This CD-ROM disc arrived fairly late in the PC Engine's life, and was one of the first to require the Arcade system card. This add-on contained enough onboard memory to support plenty of sound bites and animation frames, and was used primarily to port several of SNK's Neo-Geo games to the PC Engine. The Garou Densetsu 2 conversion was very faithful for its time, with CD-audio used to capture the arcade game's sample-heavy background music, and provided console gamers with a cost-effective alternative to the real Neo-Geo deal.
The Arcade card never came to the US, so while the PC Engine CD games were not region-locked, American TurboGrafx-16 and TurboDuo gamers were greeted with this comical alert screen featuring super-deformed versions of the game's characters. Mai Shiranui is presumably encouraging us to invest in the upgrade:
The Neo-Geo was famous for its fighting games, and Garou Densetsu 2 is one of the classics. The controls are solid -- a 6-button pad was made available in Japan, but it's playable even with the standard 2-button arrangement; the characters are diverse and well-animated; and the action is fast-paced and challenging. There are several difficulty settings, and the buttons can be rearranged on the Config menu:
Of course, the game owes an obvious debt to Capcom's Street Fighter II, if not to spell-checking, as we set out to Conqer the World:
There are some cosmetic differences of note between versions. The PC Engine opening looks slightly different, with the large character sprites "shuttering in" on split scanlines instead of fading in from white, and the text that "folds" in and out on the Neo-Geo just appears and disappears on the PC Engine. The parallax depth of the scrolling backgrounds is also lost, and the color-cycling is rougher. The sprites have lost some color depth and the animation isn't as smooth as the rock-solid 60 fps of the original. And the incidental music for the level select and victory screens is rendered via chip, rather than CD, and sounds pretty poor in comparison.
There are also similarities. The Neo-Geo was a sprite-pushing powerhouse, with advanced scaling features, but it didn't support transparency effects, so the flashing shadows of the original are retained on the PC Engine port. Nor have Mai's pneumatic breasts and remarkably muscular buttocks been toned down:
It's a fighting game, and the action delivers where it matters most:
Except as a collectible, there's no driving reason to own this game for the PC Engine in the 21st century -- perfect emulations of the Fatal Fury series have been made commercially available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 2 and Wii by SNK Playmore in recent years.
But back in the day when the Neo-Geo was out of reach for all but the most dedicated and affluent gamer, Hudson Soft delivered the goods. Garou Densetsu 2 is not perfect, but it's one of the best fighting games ever released on the PC Engine.
If you're in the market for this title, you may be able to find it at this affiliate link -- or if you have the hardware, you could pick up the actual, non-region-locked Neo-Geo cartridge here.