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In the arcade glory days, 2D fighting games from SNK had many fans in both the US and Japan. In the mid-nineties SNK created The King of Fighters, a “super” fighting game combining characters from some of their numerous hit series. This annually updated fighting franchise’s first five versions (1994-1998) have been archived in King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga.
The fighting throughout is just as fine as it was all those years ago. Though not as open or friendly as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II, even with its faintly deeper combo, counter and special attack systems, it’s still both simple enough to enjoy on the surface and packed with depth for the dedicated. It remains fun, and a new training menu in the pause menu is quite helpful. But ultimately, the play mechanics feel a bit old and practically ancient in the earliest, ’94 version.
Having KoFs 94-98 all in a row makes it easy to chart all the improvements from one version to the next. For example, characters in early versions were only open for play in specific groups of three, which eventually evolves into the ability to craft trios of your own choosing. Likewise, you’ll see the rosters deepen, the move sets improve, and the graphics improve.
This is all interesting to witness from a historical standpoint. But for actual gameplay, there isn’t much reason to go back – unless you’re a super-fan with subtle tastes and intimate knowledge of specific tweaks made each year, you’ll almost invariably prefer one of the latest two versions.
In fact, that’s the real root of the problem with King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga. This series barely evolves at all, so this is a grouping of five versions of essentially the same game. Thus, it isn’t really for anyone but the super fans. Even for a casual SNK fan, it’s a bit much. And when SNK seems to release a new collection of its many old titles every week, most with at least one version of King of Fighters or its ilk on it along with a more diverse set of classics (Final Fight, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Samurai Shodown), it’s even more redundant. It may have an inviting price, but so do other SNK collections, so be sure you check them out as well to make sure you’re buying the one that’s best for you.
Dec 24, 2008