How Takara led SNK’s arcade fighters to humble Game Boy

Over the holidays, we are re-posting some of our best articles, interviews, opinions, and talking points from the previous 12 months. from both employees and participants – Articles that we think represent our best of 2021. In them you will find our usual mixture of thoughtfulness, frivolity and retro. expertise, nostalgia for games and, of course, enthusiasm for everything related to Nintendo. Enjoy!

Between 1994 and 1998, Takara Co., Ltd. has released some of SNK’s most successful arcade hits in the Neo Geo genre – Samurai Shodown, King of fighters, and Mortal Rage 2 – the humble Game Boy through a series of demakes; refined and simplified editions of infinitely more powerful original arcade games, rebuilt from the ground up exclusively for Nintendo handheld devices taking over the world.

A quick glance at some of the screenshots reveals a strong resemblance to the fantastic Pocket collection Neo Geo fighters, as both share a preference for clean lines, large pixels, and cartoonish graphics over the fuzzy hit of Neo Geo’s crisp arcade style. But these Game Boy games predate SNK’s own handheld games by several the years and officially include one important feature that their Neo Geo Pocket neighbors lacked until modern emulation intervened: support for single-cartridge multiplayer play.

You’ll need a Super Game Boy to access it, but if you have one at home, Takara games not only display beautiful borders and colorful character portraits, but let a friend play against you using nothing more than a second SNES tablet.

But how good are these ports really? Neo Geo was renowned for its graphic prowess; Battery-powered hardware that could only handle four shades of green just couldn’t ever come close to the look and feel of the original. Cunningly, the developers didn’t even try, but instead hoped to capture spirit games they ported, instead of aiming for a level of accuracy they could never have hoped to achieve, they aimed introduce more likely than recreate

With this new approach, everything from Ukyou’s cough to Tiger Kick Jo and Ryo’s distinctive fighting stance is still instantly recognizable, although their bodies are all made up of fewer pixels than their arcade counterparts wasted on someone’s hair (perhaps). The referee waving the Samurai Shodown flag is still present (and working) even if it needs to be pinched between the health bars at the top of the screen, and while these handheld games will never have speech samples in the middle of a fight. Nettu Garu Densetsu 2 (AKA the Game Boy port of Fatal Fury 2) bypasses this limitation in the most adorable way, instead giving each character little speech bubbles. Seeing Terry “speak” “Hey, come on!” when he taunts his opponent, it’s a lot of fun on the little Game Boy screen, even if it’s strictly “wrong.”

These battles are adorned with miniature versions of all victory poses, character portraits, minor touches and fantastic full-screen images that you are already familiar with, the developers are well aware that SNK arcade games are brought to life not only due to raw quality, but also due to small details. too much. It is simply incredible to imagine how they could constantly see on the screen the faithful hawk Nakorura Mamahaha and the dog Galford Poppy, or for the flattened port Samurai Shodown III to bring the beauty of the lantern-lit Neo Geo cherry blossom scene to on-the-go gaming at a time when portable color screens, while available, were a battery-fueled joke.

Inevitably, compromises had to be made, and some characters were lost in the transition to the thin gray Nintendo carts. It’s disappointing, but overall it would be unreasonable to expect a Game Boy cartridge – their file sizes are so small that there’s a very real chance you accidentally took screenshots of one Switch that take up more memory space – to faithfully reproduce every member of every cast of the game. , especially when some of them, for example The King of Fighters 96, well finished twenty different participants in their arcade versions.

Even though the lineups have been cut, the available characters are unlikely to make anyone feel inferior by offering anything before fifteen default fighters as well as several bonus faces to unlock, from good old game bosses to unexpected crossover characters from other games. You will find Iori the Fighter King is hiding in Nettow Real bout special (GB version Real Combat Fatal Fury Special) and conservationist Samurai Shodown Nakoruru at Game Boy’s port at King of Fighters ’95… Their presence may not fully compensate for what was lost in translation, but there is still a certain peculiarity in playing as a person that you think you should never have. generally is a real addition, not just another person picked from a list of expected features.

Once you’ve decided what to play and who to play for (or which team to play for, as in the case of The King of Fighters), all you have to do is immerse yourself in the game and continue playing. faces opposition to submission. Seasoned SNK players will find that the first few battles will fly by with muscle memory alone, the Game Boy’s two-button system does an admirable job of substituting a Neo Geo four and making special moves, charging rage, taunts, and retaining Real Bout’s lane-switching ability – what SNK is. failed to save in its own portable port – one thing. The end result is consistently fluid gameplay that, like the graphics, accurately conveys sensation throws, chops, and fire strikes are their arcade counterparts. It’s a pick-and-play game that, quite appropriately, always feels like it trumps the weight of the humble Game Boy.

Which of them would we recommend from the ones mentioned? Well, actually they are all – they are all surprisingly faithful to the amazing arcade games from which they originated, in their own miniaturized form, and while some are exclusive to Japan, most of the menus and setting text are still in English. and the rest will only need a few hits of the “A” button to get through. Most importantly, they are different enough to be worth taking a look at, even if you’ve exhausted the impressive range of Switch arcade games and Neo Geo pocket games long ago. These are good quality handheld fighters, whether you are familiar with the source or not, they are fantastic use of limited equipment and are like a glove to play the Game Boy.

Fatal fury 2 game boy
Image: SNK

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