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The King of Fighters XI
Score: 73%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
The King of Fighters XI continues the KOF fighting series. I don't know what to say to you if you're new to the series, really. While I can't say it does anything better than the many rival fighting games out there, it still holds a special place in my heart. It's got just enough style and substance to hold it's own as a decent fighter.

Perhaps that argument worked better about 10 years ago, when the graphics for this fighter still held their own against competitors. The characters still look alright to me for a 2D fighter, but their pixels are really sticking in the modern day. Compounding this problem is the distinct contrast between fighters and the backgrounds. The designers have put a blur effect on top of the characters. I think this was to make them look smoother, but when you compare them to the sharp backgrounds, they seem like they're out of focus. You can go into the options and take the blur off to reveal the sharper, more pixely look they are supposed to have, but they still stick out rather badly.

Still, they exude style, and this may be why the game has the following it does. Voice and character design combine to make excellent, memorable characters. Though there aren't many new ones, many of the favorites are still here, as well as some newcomers from other SNK games. Shion is an interesting addition, with her mix of Asian fighting styles and a simple outfit that will have you hating the color yellow for a while after having faced her. And I said memorable, right? It seems that Rugal hasn't kept a close watch on his son, Adelheid, who seems to be having not only a bit of a goth rebellion, but perhaps an inappropriate relationship with his sister. Well, the new guys may be a barrel of laughs, but one of my essential favorites was M.I.A., but more on that later.

As for the sound, it's pretty classic SNK stuff. Characters still sound pretty badass, but with the old characters, it's not going to be very different than what you've heard. The music sounds pretty typical for SNK fare, but with a fast pace, electronic beats, and guitar riffs, you can't say it doesn't work for a fighter.

Wow. I don't think I quite have the space here to detail all the options that The King of Fighters XI gives you for gameplay. In general, it brings back Team Play, in which you pick 3 characters and fight until the last man standing or until time runs out. Several different forms of Versus and Arcade play let you control things such as whether team characters can swap out during a round. There is also the Challenge menu, which presents a number of specific challenges such as fighting a survival match against all the female characters in the game. What I resented here was the fact that you have to unlock veteran characters such as Mai and Robert. Really, why not unlock special options and new characters alone instead of making people fight to gain access to the staple characters?

Cheapness is back with a vengeance here. I joked that there was somebody sitting behind the programmers saying "cheaper, cheeeeaper" and the programmers would yell back "we can't go any cheaper already!" Well, many characters, mainly the bosses, are incredibly cheap here. They have several screen covering moves that they just repeat over and over. The only thing that works is becoming something of a cheap robot yourself. If that's your idea of fun, you're probably already a robot, so you might want to sit your parents down and ask some tough questions about where you came from.

Due to the aforementioned cheapness, The King of Fighters XI is the game that the dark lord would make you play in exchange for your soul. It's not that the game doesn't play well, it does. It's just that it asks you to play the way the computer does, which is really difficult to do. There are several levels of difficulty available, however, if you just don't find it hard enough. Either way, this isn't a thinking man's game, only a matter of having thumbs of steel. You are at least still offered a Service at the end of an unsuccessful fight. This may do something such as reduce the opponent's life for the next round, making it just a bit easier to finish the fight.

Game Mechanics:
The King of Fighters XI retains its classic 2D gameplay, and for that many will rejoice. If you want a simple, quality 2D fighter, then KOF will definitely fill that role for you. The only thing that seems different here is a slightly faster pace than previous KOF games. But then again, it's so similar to its predecessors, it's hard to tell any difference.

But what this means is you have your basic Street Fighter style controls, but with a 4 button control scheme. That means 2 kicks and 2 punches. I always liked it simple, but for some reason there's a Thrust button now. It serves as a knockdown move by itself, and you'll need to use it to execute some special moves, but it just seems like an unneeded complication. Still, if you've got to have an extra anything, I'm glad it's an extra button, rather than a needless complicated button combination.

There are some other elements to keep track of. For example, the person you choose as team leader has access to a special leader move. They can also determine who wins if they remain standing at the end of a fight. But this, among many little features added to the game, don't conceal the fact that it essentially feels and looks the same as the previous KOF games.

Fans of the game waiting for a big change aren't going to find it here. And a lot of people aren't waiting for it. But in general, KOF XI doesn't bring anything new to the table except a few new characters and minor gameplay tweaks. Not a bad edition to the library by far, but it's not going to rock your world either.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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