TBT – Garou: Mark of the Wolves

Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a 2D fighting game based on the King of Fighters/Fatal Fury series and is developed by SNK. Garou rejects the 3v3 aspect of traditional KOF titles, choosing instead to focus on more intimate one on one best of three matches. This makes matches feel faster and simpler, without dumbing the gameplay down.

Mark of the Wolves plot is very reminiscent of its 90’s roots: Mysterious guy hosts fighting tournament and various individuals compete for differing reasons. There is little story in Garou, with a small cutscene happening after every few fights and an ending being played (though this will not be the “true” ending unless you are able to meet certain criteria).

Image found on PlayStation Store’s Garou: Mark of the Wolves page.

Garou is a four-button fighter, consisting of light and heavy punches and kicks. Each of the 14 characters (12 normal and 2 boss) have access to a variety of special and super moves. Stringing normal and special moves together is difficult, but in a way that makes learning a character challenging rather than frustrating. Given enough practice, players will learn their character’s bread and butters, and learn their intricacies.

Garou also introduces two new systems: Tactical Offense Position (T.O.P.) and Just defends. T.O.P. is a section of the health bar chosen before a fight, that determines when players will receive a buff to their damage, gain access to a new T.O.P. move, and regenerate health. Players can choose from gaining this ability at the start of a round, after they have lost roughly 33% of their total life bar, or when they are on their last legs. All attributes remain the same regardless of which portion you choose to imbue with T.O.P., making the choice align more with playstyle of defensive vs. offensive fighting rather than choosing different buffs and durations. Just defends are blocks done as soon as an attack would land, similar to parrying. Just defending allows the defender to punish their attacker, and gain some slight health back.

Each fighter in Mark of the Wolves stands out. Whether they be a professional wrestler, or a pirate queen. Character designs and idle animations are one of the many ways Garou leaves an impression with its art style. SNK captures the tone of each fighter, from the brooding to the bubbly. Each stage is bright and vibrant, often changing each round. A train may be hurdling towards some unknown destination during round one, only to reach a stop during round 2, and enter a tunnel during round 3. These background shifts give players something new to look at, and the detailed sprite work only adds to the spectacle.

Image captured by Braulio Ortiz via Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, the game is a product of its time. Garou only offers a few modes: Arcade, Versus, Survival, Practice, and Online. Versus is only for player vs player, meaning offline CPU fights can only be accomplished in Arcade and Survival mode. During my time with the game, I’ve never been able to find an opponent online, and the training mode while allowing various options to train under, lacks a mission mode to show dedicated combos meaning that players will have to learn them as they find them through experimentation.

Garou: Mark of the Wolves is a fun fighting game that boasts excellent gameplay and presentation. However, it’s lack of modes and online community make it difficult for those who do not love the game to get into it. If you’re looking for a throwback 90s fighter to play by yourself or with friends locally, this SNK gem is for you, however if you don’t fit that criteria, you’d best look elsewhere. If you’re curious to see how Garou works, click here to see us play through a few rounds on Nintendo Switch.

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