It’s hard to believe that the first King of Fighters game arrived in arcades way back in ’94. Sure, we all were used to the plethora of Neo Geo fighters – Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Art of Fighting, and even my beloved Samurai Shodowns – but SNK still managed to come up with a relatively new concept: team battles. For a series that’s over 13 years old, it’s great to see some kick left in the series!
Even though I was not a big fan of Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Art of Fighting, and other Neo Geo fighting games, the King of Fighters always stood out. I can remember being excited to find the Ikari Warriors as one of the teams and, even with this latest installment, I always pick them first. For a series with about 16 previous installments (though a couple are either not canon or re-makes), you’d wonder if there’s any reason to stay in touch. Perhaps it’s a bit of nostalgia, but I welcome yet another addition the the family. SNK/Playmore managed to add new characters (plus, they added back some characters that were absent from the 2005 arcade version – Mai is back.. as well as a couple others), balance things out a bit , as well as add some great innovations.
For starters, there are now 47 selectable characters! As mentioned before, most will be familiar, though several will be new (and welcomed). The graphics and animations are as good as always; never eye-popping, but certainly acceptable. The same can be said for most other aspects of the game. But wait…some new gameplay mechanics were added, which is amazing considering the mileage on this series. The Quick Shift, Saving Shift, Dream Cancel, Judgement System, and Skill Stocks are all neat. While I won’t go into each feature (see below for a breakdown), I will say the Quick Shift ability is the most dramatic addition. Even though it’s not new feature within the realm of 2D fighting games, the Quick Shift allows you to swap partners, mid-battle. Since KoF has generally been about keeping one fighter in until he/she wins or loses, this is an interesting addition. I definitely welcome this feature and will just say, for those who don’t like it, just don’t use it. For fans of the Xmen vs. Street Fighter series, this won’t add the intensity of those titles, but it will certainly add another, strategic dimension.
Even with the added features, KoFXI is not too much different from it’s numerous predecessors. I’m glad this game mostly sticks to it’s roots and I hope there is never a time when 2D games are completely obsolete. I strongly recommend this game to anyone who misses those ‘classic’ 2D fighting games and I definitely recommend it to fans of the series. I can remember having fun with the Sega Saturn version of KoF 95 (which was pretty much arcade perfect); the editor in chief and I had many laughs trying to beat that game! Relive those fond memories and rejoice that XI isn’t the last in the series. This PS2 version is definitely the most superior iteration, so don’t hesitate in picking it up!
Summary of NEW FEATURES for KofXI
Skill Gauge – similar to the Power Gauge, but for non-attacking special moves. Some skills cost 1 point, some cost 2 points. You can have up to 2 points in your Skill Stock.
Quick Shift – Cancels most of your opponent’s attacks and changes characters. Can be done even while attacking.
Saving Shift – Makes your character immune to attacks then shifts a team-mate into action.
Guard Cancel Shift – Allows you to guard while switching to a team-mate.
Normal Move Cancel Emergency Evasion (where do they come up with these phrases?!?) – Cancels your attack while allowing you to pull away from an attack quickly.
Dream Cancel – The ‘leader’ will cancel most of the opponent’s special moves while allowing the character to execute a Super Special Leader Move (a leader only Super Special Move). In case this leader stuff doesn’t make sense, just know that you must select a ‘leader’ prior to each fight, which has nothing to do with the order of team-mates.
Judgment Indicator – Basically just shows the momentum of the fight, which seems only useful in determining a winner should there be a draw.