Collection of the three "Real Bout" NeoGeo fighting games, a sort of spin off of the Garou Densetsu ie "Fatal Fury" series: Real Bout, Real Bout Special, and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers. The main menu, consistent with the layout of the previous releases in the NGOC series, give access to control remapping, autosaving, sprite color editing, audio/graphic options, and a multiplayer mode over Japan's KDDI matchmaking service, which as far as I know only works if you can use a Japanese credit card, but I haven't actually looked into it or anything.
Unlike some previous installments in the series, there is no remix soundtrack available here.
You can also go into "practice" mode for any of the three games from the main menu, which is a little weird. But I guess they added that since the original roms don't have a practice mode, or something?
All three of the games have English language options, so you can get your SNKglish fix in those lovely win quotes.
The games themselves kind of blur together for me. They all have a very vivid, highly animated cartoon style to the characters and backgrounds. Animation and character rosters get slightly beefier as the series goes along, but not all that much; they are, however, pretty impressive from the start, so that's not really a bad thing.
The "sway line" system, where fighters can dodge out to another 2D fighting plane in the foreground or background, is still around in these games, much to my annoyance. If not for "sway line," I'd probably be pretty fond of these games as quality 2D fighters; as it is, I like some of the art and characters (Franco Bash and Duck King :), but I wouldn't really sit down to play them if I was looking for a satisfying 2D fighting session, 'cause hopping back and forth between planes just really interrupts the flow of the action for me. It breaks the suspension of disbelief you build up about the characters existing in a 2D environment, and just feels really arbitrary and tacked-on.
Anyhoo, as ports go, these are about as good as you could get. Load times (just when you first choose a game from the main menu) are quick, the graphics and controls are uncompromised, and the games are complete. Oh and they also have a new pause menu with in-game move lists, which is sweet.
I don't know what I meant by "no remix soundtrack available"; this collection *does* have an Arranged soundtrack option, right there in the sound options where the NeoGeo Online Collection games always have it. : P
RBFF2 has pretty fun gameplay--not quite as visceral and organic as in FF3, but still good feeling, even compelling, and definitely flashier--and some fun new or long-missing characters to play, Tung Fu Rue, new boy boxer--probably too similar to Terry in appearance, but good gameplay--Rick Strowd, the smooth Xiangfei, and big Wolfgang Krauser, who feels surprisingly responsive for such a big guy.
I really hate fighting this Billy Kane though. Really really. Enough to make me shelve the game.
His staff can cover a huge portion of the screen (Laurence has something like this ability too, with his cape), and I guess you're probably meant to have to use the sway line dodge--simplified even further now, only going into the background--to get in past it. But I hate the sway line dodge--doesn't help that the AI uses it more and more as an arcade run goes on, of course--and I'm just not tempted to work on that. So to heck with RBFF2 game, I guess. : P
On Hon-Fu/Xiangfei's shallow RBFF2 "Chinatown 1998" sidewalk street stage, overrun by cute porkers, no sway line dodge is allowed--I guess the row of parked cars close up against the fighting area hems the space in, in effect. This stage shows up in the "NESTS" Collection (see entry 1346) version of The King of Fighters 2000, in Vs. and Practice modes, if player 2 picks Xiangfei as their striker.
The main menu is in 480i, but the individual games run in delicious, NEOGEO-native (pretty much) 240p. So nice. It's a darn shame the earlier NEOGEO Online Collection releases, like the KOF ones, didn't do this--4 through 9 do.
Volume 1 ended with Fatal Fury 3, in which each character had their own, usually quite spectacular stage, with time of day or other sweeping changes (Hon-Fu's stage, taking place atop a cargo container swinging through the sky above the South Town harbor, is a particularly stunning standout). This volume struggles to compete with that, probably in part due to the larger casts in these games.
In RBFF, you only change stages every three matches. Some of the stages change lighting between matches, at least. The stages have breakable side walls: smash the enemy into them enough and they break, allowing a round-deciding ring-out. This can feel somewhat gimmicky; I guess it's something different, anyway. Still, definitely a lack of stages, and in general they decrease in beauty as you go through the game.
In RBFF2 (I've skipped going back to RBFFS, but a quick glance seemed to confirm my years-ago impression that the backgrounds looked flat and just not that well illustrated), two two three characters share each stage; each one may have a different time of day or different window dressing there. For instance, Tung Fu Rue and Kim share a sort of shrine courtyard stage, but Kim fights there in bright daylight, with an enthusiastic rooting crowd; when you meet Tung there, it's dusk, and the place is windswept, moody, and all but abandoned. Duck King/Blue Mary's stage is another interesting contrast: in Duck's fight, it's packed with loungers in hoodies, pro-duck graffiti, and brightly lit shop signs; when you face Mary there, it's abandoned but for manhole steam and stray cats, the colorful graffiti is replaced by peeling movie posters, and the lights of the most central shop signs buzz and go out abruptly, leaving the place feeling even darker and more abandoned.
And other the stage designs in RBFF2, if perhaps not matching the luminously lovely colors of FF3, are nonetheless quite memorable: Rick/Terry's Grand Canyon truck stop, the wizard twins' dragon shrine, and Billy's (and Geese's?) dark, ominous shrine hallway.