Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (known in Japan as ART OF FIGHTING: Ryuuko No Ken Gaiden, the latter translated to "Fist of the Dragon and Tiger Side Story") is a 2D fighting game developed and released by SNK for arcades (using the Neo Geo MVS hardware) on March 11, 1996 and the Neo Geo AES on April 26, 1996.
The third and final installment of the Art of Fighting trilogy, Art of Fighting 3 uses a new game engine with smoother animation, cleaner sprites, and less rigid gameplay mechanics (including an automatically recovering Spirit Gauge and special "command move" combos known as "Rush Attacks"). Strong Attacks are now performed in its own dedicated button (which is also used for throwing and parrying) and players can now choose to remain on the ground when knocked down to quicker recharge their Spirit Gauge (at the cost of being vulnerable to special "Pursuit Attacks"). This game is sometimes compared to Street Fighter III: New Generation (released a year later) for use of a brand new character roster (with the exception of the series's main protagonists), the concept of parrying, and a new sprite style with smoother animation.
The main story (set after the events of Art of Fighting 2) follows martial artist Robert Garcia, who meets an old childhood friend (Freia Lawrence) and accompanies her to the mansion of scientist Wyler (with data regarding a mysterious drug) in fictional Glasshill Valley, Mexico. Along the way, he encounters a variety of fighters searching for both Robert (Garcia Foundation agent Karman Cole and Robert's friend/rival Ryo Sakazaki) and Freia (private detectives Lenny Creston and Rody Birts). He also encounters a few oddball characters, including Kasumi Todoh (daughter of Ryuhaku Todoh seeking revenge against Ryo), Jin Fu-Ha (former disciple of Eiji Kisaragi who seeks to test his might on Ryo), Wang Koh San (an artist seeking both inspiration and the drug Wyler is developing), and the mysterious Sinclair.
The game was later ported to the Neo Geo CD (on June 14, 1996 in Japan only), was later released in the Art of Fighting Anthology compilation for the PlayStation 2, and was digitally re-released for the Wii (via Wii Virtual Console) on June 13, 2013.
The mechanics in this game are similar to previous Art of Fighting games. The first two buttons are Punch and Kick, which can be combined with joystick presses to form special "command moves", known as Rush Attacks, each with varying strength and utility. However, Strong Punch and Strong Kick attacks are no longer performed by holding the button down. This is now performed with the third button, the Strong Attack button (which is also used for throwing, parrying, and charging up the Spirit Gauge while on the ground). The fourth button is used for taunting, which depletes the enemy's Spirit Gauge. The player can dash forwards and backwards by tapping the joystick in either direction twice. The player can also attack downed opponents through the "pursuit" command move (Down+Forward and either Punch or Kick)
Spirit Gauges & Desperation Moves
Like the previous Art of Fighting games, this game includes the concept of the "Spirit Gauge", which determines the effectiveness of special moves. The gauge lowers after the player performs a Special Move or a Desperation Move. It also depletes when the opponent performs a taunt. The gauge can be recharged by holding down any attack button. Unlike the previous games, the gauge slowly recharges automatically (and can charge faster by remaining downed after being knocked down using the Special Attack button).
Unlike the previous games, the main single-player game no longer has bonus stages and the player's Spirit Gauge (as well as the Life Gauge) length are always equal to their opponent's. Players no longer need to learn the powerful Desperation Moves in bonus stages in order to execute them. These moves can still be executed in the game when the character is "raged" (at 20% life or less, shown when the character itself is flashing red). When players finish an opponent with a Desperation Move and that opponent has 10% life or less, it counts as an "Ultimate KO". An Ultimate KO leads to the win of the entire match, even if performed on the first round.
One unique thing about this game is the "Special Day" system. Exclusive to the arcade version (with a working internal calendar system), each character has their own unique birthday. When playing the game on that day, that character will always be "raged", even above 20% life.
The game includes ten playable characters, two of which are time-locked in the arcade version (and can also be playable with a cheat code). Only two fighters from the roster return from previous installments (Robert and Ryo).