Art of Fighting (龍虎の拳 Ryuuko no Ken , which literally translates to "Fist of the Dragon and Tiger" but can also be interpreted as "Fist of Two Mighty Rivals") is a fighting game developed by SNK. Only Ryo and Robert are playable in the 1-player story mode although eight of the characters are playable in the 2-player vs. modes (Mr. Big and Mr. Karate can be played via the use of cheat codes).
Art of Fighting's events are often referenced in the wider SNK universe. The King of Fighters '97 for instance parodies the events of the game in its ending.
A translation of the official story given by SNK is as follows:
"Southtown, a place where ambition and desires thrive. Only the strong survive tomorrow while the dreams of the weak are torn apart and left for dead. This is the town's only law.
In this town, there stands a single dojo who has spent countless years teaching Kyokugenryu Karate. Its master is Takuma Sakazaki, a veteran who has ingrained the city's law into him.
"Stand, Ryo! You need to start being a man!"
Within the dojo, Takuma shouts at his terrified pupil, a boy named Ryo.
"... I can't. I just can't... It's too hard for me. I can't even match Father's strength..."
The boy with fair hair trembles with tears -- in the future, this same boy would be known as the "Invincible Dragon", the great martial artist, Ryo Sakazaki.
"You're acting like a woman! If you can't ascend past your limit, how can you prepare yourself in the future!?"
So saying this, Takuma raises his indignant fist towards Ryo.
"M, Master! That's enough! Ryo... maybe Ryo just isn't cut out for martial arts..."
A boy stands before Takuma and drops on his knee to protect Ryo. His name is Robert Garcia, the lone son of Italian millionaire, Alberto Garcia. Through his father's suggestion, he was enlisted into Kyokugen Karate under Takuma's care.
"... Ryo, as long as you cannot overcome your weakness, your life will never begin... Real strength must be felt through the mind and heart; it cannot be faked."
Uttering this final note, Takuma takes his leave.
"... Ch, cheer up, Ryo. If you mope like this, Yuri won't smile."
Comforted by his friend's words, Ryo nodded but could not feel his power returning to him.
The following night, when Takuma and his wife were out, Ronnet was caught in an unexpected traffic accident. Ryo took his younger sister to the hospital and were faced with an unfortunate reality. Their mother would never return home and their father disappeared immediately after the incident. The siblings' lives truly began that day.
As for the dojo, it was barred off. Robert was entreated to part with his friend.
"... Ryo, I swear I will return. Until then, take good care of Yuri for me."
Faithfully taking Robert's words to heart, Ryo made it his sole purpose in life to take care of her. For Yuri's smile, for Yuri's happiness, Ryo overcame various obstacles. Working in the morning, he entered street fights during the night but seemed to be cursed with his own powerlessness. However, after he saw Yuri's smile, he began to recall his father's words: "A man's strength cannot be known only by his fist". Ryo began to understand what it meant.
"As long as I have someone to protect, I can't allow myself to be defeated." The boy grew stronger once he believed in these words.
Thus Ryo built his reputation as a street fighter: the man with a gentle heart and a sound fist, the "Invincible Dragon". At the same time, Robert appeared and, to Ryo's joy, earned the nickname the "Strongest Tiger".
On that day, the event happened. His precious sister was kidnapped.
"Who did this?! What would they want?!"
Using the few clues they had, Ryo and Robert head for Southtown.
To find the father missing for 10 years, to find Yuri's whereabouts, Ryo confronts his dark fate and, in the waves of oppression, shakes his angry fist.
The gears of the dragon and tiger's legend are about to turn..."
In the first game, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia set out to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big on behalf of Geese Howard. Mr. Big has taken the girl to entice Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo's father and originator of the fictional form of karate known as Kyokugen Karate ("Extreme style"), and because Ryo refused to work for Big. After they defeat Mr. Big, Ryo and Robert 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.
The revelation that Mr. Karate was indeed Takuma was not in the original Art of Fighting ending (except for the Super NES port of the game, where it was clearly shown). It was officially confirmed during the introduction of the second game, when Takuma was formally introduced.
The assignment for the four buttons are weak punch (A), weak kick (B), strong punch or kick (C), and taunt (D). The A or B button must be tapped first before the button C can be used to perform the stronger attacks. Pressing A and C together will perform a hook punch and holding B and C will allow players to execute a shin kick. Throws are performed by holding down the C button and left or right with the joystick. The game also allowed select characters to launch attacks from the "wall" or side of the screen by pressing C and perform a kick.
The game introduced the concept of the spirit gauge, a special bar underneath the heath bar that indicated how often a character could perform a special move and its effectiveness. Every time a character is taunted by their opponent or uses a special move, this bar decreases with special attacks becoming weaker as it turns red. When it is depleted, the character must recharge this bar by holding down the A or B button.
After winning a match while playing story mode, there three bonus stages players can choose from:
- Bottle Smash
The objective is to smash off the tops of five bottles on a table. The player must carefully time and press the A button when a special bar fills to full for maximum power. Smashing all the bottles at once completes the stage, rewarding the player by increasing their spirit gauge for the next match.
- Ice Smash
Within a time limit, the player has to build up enough power to break five blocks of ice. Pressing the A button will fill a gauge on the screen. If successful, the player will be rewarded with an increased life bar for the next match.
- Initiate Super Death Blow
The player must execute the super special move, Haou Shoukou Ken, a number of times to learn and use in game. The number of times needed to perform the move in the given time limit is dependent on the game's difficulty level.
CPU-Controlled Characters (playable in VS. Mode only)
- Wii Virtual Console page
- English manual
- Neo Geo commercial short version
- Neo Geo commercial long version
- SNES endings
- Comparison vid with various home consoles
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