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PS2 Review - 'KOF: Maximum Impact'

by Hank on Nov. 5, 2004 @ 2:40 a.m. PST

The annual King of Fighters tournament is set to begin in one week. As the gala festivities begin, turf wars are breaking out among the underworld street gangs. The conflict is so severe that it threatens to drag the participants of the KOF tournament into the fray. The honor and tradition of the tournament is at stake. The gangs must be stopped at all costs.

Genre: Action/Fighting
Publisher: SNK
Developer: SNK
Release Date: October 12, 2004

Buy 'KOF: Maximum Impact': PlayStation 2

At one point in time, fighting games were quite rare, but that changed with the introduction of the instantly popular Street Fighter, one of – if not the first arcade fighting game – available stateside. One company which joined this boom was SNK, who introduced to the market fighting games such as Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters, and now they are finally available for our next-generation consoles.

SNK was the first to bring out a superior console in every way, but the Neo Geo was quite expensive, costing $600 for the unit alone and $200 per game. The graphics were amazingly similar to the arcade machines', but due to the high pricetag, it wasn't as big a hit as the other consoles, eventually forcing SNK to ditch the console market – like Sega – and make games. Unlike Sega, SNK has had a tough time being bought out by another company. After years of seeing no releases, SNK finally made available to the public their popularly acclaimed fighters (currently only available on the PS2), the most recent of which is King of Fighters: Maximum Impact.

There are several things you will notice with this game, the first being that the case is massive. The packaging for the game seems more like a DVD box set rather than typical PS2 packaging, and the retail version also comes with a bonus DVD which contains a "behind-the-scenes" look at KOF. The box art is completely black, with the front consisting of one of the characters with a devil wing tattoo, on the side, Mai Shiranui in 3D, and lastly, on the back is the game description itself. Did you notice how I snuck that in there? Yes, you read it correctly the game is no longer in its 2D form but is now completely in 3D. Dead or Alive, beware. We have a new contender in the house.

Because of this new jump into 3D territory, KOF:MI is now taking on big fighters such as DOA, Street Fighter EX, Virtua Fighter, Bloody Roar, et.c Let's see how this game fares in comparison.

In order to appease the original fans during the transformation from 2D to 3D, the heart of the game must still play the same, like keeping the same move sets and adding in a few new extras here and there. If you are a KOF fan, you will notice that they have kept true to the original; the original was fun, but this is intense.

You will notice that the speed of the game has been greatly increased, probably due to the 3D system, which seems to flow a lot smoother than the 2D games, making it a lot easier for new players to pick up and play. However, it still requires a good handful of skills to be able to beat the AI with ease.

There are a total of four modes in which you can improve your skills: story, versus, challenge, and practice. If this is your first time playing, I would strongly suggest going into practice mode and brushing up your skills by studying the character move lists. Each character has such a wide assortment of moves that button-mashing doesn't really help as it would in some other games. KOF:MI really requires you to understand the system; you must learn to combo your attacks because if you leave an opening, the tables can be turned, ending in your crushing defeat. There are a total of five different move sets: B.Slam (throw moves), S.Move (special moves), D.Move(deadly moves), D.Thrashing (supers), and lastly, Stylish Move. Try out each one, and you may even find the set of moves you will love to abuse.

Once you get the grasp of these moves, you can head on over to either challenge or story mode. In story mode, you choose one out of the 20 characters available to fight for the title of supreme fighter in "The King of Fighters" competition. All I have to say is that Duke is a cheat, with an infinite power gauge that the AI abuses like mad. To get to him, you must fight a sequential set of randomly chosen fighters at their respective stages. After beating your current opponent with this guy who clearly needs a "Queer Eye" makeover (the green suit is just so wrong in so many ways), you are told who your next opponent is.

Challenge mode, in which you are given missions to complete, is the other mode you will be playing a lot. If you have played Guilty Gear, it's quite similar, requiring you to beat the opponent under certain conditions, like using a four-hit combo, hit the opponents 10 times, or just some other limitations, like no power gauge, and you start with half of your health. After completing a mission, it usually will unlock new outfits for that character so if you want to unlock them all, try to beat the game on all four levels. Each level has about 10 missions, and it gets progressively harder on later levels. Even if you don't manage to win these, you can always admire the in-game graphics.

The graphics in the game look really nice, and the backgrounds are pretty detailed. I would have to say the background graphics are on par with a title like VF4. Perhaps the most improved detail is the fact that the character models are now in 3D; they look so realistic that I begin to wonder if they are really computer-generated. What shows this best is the opening trailer, especially the "frigid femme fatale assassin" scene.

Audio in the game is all right but certainly not great. Even though I love the soundtrack, the voiceovers are horrid because they do not match the characters' original voices and images. I personally hate this because I always feel that a game is best enjoyed in its original language unless you can match the voices, which not many have been able to do. What makes up for this is the superb audio track, matching the atmosphere and letting me forget that this game is indeed dubbed. I really hope that SNK keeps the Japanese language in the next installment.

Personally, I say that KOF:MI gives other 3D fighters a run for their money. It may not be the next DOA, but with an improved system and great audio, I found this to be a lot of fun. The only issues I have with the title is that you cannot skip through the intro sequences or the taunts and the fact that the game won't allow you to use the analog stick.

Overall, this game is pretty solid; with the change from 2D to 3D, it still plays as solid as the previous installments. It certainly requires some skill and patience, but once you get the hang of it, you will appreciate the game so much more. There are a total of 19 characters to choose from at the outset, each with his or her own attack style. Mastering each character will take some time, but that just adds to the game's replay value. Nothing can be more satisfying than beating the socks off of a friend so I strongly suggest picking up this one.

Score: 8.0/10


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