Like the other volumes in the NeoGeo Online Collection series, Fu'un Super Combo is a compilation of perfect Neo*Geo arcade ports, with an optional remixed sound track, sprite edits, training mode, in-game move lists, and online support (in Japan). Fu'un has just two games, but they're some of the best and least ported in the Online Collection series so far: Fu'un Mokushiroku (aka Savage Reign), and Fu'un Super Tag Battle (aka Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle).
Although they're both fighting games, and share some of the same characters, and most of the same controls, the two are actually quite different. Mokushiroku has a multi-level platform system, where the D button lets you jump up or drop down to different levels of the stage. You can attack across these levels either with D, or by throwing your hand-to-hand weapon. You also have the usual assortment of hand-to-hand attacks, but with the multiple levels thrown in, strategy is very different than the usual fighting game.
Super Tag Battle plays more like a traditional fighting game; the multiple level stages are gone, replaced by a "tag zone," whereby pressing D while standing in a certain colored square on your half of the screen will swap you to a second character. The match ends when any of the four characters is killed, so if the character you're using is running low on health, you have to get back to your square and tag out (assuming your other character has more health) if you want to have a chance of surviving. This isn't particularly difficult; there's no real way to "defend" the enemy's tag square. Super Tag Battle doesn't let you throw your weapon, either, but there are button combinations for dodging.
Mokushiroku's system feels fresher and more fun to me; with Super Tag Battle they went with a more traditional, and darker feel. Where Mokushiroku's poster girl was a blond ballerina with a pink bouncing ball as her weapon, Super Tag Battle's is a dark punk chick with a katana and baggy jeans. Still, STB kept most of the original cast, who aside from the main character, Hayate, are mostly goofy in their own ways; I'm particularly fond of the big pot-bellied policeman.
These games came along relatively late in the Neo*Geo's mainstream life, and benefit from large, richly colored sprites, busy, multi-layer backgrounds, fairly smooth character animation, and quality artwork throughout. Mokushiroku has a brighter, more rounded, cartoonish look, while STB got bigger, darker, and more rugged. Both have very responsive control and decent difficulty curves, and are fun to play, even against the CPU.
Download added: 19_real_shishi.jpg (104812 bytes) "Kizuna: press up at Gozu & Shishioh to select the boss characters."
Man this game is fun--such big, flowing hits and combos! I wish it had more backgrounds and maybe a few fewer clowns and claw ninja clones, but the sort of "Neo Tokyo" setting is a fairly unique one for SNK, especially in 1996--although I suppose you could make an argument for them having brought back some of the flavor of this for the "NESTS" arc and characters in the King of Fighters games that started in 1999.
Oh huh actually it's closer to home than Neo Tokyo: Wikipedia's page for Kizuna Encounter's prequel, Savage Reign (the other game in the PS2 compilation: it's got dual-level stages and is not really my thing), says the games are set in a future ("first half of the 21st century" ; ) version of Fatal Fury's South Town--which explains some things, like why Kim Sue Il looks just like FF/KOF's Kim Kaphwan, why Sho Hayate and Jyazu appears as characters in KOF XI (although that doesn't make sense in terms of timeline, unless they live a really long time : o; oh: SNK Wiki says on Jyazu's page that "the same designer who oversaw his development also did bug checking for Kizuna Encounter"; oh and Wikipedia says Jyazu is the final boss, and Real Shishioh is the sub-boss, so I had that backwards :p), and why Wikipedia's entry on the old dude with the staff, Chung Paifu, says he got his baseball cap from "a man known only as the 'Legendary Wolf'"--an obvious Terry Bogard reference.
Hah and Wikipedia says of Max Eagle (hm I wonder if he's related to Johnny Maximum aka J.Max from ADK's NEOGEO "World Heroes" series ; ) that "the wrestling organization (SWF) Eagle works for is the same one used in the SNK arcade game 3 Count Bout."
(Hm just on the subject of names, Wikipedia says Shishioh is aka "Kage Shishioh" and aka "King Lion," and what this game's character select calls the hidden character "Real Shishioh" is aka "Shin Shishioh" and aka "King Leo.")
In which I complain and whine pretty much the whole time. :P
The first thing you notice on booting up Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle (this is the version in the Fu'un Super Combo pack on Japanese PS2, part of the "NeoGeo Online Collection" of ports SNK made to that console--FSC even came out on PS4 in the US, in those heady early PS4 days when SNK USA or whatever was bringing over some previously brought-over PS2 stuff; anyway, here I have the NEOGEO CD "arranged soundtrack" selected to play over the port of the NEOGEO arcade game) is that slapping buttons does big beefy, biffy chain combos, and this is a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the game also has other mechanics, pretty much all of which feel pretty rough, like they didn't get nearly enough time of being polished up and made to work smoothly--or even just not enough thinking through in the first place: why are S-groove--early KOF-style--dodges in here at all, for instance? The game feels like a test run that never quite got a full investment of development resources.
Characters are also a severely mixed bag and in fact there's only one I like thoroughly, namely the quasi-boss Shishioh, who looks like a junior brother (saves time on design and sprite work, don't you know!) to the game's junior boss, King Lion. And the gross cop Gordon at least fights tolerably, so it was the pair of them I chose in my knowingly faddle-headed quest to see if I could beat the game for once and maybe for all.
I knew the going rapidly gets rough on the default 4/8 arcade ("MVS") difficulty (due to the dearth of characters, you get five regular matches--up to three of which could in theory feature quasi-boss clones--then the secondary boss, then the actual boss, and voila :p), and indeed, in the thick of that I had to resort (mind you, only after the secondary boss evilly used it on me ;P) to one of the cheesier mechanics that I'd mercifully forgotten about again, namely the "turnaround twist": a long dash followed by a turn to face the other way, if you happen to have passed the enemy during the dash; vs the AI, at least, it's even cheaper than my beloved rolls in the King of Fighters games (and executed similarly, except you also have to press forward on the stick while hitting the ol' A+B buttons--which are Punch and Kick), because it's longer range and the AI doesn't seem programmed to chip you out of it; I'm not even sure they *can* chip you out of it, although I *think* I did accidentally twist into a fireball or something once, so in theory--I think--they could if they tried.
So I just twisted and threw (close range + Weapon button), and eventually got through (throws are another weird rough spot: damage doesn't actually come off until the opponent hits the ground, or a moment later, which always leaves me thinking the throw had no effect at first...; not to mention that, like everything else, their hit box or the opponent hurt boxes or probably both seem pretty darn unreliable--at any rate, they don't work or even come out a lot when it seems like they should have).
And then I did it with more characters just to make sure I was now thoroughly sick of the whole affair, and by the time I reached the second pair of characters I felt I hated least, and found they always throw their victims *backwards*, easily putting themselves thereby in awkward tactical situations, I was pretty sure that I was. Sick of Kizuna Encounter, I mean. Which is too bad--the chain combos are beefy, the sprites large, the music decent, and the near-future post-apocalyptic Southtown setting even somewhat novel--but there we are, whinily.
(Keep in mind I'm also just terrible at the game, of course. Oh and in the collection, Select pauses and from there you can bring up a MOVE LIST, which is a little hard to read if you don't follow Japanese, but at least it shows the often half-circle motions necessary to do the tricky special moves--and here's another thing, there's no super meter, so no supers per se, just often probably overpowered--but maybe by way of compensation annoyingly hard to execute--special moves ;P. I didn't bother learning them because why, you know, get good or anything.)
Perhaps my last Kizuna Encounter. Some fun things to check out, just not quite worked out enough to justify many return trips, really.