Yeah, this is kind of a cheat since South Town is a location and not actually a character. But in a way, it is a character because of how much personality it adds to the games that use it as a backdrop.
South Town is the setting for many of the games in SNK’s Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series’, and even makes occasional appearances in The King of Fighters. It’s an American seaside city that bears resemblance to Miami, Florida, and is the home of another of my favorite characters, Terry Bogard.
Call me crazy, but it looks like it would be a cool place to visit. It’s got beaches, amusement parks, themed restaurants, fighting tournaments, crime lords overtaking it every other week—it’s a happening place!
I think there are two main reasons that South Town strikes me as such a vividly realized locale. First, with it being the backdrop for so many games, it had time to develop and evolve. Areas like Sound Beach, Howard Arena and Dream Amusement Park reappear throughout the Fatal Fury series, and we get to seem them from different angles and at different times. It contributes to making these places feel more “real.”
Second, a lot of fighting games have an international setting, which allows for a big variety of backgrounds all over the world. But when the game was limited to only one city, the developers had to create a lot of variety within that one area to keep things interesting. Additionally, they made the backgrounds very dynamic, filled with animations and with time passing between rounds. As such, South Town became a very detailed and fleshed-out place.
For me, one of the biggest appeals of fighting games is the characters. But I have to admit that, with a few exceptions, the character designs in the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series’ are not the most interesting to me. But really, it’s South Town, itself, that creates so much of the appeal and personality of those games, and makes up for the somewhat bland cast.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I would love to see SNK Playmore make a game with a freely explorable version of South Town. Preferably a River City Ransom-style beat’em-up with the Fatal Fury characters. It would be great to wander around the city and have my own adventures.
So, yeah, South Town isn’t really a character, per se, but it is definitely filled with character. It’s vivid depictions make it memorable, and it’s always fun to revisit it through the various games it’s featured in.