The King of Fighters Neowave

Dead or Alive? Bah. Keep your Virtua Fighter, too. For a lot of fans out there, 2D fighting games are alive and well, thanks in no small part to SNK Playmore. The company has delivered a seemingly endless stream of King of Fighters games over the last two years, and it's not done yet: here comes Neowave.

For the last decade or so, the KoF series has pioneered the idea of 3-on-3 team fighting; when one character gets taken out, another steps in to pick up where the fight left off. They were made to run on the now-retired NeoGeo hardware, which deserves medals for its long tour of duty in arcades. But Neowave was built on new hardware, the Atomiswave system, so its Xbox port makes it look ... well, like a mix of technology from yesterday and 10 years ago.

All 36 characters (plus a few unlockables, which shall remain secret) look very pixellated on high-res rendered backgrounds. So if you look behind the giant blocks that make up Mai's heaving bustline, you'll see battlegrounds that include ornate fountains, suspension bridges and the intricate inner workings of a clock tower. It's more than a little weird - it looks like someone grafted a Super NES game onto their Xbox.

But graphical presentationisn't why people still play The King of Fighters - it's all about the technical gameplay. If you're a button-masher, you won't last long; KoF games reward skill, timing, knowledge of combination attacks and a lot of other things you probably don't have.