Art of Fighting

STORYThe storyline of Art of Fighting takes place in 1978. Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia set out to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who was kidnapped by Mr. Big. Mr. Big took Yuri to entice Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo's father and originator of Kyokugen Karate, and also because Ryo refused to work for Big. After Ryo & Robert defeat Mr. Big, they face the enigmatic Mr. Karate. Art of Fighting's story ends with a cliff-hanger; Yuri is about to disclose the true identity of Mr. Karate as their father Takuma.
Continuing the early 90's fighting game craze, Art of Fighting is well known to be SNK's answer to Capcom's smash hit, Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. A little over a year after SF2 redefined the demographic of arcades, Art of Fighting hit the scene in late 1992, offering a similar gameplay style to SF2 and a unique cast of fighters of its own. AOF also introduced an eye-catching "graphical scaling" effect, which makes characters and backgrounds smaller as fighters move apart (later to become a visual trademark of SNK fighting games). AOF was one of the first fighting games to put SNK on the map, and was the starting place for several characters whom would later become "icons" in the fighting game realm.

While not nearly as popular as the headlining Street Fighter 2 series, AOF actually brought some unique ingredients to the fighting game recipe. Even though SNK was, in some ways, "riding the coattails" of Capcom's success, they were at least trying something different - having an actual story unfold through the 1-player experience of Art of Fighting. Only the 2 main protagonists (Ryo and Robert) are selectable in the Arcade / Story Mode, thus allowing the story of Yuri's kidnapping and rescue to unfold. Interestingly enough, once a second player joins in, both players can then select from any of the 10 characters during Versus battles.


Meet Ryo and Robert... the two charismatic heroes of AOF!


For the most part, AOF follows the traditional gameplay format put in place by earlier fighting games. However, AOF differs by limiting special moves with the Spirit Gauge. Located under a character's life meter, the Spirit Gauge limits the use and power of special attacks. When a character performs special moves, their spirit gauge is depleted and their special attacks become weaker. Taunting (to lower the opponent's Spirit Gauge) and off-the-wall attacks gave arcade fighting game players a unique experience. In retrospect, AOF isn't nearly as playable as its competition... and is a good example of why fighting games need combos and (mostly) free access to special moves.

During cut-scenes, instructions are given on how to perform a powerful super move (dubbed the "Super Death Blow"), which requires an advanced button command (advanced at the time, that is). Desperation Attacks can be performed when the player's health is low and the life bar is flashing red.

The character sprites of AOF are colorful, and notably larger than those from Street Fighter 2. Although they're definitely "beefier" than their SF2 counterparts, the characters also come off as a bit more "stiff" visually and gameplay-wise. This slight feeling of stiffness was definitely noticeable when used to the  "silky smooth" gameplay of Street Fighter 2. Some AOF designs themselves were also lacking in the originality department... (yes, I'm looking at you John). Obviously, several characters and special moves "blatantly" take inspiration from Capcom's SF2 universe. In retrospect, AOF's roster was charming and unique enough to carve out its place in 90's arcades. 


Drunk Biker = punching bag for real martial artist.


The visuals of Art of Fighting were unmistakably impressive in 1992 (and many years after). Character faces actually become bruised as the fight progresses, and backgrounds are large, colorful, and moody. One of the most notable aspects of the visuals is the background scrolling effect, which was very impressive at the time. This effect also gives players a wider view of the battleground, an "original" visual element for a fighting game at the time. Hit effects and projectiles also made a statement in AOF, even though a few were clearly rip-offs of SF2's effects.

One area where Art of Fighting "one-upped" Street Fighter 2, are the bonus games. During a player's run though of the story mode, they are eventually given the option to select between 3 different bonus challenges, which include: Bottle Smash, Ice Smash, & Initiate Super Death Blow. All of these bonus games were exciting, fun, and definitely helped AOF stand apart from other fighting games.


AOF's bonus games were innovative and eye-catching!


Overall, Art of Fighting was an attractive arcade game, especially when compared to other arcade games out in 1992. AOF had a decent story for a video game, interesting characters, catchy music, cool super moves, and innovative "extras" that other fighting games lacked. The original arcade version of AOF was great, but unfortunately, the home ports really didn't live up to the original in terms of graphics. The SNES and Genesis versions featured much smaller, less detailed 2D sprites, and the characters & stages were missing graphical details & animations. The cool scrolling effect also didn't translate very well in the home ports. Needless to say, make sure you're playing the arcade version to get the full Art of Fighting experience!










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Page Updated: January 21st, 2024
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Artwork By: Shinkiro      Poster & Prologue Comic
Eiji Shiroi    Character Artwork
Platform(s): NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PC, Wii Virtual Console, PS2, PSN, PS4, Switch
Release Date(s): Sep. 24th, 1992             /   Arcade
May 11th, 2006               PS2 - in Art of Fighting: Anthology
May 15th, 2007
               PS2 - in Art of Fighting: Anthology
Oct. 8th, 2007
               Wii Virtual Console
Dec. 21st, 2010
             PlayStation Network
Sep. 4th, 2017                PS4 - in Art of Fighting: Anthology
Sep. 21st, 2017             Nintendo Switch
Characters Ryo Sakazaki, Robert Garcia, Todoh, Jack Turner, Lee Pai Long, King, Mickey Rogers, John Crawley, Mr. Big, Mr. Karate

Featured Video:

Related Games: Art of Fighting 2, Art of Fighting 3, Fatal Fury, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special, Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 2, The King of Fighters '94, Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition, Buriki One, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum

Gameplay Engine  7.5 / 10
Story / Theme  9.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.5 / 10
Animation  7.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.5 / 10
Innovation  7.0 / 10
Art Direction  8.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  9.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  6.5 / 10
Characters  7.0 / 10


7.8 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version  


Final Words: Like many arcade kids born into the late 80's / early 90's era of gaming, I was an avid Street Fighter 2 player in 1992. When I first tried out SNK's Art of Fighting, the game certainly didn't feel "as smooth" as SF2 to play... but there was still plenty of things to like about SNK's brand of 2D fighting game. (For one, AOF was a great 'alternative' if there was too big of a crowd in front of the SF2 cabinet. No, seriously... that was a legit issue back then at popular arcades.) Put your quarter up!

Art of Fighting
put a strong emphasis on the storyline, which jumps out at you as soon as you start Arcade mode. This was not only innovative to fighting games but executed exceptionally well. Many 80's and 90's martial arts films really fit into the "vibe" of AOF. (Robert Garcia resembling a mix of Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, for one.)

There was an AOF machine at one of my family's main vacation spots back in the day (inside the very hotel we always stayed at). It was one of the few fighting games at the hotel, so I actually became pretty decent at AOF - quickly learning all the exploits versus the CPU so I didn't lose my quarters! My SF2 background definitely helped with that... and gave me the edge against human challengers (so I could keep playing on my machine). I remember loving the fact that after defeating a human opponent or two, I could just return to my spot in story mode. (And often, the player I defeated would happily watch me go through story mode instead of challenge me again - just to see me lose to the stupidly-tough boss, Mr. Big ). Good times. I think I beat him a couple times, but I'd rather restart the game than waste quarters on that cheap bastard.

Of course, AOF has a few "copycat" character designs resembling certain SF2 icons... but most are original at the end of the day. Furthermore, SNK's beautiful and beefy 2D character sprites were MASSIVE onscreen and no doubt impressive for years to come. I loved AOF for its unique spin on the 2D fighting game recipe. AOF was followed by two decent sequels. Many of AOF's original characters also live on in crossover titles like The King of Fighters and Capcom VS SNK.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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