Developer: Noise Factory
Release Date: June 7, 2005
Buy 'KING OF FIGHTERS: Maximum Impact - Maniax': Xbox
The SNK classic series The King of Fighters has returned, this time with an all new flair! That’s right, the classic 2D franchise has resurfaced as a sharp-looking fighting game for the Xbox and PS2, this time in glorious 3D, with many more options available for the fighting fan. Veterans will be pleased to discover that 14 of the classic fighters from the originals have made the leap to 3D, as well as 5 brand new warriors. As with the originals, KOF is an enthralling fighting classic, which boasts a unique combat system, as well as multiple modes of play including story, versus, challenge, and practice. So, just how well does the game expand on the classic concepts, and does it really hold true to the series? Here we go…
Let’s start with a little history. For those of you not familiar with the King of Fighters series, it is one of the longest running fighting game franchises ever in video game history. That’s certainly quite an accomplishment, one which as kept SNK busy over the years. The series has been quite successful in many Eastern countries, namely Japan, but has never really seemed to catch on with gamers in the United States. For this reason, there are still many gamers that are totally in the dark concerning the KOF franchise. So, for those of you who have never even heard the words “King of Fighters” spoken together, here is a quick overview. There have been 9 main KOF games released in the series so far, each continuing on a rich storyline which has continued to grow and expand over the years. There are basically 3 main plots which have been divided among 7 of the KOF games. That’s certainly the product of a lot of work, and definitely explains why many gamers are excited to see the series make the leap to the world of 3D.
The first thing I noticed about this game was that, unlike other fighting games, the controls were actually pretty detailed. The four buttons of the controller are all used for various attacks-2 types of punches and 2 types of kicks. Instead of a lot of fighting games where there is only one type of punch you can perform and one type of kick, KOF really seems to allow more freedom to the player. While I liked the system, this does make some of the moves and combos a little more difficult. However, this could be a good thing to the gamer who likes a good in-depth style of fighting- for instance, the ability to perform a lot of different attacks, rather than just either punching or kicking your opponent. So, I’d have to say SNK did a fairly nice job adjusting the combat system to meet the capabilities of the Xbox.
One of the many features which are very important to all fighting games are the locations in which you are able to fight. Luckily for us, KOF comes with a variety of different arenas to compete in. From a dark and dusty downtown street, to a windy rooftop, to a packed fighting arena, KOF makes sure you will always be in an interesting environment when you meet a new opponent. And what should please the fan of the series even more, are these interesting arenas are now wonderfully detailed in 3D. It’s good to see that SNK has taken a step in the right direction, using the xbox’s graphic capabilities to enhance the areas in which players are able to fight.
This brings us to the story of King of Fighters. As it goes, a city named Southtown lays in ruins as rival gangs are at war all vying for the chance to rule the underworld. Destined to take back the city, you have arranged a meeting with the leader of the strongest gang. However, in order to meet this mysterious leader you must defeat some of the city’s greatest warriors. I know what you’re thinking. A fighting game with a storyline as in-depth as this? Sign me up! Well, let me explain. Along with the traditional one-on-one multiplayer battles and time-trial tasks which are common to many other similar fighting games, King of Fighters actually goes a step further and allows the player to adventure through “story mode” in an attempt to save the city of Southtown. Or so it seems. However, when it really comes down to it, story mode is pretty much a joke. This “main feature” of the game pretty much consists of about 5 different fights (different for each fighter) held together by terrible cut-scenes. What little storyline actually existed before you started playing story mode, seems to vanish, and you are left with what King of Fighters really is- a fighting game. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s quite obvious that you must be a seasoned King of Fighters pro to understand any of the plot, as it is just simply not explained, nor presented in any way to the player. In short, don’t be expecting to get wrapped up in an intricate, detailed storyline to go along with the fighting- there is none.
If the story mode were actually the whole game, we could pretty much conclude that it was fairly lame and that only huge fans of the series should be interested. Luckily for us however, this isn’t the case. There are several other modes of play included with story mode- they include modes such as one-on-one battles, three-on-three battles, and time trail battles. The only thing that saves this game from screaming “MAYDAY” and ejecting out the cockpit seat is the ability to just match 2 of the fighters up, and battle it out.
There is actually one technical error made by SNK that drastically limits the potential of King of Fighters as a good fighting game. And that is the games lack of balance. If you were to create the perfect fighting game, you would want each fighter to have different strengths and weaknesses, but overall keep the fighters balanced. If one fighter were to become stronger than the others, the game would become unbalanced and less of a skill game (resulting in a disappointing fighting game). Unfortunately, this is the case with King of Fighters. Anyone paying attention to the relative strengths of the fighters should be able to notice fairly easy that several of the fighters have extremely unfair advantages. This is because most every fighter relies on their combo attacks- attacks which cause huge amounts of damage to the opponent. However, each fighter has a different set of combos, some which are easier to perform, and easier to repeat on opponents. So essentially, you may be faced against a fighter who can perform a 10 hit combo on you, then begin the same 10 hit combo again once you are still on the ground. Clearly, this fighter would have a huge advantage.
Graphically, this game gets it done. The animations are nice and smooth (a must for any fighting game) and the environments are all pretty nice looking. In addition, I think SNK did a great job representing each one of the original King of Fighters characters in full 3-D…fans of the series should definitely be proud!
When all is said and done, King of Fighters is a pretty solid fighting game. Though it may lack much of a storyline, and seems a little rushed or even corny at times, King of Fighters still manages to come out swinging. If you’re just a casual fighting fan, you’ll probably be ok skipping this title, but if you have been a fan at any point during the series, you’ll definitely want to give this title a look. I’m sure you will agree with me that SNK has been successful in moving their legendary franchise to the world of 3D.