I’ve always been a fan of the King of Fighters series, it may not have the flashiest graphics or the best sound or even a great story but it has a gameplay style that requires a lot of finesse and will have you playing it for a long time. With the move to 3D it’s almost the exact same scenario, the graphics don’t hold a candle to the likes of Tekken and Soul Calibur, the music has been done better elsewhere, the story mode is just as vanilla as 2D versions, and the gameplay while having the same style, is given a few new tweaks that make it feel like KOF but not KOF.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the fancy 3D graphics. Actually they aren’t that fancy, they look good, but we’ve seen them done better before. The characters themselves make a pretty good transition to 3D. What I found most impressive was how well a lot of the characters made the transition. K` looks fantastic in 3D and is animated superbly. The same can be said for almost every character, all of their moves, idle animations, and movements look as good in 3D as they do in 2D. However the use of the Renderware engine has been kept to the rudimentary so you’re not going to see any bells and whistles that this engine is known for. You’re better off going to Mortal Kombat if you want a flashy game.
Musically the game has taken a step up from the beeps and boops of the previous iterations. It seems like there was some effort put forth on the musical aspect. Although the voice acting seems to have very little effort. It would have been much better to leave the game in Japanese. If they can do it for SNK Vs Capcom Chaos then they should have been able to do it here. A lot of the acting takes away from the relative seriousness of the fighting and just leaves you laughing as you hear Mai say “Flying Squirrel” as she dives in from the air.
As with all sequels to fighting games this KOF go round introduces five new characters and a new broken boss. I’ll explain all the wonderful things that make him broken later on. Two of the new characters are brothers; Soiree and Alba Meira, both of them have different fighting styles with Soiree’s style being close to capoeira and Alba’s is something odd to describe so you just have to see it to believe it. Replacing the KOF staple of Kim is his student, Chae Lim, just take Kim, replace with female character and you’re set. Mingnon Beart fills a role close to that of Athena, she’s a female magician, and a bit of a ditz, typical magical girl stuff. Lien Neville, a new female character that does assassination work for the boss man, Duke.
Duke is the evil boss of the game, no real reason behind it, he’s just there, or rather he’s apparently the boss of Mephistopheles, the company sponsoring the KOF tournament. He’ll be the last character you’ll face and I haven’t been this frustrated with a boss fight since any of the Dead Or Alive bosses. He’s so ridiculously cheap and annoying to fight that I would turn the game off in frustration. While fighting him he has an infinite stock of super moves, one of which you can’t knock him out of. So if he hits you with it, which is very common if you’re in the middle of a combo, you’re losing half your life right there. He also likes to do it in succession so just be cautious when fighting him. He also has a very bad habit of backing you in to a corner with a number of juggles and ground attacks. But on the plus side he’s also very stupid. Case in point, I managed to beat him with Mai using just the “Flying Squirrel” special attack.
Gameplay is very much like the previous KOF games except now there is a sidestep button moving the character from side to side in addition to rolling toward and away from your opponent. Team battles have been done away with in exchange from one on one play, also sadly missing from the game is the striker system which helped to add a little bit of a strategy to the fights. Instead you’re left trying to keep your opponent on the ground or in the air so that way they cannot get an attack off.
Some of the combo attacks have also been dumbed down quite a bit. Mai for example is able to execute a combo using the hard punch button three times and this does a three hit combo using the “Deadly Ninja Bees” special move, no command needed. This makes the game a lot more accessible to new people, but at the same time it takes away from the spontaneity of battle and will make for some predictable match ups. Combos are also painfully short, most never lasting more than three to four hits and then ending them with a super move of sorts. What boggles the mind is how some level one super moves are more powerful than the level two super move. Chalk up another point to the lack of balance present in the game.
Upon completing the game you get a nice cut scene/story bit and unlock a rigging model of the character you just beat the game with, along with a profile with the character’s back-story. A lack of unlockable characters also helps keep the replay value at an all time low.
In summation, if you’re a faithful fan of the KOF series then this is a game worth checking out. If you’re fiending for a 3D fighter and you’re sick of Kombat then give this game a rental. In fact if you were thinking of picking up this game be sure to give it a rental first. It’s not a bad game per se, but it’s just got a lot of nagging issues that make it almost a chore to play.
Unless you are a fan of the series or a die hard fighting fanatic, you'll want to pass on this game.