Thursday, August 25, 2022

Style Wars, looking at Kimberly in Street Fighter 6, and Isla from King of Fighters XIV.

I think we should have the conversation about Kimberly, about culture, and the developers at SNK, and Capcom. I had previewed Kimberly when she was leaked a month or so ago. Most of my observations turned out to be accurate. The internet has absolutely fallen in love with her, posting fan art, and cosplay pics following the reveal trailer including the updated Juri. The thing I think we have to acknowledge is that Kimberly has themes that were seen in SNK characters much earlier.

There were at least three SNK characters that Kimberly follows in the footsteps of. Zarina was a Brazilian conservationist, fan of Samba dancing, and kicker of crotches. She debuted in King of Fighters XIV, in 2016, along with Bandeiras Hattori founder of the Brazilian Ninja Arts Dojo. The minority characters were introduced as members of Team South America. The King of Fighters series is wildly popular in Brazil, and other South American countries, and it made sense that SNK would design a team in order to appeal to them. On a surface level Kimberly is young, and energetic, like Zarina, she even has a similar outfit. On a deeper level Kimberly is obsessed with the ‘80s, and ninjitsu. In her debut trailer we see her using a bunch of over-the-top ninja moves.

Bandeiras is also a huge fan of ninjutsu. He’s even invented his own form, and is actively trying to recruit students. He’s an absolute geek for Mai Shiranui, the most popular ninja in the KOF tournament. To be fair who wouldn’t be a fan of Mai? Kimberly by the same token is also a ninja super fan, she’s a follower of Guy, the most famous ninja in the Street Fighter universe. Kimberly has natural ability, making traditional fighting game style strikes with her own flair. Both Bandeiras, and Kimberly have lightning quick dashes to punches, and kicks. Ninjas in 3D fighting games often have a lethal move where they suplex their opponent onto their head from a tremendous height. Kage-Maru from Virtua Fighter helped start the tradition way back in 1993. Both Kimberly, and Bandeiras keep the tradition alive almost 30 years later.

Dark-skinned ninjas, and ninja apprentices aside, there was another character that predated Kimberly. Isla aka the “Dreaming Brilliance” was a Chilean KOF contestant. She was set up as a parallel, and rival to Shun’Ei. She debuted in King of Fighters XV in 2022. Her trailer premiered on Sept 30 2021, almost one full year before Kimberly’s first trailer. It is entirely possible that the new developers working on Street Fighter 6 were keeping tabs on every new face appearing in the KOF series. I would say that they challenged themselves to create characters better than the new faces introduced into the previous two KOF games.

Isla was another South American. SNK was going all-in on making their cast appeal to the community. She was not a dark-skinned character, and her fighting style had nothing to do with ninjitsu or any other traditional art. She has mysterious psychic powers, floating hands nicknamed Amanda help her fight. These are similar to Shun’ei’s psychic hands. Where Isla overlaps with Kimberly is in the use of spray cans. Isla is a graffiti artist, and social media star. She uses the spray can in several of her special, and super attacks. Spray cans, especially those favored by graffiti artists are highly pressurized, and dangerous in certain conditions. In addition to spraying colors capable of blinding an opponent, they are also flammable. In both Isla, and Kimberly’s trailers audiences saw the cans used as explosives. Isla adding them to her kicks, and Kimberly to her punches. If I didn’t know better I would say that the Street Fighter developers simply mixed elements from Bandeiras, and Isla in order to come up with Kimberly. This would be an oversimplification of how her character evolved.

We need to take a step back from the minority ninja-meets-graffiti artist design behind Kimberly, and dig in deeper to how Hip Hop culture influenced the development of fighting games. When a game studio wants to ground a Western character as being “urban” or from the big city what visual cues do they give us? In the case of Guy, Kimberly, or the previous ninja female from the SF universe Maki, it was very subtle. They were wearing sneakers. Aside from that their outfits had elements of traditional ninja uniforms. Perhaps it was a mesh vest, pants, or a top pulled from classic designs. Then to ground it into the modern world they would be wearing modern sneakers. When the studios wanted to ground the universe, and presentation to Western audiences, or let international players know the world was set in a gritty western environment then what else did they do? Perhaps they showed landmarks in the distance. The Statue of Liberty, or high rise buildings that looked like the Empire State, or Chrysler Building from New York instantly told a story. Up close these streets, and environments were covered in graffiti. Graffiti decorated a number of stage backgrounds in many Japanese developed fighting, and brawling games.

Graffiti is a way of storytelling, and is one of the few visual languages that is almost universally understood. It is one of the four pillars of Hip Hop culture. Graffiti is the visual art of the culture, b-boy (breakdancing) is the style of dance, emcee (rapping) is the style of singing, and dj (turntablism) is the style of music. Hip Hop was born in New York in the ‘70s, and became a globally recognized culture over the next 50 years. That means that a Hip Hop practitioner can come from anywhere. They can breakdance to music in a different language, and write graffiti using a non-English alphabet, and it is still recognized as part of the culture. Graffiti was used in stage backgrounds, and intro screens on video games, and is still used in game design. When graffiti is used with supporting details, such as additional tags, trash, and weathered textures then it helps ground the audience to a particular era, culture, or economic class.

When graffiti is used without supporting context then it can be interpreted as a superficial element, as the developers do not fully grasp the culture they are trying to recreate. Poorly done graffiti doesn’t really help sell the game, or even ground the player. I would argue the superficial use of graffiti applies to Isla, and the train tunnel stage in KOF XV. The tunnel is coded for subway cars, however it features a freight car, which rarely, if ever, use the electrified tracks of a subway system. Also the graffiti covering the walls, and pillars of the tunnel are very clean, and stylish. They are not surrounded by illegible gang tags, trash, or other elements that are often found in living, breathing cities. SNK is very good at introducing characters into the KOF universe based on Western pop culture. The trade off is that these characters sometimes appear to only have a surface appreciation of the culture, and not a deeper foundation. Duck King for example appeared in 1991. He was the first b-boy-turned-fighting game character. His appearance was memorable, but as far as pop culture went it demonstrated that Japanese developers were behind the curve. 

MC Hammer was a famous US rapper, and also an exceptional dancer. He popularized the oversized “genie pants” in the late ‘80s. However by the early ‘90s he was already waning in popularity in the west. Trends traveled much slower before the internet became commonplace. The Japanese developers at SNK thought they were beating the trend, and compared to other studios they very much were. However in a broader sense they were simply exploiting a trend, and not really invested in the culture. It was apparent as Duck King was a relatively minor character in the Fatal Fury timeline. It wasn’t the first time that a Japanese studio appropriated Hip Hop culture in a game. Kaneko released DJ Boy in the arcades in 1989. The brawling game featured an early attempt at recreating the culture for international audiences. It didn’t make much sense for people from the US, but I’m certain that audiences in Japan assumed that rollerskating gangs were everywhere in New York City.

I had posted earlier on this blog that the genius of SNK’s character design was in hiding martial arts masters in plain sight. When the characters were done right, like Terry Bogard, or Kyo Kusanagi, who wore stylish street clothes they were as memorable as the Capcom school of design which favored fighters in more traditional costumes. However not every character was as well regarded. When you look at the design notes from the art team you can see how much they were trying to pander to western audiences. The concept art for Team USA in the King of Fighters ’94 looked like a Hip Hop dance troupe. The mix of spandex, and oversized coats was a popular trend in the late ’80s, and early ‘90s. By the time the team would be introduced the fashion would be outdated in the USA. Thankfully the studio went with a football player, basketball player, and boxer all wearing street clothes. These designs wouldn’t necessarily lock the team into a specific era. Capcom wasn’t immune to the trends from the west either. The original Street Fighter starts with a brick wall covered in graffiti. The Capcom logo is stylized in the original title screen, as well as the SF6 reveal trailer some 35 years later. 

Western pop culture from the ‘80s was all over early video games. Just on the influences of cult movies there would be no Metal Gear Solid without Escape from New York. There would be no Final Fight without Streets of Fire. The difference between how Capcom approached Kimberly, and how SNK created Isla demonstrate the different schools of design, especially with regards to appreciating Hip Hop culture. Kimberly is an energetic Black girl, as enthusiastic as Sakura was when she debuted in Street Fighter Zero. Both characters wore traditional costumes, Sakura dressed like a schoolgirl version of Ryu, and Kimberly dressed as a Black girl version of Guy. Both in sneakers, both essentially modernized takes on the iconic fighters. Kimberly is layered with additional details. Successful Black athletes have to blaze their own trails. In order to stand out from their peers. They have to be bold. Being Black, and successful in the USA means to live with more than a third of the country hating your existence for no reason other than the color of your skin. If you are going to be hated for everything you do then why not then flaunt your greatness? Audiences can see that Kimberly is a blindingly fast fighter, she is impatient as well. Doing running warmups before each battle. I do not think this was a throw-away detail.

Kimberly is obsessed with the ‘80s. In that era there were many standout Black athletes. One of the most flamboyant was Florence Griffith Joyner aka “Flo-Jo”. The Olympian was a world class track star, that also happened to design her own stylish track suits. She became an icon on, and off the track. Most Black athletes were also subject to a lot of scrutiny. Flo-Jo was such a dominant figure on the track that she was accused of being on performance enhancing drugs. She was rigorously investigated, and subject to far more testing than her white contemporaries. She tested clean every single time, much to the chagrin of racist judges, and spectators. Sadly she passed away in 1998 from an epileptic seizure in her sleep. To this day we see shades of Flo-Jo with young Black track stars. The most recent of which would be Sha’Carri Richardson. The Olympic hopeful was sadly disqualified from the Tokyo Olympics for testing positive for marijuana use. To be fair she was self-medicating following the death of her mother. Of course other athletes, mostly white, did not receive such harsh criticism for recreational drug use. Kimberly has a gift for fighting, and at the same time she is also a young Black athlete. She reflects Hip Hop culture. She is a graffiti artist, she uses a classic cassette player to listen to music. Along with Jamie, the kung-fu b-boy, she is the second Hip Hop influenced character appearing in SF6.

Isla by comparison appears to have cultural elements placed on her, and doesn’t necessarily represent Hip Hop. Not unlike Duck King when he debuted. Isla is focused on being a social media influencer, but SNK didn’t push anything about her art, or upbringing. They instead kept her past ambiguous, focusing less on her art, and more on her strange powers, and rivalry with Shun’ei. SNK could have at the very least associated her with Valparaiso, the street art center of Chile. Or made her an activist painting political street art in South America. I doubt that the current owners of SNK would be willing to put an anti-authoritarian in the game. I am glad that the studio is focusing on adding South American figures to the series, however any character could be placed in street fashion with splashes of paint, a respirator. It doesn’t mean they are a graffiti artist, any more than they represent Hip Hop, or Black culture. If they paid attention to what Marvel, and Sony Animation did with the character of Miles Morales as Spider-Man then they would know how much bigger graffiti art could define a character.

Street Fighter 6 Director Takayuki Nakayama, Producers Kazuhiro Tsuchiya, and Shuhei Matsumoto, and Designer Yusuke Hashimoto have all demonstrated a better understanding, and love of the culture with the footage they’ve released so far, and in their interviews. I doubt that the previous direction under Yoshinori Ono would have gotten it right. Perhaps that was why King Cobra never appeared in the game, despite the strong audience reaction. This is all of course my opinion. I’d like to hear your take on Kimberly, or the other fighters I’ve mentioned in the blog. Do you think Isla, Bandeiras, or Zarina were as well received by the fighting game community as Kimberly? Let me know in the comments section. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
follow the Street Writer on Patreon!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Garou Mark of the Wolves, the manhua part 2

The first half of the Garou Mark of the Wolves manhua from 1999 was a retelling of the events of Fatal Fury. They gave audiences the history of stars Andy, and Terry Bogard. The villain Geese Howard, his relationship with half-brother Wolfgang Krauser, and estranged son Rock Howard. We also get to see several other major players from FF canon including Joe Higashi, Raiden, Mai Shiranui, Tung Fu Rue, Billy Kane, and Yamazaki.

The first few issues had Rock as a kid, and the later issues had him as a young adult. With the rise of new villains like Grant, and his uncle Kain R. Heinlein founding a new KOF tournament Rock is drawn into battle. He has grown as a fighter, and no longer wants to run from his legacy. He feels that he is ready to confront his past, and question his uncle.

Since a decade has passed since we last saw Rock, and Terry it stands to reason that the rest of the cast has also grown, and matured. In the first few issues Ryo Sakazaki was chasing down Geese Howard, and an actively fighting in Southtown. However his father Takuma had retired from teaching his patented Kyokugen “extreme limit style empty hand” form of karate. Ryo was the new master of the dojo, and helping keep the family business alive. He didn’t really venture out of the school.

Marco Rodriguez aka Kushnood Butt raids the Sakazaki dojo with some thugs, trying to prove they were the best fighters. Ryo annihilates them, and Marco becomes a convert to the school. He spends the next decade studying under both Takuma, and Ryo. We see him now as a black belt. He’s practicing in the woods, and fighting a bear, a nod to the legendary exploits of Mas Oyama, and Willie Williams.

He crosses paths with an older Terry Bogard, and gets into a fight with him. The issues do not spend too much time with the rest of the cast, but at the very least they do get an introduction. This includes Kevin Rian, Hokutomaru, and B. Janet. Their purpose for entering the Maximum Mayhem tournament is explained. Grant is introduced as the big baddie of the tournament, and Terry gets into a fight with him.

The series ends after the introduction of the major players, and how they changed over the years. It doesn’t actually cover the events of the tournament. Which I think is actually the best way to tell the story of a fighting game. When you spell out each, and every battle you end up forcing the canon into a very specific direction, which may, or may not be the intent of the developers. Instead the writers of the manhua let the audience meet the cast. Show some of their backstory. Let a few non-tournament battles take place, and allow the game players to explore all the possibilities, and outcomes in the game.

With the announcement of Garou 2 I can only hope that there is a manga series, and possibly manhua series in the works as well. Either way I am eager to see how the game turns out. It will be about 24 years after the original came out in arcade. The generation that remembers it now has children, and even grandchildren that want to experience the game.

What about you? Are you eager to find out what happened with Terry, and Rock? Do you hope the game is sprite-based, or will you be happy if its 3D? Is there a character you look forward to playing as? Please let me know in the comments section. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
follow the Street Writer on Patreon!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Garou Mark of the Wolves, the manhua part 1

Recently I discovered that there was a manhua, a Chinese comic series based on Garou Mark of the Wolves (MOTW). There were 10 issues in total. The books came out in 1999, the same year that the game debuted. I got them from a collector in California, and thankfully didn’t have to pay a lot. The first thing that I noticed when they arrived were that they were much larger than standard comic books, or manhua. The standard comic book size was 6-5/8 inches wide by 10-1/4” tall, the Garou MOTW books were 7 1/2” wide by 10 1/2”. These issues were almost as big as magazines.

The issues were a great primer on the main players in the Fatal Fury (FF), and Art of Fighting (AoF) series. Specifically focusing on the villains Geese Howard, and the protagonist Terry Bogard. The first several issues actually got us caught up on the events that happened across the first few Fatal Fury games. I’m not certain if there ever were licensed AoF, or FF comics in China in the early ‘90s. There may have been, and like Street Fighter there may have been several unlicensed comics as well. In all my years doing research, surfing bidding sites, I’ve never seen a collection of classic SNK comics from China prior to 1997. I know there were many from the King of Fighters series, and the various games, including KOF 98, 2000, SNK vs Capcom, and KoF Maximum Impact. The fact that the Garou MOTW manhua retold the plot of the first few FF games, including the creation of the KOF tournament helped get audiences up to speed. The events of Garou MOTW are set a decade after what happened in the first FF game.

The series actually begins with a look at the battle between Geese, and his half-brother Wolfgang Krauser, head of the Stronheim family. Geese had long sought revenge on Wolfgang, and his father Rudolph, because they abandoned his mother Maria, and left her to die penniless in America. As a long-time fan of fighting games this was the type of action, and storytelling that I looked for. The panels were filled with lots of action, and we got a chance to see each character use their trademark special attacks.

Seeing the fights in print was a way to determine which parts of the game were canon, and which were pure speculation. Not every fighting game gave us concrete answers, or tied up the plot points. More often than not they read as a sort of “what if?” series of events, that were loosely connected. For the longest time I fancied Wolfgang as being the stronger brother. He was older, and much stronger, but Geese had greater fighting experience. After a fierce battle Geese took out Wolfgang to take control of the family assets. With that taken care of he returned to Southtown to run it from the shadows, and sponsor the King of Fighters tournament.

It actually takes a few issues of the Garou MOTW manhua before we even get past the original FF timeline. We actually get a chance to inhabit the complex web of characters, and their relationships. We get to see Toni Sakata from FF Wild Ambition making a cameo when he meets with Geese. We get to see Andy Bogard training with Mai Shiranui, and Jubei Yamada. We also get to see the fallout from the first time an adult Terry Bogard, and Geese Howard do battle. Geese shows him no mercy, and defeats him with relative ease. Terry is bruised, and beaten. Marie, Geese’s estranged wife nurses Terry back to health, and introduces him to a young Rock Howard. The two live in a modest home away from Southtown.

Terry worries about Rock, the legacy he hails from, and what his future might hold. Marie has a rare medical condition that she keeps from Rock. She asks Terry to watch over the young Howard, especially in the event that anything happens to her. Terry promises to take care of him while he continues training, with the hopes of getting a rematch with Geese.

We get to see Terry pick up training with Tung Fu Rue, arguably the most powerful elderly kung-fu master in the entire KOF universe. Tung is attacked by an upstart master named Gato.

Terry tries to intervene, but he is still not at 100%. Both he, and Rue take some punishment from Gato. Rock steps in, and tries to get Gato to leave them alone. Gato retaliates by strangling the boy.

Terry is out of commission for several pages. The story uses that time to look at the history of Terry, and his younger brother Andy. It shows the reader the origins of their vendetta against Geese. We get to see the orphan brothers trying to protect their adopted father Jeff Bogard as he gets pummeled by Geese. We get to see them being trained how to fight in different schools, both before, and after the murder of their father.

We see that Terry blames himself for not being stronger, for not being able to protect his brother. Eventually the two part ways in search of a master. Their relationship strained. Andy decides to study under the same masters that their father studied with, in the hopes that he could defeat Geese.

Terry on the other hand learns to fight in the street. Living up to his lone wolf reputation.

Terry eventually snaps out of it when he realizes that Rock is about to experience the same trauma that he, and his brother endured. He digs in deep, and turns the tables on Gato.

As all this happens Rock discovers that his mother is dying from her condition. He knows that his father is rich, and powerful, and he goes to him to beg for help. Geese wants nothing to do with him or his wife. Rock calls him a cold blooded devil, when he realizes that Geese probably could get Marie the medical attention she needs, but doesn’t care enough to do so. Rock vows never to beg him for anything again.

Andy, Terry, and their good friend Joe Higashi are now older, and more experienced. They decide to challenge Geese in the same high rise building that Rock had visited. They are ambushed by Geese’s hired goons, including the wrestler Raiden, yakuza hitman Ryuji Yamasaki, and stick master Billy Kane.

The next part of the story was new to me. The version of the events in the Garou manhua had Ryo Sakazaki as the first to reach, and do battle with Geese. Ryo was from the Art of Fighting game series. In the original game he was hunting down the man that kidnapped his sister Yuri. It turned out that the kidnapper was a masked man known as Mr. Karate. The end of the original AoF reveals that Mr. Karate was actually their father, Takuma Sakazaki. Takuma was forced to work for Geese as an enforcer under the threat that his children would be killed. This leads us to AoF 2, and the chance for Ryo to take out the kingpin.

Ryo follows the clues right up to Geese, and gives him a decent fight. Unfortunately it isn’t enough, and the young Sakazaki is defeated. The battle rages on outside with Andy, and Joe barely holding their own against Geese’s best men.

Terry eventually makes it to Geese as well, and they have the battle made famous in the first Fatal Fury. Terry knocks Geese off the roof of his building, seemingly to his death. Of course it turns out that it’s not that easy to kill him.

On the other side of town Marie was in the final stages of her disease. We see Rock, and Terry with her when she passes away. Terry promises to take care of Rock. Marie dies peacefully on her bed, and is buried not far from her house. However according to Kain R. Heinlein Rock's mother is still alive. So if the events of the manhua are canon, that means the lady that was buried may not have been Rock's actual biological mother. It would explain why Geese was so indifferent to her, especially since he had also been abandoned as a boy, and knew Rock's pain. At least that's my theory.

All of this carries us through most of the Garou manhua. However as you may know there are new faces, and changes to existing characters when the King of Fighters Maximum Mayhem tournament is created. The tournament organizer Kain R. Heinlein, the brother of Marie, and uncle of Rock is trying to recruit Terry, and Rock into his organization. He wants to rule Second Southtown following the power vacuum when Geese is defeated.

Those that have played Garou know that there were many new characters introduced in the game, and most get at least a panel or two of an introduction. We’ll look at the events in the remaining issues on the next blog. I hope to see you back for that. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
follow the Street Writer on Patreon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Garou Mark of the Wolves 2, the return of a legendary series.

The EVO 2022 Tournament in Las Vegas had a lot of entertaining matches, and reveals over several days. On the Street Fighter front both Kimberly, and Juri were officially unveiled. I had already covered their look on this blog. My guess that Kimberly was a ninja turned out to be correct. She seems to be fascinated by ‘80s pop culture. That she probably has in common with the new Street Fighter developers. I’ll be talking more about SF more in the future, as the rest of the cast gets unveiled. Right now I want to talk about SNK, and all the buzz they have been generating in the past few weeks. It all started when someone got their hands on beta material for the unreleased Garou Mark of the Wolves 2. Sprites, unfinished stages, and some other content was dropped online. It set the community on fire.

The original Garou MOTW was released in 1999. The game was set in the shared universe of the King of Fighters franchise. This includes the characters, and relationships unveiled in Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Buriki One, Ikari Warriors, and more. Garou MOTW was centered around a young star named Rock Howard. He was the son of Marie Heinlein, and Geese Howard. Geese, as you may know was the main villain in the Fatal Fury series. Geese was one of the great fighting game heavies, and was such a profound character that my second podcast for this blog was about the rivalry between Terry Bogard and Geese Howard. The Fatal Fury games were created by Takashi Nishiyama, the creator of the original Street Fighter. Once he left Capcom to join SNK he (and many members of the fighting game community) considered Fatal Fury to be the spiritual successor to Street Fighter.

Rock Howard was created by Nobuyuki Kuroki in 1998. Mr. Kuroki, and Yasuyuki Oda wanted to create a young successor to Terry Bogard. They decided that Rock would carry the torch in the Garou series. Terry would still be in the game for fans of the original star, however the plot, and cast were centered on Rock. The game was a generational love letter. Kim Kaphwan was the taekwondo star of the Fatal Fury series. His sons Kim Jae Hoon, and Kim Dong Hwan were also youthful stars of Garou MOTW. Terry was presented as a mentor to the young Howard. Many assumed it was because he had a guilty conscience. That was a fair guess considering that he kicked Geese off the roof of his office building. Over the years it was revealed that Terry had become a father-figure for Rock. He had a genuine affection for the kid. It was revealed in the official character art. In the sprites used through the series, and in the game cinemas.

Every fighting game needs a villain. It would have been interesting if Rock had to battle his father, but that rivalry was usually reserved for Terry. Not to mention that the father, and son rivalry had already been done in the Tekken franchise. Instead the Garou series would pull in not one, but two heavies for Rock. There was Kain R. Heinlein his biological uncle, and Abel Cameron aka Grant, his other father figure. This dynamic would make for an interesting plot. Abel was an enforcer for Kain, he wore a mask while performing his dirty work, not unlike Takuma Sakazaki as “Mr. Karate” when he worked for Geese. The reason Terry was helping raise Rock was because his mother had died. Geese wanted nothing to do with his son, Kain kept his distance for a large chunk of his life. So it was Abel, and Terry that took over duties, especially Terry. One of the biggest revelations in the game (BIG SPOILERS) was that Rock’s mom was allegedly alive. Sadly there was no resolution to this plot twist as SNK was in a bad financial situation post 1999. They cancelled development on the sequel, and had to restructure the company. Fans could only guess what was the fate of Rock, and the rest of the cast.

The game had a very strong reaction from audiences. It was considered one of the greater sprite-based fighters of the ‘90s. The animation was brilliant, balance was spot on, and cast memorable. On the aesthetic front the game looked like the Street Fighter Zero / Alpha version of Fatal Fury. It was such a beloved game that fans never gave up hope on seeing a sequel. Even before the actual sequel sprites were released there were developers that wanted to pick up the license. DotEmu developed Streets of Rage 4, a sequel to a beloved ‘90s brawler series by Sega. They created some fan art of what their version of Garou 2 would look like. It set the FGC ablaze. The community would create animations, and concept backgrounds for what they wish had been. The Jaguar Bridge concept level by Jesús “Nerkin” Campos was an absolute work of art. Many artists never forgot how great the game was, and never gave up hope for a sequel.

After more than 20 years it looked like nothing would ever become of Garou 2. That was until EVO 2022 when SNK dropped what could be argued as the biggest bomb of the tournament. SNK talked about the updates to KOF XV, and Samurai Showdown, including new characters, cross play, and rollback support for online play. Then they showed an illustration by Tonko aka Aki Senno featuring Rock Howard. The framing of the art was clearly done with purpose. The alleyway might be in Second Southtown, the large building in the distance may be Geese Howard’s. In the background are Billy Kane, a well known enforcer for Geese, and Kain Heinlein. From a storytelling perspective this might be Rock Howard being pulled to the “dark side” in a power struggle over Second Southtown. As of this writing we have no idea who else is going to be in the game, or what the story could be. We don’t even know if the studio is finishing the sprite-based version, or starting from scratch with a whole new cast.

As far as the canon of the game went, there were the events, and relationships specifically mentioned in the title. Some had straightforward endings, some were open-ended. These things really didn’t influence the direction of the King of Fighters tournament in one way or the other. There was not much else in terms of anime, or manga that covered the events of the game. For sure I thought it would have gotten highlighted in the King of Fighters Destiny cgi series. Sadly it did not. Many popular games had a corresponding show or comic book series. Capcom had one of the first illegal, and licensed comics in the world for Street Fighter II. SNK was just behind with the Art of Fighting, and King of Fighter manga. Through the ‘90s the various games would get a licensed manga in Japan, and sometimes that book was translated, and released in the US as well. Licensed books were also created in the Chinese market, these were known as manhua.

I had collected both Street Fighter manga, and manhua, and more than a few manhua books from the various SNK games. Only recently did I learn that there was a manhua series based on Garou MOTW. I managed to get all 10 issues of the limited run comic. As far as I know they have never been translated into another language. I scanned in several pages, and will be sharing them on this blog over the next few days. I hope to see you back for that. I’d like to know if you collect any comics, manga, or anime on a favorite game. It doesn’t have to be a fighter. What do you collect, and what’s one of your favorite pieces? I’d like to read about it in the comments. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
follow the Street Writer on Patreon!