Fatal Fury: First Contact – Review
Follow Genre: Fighting game
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Platform: Switch, Neo Geo Pocket Color
Tested on: Switch

Fatal Fury: First Contact – Review

Site Score
6.0
Good: QoL improvements prove this is more than just a sloppy port
Bad: Very barebones package that didn't stand the test of time
User Score
5.8
(4 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 5.8/10 (4 votes cast)

Fatal Fury might not be as famous to a mainstream audience as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, but SNK’s fighting franchise still holds some weight in the genre. The inclusion of Fatal Fury poster boy Terry Bogard in Super Smash Bros has made more people aware of the series, so it makes sense that SNK is pushing these games to a modern-day audience. Enter Fatal Fury: First Contact. The 1999 Neo Geo Pocket Color title arrived as a bit of a surprise drop on the Switch. We’ve taken a look at previous Neo Geo Pocket titles on Switch before, but when it comes to brand name recognizability, this is arguably the biggest title to make the jump to the Switch yet. How does First Contact hold up over two decades after it first wowed audiences?

Story

While the other Fatal Fury games are somewhat story-driven affairs, First Contact doesn’t have a narrative to offer. This makes sense, as it was one of the earliest Neo Geo Pocket titles, and the developers were still testing the waters. As such, don’t expect First Contact to add obscure lore to the featured characters. There are 13 characters present here, including fan favorites like Mai Shiranui and of course Terry himself, as well as exclusive character Lao, who is only available in the two-player versus mode. 

Graphics

As we’ve come to expect from the other ports of SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket titles, there are a variety of options available to fit First Contact onto the higher resolution screens of today. The Neo Geo Pocket frames are present, as are a variety of filters to emulate the LCD screens of days gone by. As for the in-game graphics, the chibified versions of the characters are certainly recognizable, and their sprites are crisp. The game has no issues with frame rate, and unlike sister game SNK Gals Fighters, there is no muddiness to what is displayed on-screen. 

Sound

The port of First Contact comes with accurate representations of the tunes present in the original release. While the music itself is far from impressive, which can be attributed to the original hardware limitations, what is present here sounds clear and we assume that these tracks have never sounded better. 

Gameplay

First Contact brings a pocket-sized fighting game to the Switch. The game eschews the multi-lane system the series is famous for. While this means that there is less strategy involved, you’re also getting an experience that is, in relative terms, more action-focused. The game’s claim to fame is in its elegant combo system, which allows you to perform special moves with minimal input. The controls are tight and responsive, and from a pure gameplay perspective, the action itself hasn’t lost any of its luster in the two decades since launch. This comes with the caveat that, apart from the fighting itself, it is probably the only thing of interest that First Contact has to offer. You’re looking at a very barebones package when it comes to modes, with the lack of a proper arcade ladder being the most obvious shortcoming.  

Of course, we didn’t expect First Contact to live up to the other Fatal Fury titles, but we were still somewhat disappointed with what was on offer here. What you’re getting here is a condensed experience, which makes sense given the limitations of the original system. Diehard fighting game fans might scoff at the two-button setup, as it makes for a very simplistic combo system. There is an elegance to this simplicity, however, and First Contact’s largest boon may be just how accessible it is. To be fair, this accessibility isn’t by design but rather inherent to what a handheld system was capable of in 1999. As such, we have to wonder just who this port is for. Both Fatal Fury and Fatal Fury 2 for the ACA Neo Geo are readily available on the Switch, and not only do these offer a more complete experience, but they’re also cheaper, albeit only slightly. 

Arguably the biggest -and best- change from the original is the multiplayer mode included here. While you were able to take on your friends back when the original was released, it required two consoles and a link cable. The port takes a split-screen approach, allowing you to face off against a friend from the comfort of your couch. Admittedly, the multiplayer mode offers some fun, there isn’t enough here to keep you occupied for more than about 15 minutes. There are several other QOL improvements here, such as a rewind feature. We’re happy to see that some effort was put in rather than offering a straight port but we fear that this isn’t enough to make the game live up to today’s standards. 

Conclusion

We’re not quite sure who this port is for. Anyone with a diagonal interest in the Fatal Fury games will probably find more enjoyment in the other available ports. While First Contact’s port certainly is polished, with plenty of QOL improvements, there simply isn’t enough meat on the game’s bones to justify it getting this release. The main issue here is that First Contact just didn’t stand the test of time very well. As such, this is a release that is a nice curiosity for diehard fans of Fatal Fury, but if you don’t fall into that category, there simply is not enough content here to justify a purchase. 

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Rating: 5.8/10 (4 votes cast)
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Fatal Fury: First Contact - Review, 5.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats


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