The King of Fighters XI PlayStation 2
Published by: Ignition Entertainment
Developed by: SNK Playmore
Release Date: Out Now
All too often these days we see long running series that attempt to simplify and jazz up the basic formula in order to appeal to a wider audience. This usually comes at the cost of alienating most of the series loyal followers. With this in mind then, you have to give credit to SNK Playmore for making The King of Fighters XI a game for the series enthusiasts. It eschews the simplification to gain popularity trend in favour of creating a game for the fans of the series and it's all the better for it.
If you've played a King of Fighters game before you won't find any surprises with the game modes. The modes on offer in KoF XI are Arcade Play, Team Play, Single Play, Endless, Challenge and Practice. Arcade Play, Team Play and Single Play all support VS play. The game includes 47 characters, only 3 of which are new additions, and 11 teams in the game. Five of the characters, including Mr Big and Geese Howard, are exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version. Four new stages have been added for the home console version too. The game offers 3 VS 3 battles (although in some instances you only have the one character) and a new tag system that works very nicely. Challenge offers something a little different with 40 challenges that each has requirements and special conditions. For instance you might be required to defeat your opponents using only normal moves with the special condition being that should you use a special move, you'll fail the challenge. Those looking for online multiplayer action will be disappointed as there is none to be found here.
Whilst the game is very similar in many ways to previous titles in the series, there are some new additions that actually enhance the experience. Quick Shift is a feature that essentially allows you to tag during a combo. This offers some interesting possibilities as it's possible to continue a combo with different characters. Save Shift allows you to tag whilst on the defensive so if you're taking some heavy punishment you can swap out your fighter for another one on your team. The new Judgement System essentially allows for a fairer result for fights that continue until the time limit has expired as the winner in chosen according to who has performed the best during a fight. These and other additions are features that hardcore fans of the series will really appreciate and by themselves make the game worth purchasing.
With games such as The King of Fighters XI it's difficult to comment on the graphical quality because the games are keen to keep that pixelated, seemingly primitive, 2D look rather than having finely detailed 3D visuals. Of course fans of 2D fighting games probably wouldn't have it any other way and seeing as the rest of the game is focused on keeping fans of the series happy the developers aren't going to undo all their hard work by changing the classic visual style of the game. From a technical standpoint the game has no problems with a rock solid frame rate, a choice of 50 or 60Hz and the load times are quite short. The presentation can best be described as functional rather than elaborate.
The King of Fighters XI won't give deaf gamers too many problems. That's not to say that the game is fully subtitled however, as announcer comments made on the menus are not subtitled. For instance when you've picked your team of three the announcer tells you to select your team leader or pick the order of your team. As a rather vague hint of what you need to do you'll see the words 'Leader' and 'Order' appear on the screen. Prior to and after the fights the comments made by the characters are not subtitled. You will see a text comment made during the fight evaluation screen however but the text only stays onscreen for a short duration so you'll have to read it quickly. Despite these problems deaf gamers shouldn't have any obstacles to playing the game.
We've already said that this is a game for fans of the series and if you are a fan of The King of Fighters series or 2D fighting games in general for that matter, then The King of Fighters XI is really going to hit the spot. Priced at just £14.99 it's just simply too good to miss for those who've enjoyed the series in the past. Despite the budget price tag it manages to impress with the range of characters and the new abilities. I suppose the only real disappointment is that there is no online multiplayer but seeing as the PlayStation 2 has never been that popular for online play (with the exception of a few select titles such as SOCOM and its sequels) it's hardly surprising. If you have never been a fan of 2D fighting games then there's nothing here to change your mind but for those who do appreciate them it's a great game at a very affordable price.
The King of Fighters XI is one of the best 2D fighting games you can buy and for the asking price of just £14.99 it's an absolute bargain.