルシア)
- Ryuhaku Todoh (藤堂竜白)
- Jack Turner (ジャック・ターナー)
- King (キング)
- Lee Pai Long (李白龍)
- John Crawley (ジョン・クローリー )
- Micky Rogers (ミッキー・ロジャース )
- Mr. Big (ミスター・ビッグ)
- Takuma Sakazaki (タクマ・サカザキ)
- fights as Mr. Karate (ミスター・カラテ) in the original game
Introduced in Art of Fighting 2
- Yuri Sakazaki (ユリ・サカザキ) - featured as an NPC in the first and third game.
- Eiji Kisaragi (如月影二)
- Temjin (テムジン)
- Geese Howard (ギース・ハワード) (from the Fatal Fury series)
Introduced in Art of Fighting 3
- Kasumi Todoh (藤堂香澄)
- Jin Fu-Ha (不破刃)
- Karman Cole (カーマン・コール)
- Lenny Creston (レニィ・クレストン)
- Rody Birts (ロディ・バーツ)
- Wang Koh-San (王覚山)
- Sinclair (シンクレア)
- Wyler (ワイラー)
A Japanese animated television movie, Art of Fighting (バトルスピリッツ 龍虎の拳Battle Spirits Ryūko no Ken), was created and directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi and produced by NAS. It was the third animated co-production between SNK and NAS, following Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle. While looking for a cat, Ryo and Robert witnessed a murder related to a stolen diamond. After fighting the murdering mobsters, they discovered that the top mobster, Mr. Big, had kidnapped Ryo's sister to exchange her against the diamond, which he believes to be in the possession of the protagonists. They then have to defend themselves anyway they can. The designs of some characters were based on their appearances in the Japanese commercials for Art of Fighting 2.
Art of Fighting was produced by Kenji Shimizu and Yoshiro Kataoka for Fuji TV on December 23, 1993. It features Script by Nobuaki Kishima, character design by Kazunori Iwakura, and was distributed in its English version by US Manga Corps in 1997.
Art of Fighting has received negative reception by most American websites. It was billed as stupid, idiotic and plodding, and compared to a Saturday morning cartoon. It was said it had "Choppy animation, illogical perspectives, uninspired art, badly choreographed fight scenes, and most of all horrible voice acting", and none of the interest of the video game or its sequels translate into the anime. The film gathered a 14% rating at Meta Anime Rviews, placing it in the bottom 3% of the reviewed titles.
- Art of Fighting at the Killer List of Videogames
- Art of Fighting 2 at the Killer List of Videogames
- Art of Fighting 3 at the Killer List of Videogames
- Art of Fighting in depth review at NeoGeoForLife.com
- Art of Fighting Series (Planet-SNK)
- SNK Wikia