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Known in Japan as Ryūko no Ken ("Fist of the Dragon and Tiger"), this is a Fighting Game series by SNK that was released for the Neo Geo arcade and home video game systems. While the last installment of the series appeared in late 1996, several of its characters are still widely popular today and continue to appear in a number of Spin-Off series.
Much of the gameplay of first two games mimics that of Street Fighter II. The series, however, also came with a few innovations of its own. When special moves were used, an energy gauge under the life gauge, called the "spirit gauge", would deplete. The less power that is in the spirit gauge, the less effective and powerful the special moves are. Taunting (which Art of Fighting is the first Fighting Game to include) is done to drain the opponent's gauge. The gauge can be replenished by holding down one of the buttons, but leave the player open to attack and can be re-depleted and temporarily stopped if the opponent taunts the player.
Art of Fighting was also the first Fighting Game to feature powered-up special moves. The Super Death Blow featured in the first two games is a move done when the spirit/rage gauge is full, but must be learned in a Bonus Stage that appears throughout the games. The Hidden Death Blow, seen in all three games, is a move that can only be done if the spirit gauge is full and the player's life bar is very low and flashing red.
In the first two games, fighters can show facial bruising and torn clothing as the fight progresses. The third game has several prerequisites to finish and humiliate your opponent with Clothing Damage.
The first Art of Fighting takes place in Southtown, where Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, students of the martial art, Kyokugen Karate, seek to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who was kidnapped by the crime lord, Mr. Big. The two scoured the city, fighting members of Mr. Big's gang as well as rivals to the Kyokugen Karate dojo, seeking information on Yuri's whereabouts. After Mr. Big is found and defeated, the two face off against Mr. Karate and barely defeat him. Afterwards, Ryo almost kills him before Yuri appears to him and Robert pleading for them to stop. She tells Ryo that Mr. Karate is their father. Though it's not officially confirmed until the second game. In the original arcade version, only Ryo and Robert were playable in story mode with the bosses as hidden characters in versus mode.
The second Art of Fighting takes place a year later. Geese Howard of Fatal Fury fame is seen as Southtown's police commissioner. He uses his position as a front for him being a major force in Southtown's criminal underworld, and was directly responsible for Mr. Big kidnapping Yuri. He creates the first King of Fighters fighting tournament, in which all the fighters from the first game enter, except for Ryuhaku Todoh, who is beaten so badly, he goes into self-imposed exile to train. In addition to Geese, three new characters are also introduced, including last game's Distressed Damsel, Yuri. Ryo discovers what Geese had done and defeats him in battle, but Geese escapes and hides out in Japan for a time. Unlike the first game, most of the game's characters are playable in story mode. Mr. Big and Ryo and Yuri's father, Takuma, who were bosses in the last game, are playable characters in this installment. Geese is only playable without hacking or playing with dipswitches in the Japan-only Super Famicom version of the game.
In the third and final Art of Fighting game, Robert goes to search for an old childhood friend, Freia Lawrence, in the small town of Glasshill, Mexico. When Robert goes missing as well, Ryo and the assistant of Robert's parents, Karmen Cole, separately go searching for him. Robert finds Freia and discovers that she is being held against her will by Wyler and forced to develop a an elixir created by her and Wyler's fathers. Wyler drinks the elixir when it was finished and becomes a hulk-like monster. The elixir eventually regresses Wyler's mind to a child-like state, and his body weakened and reverted back to its original form. Afterwards, Freia decides to stay in Glasshill and take care of Wyler. Including Karmen and Wyler, eight new fighters are introduced into the game, with Robert and Ryo (and Yuri as an NPC) being the only ones from the previous games to return. Wyler and his bodyguard, Sinclair, served as the game's bosses and hidden characters.
An animated TV special was also created; it was based on the plot of the first game.
This series provides examples of:
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Ryo and John were very blatant attempts at SNK versions of Ryu and Guile, respectively, from Street Fighter II. While not as blatant, Robert being Ryo's rival with the same set of attacks as Ryo makes him SNK's version of Ken, also from Street Fighter II.
- Capcom responded by creating Dan Hibiki, a character who wore a gi with a t-shirt under it (like Ryo) and had dark hair in a ponytail (like Robert). He used moves that mock theirs by being short-range and incredibly weak, parodying Art of Fighting's spirit meter.
- Art of Fighting was actually created by former Capcom employees, Hiroshi Matsumoto and Takashi Nishiyama, who worked on the original Street Fighter. That explains why Ryo and Robert and very similar to the Ryu and Ken, at first.
- The Anime of the Game: The TV Special.
- Awesome but Impractical:
Haow-KenHaoh Shou Koh Ken. A supercharged version of the standard KouOuKen projectile that is 6 ft tall and does much higher damage. Sounds awesome, huh? Well, it is. But it is also rather useless. First, to learn this technique, you have to sacrifice a chance to permanently increase HP or Spirit. That shouldn't really matter on itself, but the problem is, HaouShouKouKen requires, like, 3 seconds of concentration, during which time you are basically a sitting duck waiting to get trashed. It also eats all (or almost all) your spirit eater, meaning that A) you can not cast it if you used some specials and didn't "recharge" and B) Once you cast it, you are basically back to 0 spirit. Did I mention that, in the extremely likely possibility you get hit while trying to cast it, you will lose an INSANE amount of HP? And that you will stand still a full second AFTER casting it?? Throw in the fact that the movement is a really difficult one and you have a prime example of the trope.
- It got massively upgraded in the third game, taking less than half a spirit bar, removing the health risk, and having two available speeds, one of them traveling quasi-instantly across the screen.
- Badass Biker: Jack Turner, who has his own biker gang, the "Neo Black Cats"
- Bald of Evil: Mr. Big.
- Bifauxnen: King.
- Big Bad: Geese Howard in 1 and 2 and Wyler in 3.
- Blind Idiot Translation (The US version of Art of Fighting 2 redubs some of Robert's, King's and John's lines with English-speaking actors, and Mr. Big and Geese are voiced in English in either version. The problem is, nobody can act or kiai worth a damn. "Ha-HA! Piece of... cake!")
- C-List Fodder: Ray from the Anime special. He gets shot to death. Poor Ray.
- Calling Your Attacks: Almost everyone.
- Canon Foreigner: Poor, poor Ray.
- Charged Attack: Both types.
- City of Adventure: Southtown in the 1st 2 games; Glasshill, Mexico in the third.
- Clothing Damage: All three games, though in the third game there are more prerequisites.
- Cool Sword: Sinclair's scimitar
- Compilation Rerelease: Art of Fighting Anthology (Play Station 2)
- Combos: Emphasized in the third game.
- Coup De Grace: Pursuit attacks in the third game.
- Cute Bruiser: Yuri in the second.
- Death or Glory Attack: The Super Death Blows and Hidden Death Blows.
- Demoted to Extra: While just about any character in the series can be deemed that way nowadays in the The King of Fighters series (some much more than others), Ryuhaku Todoh can be considered that in the Art of Fighting series itself. He was the only one from the first game to not be playable in the second (and third, but that's a different story). His role pretty much got relegated to cameos in stages (especially in The King of Fighters) and be missing just so his daughter can go find him. Heck, the only other time he was a playable character outside of the first game in the series was done by Capcom, of all people, in Capcom vs. SNK 2.
- Derivative Differentiation: It was initially percieved by gamers to be a cheap cash-in of rival company Capcom's Street Fighter. Despite this, Art Of Fighting set itself apart by introducing several new gameplay mechanics such as taunting, the addition of a spirit guage to regulate use of specials, along with supers and desperation attacks. The game's scaling feature also became a series trademark.
- Desperation Attack: All three games have extremely damaging moves that can only be done when your character's life is close to empty.
- Distressed Damsel: Yuri Sakazaki. She's back to kick butt in the second.
- The Dragon: Mr. Big for the first 2 games; Sinclair in the third.
- Dual-Wielding: Mr. Big with rattan sticks and Rody Birts with tonfa.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Geese Howard makes an appearance in the extended ending of the SNES version of the first game.
- Eighties Hair: The cast of the whole series add up to a total of six mullets!
- Expy: Takuma seems to be based on the unnamed Player 1 character from Street Smart. Ryuhaku Todoh looks like a mook from the first Streets of Rage game.
- Extremity Extremist: Mickey Rogers, a boxer who can only do punches. Sinclair, who fights with a scimitar, only does sword attacks.
- Eyes Always Shut: Wang Koh-San
- Fan Service: Seeing King and Yuri in their bras when their clothes tear off. Kasumi, Lenny, and Sinclair as well in the third.
- Finishing Move: The Trope Maker.
- Fragile Speedster: Yuri, Mickey, and Sinclair.
- Gaiden Game: The Japanese title of the third game is Ryūko no Ken Gaiden: Art of Fighting. It makes sense, considering it has nothing to do with the South Town storyline from the first two games.
- Genki Girl: Yuri Sakazaki.
- Gratuitous English: A lot of them, but mostly Mickey Rogers, who is played by an English speaker.
- Kasumi Todoh "Come back when you grow up!" She actually looks in an English phrasebook for that one.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Ryo has been training in Kyokugen-Ryu since childhood. Robert trained less, for less time than Ryo. Yuri isn't even half as bulky as either and trained for only one year. All of them are equally strong.
- Hour of Power: As mentioned below, if you play the game on their birthday, each character can use their Desperation Attack regardless of how much life they have left.
- Ki Attacks
- Large and In Charge: Mr. Big really lives up to his name.
- Luke, I Am Your Father
Yuri: "Don't do it, brother. That man is our, our...."
- Mighty Glacier: Jack Turner, Temjin, Jin Fu-Ha, and Wyler.
- Mask Power: Lee Pai Long and Mr. Karate.
- Mirror Match: All three games allow it, but in Art of Fighting 2's story mode, the characters would have some funny dialogue to exchange pre-match.
- Ninja: Eiji Kisaragi.
- Nintendo Hard: The second game is notorious for being this. Considering that Geese Howard is present, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
- Noblewoman's Laugh: Kasumi.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Wang's pelican.
- Numbered Sequels: Art of Fighting 2; The Path Of The Warrior: Art Of Fighting 3
- One-Winged Angel: Wyler.
- Outdated Outfit: Lenny's visual design is straight out of The Seventies... which is the period in which the game takes place!
- Practical Taunt: The first fighting game to have this feature. Taunting affects the opponent's spirit gauge by lowering it, which limits their ability to use special attacks. Specials also suffer from reduced range and become weaker as the gauge depletes.
- Rotoscoping: All character animations in the third game, rivaling Street Fighter III in smoothness a year before it.
- Ryu and Ken: Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia.
- Shotoclone: The Sakazaki clan and Robert Garcia.
- Samus Is a Girl: King in Art of Fighting.
- Significant Birth Date: In Art of Fighting 3, characters are capable of performing their Desperation Attack at any point when it's their birthday (Special Day).
- The Smurfette Principle: In Art of Fighting, King was the only woman, but no one knew that yet.
- SNK Boss: Mr. Big, Mr. Karate, Geese Howard, and Wyler.
- Spam Attack: Ryo's Zanretsuken and Robert's Geneikyaku. Different from the Street Fighter 2 versions in that once they hit the enemy, they're caught into the attack and hit a set amount of times.
- Sunglasses At Night: Mr. Big and John, who wear them in battle until they get knocked off in battle.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: King, who did this to compete in Muay Thai tournaments before the first AOF.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Ultimate K.O.' in the third game. Your character must be in the danger zone, and perform a Super Death Blow or Hidden Death Blow against your opponent who has 10% life or lower. If successful, you destroy your opponent's clothes and win the match instantly.
- Tomboyish Name: King
- Took a Level In Badass: Yuri resented her time as a Distressed Damsel, so she took up karate with her dad and became a Cute Bruiser.
- True Final Boss: Geese Howard in the second game.
- Unblockable Attack
- Waif Fu: Yuri, to the max.
- Whip It Good: Lenny Creston.
- Xenafication: Yuri.