Dec 4, 2007
King of Fighters XI, like most of its older brothers, was originally a 2D arcade fighting game, and has been faithfully ported to the PS2 - with plenty of extras, to boot. The PS2 exclusive features - new characters and endings developed specifically for the conversion - probably won’t be a selling point unless you’re one of the lucky few who have access to the arcade original, but it’s nice to know they’re in there.
From the moment you turn the game on, you’re greeted with a rockin’ soundtrack, and the sound effects and character voice-overs pack a similar punch. Graphically, though, things are a bit disappointing. While the backgrounds, menus, character artwork, and various little flourishes look nice, the character sprites themselves - despite having been reworked a bit - still look stuck in the Neo-Geo era. The look of the low-resolution sprites atop higher-resolution backgrounds can actually be so jarring as to be distracting, particularly on nicer displays.
But in terms of gameplay, there’s plenty to do here. New combat elements, like the skill meter that allows you to perform various special technical moves, give longtime series fans something fresh to play with. But the core fighting, with its familiar semicircle rolls and speedy pace, will give newcomers a good deal to enjoy and learn. Unlockable bonuses, as well as amusing story and dialogue, makes taking your favorite characters through the standard single-player mode worthwhile. Unfortunately, in grand KoF tradition, the game’s final boss is hideously overpowered.
Versus play is similarly enjoyable. Unfortunately, lack of a decent online infrastructure for the US PS2 means that the online versus features of the Japanese version didn’t make the westward voyage. If you want to play against someone, you’re going to need to do it the old-fashioned way. Considering that KoF’s popularity in North America is rather low compared to that of Capcom or Namco fighters, that might be rather difficult.
King of Fighters XI is one of the series’ better outings as of late. The fighting engine, while not the deepest or the most technical out there, is solid, and the whole presentation drips with style. On top of that, you can get the game in exchange for a mere likeness of Andrew Jackson. It’s a deal any fighting fan would do well to jump on.