[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]
As previously stated, the only company to come out of the big crash relatively unscathed was Nintendo. So it was no surprise that at least one company would team up with them to better their own chances of survival in the long run. One such company was SNK. But whereas Nintendo was focused on home console efforts, SNK was more focused on arcade systems (with the occasional port to a home system). So while home gamers were playing Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, SNK put out a system of their own called the Neo Geo.
Now, the Neo Geo was both an arcade system and a home system, and it had a number of popular titles that came from it. A few years prior, though, a man named Takashi Nishiyama developed a game for a company called Capcom titled Street Fighter. While not incredibly popular in its time, it was solid enough to earn a sequel. But at the same time Takashi was developing Street Fighter II, he simultaneously developed another fighting game for SNK and the Neo Geo entitled Fatal Fury.
The game's backstory introduced the world to a crime boss named Geese Howard, who ran a martial arts tournament called the "King of Fighters" in the fictional South Town. Geese kills a rival named Jeff Bogard, and 10 years later, Jeff's sons Terry and Andy (and their friend Joe) enter the tournament for revenge. The series spawned numerous sequels and even a couple spin-off games, including Art of Fighting and King of Fighters, which take place in the same setting and tournament and include some of the same characters. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The first sequel, Fatal Fury 2, was released in the arcade in December 1992. It introduced five new playable characters and some new moves. However, roughly two weeks after its release, an anime TV special called Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf was released in Japan based on the original game. And it did well enough to warrant a sequel itself with another anime TV special, Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle, which came out the following year.
Of course, a motion picture was in order eventually, and it's animated. But here's the weird part. It's not a direct adaptation of any of the games. In fact, it actually follows the continuity of the two TV specials... but it's mostly a self-contained story. So considering I knew absolutely nothing of the games, the characters, the stories, the TV specials, or anything really in regards to this series prior to this article... how does the film hold up to the completely uninitiated?
Let me start off by saying I wasn't put in the best of mindsets with this film going into it. To start, again, I knew nothing of the games until I did my preliminary research. And even then, I still don't think I learned all that much. But that can easily be forgiven if the movie is done well enough. After all, there are plenty of things based on a source material I know nothing of that I enjoy. But then there came the point of me having to watch the movie... only to discover that neither Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon had it for rent in any form or fashion. OK... that left it up to YouTube or other means. I guess I could deal with that. BUT... that's when I actually start watching it, and it becomes clear that, despite it being the first "motion picture" for the series, it does expect you to either have seen the two made-for-TV movies that came before it or have some base knowledge of the games. It really does not stand on its own. Now, keep all of that in mind as I review it. First, though, let's talk about the plot.
A young woman named Sulia shows up to a party asking for the help of brothers Terry and Andy Bogard. Her brother, Laocorn, is on a mission to find all the pieces of the magical armor of Mars. But the more armor he gets, the more inhuman and powerful he becomes, and the more control he loses. So now Sulia, along with Terry, Andy, their friend Joe, and a woman named Mai travel around the world to find the pieces of armor before Laocorn and his crew so they can stop him.
Believe it or not, despite the fact I hadn't seen the previous entries or played the games, I actually did quite like the story. It had a lot of potential. Still, there were quite a few moments when they referenced past events or times when characters popped up as if you should know who they are. This was aggravating. But the story itself for this film was pretty good.
It was the execution of it all that failed. The dialogue, for starters, was painful. The characters spoke awkwardly and not even remotely like a person would speak. Then half the time, it was just exposition. But even the normal conversations were just bad. The voice actors themselves were anywhere from decent to misguided. The voice for Laocorn--the big, bad villain--wasn't frightening whatsoever. Besides all that, I just had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. I really didn't care about any of them. Also, the female characters (except for the one villain one) were just there for fan service. It was funny to see how they would lose more and more clothing as the film went on. But their only other reason for existing was to either give exposition or be a love interest.
Then you have the action. For a movie based on a fighting game, the action was lacking. When there were fight scenes, they were really short and not entirely fulfilling. The better ones came in toward the end, but even then, it was the same moves over and over. There's only so many times Terry's super-punch move is impressive. Laocorn's three helpers did have some interesting moves, though, as they could control the elements.
On a more positive note, the animation was good. Even in those action scenes, despite any repetitiveness, it looked impressive. The only downside to the animation were those moments where animators got lazy and people in the background of a scene just weren't moving. Otherwise, though, the look of the film was good for its time.
So really, unless you're a big Fatal Fury fan, I wouldn't bother with the film. It isn't bad, and it has quite a bit of potential, but it never quite reaches it. But for somebody who isn't a fan and hasn't played the games or seen the prior two TV films, this film was just plain average. Not good, not terrible. Though sometimes that can be the worst kind of film.
(P.S. Normally I would say that I probably wouldn't remember a thing about this film by the time this project was over; however, one of the last movies I'll be reviewing is The King of Fighters, based on a spin-off game of Fatal Fury... wherein a couple of these same characters will appear again, but live action.)