Sooner or later, all things come to an end. Empires fall, cities crumble and the series that was stubbornly synonymous with 2D fighting must finally move into the third dimension. But don't get angry just yet; King of Fighters 2006 might look different, but from what we've played so far, the action's just as good as ever.
Granted, KOF 2006 (released as King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2 in Japan) makes a few trade-offs. The roster had to be trimmed down to 25 fighters - still impressive for a 3D game, but not so much when compared to the dozens of scrappers that were crammed into the 2D games. Also, the three-on-three team battles that made the series unique are now available only in versus mode, which is disappointing.
But it's not as bad as it sounds. KOF 2006 looks amazing, and the action seems to be a marked improvement over the first Maximum Impact. The fighting still feels two-dimensional, with characters moving and jumping along a straight line (with 3D sidestepping), and all the fireballs and ridiculous super moves from the 2D series are intact. KOF 2006 also adds a few 3D flourishes, like deformable (but not destructible) arenas and the ability to cancel or reverse your opponent's moves.
But so far, it's still just as fun as the 2D games, especially when you're busting combos in your friends' faces. Judging from the Japanese version we played, you'll also be able to bust those combos online. We're not sure yetif internet play will make it into the US release, but we've got our fingers crossed.