Review – King of Fighters Orochi Saga (PSP)

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Where to begin with this compilation that’s based around the King of Fighters series circa 1994 – 1998? Would it be best to start with a witty remark such as “SNK Playmore refuses to accept new century, prefers to live in the 90’s”? Perhaps not… Because as much as it begrudges me to say this, this title’s actually quite playable.

Taking the King of Fighters titles as a collective entity, there is a lot of value contained within, I discovered. Playing through what’s called the ‘Orochi Saga’, starting with KoF ’94, you can see how the series has taken steps to evolve over the yearly entries. Ranging from the preset teams to choose from in the ’94 edition, to the ability to create your own in ’95, and the overall awesomeness of the ’98 edition, it seems SNK Playmore took notice year after year regarding what the fans wanted to see in the next edition. King of Fighters ’95 might start with the message “The event shall be conducted as the previous one”, implying the title is exactly the same as ’94, but I actually discovered the experience surpasses it in spades. From the combat to the graphics, each year feels new compared to the prior, and when you add in the many, MANY different characters contained in each release then you have more reasons to replay. Even if you only play as Mai….

Another enjoyable experience was the ‘Challenges’ mode, where you have arbitrary goals to accomplish such as ‘Win a battle blind – no energy bars etc.””. It adds further replay value and unlocks content from across the titles such as secret characters, artwork and other in-game assets. Trying to clear all of the challenges will likely keep you going for days! I’m still playing through them when I have time, as time is a very important factor for this title as I shall now explain.

Things I didn’t enjoy:

Loading Times:
UMD proves itself once more to be a thorn in the side of developers with regards to the PlayStation Portable. Getting from the main Title Select screen to an actual fight took exactly ‘1:02.05′. Long enough when you’re playing a quick round or two and you end up waiting longer than a battle would normally last. Not only that, the load times between rounds were ‘6.7′ seconds long, again breaking up the flow of the combat. When a round can end in under 20 seconds for a REALLY good player this becomes a problem somewhat.

Bugs, glitches and errors.
There are random occasions when the sound just cuts out randomly. The fight announcer might start talking then stop mid sentence, the same applies to the in game music. I wonder if it has anything to do with the UMD format itself? Perhaps there was a flaw in the porting across process and they simply didn’t want to spend money fixing it. Who knows? All I do know, however, is that the problem is not limited to my PSP; I spoke to one Adam Gulliver over on GameStyle, and he was just as confused as I was about the glitches. Graphically, the title maintains the charm of the series, but I do wish that a proper 16:9 screen format had been included, as the default 4:3 just seems like a waste of screen. Nit picking I know, but I want my whole screen to be filled with lovely pixels, not wildly stretched ones.

Outcome? Whilst I can only speak for myself, I found myself thinking early on in my experience with this title that if you go into the title expecting a Street Fighter II, you will come away disappointed. Expect something more technical, where luck and persistence have to be joined with skill and remembering the patterns of many fighters in order to succeed. Give it a try, folks. It’s a great way to get ready for King of Fighters XII this summer. SNK Playmore – colour me interested!

* Verdict: If you’re a King of Fighters fan then the rating is BUY. If not? Try.

* Completed: KOF 94, 95, 98.

* Players: 2

* Platforms: PSP, Wii

* Price: £29.99

* Released: March 27th 2009.

* ESRB/PEGI: T/12+

Shaun McIlroy