Of the countless fighting games that graced the Neo Geo there are only a handful the get mentioned time after time as being the greatest. King of Fighters ’98 is often mentioned, as are Samurai Shodown 2 and 4. Another is Garou: Mark of the Wolves, often considered to be Fatal Fury 4.
Full of mostly new characters aside from series staple Terry Borgard, it’s easy to see why the Fatal Fury name is often missing from the title. Indeed the famous two-lane aspect of the Fatal Fury series is also missing. Instead, you have a more basic 1 v 1 fighter. Basic, but awesome.
One of the main aspects of Mark of the Wolves is the T.O.P system which is where you chose which third of your health bar to act as your sort of overdrive mode. When your health enters that section it will activate, giving you increased attack power and access to a powerful special move. You can chose to be in overdrive right from the beginning of the battle, or right when you’re on your last drops of health, or even somewhere in the middle. I’m not sure how tactical it is overall, but personally I enjoyed having it right from the off to get in as much damage as possible quickly.
As far as controls go it’s pretty standard when it comes to fighters. Of the four buttons, two are dedicated to punches, two for kicks, each which different strengths. There are special moves too, which are easily pulled off, often using the quarter rotation plus button input. You’ll quickly figure out a couple just by playing in your first fight.
There are 12 quite different fighters to choose from and their story takes place of 8 battles. Each character has unique dialogue between the other fighters although it is really quite minimalistic, what cutscenes there are, I think are nicely done even though there are some questionable English translations.
The first couple of fights are pretty manageable and easily won. That puts you in a false sense of security though, and if you’re a player of my meagre button mashing skill, the third opponent will turn up the heat and destroy you. An interesting feature of Garou is the ability to modify the game if you add a credit to continue the game. You can choose from having max power, lowering the difficulty, your enemy having a quarter of their normal health, or manning up and choosing to go on with the game being unaltered. Personally I found lowering the difficulty the best option as it brings every fighter back down to the same level as the first couple of fights. This ability made me less inclined to lower the overall difficulty of the game, in fact I stayed on level four throughout my time playing.
I think this is a sign of just how accessible Mark of the Wolves is. Couple it with the fairly simple and responsive special moves, you’ve got yourself a game that is great for casuals and hardcore gamers. Unlike many arcade fighters you can actually go and see the end as long as you put in a few credits.
It will please hardcore gamers thanks to the depth under the hood. There are breakable moves, a multitude of dodges as well as the power gauge which has two levels, Super and Potential, each of which grants you access to another special move. They’re not difficult to pull off but, it’s keeping it in mind and knowing when to use it that takes skill.
There’s local 1 v 1 multiplayer perfect for the Switch’s Joy-Cons, but sadly as a direct port of the original arcade game, no online play. Yes, it’s a missed opportunity, but not one to dwell on for me personally.
Being on the later end of Neo Geo releases, Mark of the Wolves is naturally a gorgeous game. From the generously animated character sprites to the detailed and wonderful backgrounds, it’s really a game to admire visually. Musically it’s great too. Each character has their own theme song, some of them sound oddly familiar too, almost a straight ripoff of famous songs. Allegedly. Nonetheless, all the tracks suit their character well. The Asian inspired fighters have Asian influences, the Americans have rock music and so on.
As with all of HAMSTER’s Arcade Archives series there are plenty of options to customise your gaming experience, right down to the timer on the fights, button configuration, screen size, filters and so on. Once again they’ve done an excellent job with the port. You can choose from the Japanese version or the International release as well as the two new modes: Hi Score and Caravan mode. They are in every Arcade Archive series but they really don’t suit a fighting game at all. Hi-Score is the one that may suit it a little more where you have one credit to get the highest score possible, not that fighting games are about scores. The Caravan mode is pretty much useless as it gives you five minutes to get a high score.
Despite these slightly superfluous extra modes, it’s difficult not to recommend Garou: Mark of the Wolves. It’s an excellent, fun fighting game that’s fit for casual players or hardcore players alike. It may not have online play, or any other modes outside of the arcade mode and 1 v 1 multiplayer, but I think that’s enough to give you some accessible fighting goodness that looks and sounds great.
Game provided by HAMSTER Corp.