Art of Fighting 3 - The Path of the Warrior / Art of Fighting - Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden Arcade / Neo Geo CD / Playstation 2


Japanese CD Cover

Art of Fighting Anthology

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3 is a drastic step away from its predecessors. In Japan, it's known as "Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden", portraying it as a sidestory. Instead of focusing on Southtown, Art of Fighting 3 follows Robert Garcia as he searches for a old friend named Freia Lawrence. He's tracked her down to the fictional town of Glass Hill, Mexico, which serves as the setting for the game. There he finds that Freia has gotten herself mixed up with a man named Wyler, who is ruthlessly searching for her. Apparently, he needs her in order to complete a formula for an elixir that him and Freia's fathers created. This elixir has a "Jekyll and Hyde" effect on anybody who consumes it - it turns them into a hulking behemoth, and drives them crazy in the process. The rest of the cast are random other people who have somehow gotten themselves involved in this craziness.

Ryo Sakazaki (who's looking for Robert) and Robert Garcia are back for the final installment of the series, but this time they are joined by a completely original cast.

AoF 3 Characters:

Rody Birts
A private investigator and partner of Lenny Creston, who has been hired by Wyler to find Freia Lawrence. Both he and Lenny seem to have rather poor professional reputations. He fights with tonfas and looks like a police officer.

Karman Cole
An impeccably dressed man who has been sent to look for Robert by his employers, Robert's parents. Having been employed by the Garcia family since Robert's childhood, he has a friendly attitude toward him. He is one of few characters who's final match is not against Wyler, instead fighting Robert last. After defeating Robert, he allows him to keep looking for Freia Lawrence.

Kasumi Todoh
Kasumi is the only original member of AoF3's cast that shows up in other games - she makes an appearance in various King of Fighters titles, as well as SvC Chaos. She is looking for her father, Ryuhaku Todo, from the original AoF, who vanished after he was defeated by Ryo, and she hopes he will lead her to him. Since she's a foreigner in Mexico, she looks in a Japanese-to-English dictionary to taunt her opponents in English with the phrase "Come back when you grow up" after winning a match. Like her father, she possesses something of a rivalry with the Sakazaki family.

Lenny Creston
A private investigator who, along with her partner Rody Birts, was hired by Wyler to look for Freia Lawrence. Her and Rody seem to share Moonlighting style "tension". Attacks with a whip, and several years before Whip was introduced to King of Fighters at that.

Jin Fu-Ha
After he was somehow betrayed by his sensei, Eiji from AoF 2, Jin became determined to kill him to get revenge. He decides that defeating Ryo would be a good test of his ability to do so, and goes to Glass Hill to find him. He supposedly has some kind of psychic ability to sense people's ki energy, and can double jump in the game. However, some dumbass decided that it would be a good idea to only allow him to jump straight up on the second jump. He is among the two characters whose last fight is against Ryo rather than Wyler.

Wang Koh San
Having come to Glass Hill for inspiration for a drawing he plans to enter in a contest (Strangest fighter character background ever), he heard about Wyler's attempt to create a powerful elixir, and decided to attempt to find it himself for his friend Lee Pai Long from AoF 1&2. He has his pet pelican Hoeh-Hoeh in his backpack, and in his ending, you are treated to goofy drawings of his crazy bird interacting with the other characters.

Wyler
Looking for Freia Lawrence, the daughter of his dead father's former partner, who possesses information about a formula for some kind of "Jekyll and Hyde" formula that he is attempting to create. It kind of looks like he might have already taken some version of this elixir because he is freaking huge. He is the only character that can't be thrown, and he also lacks a super. He has no ending in the original arcade/cart version, but one was added for the CD version.

Sinclair
An assistant of Wyler's who is secretly looking for somebody to convince him to give up his pursuit of the drug he is attempting to create, which killed his father. She wields a sword and dresses kind of like Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie". Also, she lacks throws. Like Wyler, she only has an ending in the CD version.

Freia Lawrence
Despite not being playable, Freia plays a central part in the story of Art of Fighting 3. She's a young blond girl who has the unfortunate burden of being the daughter of a mad scientist.

The first two games did pretty well at the arcades, but weren't exactly major hits. Perhaps because of this, SNK decided to completely reinvent the series with this installment. A few things stayed the same though. Desperation moves, taunting, back dashing, dashing, and the ki meter are all still present. All the actions that were possible in AoF 2 have been retained, but the ability to perform stronger punches and kicks by holding a button down has been ditched. Instead, it has been replaced with the system from the first Art of Fighting, where you execute strong attacks by pushing C with the move being a kick or punch depending on which of the two you most recently performed. What changes were made are what makes AoF 3 completely different from the rest of the series, and pretty different from any other 2D fighter.

In 1996, people were moving on to Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, and the once massively popular fighter genre was rapidly loosing steam in favor of the novelty of 3D games. The only fighters that were selling anywhere near what the genre had been capable of merely a year or two earlier were no longer Capcom's offerings, but instead were 3D fighters like Virtua Fighter and Tekken. AoF 3 is obviously SNK's attempt to emulate a 3D fighter using 2D gameplay.

Unlike most 2D fighters, your character can move forward while attacking, allowing for easy combo opportunties. Its combo system is similar to those from 3D fighters, and mostly consists of juggle combos that are executed by simply pushing a few consecutive attack buttons with proper timing. Yes, juggle based combo systems tend to suck in 2D fighters, but SNK was able to pull it off for AoF 3 and it actually works really well. Similar to the control scheme of many 3D fighters, pushing kick or punch while holding the joystick in a specific direction will sometimes perform a different attack than if the joystick is in neutral. These attacks are a important part of comboing in AoF 3, and several moves allow for follow up attacks. Also, similar to Virtua Fighter, you can jump and attack your opponent while they're lying on the ground. Fortunately ,this does little to slow down gameplay, and it's even possible to rise quickly immediately after a fall or to charge ki while on the ground and to attack while rising. Further revealing its 3D fighter inspirations, you can also side step to evade your opponent's moves.

You can perform a short jump by briefly tapping up or a standard jump by holding the joystick. This was in several other SNK fighters at this point, but AoF 3 introduces it to this series. If the machine's internal clock is set to your character's birthday ,they will be able to perform their desperation move regardless of how much health they have. If you finish an opponent with a desperation move while their health is also low enough to perform theirs, you will win the entire match regardless of how many rounds you have won. This is referred to as "Ultimate Knock Out". This was probably just for the sake of novelty, but if you lose a quarter after your first round loss, than that just sucks. Lastly, if you finish the game without losing a round, you will be rewarded with an SD sprite of your character.

While the first two games were pretty impressive for the time, Art of Fighting 3 has arguably the best visuals in a fighter EVER. The level of detail to everything has been infinitely enriched in every respect, except that character's faces no longer bruise. This came out around the time that SNK's graphic artists were using brighter color palettes (witness the change from Fatal Fury 3 to Real Bout Fatal Fury, for example.) The world is much less gritty and more colorful.

The movement of all of the sprites is shockingly fluid. It may not have Street Fighter III's framerate, but the animations have been rotoscoped, giving them a natural fluidity of movement that is without peer in the fighting game genre. It goes far beyond a simple technological level. Every animation is perfectly implemented within the backgrounds and each makes the presentation that much better. It may lack the high resolution of Guilty Gear, but the level designs are fantastic. Like pretty much any game designed by Hiroshi Matsumoto or Takashi Nishiyama, most levels have deep backgrounds with details visible a great distance away, and each is vividly detailed with an almost distracting amount of things to look at.

From the wind creating ripples in a small puddle at the train station, to the crows flying though the graveyard, to the freaking HUGE moon visible through the library window, to the fireworks going off above a distant Cinco de Mayo parade - EVERY visual in Art of Fighting 3 is crafted to perfection. The best level of all is the ruins, where there is a huge pool of water in the middle of the background with a large statue of a reclining man in the middle. Surrounding the pool are tremendous stone structures from which water smoothly cascades down. In the marketplace, a tree provides shade for the characters when they move within its shadow, which itself reflects how the tree sways in the breeze. Musicians play in the background and people sitting at tables will tap their feet, pat their thigh, or nod their head in rhythm. This musician/audience theme actually makes their inevitable repetitive motions seem natural - a rare feat in the genre, but something that Hiroshi Matsumoto and Takashi Nishiyama excelled at and that AoF 3 does extraordinarily well in each level. The music itself is pretty jazzy and relies on a motif repeated throughout many of the songs. It's very atypical, even for an SNK soundtrack. The soundtrack in the arcade version is pretty weak due to the instrument samples, but the arranged soundtrack is excellent.

Art of Fighting 3 didn't exactly attract many fans, and was mostly ignored by many fighting games. This is a shame, because not only is the game gorgeous, but its gameplay feels significantly different from most 2D fighters, enough that it's definitely worth it. Other than the original Neo Geo AES/MVS release, Art of Fighting 3 was ported to Neo-Geo CD with the action viewed slightly zoomed out at all times, probably because the huge sprites couldn't fit in the system's RAM. It's also plagued by console's infamously long loading times, but is otherwise accurate. It even includes a few additional story scenes for Sinclair and Wyler, mostly in the form of endings. In 2006, the arcade game finally got a real port along rest of the trilogy as part of Art of Fighting Anthology for PS2.

MP3s Download here

Track 12
Track 13
Track 15

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Art of Fighting 3

Comparison Screenshots

Cartridge

Neo Geo CD

Anime - Art of Fighting / Ryuko no Ken: Battle Spirits


American DVD Cover

Art of Fighting Anime

Art of Fighting Anime

Pretty much any fighting game in the early-to-mid 90s got its own anime OVAs, like Fatal Fury, Tekken, Battle Arena Toshinden, and Samurai Shodown. Art of Fighting was never quite as popular as any of these, but it was apparently well known enough for a single 45 minute OVA to be produced. And somehow, despite the fact that most of its fighting game brethren anime are pretty awful, Art of Fighting stands out as one of the worst of the worst.

The plot begins with Ryo chasing a cat on a precarious ledge on the outside of a building. Why? Because Ryo is dirt poor, apparently, and needs the cash. Robert drives by in his car and starts making fun of Ryo, who then falls off to his apparent death. Then Robert jump kicks Ryo in mid-air, which somehow causes him to land safely. So it's already off to an amazingly terrible start.

Ryo and Robert end up following the cat into an emptry apartment, where they end up witnessing the murder of some chump. Said chump apparently knew the location of a valuable diamond, which Mr. Big and company are desperately seeking. Ryo and Robert manage to escape the scene and fend off some thugs, but Mr. Big eventually tracks down Yuri and kidnaps her, hoping to lure the two heroes out of hiding. There's a fight scene at a casino, and a fight scene at Mr. Big's mansion, and that's pretty much it. Outside of Ryo, Robert, Yuri and Mr. Big, Jack Turner and John Crawley star as two of Mr. Big's thugs. King also makes an appearance as one of the more compentant bad guys, although here it's explicitly known that she's a woman, and she flirts quite a bit with Robert. There's also a loony police chief that somehow forces his way into the action.

Other than seeing the characters in animated form (the only reason these type of programs exist to begin with), there's very little redeeming about the Art of Fighting anime. The character designs are uniformly awful - Ryo had black hair, Robert has brown hair, and Yuri looks like a generic shoujo manga reject. The artwork in general is appalling, and the few fight scenes (which one would think would be the focus of an anime called "Art of Fighting") are quite dull. But worst of all, the characterizations are just completely retarded. As vide game characters, Ryo and Robert were never given much personalities, but here Ryo is a destitute bum who's in constant threat of having his electricity shut off, and Robert is a sleazy womanizer lacking any semblance of charm. About the only aspect that's passable is the music - while forgettable, at least the jazzy rock is faithful to the SNK style.

Art of Fighting was released on both VHS and DVD long after the popularity of the games had faded by US Manga Corps, a division of Central Park Media. The voice dubbing is awfully subpar, but it's not like decent acting would've saved this title anyway.

Art of Fighting Anime

Art of Fighting Anime

Art of Fighting Anime

Dan Hibiki

When Street Fighter Alpha was released, its most notable original fighter was a hidden character named Dan Hibiki. He's a joke character - intentionally made bottom-tier - and a parody of SNK's Art of Fighting series. His design is more or less Ryo's body with Robert's head. His fighting style, Saikyo-ryuu, consists of deliberately nerfed versions of the movesets of those two characters' Kyokugenryu Karate style. He also possesses a completely worthless super taunt, where he'll scream and brag and boast loudly, turning him into a sitting duck. He appeared in the rest of the SFA series and a few of the Vs. games, with his ending in Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter recreating the ending of the original AoF. His win quote in Street Fighter Alpha 3 is "I hate the art of fighting, but I want to be the king of fighters!"

Dan Hibiki

Art of Fighting Ending

Marvel Vs Street Fighter Ending

Art of Fighting is a series that never really gets the respect it's due. On fighting game forums, even those dedicated specifically to SNK, it's completely ignored, basically The Ugly Duckling of fighters. No, it isn't quite as great as SNK's or Capcom's best fighters, but its gameplay stands up pretty well. If nothing else, the third installment is worth playing for its high level of originality, and it really does need to be seen in action for its absolutely amazing animations to be completely appreciated. Thanks as usual to the Video Game Museum for many of the screenshots.

Art of Fighting 2

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