Garou: Mark of the Wolves – 2000 Developer Interview

Garou: Mark of the Wolves – 2000 Interview

Taken from the official ASCII-published guidebook, SNK planner Yasuyuki Oda outlines the concepts behind Garou: Mark of the Wolves, their soft-reboot of the long-running Fatal Fury/Garou Densetsu series of fighting games. Also included are several design sketches of the game's nearly-all-new cast, complete with comments from Oda and their respective designers.

Yasuyuki Oda - Planner

―This game eschews the traditional "line movement" mechanic and introduces a number of progressive new game systems. Please elaborate on your goals for these major upheavals, and your reasons for breaking away from the line system.

Oda: Upon observing the user reactions and survey responses to previous Fatal Fury games, we concluded that the established line system and character styles were limiting the reach of the game. We were of course aware that these elements had their support among dedicated fans, but for this game we decided to take on the challenge of moving away from expected, traditional series conventions.

The concept behind this game was "a game that's snappy, without getting tiresome": in other words, we wanted to make something that'd be fun to play offensively and offer a variety of paths for the player to take. Let's start with Break Moves―they were something I'd wanted to try since Real Bout, but because the Real Bout series was predicated on longer recovery frames on hit and block, it wasn't something I was able to realize at the time. That idea was able to see the light of day with this game, but from the beginning, I recognised it was a potentially volatile idea, so I was mostly just focused on not being too self-conscious and sanding off all the edges. Originally, I'd planned for Tizoc to not have any break moves, but that ended up feeling half-baked, and I have some regrets in that area.

Just Defense was conceived as a new system that'd synergize well with Guard Crush, and after adding various additional elements, it took the form seen in the final game. With regards to the health recovery, the idea is to think of it as being able to earn a breather via efficient and accurate defense.

T.O.P. Attacks came about through wanting to implement "an additional new game system that wouldn't require the player to learn new commands", and eventually took the form seen today. The trickiest aspect of designing this system was curbing the phenomenon where, the more we'd tweak and tune the system, the less differentiation there'd be between the placement of the T.O.P. meter. It was difficult to set power values that'd satisfy the widest swathe of players.

―Please describe your vision for the "Maximum Mayhem King of Fighters" tournament, which underpins this game's story.

Oda: Before now, people have associated "K.O.F" with Kyo and Iori, but it originated within Garou. It's always had that sketchy vibe, but by adding "Maximum Mayhem" to the name, it feels even more like a sham of an event. Our image of the tournament is that of a large-scale gambling event, with the city itself as the ring, and an atmosphere of visible tension. That said, one of the major themes of this game was establishing the identities of all the new characters, so the tournament itself was de-emphasized somewhat.

―Please share any particular considerations made concerning game balance.

Oda: We tuned the game based on the idea of "balancing the strong parts". First off, regarding basic attacks, the general idea was that straight attacks and jabs would be strong against crouching punches but weak against crouching kicks, and that crouching kicks would lose to low kicks. From there, we made individual adjustments for each character; even so, I think the little buff we gave to standing A made them stronger than anticipated.

As for special moves, we made them capable of juggling enemies as often as possible―since we'd removed the chain combo system, we wanted to replace it with some other means of combining moves to create combos. In other words, the aim was to emphasize the flow of specials into other specials, as opposed to the normal-to-special flow that defined past games. In hindsight, the inclusion of break attacks was one part of the equation.

An archive of EVO Japan's recent Garou: Mark of the Wolves 25th-annivversary tournament.

―Can you tell us about the creation of the "Congratulations for Consecutive Wins! System", the secret versus mode option that's only accessible via dip switch?

Oda: Those who are good at fighting games are strong regardless of which character they use, and they'll continue to win even with characters at the bottom of the tier list… this system was designed as a handicap system of sorts against those players, but it's also true that people who are good at players tend to have a masochistic streak―in other words, they want to prevail under harsh conditions―so this system was conceived as one way to cater to that desire. The reason it's turned off by default is because we never thought of it as the main way the game should be played.

―What was your direction for sculpting the characters, story and world of the next generation of Fatal Fury? Do you feel you succeeded?

Oda: We were aiming to create a worldview that would attract as wide an audience as possible, and as far as fighting games are concerned, I think the main character is primarily responsible for establishing the identity of the world and setting. For this game, that character is Rock: before all else, our concern was devising a world where Rock not only could but should exist. From the design of the life gauges to the dialog to the game's tempo, Rock's personality, visuals and backstory are the foundation upon which everything else was built. A character like B.Jenet couldn't and wouldn't exist without Rock as the main character, y'know? We also changed Terry's design in order to clearly differentiate this game from the previous entries―"ah, in this setting, Terry keeps his guns covered". Judging from the responses to the user survey, it seems to have mostly gone over well.

―Please share your future aspirations with the users, including any story developments you might be interested in pursuing.

Oda: If we're able to make a sequel, I'd like to resolve all the existing backstories, including the mystery of Gato's father. Will Rock continue down his dark path? Will he return to Terry? Will Lao become a factor? Please look forward to it!

―Finally, please share a message from the developers to all the players and readers of this book.

Oda: Please explore the roster to the fullest, and support all the new characters. Be sure to pick Marco and do j.C→cr.C→Kouhou BR→Zanretsuken (whiff the last hit)→Ryuuko Ranbu lvl.4!

p.s.: As always, various rumors have been spreading online―stuff like "Ura Rock" and Geese being hidden characters―and if you were genuinely convinced they exist then that's fine, but there are a lot of comments out there that are misleading regular players, so I'm strongly asking all of you to stop spreading such info… on, and please quit trolling, too.

Design sketches (Rock Howard)

Since Rock was the main character, he was given special attention. The designer sought to have the pixel artists express a character that'd bring a tear to their eye; "a handsome man's man who, despite his seemingly perfect looks, has an air of vulnerability that's strangely alluring". This character received so many revisions that the designer was in a state of constant exasperation. (Oda.)

Because Rock's poised to be the new main character, I gave special care to every element, from the basic design to the moves and animations. As an avowed Chang Koehan fan, I had a hard time interpreting Rock's particular style of cool in my own way. I hope he'll stick with you for a long time. (N.KUROKI.)

Design sketches (Terry Bogard)

The design required a certain amount of ruggedness, but I was careful to keep him from looking too old-fashioned. Regarding his moves, I put together his kit with the intention of producing the ultimate version of Terry Bogard. (Oda)

For this game, the intent was to make 35-year-old Terry feel a little more subdued, so I paid attention to those areas... but, he still somersaults when he jumps, and goes into a full sprint when he dashes, so he hasn't really lost a step. I hope Terry maintains his good health for a long while yet. (S.SASADA)

Design sketches (Gato & Marco Rodrigues)

I wanted Gato to be a technical character with a lot of powerful kicks; because the planner and designer had previously worked on Li Xiangfei, I was able to communicate a lot of ideas purely through sketches, so the design process was fairly easy. Come to think of it, Gato is pretty much Xiangfei minus the Esaka, and B.Jenet's basically Alfred minus the apple... (Oda)

The initial specs I was given for the Gato Zero Kiba were "runs behind the opponent, jam his fingers into their ear canals and snap!", and I was concerned that Tizoc was so huge that you wouldn't be able to see Gato behind him... and then, it hit me! "no can do, Tizoc's mask doesn't have ears." (EIMOTSU)

The supervisor (moi!) is a karate fanatic, so I was very nervous whenever this character was up for review, but sure enough, the designer assigned to Marco (the same person who's handled Joe Higashi since the original Fatal Fury) was extremely experienced, and the character was created from the ground up without any need for me to intervene, so it ended up being a super fun process. By the way, I named the act of spamming Kohou breaks the "Tiger Samba", as the flip-side to the "Dragon Dance". (Oda)

Coming to you from SNK, the company that believes in the power of the one-hit kill, is Marco, an altogether different beast who represents Kyokugen-ryu with a style dripping with manly mojo. Brace yourself for a kind of sexiness that's ever-so-slightly different from Rock Howard. (SOESOE)

Design sketches (Kim Dong Hwan & Kim Jae Hoon)

Dong Hwan's personality was easy to understand, so producing this character was quite a pleasant process. The voice actor was struggling with their performance, so we had to reject their work from the first recording session (the follow-up was perfect). Personally, I think he's the strongest, but... (Oda)

Unlike his father, Dong Hwan is a happy-go-lucky guy who hates training. Due to space limits, his normals are almost identical to those of his brother, but I did my best to differentiate him through his neutral poses and other production elements. He has some annoying moves and is strangely strong, but he's a character that's hard to hate. Hitting the Pompe Dance after a win is a given! (HEITAROU)

Initially, Dong Hwan and Jae Hoon had different designs, but due to time constraints, we had to settle for merely changing their heads. During the balancing phase, I spent a lot of time adjusting his Hienzan and Shapuu Shuu, as they were moves that ultimately tended to be quite overpowered. In the end, I think I may have nerfed them a little too hard... (Oda)

When Jae Hoon takes a round, a girls runs out and brings him a kettle of water: that girl is a member of "South Jae Hoon Squad", the Kim family dojo's unofficial fan club. According to her, anyone who's confident in their abilities to run barefoot is eligible to join. (N.FUTATSU)

Design sketches (Tizoc/Griffin Mask & Hokotumaru)

Fatal Fury doesn't have many throw-centric characters, so I went all-out creating a full-on grappler. The design and overall fighting concept were easy to understand, so putting together the game plan was relatively breezy. (Oda.)

Tizoc is a pure grappler, a rarity in the Fatal Fury series. Knock 'em down with a mighty blow, and then stop them in their tracks with an overwhelmingly powerful throw! Please win with power and grace and continue marching forward on the path to becoming the strongest in pro wrestling. (TERARIN)

When Hokutomaru was first conceived, he was an underwhelming little brat with a few brief hints of coolness, but after making a quick series of big changes, he ended up becoming a kid ninja with a monkey-boy vibe. The voice actor was in high spirits, which made the recording session a lot of fun. There was a point where that one "kocchi dayo!" move was impossible to deal with—in particular, when Soesoe (the designer behind Marco, and the dirtiest fighter on the dev team) used it, the degeneracy factor went up by a million. (Oda)

As with the last game I worked on, I designed the annoying child character. When it came to adding that ninja touch, I picked up [Sanpei Shirato's manga] Sasuke, I am Sarutobi!, Iga no Kagemaru and Igano Kabamaru as reference materials, and they ended up serving as entertainment items. He's a bit of a reprobate, but I appreciate you giving him a shot. (K.NAOE)

Design sketches (Kevin Rian & Freeman)

I tried to come up with a jolly, chic dad-type character, but I dunno... in the end, he turned out to be a pretty weird. I wasn't sure that the crawling move really fit the character, but then I thought, "I ought to do this before someone else does it!" and abused my authority to make sure it was added. (Oda)

I had a lot of trouble trying to best express Freeman's flexible, rubber-ish way of moving. When the third edition of that other fighting game hit arcades midway through development, the resemblance between Freeman and a certain other character really had me sweating. For a moment, I was thrown so completely off-kilter that I seriously considered making him Rxmy's younger brother. (Oda)

As far as I'm concerned, my image for Freeman was that of death/black metal and grindcore. Marilyn Manson was the model, and any resemblance to Rxmy is strictly coincidental! Personally, Freeman's theme song is Morbid Angel's "Fall from Grace". Listen along, and you too will be called to the afterlife! (D-METAL)

Design sketches (Hotaru)

Hotaru's concept of "an unhappy girl whose personality comes from a lack of personality" was difficult to convey to others, and in doing so, I was forced to offer extremely broad, stereotypical instructions, and the person responsible ended hating the character for quite a while. Ultimately, I think all that hard work paid off and we ended up with a great character. My one regret is that "she really does say 'onii-chan!' too often". (Oda)

Thanks to the extreme strictness of the planning team, Hotaru ended up being the character with the largest number of scrapped moves and animations. It also doesn't help that they put a hapless sucker like me in charge of her... but, I think all that work made her a better character. Please, give her a shot. (ITOKATSU)

Design sketches (B.Jenet)

The one thing I was most wary of was keeping her from coming across as a "cool older sister"-type character. Whatever the case, I made sure that she looked cute. I had a hard time coming up with poses that didn't show her panties. (Oda)

Even though I've been waving the flag for Chang, they gave me a female character right after Rock... when the planners told me to come up with "someone you'd like to hit the bar with", I wasn't quite sure what do do, but I think she turned out quite well in the end. What do you think? (N.KUROKI)

Design sketches (Grant & Kain)

We referred to him as "Hentai Kamen" within the dev team. Because he had boss properties, it was fun to make the screen shake with all his normals. I think his cloak ended up being a little short... (Oda)

I annoyed Kain's designer with, "make him act like a musical star!" and other incomprehensible demands that made no sense. The original designer was kidnapped by the card battle team, and I expect to someday make them repay that debt, with interest. (Oda)

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