The thing about fighting games is that they are all kind of similar, yet each franchise is also kind of different. But at the same time, each game in a particular franchise is kind of the same other than when it’s the latest game in the series. So when I end up playing older fighting games they often end up seeming much the same as any other older fighting game I’ve played recently. It’s because of this that I just couldn’t get that into Garou: Mark of the Wolves. When I played the recently released (12/3/2016) PS4 port of the SNK classic, originally released in 1999, I quickly recognized that it clearly had an effect on fighters that have been released since then. In fact, this 11th and final installment and its 10 predecessors in the Fatal Fury series had a direct effect on the development of the King of Fighters series, also released by SNK. The first game is literally titled Fatal Fury: King of Fighters and is the basis for the KoF tournament that the sister series takes its name from. This is why playing Garou: Mark of the Wolves reminded me so much of when I reviewed The King of Fighters 2000 back in September which was originally released just one year after this final installment of the Fatal Fury series.
This game looks terrible for a fighter in 2016, but for the time it was on par with other SNK games. I might even say that it looks slightly better than The King of Fighters 2000, which again was released the year after this one. But I still would say that it looks worse than Street Fighter III, which was originally released two years earlier. It’s a very pixelated, but smooth running game. The levels are very detailed and often have dynamic backgrounds with trains, planes, and people moving around in them. The characters are very distinct from each other with different looking moves, clothing, and expressions. But they too suffer from noticeable over pixilation.
The HUD is your classic fighting layout with name and life bar at the top on either side and power bars at the bottom on either side. There’s nothing particularly special about it. The whole game plays in a window with a frame around it that can be chosen from a list of four options or none. The game starts off with a short cinematic comprised of still images and text. These images are in black and white, which is weird because the game is fully in color. The other cinematics in the game, of which there are very few, actually look pretty good considering all things.
The only visually impressive part of the game is the menus. The main menu is very nicely done. This is not the menu from the original game, but a new one that was created for this port. It’s beautiful. Easy to read white block text over orange bars with broken textures used sparingly over them. In the bottom right corner is the game’s logo, which looks great. All the menus are based on this same general style. There are a number of graphic options to play around with, but I didn’t really feel the need to move around the default settings. Ultimately, the game looks decent enough for 1999, but I’d never buy a fighter that looked like this today.
The gameplay is pretty standard for a fighter. Fights are one vs one and you have a single life bar and a power gauge. You fill the power gauge by landing hits and use it up with special moves. The buttons are mappable, but you can only map four of them: high/low kick/punch. You can map them to the four mains or the shoulders. The unmapped buttons do things too but you have to figure it out when you play because the excess buttons aren’t listed anywhere. This game has a complicated combo list for each character like any other fighter, but some of the more basic specials seemed a lot more doable than those of The King of Fighters 2000 or Street Fighter III. At the same time, I’d say the computer in this is much better/harder even at lower levels than the one in The King of Fighters 2000. I definitely felt like this game was more challenging in the arcade mode. There are eight difficulty levels to choose from. Some other gameplay options you can move around are match time and rounds per a match.
The game has 14 playable characters and two different single player modes plus a training mode along with both offline and online PVP. The story mode has you play through eight fights ending with a boss. The eight characters you fight vary from play to play and I believe character to character. This is because certain characters have special interactions when they face each other in the story mode. You can continue an unlimited number of times in story mode and change your character each time you continue. Each continue also lets you pick a handicap in case you need help. There are three different handicaps to choose from such as increased power gauge at start of match.
The survival mode has you face each character once back to back with a single life bar and constantly decreasing clock. Landing hits releases items that can help you. Some items include increases to time and life. There are no continues in this mode, but there is an actual end to it. It’s just very hard to reach. The versus and online modes are your standard PVP. You can create or join lobbies, but the online lobby was pretty dead when I tried it. I only found one room after about five minutes of waiting. The gameplay is not bad for the time period. I feel that it’s pretty much on par with the rest of its contemporary fighters. The difference is that this only allows for one vs one matches while The King of Fighters 2000 offers two vs two with a third as a special attack similar to Marvel vs Capcom.
I was pretty content with the sound in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The music is solid. There are 14 different tracks. One for each character. You can choose which song plays while in the main menu from the options screen. Each track plays when you face that character on their stage. The effects are pretty standard, but done well enough. The options let you set the menu volume, gameplay music volume, and gameplay effects volume levels independently of each other. There’s not much to say about the sound, but what there is to say is basically all positive.
I was not happy with the writing in this game. In general, older fighters tend to have very basic and sloppy plots. Usually it’s something along the lines of there’s an epic tournament and all these guys decide to go fight in it because reasons. According to the game’s description page on the PSN store this is basically the plot, but with a focus on a specific character and his personal reasons for entering the tournament because of his dead parents. None of that plot and really not much of any plot can be found in the actual game. The game starts with a short cinematic with dialog. The dialog is just a random jumble of words used to create some kind of vague metaphor about greatness. There are only a few cutscenes during the story mode and they create basically no actual plot other than that there is a bad guy and that he wants to defeat you. Why is not really explained. The only dynamic writing in the game is that each character has multiple messages that may be used at the end of a fight and that the boss has a special dialog for each character. Other than that there is no real plot. Certain characters do have special interactions though such as brothers Kim Dong Hwan and Kim Jae Hoon. When these two meet in the story mode while playing as Kim Dong Hwan, they have a special dialog. Even The King of Fighters 2000 at least tried to pretend it had a serious plot complete with multiple connected cutscenes. This was just no effort writing.
SNK actually did try to provide some level of replay value with this port of the game. It’s a cross buy which lets you play it on PS4 and Vita. There are 19 trophies including two silvers. These require you to beat the game with every character as well as make some online and offline accomplishments. There is online PVP and worldwide leaderboards. You can also play the game on eight different difficulties. I still don’t think this particular game is worth the £12/$15 price tag today though. If you play the game on every difficulty with every character then you might get in 15 hours of play. But why would you want to? Assuming you use the PVP, you’ll probably get some hours in there as well. But it’s just like any other fighter online where the player(s) are just too good because that’s all they do. I’d say this is a £5/$5-£8/$10 purchase max.
All in all, I’m gonna have to say pass on Garou: Mark of the Wolves. It’s not the worst game you can buy for its time but when it comes to fighters you can get much better quality and more modern games for nearly the same price. Even as I write this you can purchase Street Fighter 4 standard edition for $25 or The King of Fighters 14 for £49/$59. Yes those are both higher prices than the game in question, but they were both made this year and are still less than the standard MSRP of a game today. It just seems like a waste of money to purchase this particular game at that price in 2016 unless you’re a hardcore collector.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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