SNK fans in America have had it seriously rough the last couple years (assuming they don’t have a modded PS2, of course). Even though SNK has been interjecting the occasional game or compilation, like Metal Slug Anthology for the Wii, PS2 and PSP and SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters for the DS, fighting games have just plain been neglected in recent years, when there were so many nice-looking games coming out on the other end of the Pacific and, almost insultingly, the other end of the Atlantic! But no more! King of Fighters XI, the latest installment in the team-based fighting series, is finally…FINALLY…coming to America, and plans to seriously shake up things in the series.
The King of Fighters series has been around for thirteen years now, starting with King of Fighters 94, with each era bringing a new, unique fighting engine, while maintaining traditional team-based combat that has set the series apart from all others. Starting with King of Fighters 2003, the series began basing combat around tag-team fighting, where members of a player’s three-man team could be shifted in and out of combat mid-combo, allowing for extended combos and big damage. Moves can be cancelled mid-way through, allowing for even more options when it comes to taking down opponents. Short-jumps, rolls and ticks are still a staple in the KOF gameplay, as well, keeping it more fast-paced than most of its fighting game counterparts.
Thirteen years, eleven games in the main series, two in the side-series (Maximum Impact) and an ever-expanding list of games that King of Fighters, has resulted in the series having one of the biggest, most-diverse casts of characters in video games. Despite this, XI still manages to make some of the biggest shifts in the entire series when it comes to the characters.
There are eleven teams (story-wise, as the option to just pick any three characters is still apparent), but the list has some serious absences. The Outlaw Team (which typically consisted of Billy, Yamazaki and Mary), the Lady Fighters Team (which had an ever-shifting group of females making up the team) and Team Korea (the Tae Kwon Do-driven consisting of Kim, Jhun, Chang and Choi) are all gone, with most of the characters from these teams sitting out this year. Additionally, many other individual characters left this year, resulting in many AWOL characters, being Chin, Leona, Chang, Choi, Billy, Yamazaki, Mai, Andy, Joe, Robert, Jhun, Daimon, Takuma and Seth.
The Lady Fighters, Outlaw and Korea teams are replaced by the Agent, Garou and Anti-Kyokugenryu teams. Because of all these key omissions, there are some major shifts in the characters present in the remaining teams. Kim joins Terry on the Fatal Fury Team, and Duck King, a long-lost, break-dancing Fatal Fury character takes the third spot on their team. Chin is replaced by a totally new character, Momoko, who brings back the (annoyingly) youthful, high-pitched tone to the re-named Neo-Psycho Soldier Team. Whip rejoins the Ikari Team, replacing Leona (leaving the team to Ralf, Clark and Whip) while Kula moves in to take over for Whip on the K’ Team (resulting in K’, Maxima and Kula in the K’ Team). Yuri and King rejoin the Art of Fighting Team, headed by Ryo. Duo Lon leaves the Hero Team, and joins Benimaru and another new character, Elisabeth, to make up the Rival Team, while Ash replaces Duo Lon with the third new character, Oswald, who are both accompanied by Shen Wu.
The Anti-Kyokugenryu Team brings back two old KOF characters, Eiji Kisaragi, the ninja from the original Outlaw Team, who disappeared after KOF 95 and Kasumi Todoh, who was a scab on the Lady Fighters Team in KOF 99 and KOF 2000 to join Malin, the ‘yo-yo girl’ from KOF 2003. The Garou Team brings together the two characters from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, the rare-but-excellent Fatal Fury sequel, who were introduced to the series in KOF 2003, Gato and Tizoc, with another Garou character, B. Jenet. Finally, Kyo and Iori once again team up, this time with Shingo, to make up the final team, the Kusanagi-Yagami Team.
In addition, there are seven boss characters: Gai Tendo and Silver from Buriki-One, a 3d wrestling game, Jyazu and Sho Hayate from Kizuna Encounter, Magaki and Shion, two new boss characters and Adelheid Bernstein, the ‘bad’ boss from KOF 2003. To top it all off, there are seven secret console-exclusive characters, most of which have appeared in past KOFs, including two mainstays in the series, Mai and Robert, who are joined by Mr. Big (an Art of Fighting boss), Geese Howard (the Fatal Fury boss), Tung Fu Rue (a Fatal Fury character), Hotaru Fuba (another Garou character), and EX Kyo Kusanagi, an alternate version of Kyo Kusanagi, reminiscent of how he played in King of Fighters 1999 through 2001. As per usual, fighting gamers can speak long debates about whether these characters will be tournament legal…but who cares?
KOFXI is slated for release this Fall for the PS2, so make sure to add this to your collection and stay with www.mygamer.com.