Release Date: Q3 2006
SNK's playing a sort of three-card monte game with their games' titles. The King of Fighters 2006 began its life as the sequel to last year's KOF: Maximum Impact, SNK's slightly underwhelming first entry into the 3D realm. In Japan, KOF2006 is, simply, Maximum Impact 2.
As such, KOF2006 features a slightly larger cast, with MI's boss Duke becoming playable, 14 hidden characters, and the 3D debut of KOF favorites Billy Kane and Kula Diamond.
What does this all mean to you, the casual player? A classic fighting franchise is coming back to 3-D on the PS2, with no online play and no planned Xbox update that contains online play … but with plenty of action. Maximum Impact was a 3D game with a 2D sensibility, combining the energy-spewing special moves of traditional 2D gameplay with the combos, sidestepping, and general feel of a 3D game. It's less Tekken and more Project Justice, really, but that's okay, because Project Justice rocked and I will fight anyone who says differently.
Last year, the Meira brothers managed to overcome the gang known as Mephistopheles and bring a measure of peace back to the city of Southtown. Now, on the eve of another King of Fighters tournament, a terrorist organization is planning a new strike against the city. This sort of thing, as usual, will be settled with fisticuffs.
Among other updates, KOF2006 will feature the option to use either English or Japanese voiceovers; apparently, one major complaint fans had about Maximum Impact was its stubborn refusal to use Japanese. This led to characters deliberately and clearly enunciating the names of their special moves, which often led to completely inadvertent hilarity. ("Super… Deadly Ninja Bees!") So that's taken care of now.
The gameplay seems much the same, frankly, from the few rounds I played with Geson. KOF2006's matches are fast and furious, with cheap super meter and a ton of available combos. A standard super move in 2006 was a super desperation in the 2D KOFs, so things get violent in a hurry.
Early reports from the importers say the game's just a little broken, but damage scaling's been added to prevent the bevy of 80-100% combos that Maximum Impact had. You can also charge up to five supers if you lose a round, which makes it easy to make come-from-behind victories, and parry enemy attacks with a touch of the button. Parrying an attack leads to a moment of vulnerability, but the timing on it's tricky.
You'll also receive a pre-order gift with purchase of KOF2006, according to SNK: a copy of the until-now-untranslated "King of Fighters: Another Day" anime. They haven't said how many episodes you'll get, or who's doing the translating, but it's a surprisingly good show.
Obviously, any further information on KOF2006 will have to wait until we have a copy sitting in front of us. For now, I feel confident calling it a solid game that I had a lot of fun with on the E3 show floor, even if it felt a little too much like Maximum Impact.