SNK’s King of Fighters series has had gamers plunk quarters in arcades for around ten years now. As the main arcade competitor to Street Fighter in Japan, KOF has a sizable fan base. Even after all of these years of sprite based battling there hasn’t ever been a 3D King of Fighters game. With so many other 3D fighters out there such as Virtual Fighter 4 Evolution, Soul Calibur 2, Tekken 4 and even Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance can a 3D King of Fighters stand out on its own? With the game’s blazing speed and excellent transition from 2D to 3D KOF stands out.
If you’ve ever played a KOF game before you’ll feel right at home with the controls and the move lists. You control your character with the D-pad. Instead of making up and down sidestepping buttons they’re used to control jumping and ducking. All characters have basic punch and kick attacks that are mapped out on the X, triangle, circle and square buttons. If you remember any of the moves from KOF 00-02 you should already know how to control SNK’s classic characters like Terry Bogard, Kyo Kusangai, Athena Asamiya, Mai Shiranui, and Ryo Sakazaki. The main difference in the game is that it is in sort of 3D. Sure all of the characters are polygon rendered, but the gameplay is essentially the same as the 2D fighters, sans the sidestep move. A well executed sidestep will allow you to dodge some attacks. However, most attacks have a wide enough radius that you’ll actually get hit by a projectile even though you’re sidestepping.
Being pseudo 3D isn’t a bad thing. King of Fighter: Maximum Impact is the only fighting game that I can think of that allows players to do air juggles and ridiculous combos akin to the Capcom vs. SNK series. Iori has a combo that throws an enemy up in the air, kicks them mid air a few times and then throws a giant purple burst of energy when he lands for a final hit. Some pretty cool stuff that isn’t around in other 3D fighting games. KOF: Maximum impact puts an emphasis on action when battling it out. All characters have a guard meter, after blocking so many attacks their guard will break and they will be unable to block for a critical three seconds. Having a system like this favors aggressive players and to some extent button mashing. New players can easily bring down an opponents guard meter to zero by doing simple, easily abused chain combos. It may level the playing field a little bit between new players and moderate ones, but advanced players can do counter moves or sidestep attacks.
Perhaps, a fighting game’s roster is it’s greatest asset. King of Fighters: Maximum Impact has a good roster size of 19 characters, with six of them being brand new. Chae Lim brings something new to the scene with her Tae Kwon Do skills. Like her martial arts style she focuses on relentless long range kicks. Lien Neville, a female assassin, has a similar play style and character background as Tekken’s Nina Williams. Two other newcomers to the series are the Alba and Soriee Meira have plenty of show off moves like a ranged flip kick and a capoeria styled drop kick in the face. You can practice with the new characters in the game’s story mode that has you fight through tournaments to become, well the King of Fighters. Once you stomp through that mode, you can go on to play the missions of the challenge mode. The challenge mode features missions that limit what you can do. In one of the missions you can’t block and in another you can’t do any special moves. Advanced players may get a kick out of these challenges, but there isn’t any single player mode deeper than this. Even though fighting game’s true strength lies in its versus mode, you don’t always have people around to play with. As the genre has evolved so have deeper single player modes seen best in Soul Calibur 2 and Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution.
For many gamers, especially those who have been following the KOF series, will think that KOF: Maximum Impact has evolved graphically. Yes, the transition into 3D was a smooth one. You have some decent looking 3D models doing the traditional SNK stage introductions. Each character has two completely different costumes, which is another nice addition. You also have a good amount of shadow trails when characters perform dodge rolls or super moves. Even with all of these improvements the characters don’t move as fluidly as they do in Soul Calibur 2 or have the same graphical wow look as Tekken 4. Still the graphics are far from horrible, they just seem like they aren’t as good as they could have been. Instead of epic music or jazzy tunes KOF: Maximum Impact’s soundtrack has intense music. You don’t get the feeling that you’re fighting to save the world, you get the feeling that you’re playing to be the best when you hear the soundtrack. Honestly, it mixes well with the intense style of the game.
The addition of an extra dimension makes King of Fighters: Maximum Impact something different from the yearly remakes of the game. SNK zealots will dig this game and fighting fans looking for a 3D alternative from Capcom vs. SNK 2 will also enjoy this game.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
Most of the important menus are in English, except for the move list and mission mode descriptions. After all, KOF: Maximum Impact is a fighting game and you don’t need to understand another language to know how to play.
SNK Playmore has a US release scheduled for October 11, 2004.
+ Pros: More fast paced and action packed than other 3D fighters around.
– Cons: A shallow single player mode with not much to master compared to other fighting games.
Overall: If you’re the type of gamer who is into fighting games, King of Fighters: Maximum Impact is sure to please.
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