Celebrating 10 years of brutal battles against rival Capcom’s fighters, King of Fighters has been tossed into 3-D. Street Fighters move was less than stellar even after three attempts, but KOF works surprisingly well. This is a deep, complex fighter for die-hards, yet on the surface, it’s easy to understand and grasping the perfect combo system isn’t as intimidating as it usually is.
It’s a risky move, alienating those who played each iteration of the series simply because it stuck to its 2-D roots. What SNK Playmore has done though, is keep the series in line with previous entries, with a similar feel and style. The only (major) differences are some new defensive maneuvers and the ability to side step.
The basic combat has underwent some changes, most notable being an excellent juggle system that can let experienced players truly beat up opponents (and as frustrating as it usually is to be on the other end of one, here it’s a thing of beauty to just watch). Even on the ground, the combo system almost feels like it’s automatic. It’s just done so well, you don’t even feel like you’re doing anything.
Easily the more jarring change is speed, ramped up to an insane level, with no option to bring things down to a more tolerable pace. They achieve this with decently rendered character models that aren’t pushing the hardware by any means, yet retain the charm that carried them through each new version. New character designs are interesting and unique, and fall right in line with the classics. Everything is balanced in multi-player, though the game still has SNK boss syndrome, meaning the final struggle is usually just that.
Fans have quite a bit to be proud of here, and their series has made a transition into a new space better than expected. This is a new, refreshing way to enjoy this undeniably classic series. Forget the other attempts by the company to make this switch (Samurai Shodown: Warriors Rage and Fatal Fury Wild Ambition), and just enjoy some pure 2-D fighting with a nice layer of 3-D gloss.