First a little bit of a history lesson. You aren’t probably that familiar with Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Like most of the team here at Console Monster, we all turned to each other and said ‘what on earth is this?’ Perhaps in our blinkered gaming past we failed to pick up the Neo-Geo, or more to the case we were probably a bit young.
Excuses aside, Garou: Mark of the Wolves is actually part of the Fatal Fury series. And there one would presume the light bulb is flashing in your head. SNK were responsible for the series along with various other fighting games. The series was ported onto the PS2 and Dreamcast at the turn of the decade and was known as Fatal Fury in America, whilst to the east in Japan, it was simply known as Garou: Mark of the Wolves as with this Xbox LIVE Arcade release.
So do we have a lovely updated HD version of the game ported for the 360? Well no sadly not, but we do have a fairly decent port of the original game. The problem with these games along with Street Fighter is that they were never designed for use with a joystick or controller pad. What players will benefit from is the Street Fighter joystick which was released a while back. Although the game is very much playable without, some of the moves are devilishly difficult to perform without.
And then there is the fact you need to be familiar with the series, through its five iterations, as the story has followed on through each. Are those other games on the XBLA? No. Which lives us in a bit of a limbo with regards to the storyline, and it was certainly something I generally skipped thanks to some poor voice-over work and meaningful text.
Still, we won’t loose sleep over a confusing story. What makes Garou MOW one of the greatest fighters to grace the XBLA; granted Street Fighter excels in this area however, is the fact the control system is spot on in terms of movement. This is a solid fighter with no lag or movement problems and a proper set of moves for each player which can be performed to perfect the match.
It may be somewhat difficult for a first timer to pull off the best moves, especially without a stick, but it is feasible. A welcome feature in the game is the chance to tinker with the difficulty and health options, this is a great element to a game that is designed for the hardcore Japanese fighter fans.
A problem exists with the quarter-moon and half-moon moves, which can’t be replicated on a control stick or D-pad quick enough. The other is your movement backwards, which is more suited to the D-pad, whilst jumping is better with the analogue stick. This means you’ll be trying to alternate the use of both in a game, which can be a little bit frustrating.
The Story mode features ten different characters to beat, and providing you don’t die at all, you’ll face a special unlockable character called Kain. Whilst playing on Easy settings will see you romping through this, crank it up a little and it really becomes a test of skill.
Further still, Survival mode pits you against all fourteen characters with only one life. Sounds almost impossible, but you can collect power-ups during each fight which help things flow a little. It is still insanely hard however once your past the few battles, but the mode itself is a welcome addition to a fighting game.
Online play is also available here, and similar to Street Fighter, the difficulty curve is high for beginners. Sadly this is only the real update to the game, one which will cost you 800MS Points. You might feel slightly disappointed to learn there are no fancy HD visuals (despite the game being as good looking as it did for its age!) or other updates to the story. This is virtually a straight-port from the arcade and Neo-geo formats.
Garous is very much aimed at a niche market of gamers, those who were addicted to the original or perhaps play a ROM of it currently. The swing of Xbox LIVE play is nothing spectacular though, and it is hard-pushed to say this offers value for money. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, but it comes at a cost. It is a solid Japanese arcade fighter, but only for the hardcore fans.