Review by WingedRegent
"The 2D Ring is still thriving!"
Formerly released once a year, the King of Fighters franchise was well known for it being the immediate rival to Street Fighter. With Street Fighter having been on a near 10 year hiatus, SNK continued to release KoF games. However, to prevent themselves from being deadlocked into a yearly release deal, they took out the years from the games, replacing them with roman numerals. With the most recent, 2D KoF Game being released in 2003, SNK took advantage of their new, free schedule. With this being the product of their extended work, it's safe to say that their freetime did not go to waste.
For a 2D fighting game, this game is graphically superb. Of course, alot of the sprites are reused from previous KoF Games, but nothing was ever work with them to begin with. Also, the new character have well animated moves and the resolution of alot of the moves and characters seems to have been kicked up a bit, making them look a bit nicer than they ever did. The Special Moves of the character also look phenomenal, having great detail in each flame or each wave fired from the player to the opponent.
The sounds of each hit, slash, and blast sounds perfect, the sound of the impact translating to how much to move hurt the opponent. Certain moves leave a resounding sound, letting you know how impactful that move was. The soundtrack is also fantastic, as each team has their own theme song. Each of the PS2 Exclusive character have their own theme, with one of them retaining an old, classic theme that they carried with them in almost every appearance. The soundtrack never gets old, and neither do the sounds of a beating you delivered.
The controls in this one are changed slightly. Instead of Leader Moves being done with the SP and SK buttons, they are now done by the new Blown Off, or BO, button, adding a new type of button to take into account. However, with this new feature, the controls often get somewhat annoying, as the two weak moves and the two strong moves tag yourself in and out. If one were to customize their controls, there is only one real option to get rid of, and that's the Provocation Button. You have to be willing to compromise one feature or another for make room for tagging in and out, unless you choose to manually tag in and out.
The gameplay in this game is much like the previous KoF Games. There is an Arcade Mode, which, at the end, shows you that teams ending. There is also a Team and a Single Play, which is just you playing through the game to fight, and not for the story. Of course, the traditional Endless mode makes a return, and each opponent you defeat unlocks his or her character artwork.
The new attraction here makes it's first real presence in the 2D KoF games. It's the Challenge Mode. Unlike KoF 2002's Challenge Mode, this one has you partake in several mission-based challenges, rather than time based. These challenges range from defeating 10 opponents in 7 minutes, to doing a combo that does 80% damage. Needless to say, these challenges start out easy, but quickly ramp up in difficulty. These challenges range from easy and fun to beyond frustrating at times.
Lastly, the character roster and unlockables that come with it is incredible. 11 Teams are out to begin with, with 3 new characters to the seris and a slew of returning favorites, including Vanessa, Ramon, Kensou, Eiji Kisaragi, and Kasumi Todoh. There are also 7 boss character to unlock, including the incredibly cheap end boss, and 7 other characters that are exclusive to the PS2 version. Each of the PS2 characters were taken straight from the Neo Geo Battle Colosseum game, with some changes made for them to fit into KoFXI better. With all of these, this makes a total of 47 characters, the most amount of characters inside a non-Dream Match KoF game! With this many characters, you are bound to be playing this game continuously, learning the intricacies of each character. Also, playing through Arcade Mode as a normal, preset team gives you the ending, while certain custom teams (Ex. Flames of Destiny Team of Kyo, K', and Ash) gives you a special picture at the end of Arcade Mode. The only thing that kills the replay value slightly is that once you complete all of Challenge Mode, the game unlocks EVERYTHING for you. However, if you do not care and still enjoy the game, then it'll still provide a good time.
Overall, this is one of the best, if not the best, 2D fighters of all and easily the top KoF game of all time, just edging out KoF 2002 and KoF 98. This game can easily tide one over for the release of KoF 98: Ultimate Match and is one that should not be missed out on.
Buy, Rent, or Avoid: Must Buy if you're slightly into fighting games. Rent if you are wondering about it. Avoid only if you detest SNK and KoF. At the bargain bin price of $9.99-$14.99, there's almost no reason not to pick this one up.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/19/08
Game Release: The King of Fighters XI (US, 11/13/07)
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