The Nintendo Switch is home to a robust and growing library of classic games from older systems. Thanks to the game collections released (like SEGA Genesis Classics collection or Mega Man Legacy Collection) or the fantastic Arcade Archives series, there’s a lot of retro love on the Switch. Relatively new to the Switch is the NEOGEO Pocket games, bringing a once rival platform’s games to the Switch. This leads us to Fatal Fury: First Contact, which got a surprise release towards the end of December 2020. While it’s a well done port, Fatal Fury: First Contact is only best for longtime series fans and is a hard sell to those who didn’t play the NEOGEO Pocket back in the day.
Fatal Fury: First Contact is loosely based on Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers, originally released in 1998 on NEOGEO and part of a collection on PS2 in 2007 (yeah, I know. A late PS2 game). I would normally tell you a little about the story in this part of the review, but Fatal Fury: First Contact (and its loosely based original game Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers) don’t really have a story besides “fight to be the last one standing.”
The one thing I really love about Fatal Fury: First Contact is how well of a job the port is. Let’s face it, emulation is hard. Most of these older games were designed specifically to take advantage of the system they were on. This means bringing them to other systems, let alone the most modern of systems, is quite the challenge. Fatal Fury: First Contact on Switch looks absolutely beautiful, and the details are extremely nice. I was not a NEOGEO kid growing up, but the nice touches, like including a digital NEOGEO Pocket Color system on your screen the whole time, really help create a special emulation. The game looks pixel-perfect, and the game runs beautifully. I never once noticed any sort of slowdown or glitches that at times plague emulated games on Switch.
Additionally, Fatal Fury: First Contact is fun to play. Fatal Fury: First Contact isn’t a very hard game to wrap your head around, which is a welcome change to normal fighting games. First Contact is very easy to pick up, using only a two-button fighting system. This makes matches easy to jump into, never feeling overwhelming. Older fighting games tend to have a learning curve that can really turn you off from a game. Too many combos to learn, too difficult hit boxes to detect, it can all be a bit much. Fatal Fury: First Contact is, thankfully, simple and a delight.
My biggest problem with Fatal Fury: First Contact is that it is very much only for those who played the series previously. There’s nothing included in this game that would help a NEOGEO newcomer to understand the series or even the NEGEO. It throws you into the game, and that’s it. I talked to a friend of mine who is a NEOGEO kid, and he says there are some fun, small touches that people who played the original NEOGEO would pick up on. Problem is, that’s not me. So thus, those small touches never even alerted me that something was different, nor did any fun Easter egg suddenly click that “hey, this is that thing it does!” moment. It’s a problem for these types of re-releases as this would be the perfect time to explain the series or the NEGEO, or even some sort of museum piece that gave a bit more information. What you get here is just the game.
Which leads me to the other problem I have with Fatal Fury: First Contact…it’s good only for very short bursts. Play the game for any amount of time over 10 minutes, and you’ll quickly find yourself rather, for a lack of better wording, bored. The game is simple to learn, which is part of the reason why it feels old pretty quickly. Matches don’t take that long to complete and have a tendency to feel very much the same as the last 5 matches. I’m sure one could make the argument that this is a good thing, it’s short playstyle fits in perfectly on Switch (which is true). That said, at $8 I’d like the game to hold my attention a bit more than it does.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23rd December 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Fatal Fury: First Contact was provided by the publisher.