The History and Enduring Legacy of Terry Bogard
Throughout the history of fighting games, there are a small handful of characters that have stood the test of time and ultimately become iconic. Characters like Ryu, Chun-Li, Scorpion, and Sol Badguy, just to name a few. But nobody has had the longevity of Fatal Fuy’s Terry Bogard, who has appeared in over 80 games since 1991. Along with some of the SNK developers who helped create him, this is a look at the history, evolution, and legacy of one of the most influential – yet occasionally overlooked – fighting game legends.
I. The Look
Let’s start with Terry’s iconic look, introduced in Fatal Fury in 1991. His casual street outfit was derived from one very simple core design concept: According to Fatal Fury’s Senior Artist Yoichiro Soeda, Terry was made to look like someone who didn’t seem like a professional fighter.
And this makes sense, especially when you consider the other two playable characters in Fatal Fury. You have Andy Bogard, who wears a traditional martial arts gi and fights with traditional Japanese Koppou-ken, and then there’s Joe, who fights in the traditional Muay Thai stance and just looks like someone who could kick your head off.
Terry on the other hand has this every-man kind of appeal, with his jeans, red cap, and iconic red jacket. And while there have been some changes to Terry’s look over the years in games like Garou Mark of the Wolves, Terry eventually always finds his way back to the look that made him a star in the first place.
The vast majority of Terry’s appearances in video games have been in 2D form, but he’s made the jump to 3D several times as well, and it wasn’t an easy transition. According to Yasuyuki Oda, lead producer on the King of Fighters series, “A lot of thought and effort went into bringing and maintaining the essence of previously 2D-only characters into this new 3D plane. It was really difficult to get these characters to look and feel the same as when they’re on a 2D plane, even with the use of dynamic camera work.”
While many may believe that Terry’s first jump to 3D was in 2004’s King of Fighters Maximum Impact, he and the rest of the Fatal Fury crew actually made the leap five years earlier with Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition in 1999. Wild Ambition not only gave us our first taste of Fatal Fury’s gameplay in 3D, but it also provides really the only cinematic look at Terry Bogard’s backstory, which sees his adoptive father, Jeff Bogard, murdered in the street by series villain Geese Howard.
The move to 3D proved to be rather difficult, and after the two Maximum Impact games, Terry wouldn’t return to 3D until 2016’s King of Fighters 14.
“Having each character fight within MAXIMUM IMPACT’s style of gameplay with their own list of character-specific combos and skills, while also not losing what makes a character “feel right” in regards to how they played in previous titles, proved especially challenging,” said Oda-san. “In the case of KOF XIV, we had to start hiring and create a team of developers before development could even begin. Starting from scratch and getting the ball rolling was pretty challenging, but we managed to make it work in the end.”
With the upcoming King of Fighters 15, the team at SNK is continuing to iterate on their 3D engine, continuing the work not just from King of Fighters 14, but also Samurai Shodown, which also managed to take a beloved 2D fighting franchise and bring it into the world of 3D models fighting on a 2D plane.
II. The Fighting
Deep fighting mechanics were not a major focus of Fatal Fury back in 1991, and Soeda admits that most of development energy went into making the moves look cool. But even still, Fatal Fury provided the foundation of Terry’s movelist that would be iterated upon for years to come. He had his power wave, a simple projectile that would move across the floor; Burning Knuckle, a dash punch that he could use to close the distance quickly; Rising tackle: an anti-air screw kick; and Crack Shoot, a flipping kick that also could be used to close the distance quickly.
These four moves would follow Terry throughout his Fatal Fury journey, but he ended up getting a number of additional iconic moves as the year went on, each one aimed at addressing something in Terry’s move set.
Fatal Fury 2 gave each character a super move known as a Desperation Move, which was where Terry got his trademark Power Geyser, which was planned to be a stronger version of his Power Wave special move. In the second King of Fighters game, King of Fighters 95, Terry was given the basketball inspired Power Dunk, which according to Yasuyuki Oda, lead producer on the King of Fighters series, was meant to further aid Terry with his mobility options in ways that the Rising Tackle failed to do so.
Terry would also gain the Power Charge in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2, which sent him forward with a shoulder charge, and eventually, forward moving special moves came to define Terry’s rushdown style, which created a bit of a challenge in being able to distinguish the unique uses between all of them. Since Burning Knuckle, Crack Shoot, and Power Charge largely accomplished the same goal of moving Terry closer to his opponent quickly, nuance was added to each move to give them their own unique uses: For example: Crack Shoot can catch airborne opponents, pop them up for a rising tackle, and in some games, it also hit as an overhead and could not be blocked low; Power charge meanwhile would be given wall bounce properties and enable combos to continue; while burning knuckle remained a mainstay of Terry’s pressure game, going the furthest of all his special moves, even allowing him in certain games to punctuate a combo from nearly a full screen away.
Since Burning Knuckle, Crack Shoot, and Power Charge largely accomplished the same goal of moving Terry closer to his opponent quickly, nuance was added to both moves to give them their own unique uses.
Then there’s the Buster Wolf, which was added to Terry’s arsenal in Garou Mark of the Wolves, but ultimately wound up, even according to Oda-san, as Terry’s most quintessential move. If Power Geyser was added as a powered-up super move version of Power Wave, then Buster Wolf was meant to be a powered-up super move version of Burning Knuckle. But what truly made the move so iconic is Terry’s semi-nonsensical English dialogue when he delivers the move.
“Are you okay?! BUSTER WOLF”
As for why he says it? According to Yasuyuki Oda, Lead Producer on the King of Fighters series, “During those times, we didn’t have standardized localization practices, and so the way some words were used was kind of odd. As for how the phrase came to be, the story is that when I was at Universal Studios Hollywood, some kid asked me those fated words as I was getting off Jurassic Park: The Ride, completely soaking wet.”
These aren’t all of Terry’s moves over the years, but they certainly are the ones that helped define his character the most, and of course all of them also followed him into one of his most famous cameos: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, which was a crossover that SNK was approached about as opposed to it being the other way around.
There are not many characters in video games with as storied of a legacy as Terry Bogard. To just recap what we said at the top for emphasis, this man has been in 80 games since 1991. That is absolutely wild. I asked Oda-san to give his perspective on why he thinks Terry is such an enduring and popular character even 30 years later, and he said:
“I think his overall friendly-American-hero type design allows him to be easily distinguishable across the world. Additionally, he’s comprised of the main colors red, blue, yellow, and white–which are often-times regarded as colors used for super heroes and mecha protagonists in Japan. These are some of the reasons why I think he’s so popular.”
Soeda-san meanwhile believes that Terry’s charm comes from his explosive and powerful fighting style is juxtaposed with his stylish design.
“I like how, as a character, he’s someone who can be both happy-go-lucky and like a down to earth neighbor–which makes him feel like an actual person.”
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