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November 18 2017

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  PS2 - Garou: Mark Of The Wolves - ©SNK Playmore 2005





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Game Stats
Other:
Players:
1 or 2 player

Type:
One on One Fighter

Other Info:
Online enabled
(Japan Only)
Further Info:

Previously released on the Sega Dreamcast, this is arguably a MUCH better port of the original.




Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:
- The King Of Fighters: Maximum Impact (PS2)
- Art Of Fighting (Neo Geo)
- King of Fighters 2002 (Neo Geo)
- Metal Slug 5 (Neo Geo)
- Ninja Masters (Neo Geo)
- Matrimelee (Neo Geo)
- Neo Geo Fighter Stick For PS2 (Hardware)


Introduction

One of the most popular games on the Neo Geo as far as its fan base is concerned, Garou: Mark Of The Wolves is often referred to as a 'the best game on the Neo'. Agree with this or not, you have to admit that it's definitely one of the most technically accomplished games out there, squeezing every last ounce of power from the SNK's ageing hardware, and is right up there with Art Of Fighting 3 in terms of animation. It's not quite on the same level as Capcom's Street Fighter 3, but it is as close as it could be on this hardware.


Unfortunately, for all the hard work that SNK put into the game, they probably didn't get as much back out of it as they would have liked. Although I am a massive fan of The King of Fighters, it is a shame to see an almost completely new game like MOTW not do anywhere near as well as a new KOF game which is perhaps 60% re-hashed at least. It's funny because you'll be hard pushed to find many Neo Geo owners that don't own the game on either MVS or AES format, and as I mentioned it's one of the most highly thought of fighters out there, but if the game isn't making enough money in the arcades it doesn't really help SNK's cause.


It was also a long time before we saw the eventual port to the Sega Dreamcast, and although the DC version was a good port, it did occasionally suffer from a few problems with out of sync sound. Because of this, 2D fans without a Neo Geo haven't been able to play the game properly, unless of course they resorted to playing it on an emulator, which isn't really the best way of doing things to say the least. Finally however, we have another port of it... it's been a very long time coming, but the Playstation 2 edition of this fine game is here and thankfully it is a very good port for the most part.


Intro Movies

The first thing you'll see when loading up the game is the funky new SNK Playmore intro that plays before the game boots up. This movie is actually an introduction to the Neo Geo Online Collection series (of which MotW is the 1st), and it starts by counting up through the years from when SNK first opened up to the present day. It then it shows you a few clips of various Neo Geo games. What is most interesting about this is the games it shows clips of; footage of Art of Fighting plays, then Worlds Heroes, Samurai Shodown and KOF, of which we already know there will definitely be online enabled PS2 ports of, but it also shows a few other games like Ninja Masters and Kizuna Encounter! It might be a severe case of wishful thinking, but seeing as this intro is specifically for the online collection, does this mean we will see ports of those games in the future? In the case of games like Ninja Masters I sure hope so!


Once you are past the aforementioned movie, the game boots up into the now familiar intro sequence... 'here the mighty rule'. Like the Neo Geo version, if you leave it to on demo mode, the other main intro with the funky 70's-esque music will also play after a while. By default the music is set to "arranged", but you can change it to the original Neo Geo music if you wish, but more on that later. The intro sequences have not been altered to hi-res like in certain other ports like SVC and some of the KOF's, but the art in Mark of the Wolves is great anyway so I'm glad they didn't touch it. The only thing that has been upgraded in fact is the Mark Of The Wolves logo, which is in hi-res.


Game Setup

On the title screen you will find the following options:

STORY MODE
SURVIVAL MODE
VS MODE
PRACTICE
OPTION
GALLERY
NETWORK MATCH

Story mode is the regular Neo Geo arcade mode, and VS mode/Practice are self explanatory. We all know what Survival mode is by now, and like some other ports it seems this is the way to unlock more artwork in the gallery mode. It doesn't seem like there is a massive amount of art to unlock, but what is in there is awesome... I've always loved the artwork in this game, and although I've seen most of the stuff on offer here already, there's one or two I haven't. Special mention must go to one of the B.Jenet pictures, which is one of my favourites and probably the best picture of her I have ever seen. As for network mode, I can't try this because I do not live in Japan and as far as I know online play is only available there. I'd be very interested to hear from some Japanese residents who can tell me a bit about the options available in network mode, and above all, how well it plays online! Drop me a line if you have tried it!


The options screen is definitely something you want to tinker with before you head to the actual gameplay. First off is the battle settings screen where you can set your difficulty and round time etc, so there's no surprises there. After that is the key setting screen, although that can stay at the default unless you are using an arcade stick that has buttons in weird places... for the record the Neo Geo classic stick for PS2 is setup exactly like the MVS by default, so no worries there! Next up is the sound settings page, and the most important thing here is the BGM choice. As I said above, you can choose between the arranged soundtrack or the original Neo Geo soundtrack.


The arranged mix is the same one that was used on the Sega Dreamcast port of this game from a few years back. Purists will no doubt select original Neo music; although the new mix is very nice for the most part, there are a few tracks that don't sound quite right in my opinion. I think the main problem is that like many fans I have spent such an ungodly amount of time playing the Neo cart of this game that it seems weird if the music is changed. However I am persevering with the arranged music as some tracks do sound fantastic, with Jae-Hoon's being a great example! Other than that there isn't much else to mess with on the sound settings screen other than the music test and volume. Personally I cranked the music volume up a couple of notches because I didn't think it was high enough by default, and the sound effects kinda of drowned it out.

Arranged Music Samples (MP3 Format)

Probably the most important part of the options screen is the graphic settings page. The two biggest choices you will have to make are which screen mode to run it in, and whether or not to use the filter. There are three screen modes to choose from, with Type A being the standard (where there is a border around the screen and the sprites are a bit smaller than normal). Type B stretches the screen horizontally to get rid of the small borders at the side of the screen, and Type C stretches the screen vertically as well as horizontally. Personally I would love to use Type C, but on my TV (a 28" Sony Trinitron widescreen), Type C means that the top or bottom of the screen is cut off slightly, even if you shift the screen up or down a bit with the provided options. Perhaps it will be slightly different on other peoples setups, but on mine it's pretty horrible, so I just leave it on Type A. Because I don't stretch out the picture on 4:3 games when played on my widescreen (unlike the vast majority of people I speak to), I end up with borders on the left and right of the screen anyway, so I don't notice a extra few pixels on the sides. For me this is the best option, even if it does mean the sprites are a bit smaller... my TV is a reasonable size though so it doesn't bother me too much - again, it all depends on your setup and preference, so not everyone will agree that Type A is the best option.


As for the filtering, this is another thing that not many people will agree on. I will say one thing - if you do decide to use one of the screen types that stretch the screen, without filtering the sprites do look a bit yucky. They don't look anywhere near as bad as the sprites in the KOF 2002/SVC PS2 ports when you stretch the screen out with a similar option, but it still isn't the prettiest thing to see. I actually prefer the filter turned on anyway - it stops you from noticing the flicker from the interlaced display, and to be honest I don't find it overbearing like the filtering on some other games, so I think the "soft" display mode is better than "normal". As with the screen types though, it's something you have to look at yourself and decide which you like best!


In Game

Once you are happy with your visual settings etc, it's time to head into the game of course. If there is one area that can ruin a good port to a CD/DVD based system, it is the amount of time you have to wait for it to load. In this game, you will instantly notice that the loading times are very good - in fact between screens there is only a gap of a split second or two. Considering the amount of time that I have invested into the MVS cart of this game, speedy loading in-between scenes is of vast importance to me, and I have absolutely NO complaints in that department. Also, if you happen to use the unofficial HD Loader add on that let's you install a hard-drive in your console, you'll be pleased to know that like most SNK games, Mark Of The Wolves works great on it! Once it's on your HD, the load times are cut down ever so slightly - it would be more noticeable though if the game wasn't fast enough already! I'll give you a hint about using it on the HD: use mode 3 to get it working! :)


After spending a good few hours with this port, I haven't noticed any real difference in the gameplay, which seems to be spot on. Everything plays as it should, and aside from the issue with the different screen modes/filtering, it all looks identical to the original. It's also worth noting that Grant and Kain (the bosses) are available right from the start in both story and vs mode, so there is no need to enable them in any way.


There are no added effects like transparency that I have seen, and to be honest I'm glad about this as the game already looks perfect in my eyes. Also, as I mentioned earlier, none of the character portraits etc have been redone in hi-res like SNKP tend to do in all their ports... everything looks the same! As far as the sound goes, once again everything is top notch. I've had no problems whatsoever with out of sync sound like in the Dreamcast version, and it sure as hell doesn't sound like the game is hammering your consoles laser like it did in that port. All the sound effects are there, so overall it's perfect.


The one area that could be a problem, is the same one that almost every port suffers from: controls! There isn't a single control pad out there that is as good to use in this type of game as a proper arcade stick, and if you are as used to the Neo Geo version as I am, you'll definitely not be able to survive using the standard Dual Shock controller. However, with the release of the Neo Geo classic stick for the PS2, we are now covered in this respect.This game is also (at the time of writing) available in a limited edition pack that contains a special blood red edition of that controller!


Neo Geo PS22 Stick MOTW Version:

To tell the truth I have barely bothered to use the PS2 pad for this game, because naturally when I first booted it up I plugged in my Neo stick immediately. I already have the standard black version of this controller, so I only have the normal edition of the game and not the limited edition, but if you don't have this stick yet, this is a good way to get it, and the red colour looks pretty cool! Anyway, using the Neo Geo controller will give you an experience closer to the real thing, sp it is the preferred way to play it... I have also played the game for a while using my Hori Soul Calbur stick, and it works well on that too.


Overall

Overall, this is a very good port, and as as close as you could hope for really. The only disappointments are the lack of any real meaningful extras (the gallery mode is a bit limited) and the fact that if you live outside of Japan, you won't get to play it online. It's highly doubtful that Sony of America will allow SNK to release the game as a standalone in the US either, so the chances of a PS2 port being released there is quite slim (although us Euro people might get one). If you are in the states, you'll have to hope for an Xbox version... and hopefully there will be one, even if it might be quite a wait to get it. The thought of this game online is a very appealing one, so hopefully it does happen.


Basically, if you are a total purist then you probably shouldn't be bothering to read this review as you should already own the MVS or AES cart of the game and won't want/need this port. For anyone else, this game is well worth buying, especially if for some bizarre reason you have never played the game before (if not then where have you been?). If you do have the cart already however, there isn't much in the way of new stuff to make you run out and buy this, but either way it is still nice to finally have a PS2 version of this great game!


Outside Links:
Related Reviews:
Reviews @ Neo-Geo.com

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