With my love for SFII: The Animated Movie pronounced greatly as per my earlier bullpen bulletin, I bet you were wondering where I went from there. As I was riding high after watching SFII and preserving it for posterity at the time, I came across a commercial about anime movies, made for TV, being shown on the Sci-Fi channel (years before it became SyFy). As I watched the clips, I came across a certain figure. I saw a red cap-wearing blonde in a sleeveless t-shirt, torn blue jeans, a red jacket, and red Converse sneakers. He raised his fist up, drove it into the ground and yelled out a phrase almost as iconic as, “Hadoken!” The phrase was “Power Wave!” The intention of this commercial was clear. If you liked SFII, look what else was on the horizon: another fighting game translated to anime on cable television. The name of the game series: Fatal Fury. The movie on deck: Fatal Fury – the motion picture. The review: right here and right now.
Fatal Fury is a fighting game series that was created by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto, the original planners of Street Fighter before departing for SNK. Fatal Fury was to be a more technically sound fighting game focusing on counters and precision strikes, not so much on combos. This was in stark contrast to what Street Fighter became, and of course, comparisons were drawn. Fatal Fury maintained more than a handful of sequels in the series that, unfortunately, started to wane very early on. The series would receive resurgence with its final game: Fatal Fury – Mark of the Wolves, which stands as arguably the best title in the series. The game was more of SNK’s way of attempting a new gameplay system reminiscent to Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter 3, using more in-depth animated sprites and a newer generation of fighters. And, that’s a brief synopsis of the series. So, how and where does the anime fit in?
Fatal Fury had three animated movies adapted from the series itself. The first movie was based on the first game and the second was based on the sequel. The movie I saw was actually the third movie which came out before the King of Fighters game and even the third Fatal Fury game. So, it’s a completely different story with no connection to the games, save for cameos and such. The first two movies were animated specials as opposed to this, which was an actual feature film. The story covers the legendary artifact known as “The Armor of Mars”. The armor was imbued with the power of Mars, the god of war. It was initially utilized by Gaudemus, a tyrannical despot who used this power to take over various parts of the Middle East, like Alexander the Great. This armor makes for a great archeological find as Cheng Sinzan had come across one piece. The only problem was others were looking for it, too. These other people are the antagonists of the film, with powers connected to the elements of earth. Their leader, Laocorn had come across the first two pieces of the armor and wastes no time taking the third from Cheng. As his search continues, the only chance to stop him lies with his twin sister, Sulia. Sulia finds Terry Bogard in Japan who initially was in town to see Joe Higashi’s kickboxing fight along with his brother Andy, and Andy’s girlfriend, Mai Shiranui. Once they all meet, we get a cross-country race to obtain all the pieces before the unthinkable occurs: the potential return of Mars and the world’s destruction.
While the movie makes a concentrated effort to tell a solid stand-alone story involving those in the Fatal Fury universe, I found this movie in comparison to Street Fighter to be, well, not as solid. The big selling point of the film is Terry’s falling for Sulia in hopes to protect her from death, as he failed to do with his first love interest. This never happened in the game, sure, but it really takes away from Terry’s bravado, making him seem wimpier in some cases. There’s also a lot of humor to a very raunchy degree. In fact, this movie is best seen on DVD or VHS, as it was heavily censored on Sci-Fi when I saw it. That could be the fault of Sci-Fi trying its best to keep it clean or the fault of the director who makes it a point to allow for more raunchy material in his work. If you want a full analysis on the director, watch the review of this movie done by Bennett the Sage on Anime Abandon. My biggest problem with the film was the pacing in a sense. There was a lot of time between battles to exposit story. It can wear on you if you’re looking for some battles. In fact, compared to the first two features, this probably has the least amount of fighting in it. This makes sense as it is more of an adventure and not a tournament. However, if this is your first film of the three to watch, you may be disappointed seeing your favorite characters look pale in comparison to the villains in the film, knowing that your favorites are much stronger than that. I also wasn’t high on how the characters were drawn as they all looked very lean and not too muscular. Other than that, it was an interesting approach to the story of Fatal Fury. Just don’t expect it to be as dynamic as that of Street Fighter.
It seems that Fatal Fury and Street Fighter not only differ in game mechanics. They also differ in motion picture motifs. While Street Fighter II based itself on the actual tournament, giving more depth and story to the characters themselves, Fatal Fury took a different turn by telling a new story unrelated to the series itself. The action seems a bit lop-sided, coercing you to watch the initial two films if you want to see how the protagonists handle themselves in battle. The drama does leave a bit to be desired, as the mood shifts around a bit and the pacing may seem a bit off. Still, it makes for a different approach to a movie about a fighting game as it has a whole new story. So where does this lie? Just like Terry Bogard’s catchphrase, it’s “OK!”