Art of Fighting

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Art of Fighting
Art of Fighting 1 cover.png
North American Neo Geo AES cover art for Art of Fighting
Genres Fighting
Developers SNK
Publishers SNK
Creators Hiroshi Matsumoto
Platforms Arcade, Neo Geo AES, Neo-Geo CD, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, PC Engine CD, PlayStation 2, Wii (Virtual Console)
Platform of origin Arcade
Year of inception 1992

Art of Fighting (Japanese: 龍虎の拳 Hepburn: Ryūko no Ken?, lit. "Fist of Dragon and Tiger") is a video game trilogy in the genre of competitive fighting game titles that were released for the Neo Geo platform in the early 1990s. It was the second fighting game franchise created by SNK, following the Fatal Fury series and is set in the same fictional universe as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series. The original Art of Fighting was released in 1992, followed by two sequels: Art of Fighting 2 (龍虎の拳2 Ryūko no Ken 2?) in 1994 and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (ART OF FIGHTING 龍虎の拳 外伝 Art of Fighting: Ryūko no Ken Gaiden?) in 1996.

Art of Fighting was the first fighting game by SNK to feature the character designs of former illustrator Shinkiro, who would go on to do the character designs for the later Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters games.


The Art of Fighting series follows the conventions of the time in the sense that the player faces a variety of opponents in best two-out-of-three matches. Each of the game's characters have a unique fighting style and set of special techniques. The player has two basic attacks—punch and kick—as well as a utility button that switches between punches, kicks, and throws. A fourth button is used for taunting. Art of Fighting's contribution to the genre was the inclusion of a "spirit gauge" underneath the character's life bar. When characters perform special techniques, their spirit gauge is depleted and their special attacks become weaker. Players can also drain their opponent's spirit gauge by taunting them.

The Art of Fighting series was also the first fighting series to allow players to perform a "super attack." In the original Art of Fighting, the player's character can learn a super attack (dubbed the super death blow) by completing one of the game's bonus rounds (this technique is available by default in the 3rd game). All three games also feature "Desperation Attacks" that can only be performed when the player's health is low and the life bar is flashing.

The series also introduced graphical scaling into the fighting game genre: as the characters move towards each other, the camera zooms in to maximize the level of detail. Character sprites in Art of Fighting change as the fight progresses to become more bruised and cut as damage is taken.


The games follow the struggles of the students of the Kyokugen Karate Dojo, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, in what appears to be the late 1970s. Ryo is the son of the Kyokugen Karate discipline's creator, Takuma Sakazaki, and Robert is the wayward son of a billionaire family from Italy. The initial two games are set in South Town, a common location in SNK games that is also the setting for the Fatal Fury series, while the third appears to take place in a fictitious area of Mexico.

The plot of Art of Fighting alludes to Fatal Fury. Art of Fighting 2, for instance, documents the rise of Geese Howard, a character in Fatal Fury, from corrupt police commissioner to crime lord of Southtown. Takuma is said to be a contemporary of Jeff Bogard, adoptive father of Fatal Fury's main heroes, Terry and Andy Bogard; Jeff Bogard's murder at the hands of Geese Howard triggers the events of the Fatal Fury series.

Series' continuity[edit]

The Art of Fighting series originally served as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, taking place during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is reflected by the characters' official birthdates in the series and given ages in each game. This is made even more obvious with the appearance of a young Geese Howard in Art of Fighting 2. The Hyper Neo-Geo 64 game Buriki One and the PlayStation port of Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition features an older modern-day Ryo adopting his father's former identity of Mr. Karate. While The King of Fighters series features characters from the Art of Fighting series and alludes to events occurring in the games, it follows a completely different continuity from that of the actual Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury games. This was done so that the Art of Fighting characters could fight alongside the Fatal Fury cast and other characters without aging them; however, continue to maintain the existing stories from the other games.[citation needed]


Art of Fighting (1992)[edit]

Art of Fighting
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Director(s) Hiroshi Matsumoto
Producer(s) Eikichi Kawasaki
Platform(s) Arcade, Neo Geo AES, Neo-Geo CD, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, PC Engine CD, PlayStation 2, Virtual Console, Wii
Release Neo Geo
24 September 1992
Virtual Console
8 October 2007
PlayStation Network
Genre(s) Fighting
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Neo Geo (102 Mbit cartridge)
Display Raster, 304 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 4096 colors

In the first game, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia set out to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big. Mr. Big has taken the girl to entice Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo's father and originator of the fictional form of karate known as Kyokugen Karate ("Extreme style"), and because Ryo refused to work for Big. After they defeat Mr. Big, Ryo and Robert face the enigmatic Mr. Karate. Art of Fighting's story ends with a cliff-hanger; Yuri is about to disclose the true identity of Mr. Karate as their father Takuma.

Ryo and Robert are the only playable characters in the single player story mode, although eight of the game's ten characters are playable by default in the two player versus mode. Mr. Big and Mr. Karate can be played in the Neo Geo MVS arcade version by reaching their respective stages in the game then having a second player join in, and in the Neo Geo AES console version through the use of cheat codes.

Art of Fighting's events are referenced often in the wider SNK universe; The King of Fighters '97, for instance, parodies the events of the game in its ending.

Bonus Stages[edit]

Every time the player defeats two opponents while playing story mode, there are three bonus stages players can choose from:

Bottle Cut[edit]

The objective is to cut off the tops of five bottles on a table. The player must carefully time and press the A button when a special bar fills to full for maximum power. Cutting all the bottles at once completes the stage, rewarding the player by increasing their spirit gauge for the rest of the game.

Ice Pillar Smash[edit]

Within a time limit, the player has to build up enough power to break five blocks of ice. Pressing the A button repeatedly will fill a gauge on the screen. If successful, the player will be rewarded with an increased life bar for the rest of the game.

Initiate Super Death Blow[edit]

The player must execute a super move, the Haoh Shoko Ken (misspelled as "Haow-Ken" in the game), a specific number of times to learn and use in the game against the other characters. The number of times needed to perform the move in the given time limit is dependent on the game's difficulty level. This is also the only bonus game that if it's successfully completed, it cannot be chosen again. While this move must be learned by completing the bonus game in story mode, it is available by default in two player mode.

Art of Fighting 2 (1994)[edit]

Art of Fighting 2
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Producer(s) Eikichi Kawasaki
Hiroshi Matsumoto
Platform(s) Arcade, Neo Geo AES, Neo-Geo CD, PlayStation 2, SNES, Virtual Console
Release Neo Geo
3 February 1994
Virtual Console
28 July 2008
Genre(s) Fighting
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Neo Geo (178 Mbit cartridge)
Display Raster, 304 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 4096 colors

Art of Fighting 2 was released in 1994. The second installment in the Art of Fighting series added the "rage gauge"; similar to the "spirit system" of its predecessor, it limited the use and effectiveness of special attacks.

The game's story is set a year after the original. Geese Howard, a rising star in South Town's criminal underworld, calls fighters to the city for a martial arts tournament, "The King of Fighters." Geese was the final boss and series villain of SNK's other fighting game franchise Fatal Fury, whose story took place over a decade after the events of Art of Fighting.

Art of Fighting 2 was the only time Yuri Sakazaki was a playable character in the series. It also marked the only time that she donned her trademark outfit, which was made famous in The King of Fighters series. This game also marks the debut of Takuma Sakazaki without his Mr. Karate persona, as well as Eiji Kisaragi, who both appear in the King of Fighters series. Ryuhaku Todo, the first character the player fights in the original Art of Fighting, is the only character not present in the sequel. All of the playable characters are selectable from the beginning in both single player and two player mode. The final boss by default is Mr. Big, though it is possible to fight Geese Howard as a secret boss if the player meets specific requirements in single player mode; Geese is not a playable character, however.

Bonus stages[edit]

This time the bonus stages are reworked: to increase the rage gauge, the player's character has to chop down a tree with one punch, to increase the maximum health meter, the player's character must defeat a number of punks under a certain time limit, and the Initiate Super Death Blow stage has now been adapted for each character's super special move.

Art of Fighting 2 was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in North America on 28 July 2008.[1]


The game was praised by both GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly for having far better graphics, sound, character selection and gameplay technique than the original Art of Fighting, though three of EGM's four reviewers complained that in single player mode the opponent AI is "incredibly cheap".[2][3] GamePro gave it ratings (out of 5) of 5 for graphics, 5 for sound, 4.5 for controls, and 4.5 for fun factor.[2] Electronic Gaming Monthly's four reviewers gave it ratings (out of 10) of 8, 8, 6, and 8.[3] Computer and Video Games gave it a 95% score, calling it "easily the best beat-'em up to appear in recent years," comparing it favorably with recent Street Fighter II incarnations but criticizing its high £150-175 cost.[4]

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (1996)[edit]

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Designer(s) Eikichi Kawasaki
Hiroshi Matsumoto
Platform(s) Arcade, Neo Geo AES, Neo-Geo CD, PlayStation 2, Virtual Console
Release Neo Geo
12 March 1996
Virtual Console
  • JP: August 2011
  • NA: 21 March 2013
Genre(s) Fighting
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Neo Geo (298 Mbit cartridge)
Display Raster, 304 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 4096 colors

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (ART OF FIGHTING: Ryūko no Ken Gaiden, in Japanese: ART OF FIGHTING 龍虎の拳 外伝) was the first game in the series (and the first SNK fighting game) to use motion capture for its animation.[5] It features a new cast of characters with the exception of Ryo and Robert. Yuri Sakazaki is seen in the game, but only as a side character in Ryo and Robert's story mode.

The story switched focus from the Sakazaki family to Robert Garcia. Robert disappears to search for an old childhood friend, Freia Lawrence, and he tracks her to GlassHill, Mexico. Freia is wanted by the game's main antagonist, Wyler, to complete a powerful elixir that was created by his and Freia's fathers. The drug affects users in a similar manner as the potion in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

One of the game's characters, Kasumi Todoh, became a part of The King of Fighters cast. This game is the only one in the series to have a CD Drama Arranged Soundtrack.[6]

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in North America on 21 March 2013.


The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Neo Geo AES version a 5 out of 10. They lambasted the game for its poor balance, with their biggest complaint being the new Ultra-Cool Attacks, since they are easy to execute, cannot be blocked, and deal a massive amount of damage. They further criticized that the game lacks originality and innovation, failing to distinguish itself from the deluge of 2D fighting games coming out at the time.[7] A reviewer for Next Generation saw no problem with the game's balance but concurred that it is "too similar to every other 2D fighting game on the market." He gave the Neo Geo AES version three out of five stars.[8]

Ports and compilations[edit]

All three games were released for the Neo Geo MVS arcade system, Neo Geo AES home console, and Neo Geo CD, with the first one also being included on SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1.

  • Art of Fighting for the PC Engine CD (requires the Arcade Card, Japan only), SNES, and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Ryuuko no Ken 2 (Art of Fighting 2) for the Super Famicom (Japan only)
  • Art of Fighting Anthology (龍虎の拳 ~天・地・人~ Ryuuko no Ken Tenchijin?) for the PlayStation 2 includes: Art of Fighting, Art of Fighting 2, and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior
  • Art of Fighting, Art of Fighting 2, and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior for the Wii Virtual Console

The SNES version of Art of Fighting features an extended ending which ties into Art of Fighting 2, rather than ending the game on a cliffhanger like the Neo Geo, PC Engine CD, and Mega Drive/Genesis versions. Additionally, the English localization of the port was censored. Many of the locations had their names changed (Mac's Bar was changed to Mac's Cafe), the No Smoking sign in Todo's stage was removed, and the player can only partially expose King's bra when she is defeated with a special or super move. The vehicle driving scenes were also omitted.

The Neo Geo version of Art of Fighting was released for the Wii Virtual Console in October 2007 and Art of Fighting 2 was released in July 2008.

The PlayStation 2 version of Art of Fighting stays true to the original Neo Geo version. However, the vocals in the opening title have been stripped, as have Ryo's and Yuri's vocals during the ending.

The Mega Drive/Genesis version lacks the zooming effect.[9] Certain gameplay elements have been changed as well; the Ryuuko Ranbu is blockable, Jack's drop kick special move only goes two-thirds the length of the screen, and Lee's claw spin attacks have invincibility during the starting pose, among various other changes.

Appearances outside the series[edit]

Some of the Art of Fighting cast have continued appearing in other SNK fighting games (particularly in The King of Fighters series) since the last game in the Art of Fighting series was released. In the same way that Geese Howard appears as a secret boss in Art of Fighting 2, Ryo Sakazaki appears as a secret boss in Fatal Fury Special and Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition. Unlike the battle against Geese in Art of Fighting 2, the battles against Ryo in both games are depicted as a "dream matches" and do not occur in the series' storyline.

As a result of these crossover appearances between the two franchises, SNK produced The King of Fighters series, pitting characters from both series against each other. As mentioned in the continuity section above, the series eschews the continuity of the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury games for the purpose of having the Art of Fighting cast fight against everyone else without aging them. Ryo, Robert, and Yuri have appeared in nearly every installment along with King, Takuma, and Kasumi, who are constant characters as well. Eiji and Mr. Big also made appearances as playable characters in the series.

Characters from the series have also appeared in the SNK vs. Capcom series and in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. Capcom's Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 features Ryo, Yuri, and King while Capcom vs. SNK 2 adds Ryuhaku Todoh to the lineup. SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos features Ryo, Kasumi, and Takuma under his Mr. Karate guise. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum features Lee Pai Long, Mr. Big and an aged Robert Garcia along with the older Ryo Sakazaki from Buriki One. In The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact 2, Ryuhaku Todoh drives the truck in one of the extra games.

The Street Fighter Alpha character Dan Hibiki is a parody of Ryo and Robert.


Introduced in Art of Fighting[edit]

Introduced in Art of Fighting 2[edit]

Introduced in Art of Fighting 3[edit]


A Japanese animated television movie, Art of Fighting (バトルスピリッツ 龍虎の拳 Battle Spirits Ryūko no Ken?), was created and directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi and produced by NAS. It was the third animated co-production between SNK and NAS, following Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle. The designs of some characters were based on their appearances in the Japanese commercials for Art of Fighting 2. Although most of the cast from the original game is featured Lee Pai Long, Micky Rogers and Takuma Sakazaki do not appear. Yuri Sakazaki is voiced by Ayumi Hamasaki, before she established herself as a successful J-Pop singer.

Art of Fighting was produced by Kenji Shimizu and Yoshiro Kataoka for Fuji TV on 23 December 1993. It features a script by Nobuaki Kishima, character design by Kazunori Iwakura, and was distributed in the English language by US Manga Corps in 1997.

Art of Fighting has received negative reception by most American websites. It was billed as stupid, idiotic and plodding,[10] and compared to a Saturday morning cartoon.[11][12] It was said it had "Choppy animation, illogical perspectives, uninspired art, badly choreographed fight scenes, and most of all horrible voice acting",[10] and none of the interest of the video game or its sequels translate into the anime.[13] The film gathered a 14% rating at Meta Anime Rviews,[14] placing it in the bottom 3% of the reviewed titles.


While searching for a cat, Ryo and Robert (two karate experts) witnessed a murder related to a stolen diamond. After fighting the murdering mobsters, they discovered that the top mobster, Mr. Big, had kidnapped Ryo's sister to exchange her against the diamond, which he believes to be in the possession of the protagonists. They then have to defend themselves anyway they can – mainly through kicks and punches. They both attempt to break into Big's hideout to save Yuri but their plans are foiled by the sudden arrival of the police force. Forced with no other options, they spend the night searching for the diamond. When they find it, they go to meet Big and give it to him. A big fight ensues, complete with an exploding helicopter and a bout with King and Big, but they are able to save Yuri and head back home. Todoh and the police force arrest Big and his men. They also confiscate the diamond, which is somewhere at the bottom of Big's pool.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "One WiiWare Game and Two Virtual Console Games Added to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 28 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  2. ^ a b "ProReview: Art of Fighting 2". GamePro. IDG (58): 102–3. May 1994. 
  3. ^ a b "Review Crew: Art of Fighting 2". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (57): 40. April 1994. 
  4. ^ CVG, issue 150, page 52
  5. ^ "Ready Yourself for Motion-Captured SNK Action!". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (5): 122. April 1996. 
  6. ^ "Art of Fighting". Hard Core Gaming 101. 
  7. ^ "Review Crew: Art of Fighting 3". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (83): 28. June 1996. 
  8. ^ "Art of Fighting 3". Next Generation. Imagine Media (19): 83. July 1996. 
  9. ^ "International Outlook". Electronic Gaming Monthly (53). EGM Media, LLC. December 1993. p. 86. 
  10. ^ a b Review by Anime Jump Archived 4 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Review by Animeworld
  12. ^ Review by THEM Anime
  13. ^ Review by Anime on DVD Archived 7 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Reviews at Animecritic

External links[edit]

Official sites[edit]

General resources[edit]