Art of Fighting (龍虎の拳 Ryūko no Ken?, lit. "Fist of Dragon and Tiger") is a video game trilogy in the genre of competitive fighting game titles that were released for the Neo Geo platform in the early 1990s. It was the second fighting game franchise created by SNK, following the Fatal Fury series and is set in the same fictional universe as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series. The original Art of Fighting was released in 1992, followed by two sequels: Art of Fighting 2 (龍虎の拳2 Ryūko no Ken 2?) in 1994 and Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (ART OF FIGHTING 龍虎の拳 外伝 Art of Fighting: Ryūko no Ken Gaiden?) in 1996.
The Art of Fighting series follows the conventions of the time in the sense that the player faces a variety of opponents in best two-out-of-three matches. Each of the game's characters have a unique fighting style and set of special techniques. The player has two basic attacks—punch and kick—as well as a utility button that switches between punches, kicks, and throws. A fourth button is used for taunting. Art of Fighting's contribution to the genre was the inclusion of a "spirit gauge" underneath the character's life bar. When characters perform special techniques, their spirit gauge is depleted and their special attacks become weaker. Players can also drain their opponent's spirit gauge by taunting them.
The Art of Fighting series was also the first fighting series to allow players to perform a "super attack." In the original Art of Fighting, the player's character learns a super attack (dubbed the super death blow) by completing one of the game's bonus rounds (this technique is available by default in the 3rd game). All three games also feature "Desperation Attacks" that can only be performed when the player's health is low and the life bar is flashing red.
The series also introduced graphical scaling into the genre: as the characters move away from each other, the camera will zoom out to keep both players on the screen. In previous fighting titles, the left and right sides of the screen acted as invisible boundaries; characters could only move as far from one another as the width of the screen permitted. Scaling allowed for a broader range of movement; the only boundaries in Art of Fighting are the edges of the stage. Character sprites in Art of Fighting change as the fight progresses to become more bruised and cut as damage is taken.
The games follow the struggles of the students of the Kyokugen Karate Dojo, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, in what appears to be the late 1970s. Ryo is the son of the Kyokugen Karate discipline's creator, Takuma Sakazaki, and Robert is the wayward son of a billionaire family from Italy. The initial two titles are set in South Town, a common location in SNK games that is also the setting for the Fatal Fury series, while the third appears to take place in a fictitious area of Mexico.
In the first game, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia set out to find Ryo's sister, Yuri, who has been kidnapped by Mr. Big. Mr. Big has taken the girl to entice Takuma Sakazaki, Ryo's father and originator of the fictional form of karate known as Kyokugen Karate ("Extreme style"), and because Ryo refused to work for Big. After they defeat Mr. Big, Ryo and Robert face the enigmatic Mr. Karate. Art of Fighting's story ends with a cliff-hanger; Yuri is about to disclose the true identity of Mr. Karate as their father Takuma.
Only Ryo and Robert are playable in the 1-player story mode although eight of the characters are playable in the 2-player vs. modes. Mr. Big and Mr. Karate can be played in the arcade version by reaching the final stage of the game then having a second player join in, and on the console versions via the use of cheat codes.
Art of Fighting's events are referenced often in the wider SNK universe; The King of Fighters '97, for instance, parodies the events of the game in its ending.