GAROU: MARK OF THE WOLVES / SNK / Arcade
Garou: Mark of the Wolves is technically a Fatal Fury game, but it makes an almost complete break with the games that came before it. The only remaining character from either the original series or the Real Bout games is Terry Bogard, and he's twenty years older (and sporting a new look with shorter hair and a bomber jacket to boot, though his move set is more or less the same.) The "multiple plane" fighting system is completely gone now, and the feel of the game is somewhere between The King of Fighters (minus the teams of three) and Street Fighter III.
This version stars Rock Howard, the orphaned son of Geese whom Terry has raised as his own (and who fights with a fusion of Terry, Andy and Geese's moves.) The rest of the roster is all newbies, but they're all pretty solid and fun to play as, and many have ties to popular previous characters. The unfortunately named Kushnood Butt brings a touch of Art of Fighting to the series, with his fireballs and uppercuts learned from the Sazaki school. Kim Dong Hwan (yeah, you can have Butt v.s. Dong in this game) and Kim Mae Joon are the sons of Kim Kaphwan and both have moves and style similar to those of their pops. Young ninja Hokutomaru apparently went to the Shiranui school of ninjutsu but he plays more like a combo of Hanzo from Samurai Shodown and Choi Bounge. And random sexy pirate B. Jenet plays like a cross between Mai Shiranui and Art of Fighting's King.
Almost all of the game special moves and supers use common Street Fighter / KOF quarter-turn motions, instead of the sometimes bizarre patterns the three previous Fatal Fury games were known for. The game's main "gimmick" as regards super moves is the Tactical Offensive Position, which simply has you pick a segment representing a third of your life bar before each match, and when your life is in that range you can perform some additional special moves by mushing the kick and punch buttons together. This also increases your health very slowly while in this position and causes all of your attacks to do a bit more damage.
Aside from the more familiar feel and the removal of the very idiosyncratic multi-plane system, the game makes itself more accessible to newcomers by easing up on the CPU difficulty quite a bit. While still a fair challenge, the default CPU setting doesn't thoroughly trash your ass from minute one as it did in previous games, giving you a chance to learn some moves and get comfortable. The game also borrows the "Continue Service" concept from King of Fighters, which allows you the option of choosing a handicap for the computer when you continue a game with a fresh quarter. All of this really almost makes the game too easy, as it's quite possible to complete it on your first dollar or three of credits, which is kind of shocking for an SNK game. It is nice that it doesn't seem to be actively trying to drive away the non-fanatical, however.
Rounding out the experience are great graphics and a good soundtrack with the usual "KOF" type sound the Neo Geo Musical Performance Team is known for. The sprites are fairly large and detailed and the animation is almost on par with the epically fluid Street Fighter III.
* Gameplay Video