Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior (known in Japan as ART OF FIGHTING: Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden, with the sub-title loosely translated to "Fist of the Dragon and Tiger Side Story") is a 2D fighting game developed and released by SNK for arcades (using 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 revamps the game engine used in the previous two installments, focusing on smoother animation and gameplay mechanics reminiscent of 3D fighting games at the time (including "Rush Attack" command combos, launcher attacks, and on-the-ground "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 is set after the events of Art of Fighting 2 and follows martial artist Robert Garcia, who encounters an old childhood friend (Freia Lawrence) and accompanies her to the mansion of her friend Wyler with data regarding a mysterious drug. As they make their way around the fictional Mexican town of Glasshill Valley, they encounter various martial artists searching for their whereabouts (including Robert's friend/rival Ryo Sakazaki) as well as other oddball characters (including those searching for Ryo instead).
The game was later ported to the Neo Geo CD on June 14, 1996, released in Japan only, and was included in the PS2 compilation Art of Fighting Anthology. There were two digital re-releases of the game, one for the Wii (as a Virtual Console title) in 2011-2013 and one for numerous platforms (as part of HAMSTER's Arcade Archives series) in November 2, 2017 (for the Switch), July 26, 2018 (for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), May 17, 2019 (for the PC), and June 23, 2022 (for iOS and Android devices).
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 gain a damage buff.
The game includes ten playable characters and two boss characters, with only two fighters returning from previous installments (main protagonists Robert and Ryo). The boss characters were originally time-locked in the arcade version, but can be accessed with cheat codes in all versions.
- Robert Garcia - One of the series' main protagonists and the game's main protagonist. A practitioner of the Kyoukugenryu form of karate (with the nickname "Raging Tiger"), Robert leaves Southtown without a trace to accompany his childhood friend Freia Lawrence to Glasshill Valley to visit her friend Wyler. He is the final boss for both Karman and Wyler.
- Ryo Sakazaki - One of the series' main protagonists and the game's deuteragonist. A fellow practitioner of the Kyokugenryu form of karate (with the nickname "Invincible Dragon"), Ryo is sent by Robert's family to investigate his whereabouts. He is accompanied by his sister, Yuri Sakazaki. He is the final boss for both Kasumi and Jin.
- Kasumi Todoh - A teenage Japanese martial arts student who uses an Aikido-style martial art developed by her father, Ryuhaku Todoh. When her father was defeated by Ryo in the first game and went missing, she tracks Ryo to Glasshill Valley in order to seek vengeance. She is the only addition to the cast to later appear as a regular fighter in The King of Fighters series.
- Jin Fu-Ha - A Japanese ninja who seeks revenge after his former master Eiji Kisaragi for betrayal. As Eiji was defeated by Ryo in the previous game, he tracks Ryo to Glasshill Valley in order to challenge him and test his abilities. His style of ninjutsu is unorthodox due to his brute physical physique.
- Rody Birts - One half of a pair of American bounty hunters hired by Wyler to track down Freia. He uses a pair of tonfas in combat.
- Lenny Creston - The other half of a pair of American bounty hunters hired by Wyler to track down Freia. She uses a whip in combat.
- Karman Cole - A German agent of the Garcia Foundation, sent by Robert's family to investigate his whereabouts.
- Wang Koh San - An eccentric Chinese artist accompanied by his pet pelican Hoeh-Hoeh. He serves as the game's comic relief character, able to perform traditional martial arts with a chubby physique. He is known in the Korean version as Park.
- Sinclair - Wyler's scimitar-wielding bodyguard. Along with her elite and flashy swordsmanship, she also conjure up magical copies of her sword in certain attacks. She is the game's sub-boss.
- Wyler - A megalomaniac who seeks to perfect a powerful elixir developed by both his father and Freia's father. Consuming the drug before his fight, he transforms into a hulkish figure. He is the game's final boss for most characters.