The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga

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Electronic Theatre Image            The latest in SNK Playmore’s typically generous offerings through Ignition Entertainment, The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga, is due to launch on PlayStation Portable and Wii on March 28th across Europe. The plentiful compilation contains five complete titles from The King of Fighters franchise: The King of Fighters ’94, The King of Fighters ’95, The King of Fighters ’96, The King of Fighters ’97 and The King of Fighters ’98: Dream Match Never Ends. That’s a lot of fighting on one disc, but The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga faces an unusually large amount of competition in the Beat-‘Em-Up genre at present.

            Street Fighter IV is obviously receiving theElectronic Theatre Image most attention right now, and Tekken 6 is doing a good job of building anticipation. But this revival of the genre isn’t likely to hurt The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga’s chances – in fact, quite the contrary. The King of Fighters is well known as a genre stalwart, often considered the underdog to many more successful franchises, but has been famed as the Hardcore Gamers’ Beat-‘Em-Up of choice. And due to this, The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga may well be the first place PlayStation Portable owners look when feeling the need for a fight while on-the-go.

            The King of Fighters varies the traditional two-out-of-three rules made famous by the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises, instead asking the player to pick a group of three fighters to take into a survival contest. Each fighter can last for one energy bar, and winning a round allows for a small increase in any remaining health. Each of the games on the Universal Media Disc provide a wide cast of characters, some which you will know, others most probably not.

            The King of Fighters ’94 uses pre-set allotments of three characters,Electronic Theatre Image from which the player may chose one set to take into combat. The backdrops are beautifully detailed and the high-resolution sprites are well animated, but the gameplay is showing it’s age. The Collision Detection simply isn’t as accurate as modern one-one-one Beat-‘Em-Ups, with seemingly only three basic points of contact, and the responsiveness of the controls isn’t quite what it could be.

            More explorative arenas exist in The King of Fighters ’95, adding an extra tactical edge to the gameplay. One arena sees an elevator providing a tight scrap for the first ten seconds, before stopping and expanding the arena. A balancing act has taken place to allow for the newly included characters and many moves are easier to perform. The King Fighters ’96, however, is clearly where the most progress has been made. A much faster fighting system than the previous two titles, with a huge increase in character variety, weaker blocks and more responsive controls make The King of Fighters ’96 an obvious step towards a more action-orientated presentation.  Smoother animation and more on-screen prompts bring home the feeling of a true Arcade game.

            Unfortunately, The King of Fighters ’97 is essentially aElectronic Theatre Image remixed version of The King of Fighters ’96. A handful of new backdrops and characters – though nothing as essential as what The King of Fighters ’96 brought with it – a fractionally slower pace and greeted with an entirely superfluous new mechanic. Alongside the chargeable Power Meter (quite possibly the influence for Street Fighter IV’s Revenge Gauge), sits a counter allowing you to store up to three full Power Meters for a greater attack power, though it’s use is negated somewhat by an almost unnoticeable boost above the single charge. The King of Fighters ’97 may be the easiest of the title for beginners to get to grips with, but it also suffers from occasionally terrible frame-rate issues and the longest and most frequent loading delays.

            The King of Fighters ’98 goes some way towards rectifying the errors made with The King of Fighters ’97, adding new animation frames and genuine worth to the Power Meter addition. Featuring a starting line-up of thirty-nine characters, it’ll certainly take some time for the game to be mastered. The characters don’t appear to be quite as well balanced as those in The King of Fighters ’96 – possibly due to their number – but the challenge has been upped slightly from The King of Fighters ’97.

If all this wasn’t enough, the game also features aElectronic Theatre Image Challenge Mode. Featuring a wide variety of scenarios, Challenge Mode allows players to unlock bonus materials and artwork. Online multiplayer options for each and every game included is a nice touch, but, as with most PlayStation Portable releases, will undoubtedly suffer from the availability of rival human opponents.

            The game features several display options to suit your preference, though the default 4:3 set-up is undoubtedly the best. The adaptation to the Analogue Nub has been performed diligently, and The King of Fighters ’96 is easily the finest handling one-on-one Beat-‘Em-Up on the system. The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga is incredibly good value for money, and with Beat-‘Em-Ups taking headlines back in recent months, there couldn’t be a better time for the series to break back onto the scene.


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