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The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: SNK Neogeo
Developer: Terminal Reality
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Arcade/ Fighting/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Few games have as rich a history and backstory as The King Of Fighters, especially in the Fighting genre. Other than a few select RPGs, few games in any genre have managed to string together so many hits. The downside of this for developers is that fan expectations are set very high, and the characters are almost like family to players that have followed the series over the years. From a design standpoint, fans will be very pleased with The Orochi Saga on Wii. Contained in the Media section from the main menu is a wealth of content that includes art and music from each game; the art is awesome and can be enlarged on the screen and manipulated somewhat using basic navigation tools. Considering the Wii has its Photo Channel, a great feature would have been to offload your favorite art for viewing outside the game, or for posting to your friends to show them your accomplishments in the game. The music draws from settings in the game, themes attached to each fighter, and other OST material in The King Of Fighters.

The translation of The Orochi Saga to Wii is excellent. The less sophisticated graphics on this console are still beyond the capacity of the games' original hardware. The presentation during battles is full screen, which is far better than the chopped perspective chosen for some games translated from an arcade setting. Perhaps because The King Of Fighters series has already been ported to a number of other platforms, there isn't anything here that doesn't feel natural and smoothly executed. You can expect to see lots of great fighting effects and smooth animation, including things that happen in the background as you move side-to-side in each environment. This counted as relatively sophisticated when The King Of Fighters made its appearance in the '90s. Along with stirring musical themes and sound effects, you'll hear some great expressions from various fighters, mostly of the grunting or squealing variety. And, of course, you'll be squealing yourself at the large cast of cute, ferocious ladies in The King Of Fighters. Many of them appear to possess some immense... martial arts skill.


Gameplay:

Fighting action in a classic format has been done often, but rarely done with the kind of thorough treatment that you'll find in each game included in The Orochi Saga. Along with The King Of Fighters '94, '95, '96, and '97 we have the grand collection of The King Of Fighters '98. The last game carried a subtitle "The Slugfest" and was intended to be a battle royale for fans of the previous games. More than 50 characters are playable in The King Of Fighters '98, giving players dedicated to various fighters from previous titles a chance to build their dream team. The team concept in The King Of Fighters remains a defining feature. Rather than simply battle against an opponent on the strengths of one fighter, you'll have three fighters at your disposal. The idea of strength in numbers might come across, but that's not quite how it works. Each fighter on the team has a chance to defeat as many opponents as possible, or be defeated. Once a fighter is defeated, The King Of Fighters works a bit like a tag-team, bringing in the character you've designated as your second choice. The challenge presented to players in this game is to learn the moves, strengths, and weaknesses of three characters, especially noting how a particular team may do better or worse against other teams.

While playing a match, you'll have to pay attention to at least two things. One is the timer; when it runs out you'll win or lose based on the damage you've taken or dished out. The other thing you'll need to monitor is your health bar. Once it runs out, you're finished. Continues help make the game more accessible, especially as you try to learn effective strategies against more advanced fighters. Each game includes a training option, giving you a way to face off against an opponent that won't fight back. Testing your moves against the CPU is fine and well, but you'll really love playing The King Of Fighters against a human opponent. The "enter anytime" style of play used here makes it simple for a second player to join. The only mode outside the arcade versions of each game in The Orochi Saga is Challenge. This is the gateway to the long list of special media mentioned earlier. Challenge Mode works a little like Microsoft's Achievements. The difference is that instead of linking challenges to normal gameplay, you'll be playing The King Of Fighters under special conditions. One example is a battle where all damage indicators are disabled and where you can't see the timer. Winning a battle under these conditions earns you a nice long list of locked art and music for the game. Hard to say whether Challenge Mode is a device for improving replay or if the replay value is more in the limitless amount of action you'll find solo or with a friend in the five different games collected here in The Orochi Saga.


Difficulty:

Classic arcade games are consistently more difficult and unforgiving than present-day gaming fare. It isn't that we have too many easy games on the market today, but as the gaming demographic has broadened and technology has improved, developers can do more to customize the difficulty according to their target market. In many cases, we now have dynamic difficulty settings that adjust based on the skill of the player. In contrast, The King Of Fighters comes out of the gate looking to kick your ass and take your name. Every. Single. Time. Novice players will immediately benefit from an adjustment that can be made in the game's options menu, moving the difficulty of The Orochi Saga along a sliding scale from 1 (grasshopper) to 8 (super-ninja). Like any game out there, as you play more, you'll improve your skills and find it easier to beat advanced fighters. On first blush, The Orochi Saga can seem overwhelming due to the sheer number of fighters and their unique list of special moves. The training option in each game helps flatten the learning curve somewhat, and players can make it easier on themselves by playing the same group of fighters over and over in order to learn their strengths and weaknesses.

Game Mechanics:

An unusual option in The King Of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga is the ability to play with nothing more than a Wii-mote. This is a masterful feat of reduction, since fighting games and arcade cabinets are known for splashing out eight buttons plus a joystick. How it translates to the Wii-mote takes some getting used to, but the answer isn't motion controls, thank goodness. The D-pad is okay, but once you try out the Classic Controller or GameCube Controller options, you won't want to go back. Having a joystick makes execution of the sweeping attacks so much easier! Many of the moves here involve a smooth motion back and forth with the directional buttons, combined with some style of kick or punch. Anything is possible using the Wii-mote only, in its NES side-holding configuration, but most folks will prefer using a joystick. The other disadvantage to the Wii-mote is that it doesn't easily support the light/heavy distinctions for kicks and punches. This ends up being a key ingredient in the recipes for super attacks that are customized to each character. The King Of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga felt responsive enough, but there are definitely some glitchy issues with pulling off certain moves. Perhaps it is just the instruction provided in each game's training, as in the move isn't mapped correctly or is assigned to other buttons than those displayed on-screen. Whatever the case, you'll hit a few walls as you try to learn and execute moves for some characters. Practice makes perfect, but only if the controls are spot-on.

Historical value alone makes The Orochi Saga a classic worth adding to any Fighter fan's collection. The media that can be unlocked will be a treat and something really unique for gamers that lived through the '90s slinging quarters in their local Arcade. You gotta love it when companies cater to fans and really pack a game with nifty extras. The inclusion of so many games, even if they are strictly evolutionary, is also something that scores big points. It's impossible to run out of steam with this collection. Even if you see all the endings and unlock all the media, you still have multiplayer to work through with a friend. Sure, the option to play online would be a dream, but for now we'll have to remain content to beat our friends to a pulp in the sanctity of our living rooms. Ready? Fight!


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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