Maybe it’s something in the water, or maybe it’s because most of its residents would rather gulp back a beer to hydrate themselves, but there’s something awfully fighty about Osaka. A bawdy counterpoint to the dignity traditionally associated with the city of Kyoto, it’s no wonder that while Nintendo was pursuing delicate refinement in its craft through the 90s, further south things were a little scrappier. Think of the fighting game in its absolute pomp and you think of Capcom and SNK, two companies once locked in both fierce rivalry and jolly camaraderie, sparring then embracing one another like two friends tipping over themselves through the course of a booze-soaked evening.
Capcom’s 90s output you’ll know, of course, from Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Marvel Super Heroes and more, while SNK’s work of the era is likely just as familiar: evocative greats such as Fatal Fury, The King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown among others. Yet while Capcom has intermittently carried on fighting its corner with some relative success, SNK’s star has waned, its output slowing to almost naught in recent years.
More’s the pity, as I’ve always had a soft spot for SNK. Maybe it’s something to do with how exotic these games once seemed: almost every 12-year-old had a SNES with Street Fighter, yet it was only the chosen few who had borne witness to a Neo Geo, let alone had the means to carry home one of its adorably oversized AES cartridges. These were the game boxes always carried out of reach in local game stores, behind the counter and perched high on a shelf, complete with glorious artwork and eye-watering price tag.