Fatal Fury First Contact May Be Outdated, But It’s Still A Lot Of Fun

As 2020 comes to a close and we all prepare ourselves for the new year, it seems fitting that SNK would send us off with a blast from the past. Recently on the Switch eShop, an enhanced port of the Neo Geo Pocket Color title Fatal Fury: First Contact was made available for nostalgic fans to enjoy. Originally released back in 1999 for SNK’s ill-fated handheld, the title was an adaptation of Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 that came with an exclusive character…and chibi-styled characters.

You’ve likely seen coverage of other NGPC titles released on Switch over the last year, starting with Samurai Shodown! 2. Made available as a pre-order bonus for the Switch port of 2019’s Samurai Shodown, many of the enhanced features made available there carry over to First Contact. In fact, I could practically copy my preview impressions pieces here and call it a day.

The technical breakdown is the same as each of the other titles. First Contact comes with a plethora of backgrounds that mimic different colors of SNK’s handheld, a CRT filter to replicate the look of old-school LCDs, same console multiplayer action to allow spontaneous battles with your friends, and a rewind function so you can take another stab at your opponent without completely restarting. It’s a solid list of quality-of-life improvements that ensures these newer ports are the definitive versions available.

As for the game itself, you can absolutely tell this is one of the earlier Pocket Color titles because it is decidedly much slower than SNK’s other offerings on Switch. Containing only 13 characters with somewhat limited move sets, the game isn’t the most in-depth fighter around. This version also retains most of the slowdown that was present in the original, something that would be mostly fixed for later titles. It can be jarring, though the essence of the Fatal Fury series is here.

In context, something this polished and robust would have been amazing in 1999. Compared to, say, Mortal Kombat 4 on the Game Boy Color, First Contact is an absolute masterpiece. SNK didn’t even dumb down the movement commands, other than putting Heavy Punch and Kick on the same button as their Light counterparts. That takes some getting used to, but was necessitated by the console having only two action buttons. Once you learn the cadence of when to release each button, you’ll be mashing out combos in no time.

I suppose the one objective negative I can bring up is the lack of modes on offer. First Contact doesn’t really have a proper arcade ladder and apart from multiplayer matches, there’s nothing else here. It is a very barebones package, which makes sense for such an early release on the portable platform. This would be rectified in later NGPC fighters, many of which I’ve already covered.

A lot of the charm of these portable iterations isn’t in how faithful they are to their arcade versions, but in the wonderful art style SNK used to get around the NGPC’s technical limitations. Instead of going full out to replicate the ludicrously detailed pixel art of the MVS and AES systems, a chibi/cartoonish style is employed and it carries a lot of charm. Characters are super-deformed but instantly recognizable to fans. The animations are crisp and there is plenty of screen real-estate to gauge distance in battle. It may not wow modern audiences, but the artwork is well done.

The only setback -if you want to call it that- is the price. For $7.99, it might be hard to recommend First Contact if you’re only a casual fan of the series. I feel like a broken record here, but some of the main MVS Fatal Fury games are available on the Switch eShop for roughly the same price. The main reason you’d be grabbing this particular game is either because you have a fondness for the Pocket Color or because you like video game history.

Because of how obscure the Pocket Color was and how old the console currently is, it’s wonderful that SNK is doing something to make sure these titles don’t disappear into dust. A lot of companies would rather you forget the past and keep spending money on newer (and more expensive) games, but SNK is happy to preserve its history for generations to come. First Contact isn’t a bad game, but you definitely gain an appreciation for what we have today thanks to this quaint little fighter.

More importantly, though, it provides options to those that want something different. As much as the industry might want you to believe otherwise, playing older games isn’t a waste of your time. There’s always something that can be learned from looking back and First Contact is perfect for that. Even without an understanding of what this series was, this little gem could be your introduction into SNK’s more modern and fully featured games, such as The King of Fighters XIV.

So I can’t be too harsh on Fatal Fury: First Contact. Just like with its fellow Neo Geo Pocket Color ports to Switch, SNK has done an incredible job at enhancing the title with much-appreciated conveniences. It would be nice to see a comprehensive package of these made available, but the piecemeal release structure is hardly bad. As long as you know about and are okay with the limited options here, you could do worse for a little under $10.

NEXT: Samurai Shodown’s Third DLC Season Will Contain A Character From The Last Blade

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Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can’t find him in front of a game, you’ll most likely find him pumping iron.

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