The art of “Art of Fighting”

Art of Fighting Anthology is a complication of the following games Art of Fighting, Art of Fighting 2, and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior released by SNK Playmore (formally SNK) on the Playstation 2.

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The first game was released in 1992 on the Neo Geo arcade system and later ported to several home consoles like the Sega Genesis, SNES and the Neo Geo’s own Neo Geo CD. The versions in this complication are the original arcade versions so anything I say here is in regards to those.

Released a year after Street Fighter II, it was not much different from Capcom’s juggernaut fighter, it did offer many innovations which include taunting, the usage of large character sprites and depicting characters getting wounded during the fights. Art of Fighting 2 doesn’t differ much from its predecessor due to only a 2 year gap and no generation differentiation aside from slightly improved animation in terms of fluidity and detail, so I’ll be talking about the first two games up until I mention the third.

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At the time the game contained some the biggest sprites in any game, one interesting thing about the game’s camera is that it zooms in and out feature. When the two opponents are as far apart from each other as the game allows, the camera zooms out, but the camera zooms in the closer the two fighters get. The sprite animations are essentially the same as those of Street Fighter II, however they’re stiffer in contrast to Street Fighter II’s much smoother gameplay.

Here’s the game zoomed in:

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And here’s the game zoomed out:

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The most interesting animation tidbit in this game is the characters getting wounded as they lose health. When you look at the character’s faces you can see blemishes such as blood and swelling. I like this feature because it realistically portrays the result of an actual fight.

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This is one of the few fighting games that do this. I’m surprised that not many fighters utilize that detail, especially with how far games have progressed with their graphics and animation. Sure in Street Fighter II they do depict the characters as being severely battered in the aftermath, but that’s only on the character portraits, and only the loser is depicted as being scarred. You may also bring up Mortal Kombat but other than pools of blood flying off the characters with each blow, their skin still doesn’t look punctured and their features remain intact without swelling so it’s still ridiculous. For the record, UFC games don’t count since they’re sports simulators, not fighting games.

I’ve stated this before in my blog on Batman: Arkham City how adding tiny details like torn cloth enhances the mood as it gives the game a more cinematic feel. That detail added in the Art of Fighting series does a lot of service as the games aim to be like movies in their story mode. During story mode, before each fight your character will engage your opponent in dialogue which contains some minor additional animations that include throwing something or striking a pose. Lets not forget the zoom in/zoom out camera that I mentioned earlier. All these features and animations add something to the game which makes it cinematic despite its technological immaturity. By nowadays’ standards it may not seem like anything much but back then it was really something to be fascinated by.

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I said fascinating, not well written.

Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior radically differentiated itself from its predecessors; it still utilizes traditionally animated, hand drawn sprites but this time the game combines 2D sprites with motion capture technology and more computer graphics. This allows for more fluid and believable animation and movements.

When you look at the characters you can see that this installment contains more frames and you can see that when a character kicks you can see it moving all the way as opposed to only drawing three frames to depict rapid movement like in Persona 4: Arena.

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The introduction sequence also contains some interesting animations. The main characters are show performing their fighting movesets and you can see the “slow in and slow out” principle of the 12 principles of animation being displayed. Sadly this principle isn’t being displayed during the game. Also in the title sequence there are the characters were depicted in what at first I thought were polygon rendered, computer graphics but they were really regular 2D animations, that’s very impressive on their part.

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Unfortunately many of the features in the previous two like the zoom in/zoom out camera and getting wounded as you lose health are omitted in the third installment. However the game makes up for that by having very beautiful backgrounds with moving animations; like in the Quixotec Temple stage you’ll bear witness to wonderfully animated waterfalls and the ripples in the lake as a result of these falls.

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Another principle of the 12 principles is being displayed here with the secondary action; the ripples as a result of the waterfalls.

The games have always contained animations in the background to make the gameplay livelier, but out of the trilogy this contains the best by far as it rightfully should, given that it’s the most advanced and latest game.

I’m sure people are wondering why I’m talking about an old game series that is only semi-classic and doesn’t contain computer graphics that we’re studying. The same reason why in filmmaking they study old movies; in many old movies filmmakers would use practical effects and editing tricks in order to get around their limitations, and I feel that the developers of the first two Art of Fighting games had the same mind set. In order to make their game as dynamic as they could with regards to the limited technology of the time, they used a camera that zoomed in and out to copy what filmmakers do in movies where they also shit between wide angle and regular lens. The addition of subtle blemishes to simulate what would happen in a fight and the usage of sprites and dialogue boxes to make up for not being able to have animated cutscenes in order to have a story unfold.

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You better appreciate the game animations that paved the way for modern, computer animation, or you’ll have a problem with him.

It’s important to take such things into account in order to appreciate how far we’ve come, much like in filmmakers, our game animating “forefathers” weren’t as lucky to have the technology we do today. But like them we are limited but in terms of time as opposed to technology, so we may have to resort to using subtle hints and tricks to help enhance the game’s aesthetics. Remember, animation isn’t just about what is seen, it’s also about the effect it gives.

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