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The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga
Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting/ Arcade/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Dear SNK Playmore, please stop releasing compilation after compilation of 10 year old games. I would much rather a new game that takes the genre forward instead of reliving the past.

Now that I have that out of the way, The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga is a 5 game compilation from SNK's seminal fighting series starting with King of Fighters '94 and ending with King of Fighters '98. The King of Fighters is actually a "best of" match up in the SNK fighting gallery. Characters from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and other SNK games come together to beat each other senseless to win a tournament.

If SNK does only one thing better than everyone else, it is their ability to create beautiful 2D sprites. Nearly every character model is animated wonderfully and backgrounds looked excellent for their time. It is a testament to the staying power of a good visual design (not polygon count) when a 10 year old game can still look better than most modern ones.

If only the sound stood up to the same level as the visual department. Unfortunately, The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga has a big problem that really hinders its sound quality. At the start of nearly every match I played, there is an audio bug that won't play any sound effects during the first few seconds. After that though, it plays catch-up by playing all the sounds in quick succession to make a horrible cacophony of fireballs and roundhouse kicks. This is something that should have been caught in the QA department.

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga is essentially the same game multiplied by 5. There are five games in the collection like I said earlier, which range from '94 to '98 and 4 of the 5 are fun to play. Unless you are quite fond of losing repeatedly, I would steer clear of '94 just because it doesn't let you create teams and is PSP-snapping difficult.

So, the basic setup is that The King of Fighters is a 2D fighter that lets you pick up to three characters to play in each fight. Once that fighter loses, they are out until the end of the match so a good strategy is to pick a fighter that you know you wouldn't rely on too much to start a match and keep your main character at the end in case it gets too close. Once you have your fighters, the computer picks the other teams of 3 for you to fight and the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

The reason they call this collection The Orochi Saga is because there is a story arc that involves resurrecting an ancient evil known as Orochi. Completely throw away, but just enough reason to want to beat the last boss' teeth in.

Since this is on the PSP, you might think this might be an excellent pick up and play experience, and you would be right if it weren't for crippling load times. There is a load screen to load a Menu that loads another Menu. Seriously, I just wanted to play a quick round before I go into my writing class, but instead I have to sit and wait for the game to load just so I can turn it off because it wasted my time.

It isn't all bad though. They included a challenge mode that has you playing specific scenarios for prizes that include artwork and soundtracks from all of the games. It is a nice addition and definitely worth looking into if you were the type to put quarter after quarter into their machines many years ago. They also included a Wi-Fi multiplayer, which is pretty bare-bones with just standard match-ups but at least you can play with a friend.

So there is a fairly easy scale for newcomers to The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga. The hardest and least accessible game is first. KoF '94 will chew you up and spit you out before you realize you picked your characters. The most fun, and consequently, the most accessible is KoF '98 and is really the only game you would play on this collection. It is also possible to change the overall difficulty by going into the options Menu and selecting on a scale of 1 to 8. It defaults to 1 so putting it all the way to 8 is for people with a masochistic streak.

It is worth noting that The King of Fighters is notorious for ridiculous final bosses. Every entry in The Orochi Saga has a balance breaking final boss that will make you wish you had 5 characters to throw at him or her in order to win. So if you buy this game, come prepared because it will make you earn the money you spent.

Game Mechanics:
Two things drag The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga down because it is on the PSP. The PSP doesn't have the second set of shoulder buttons, and because the screen is in between your hands, the action gets a bit frenetic. I assert that fighting games shouldn't be allowed on handhelds because there is too much action for a small screen. Basically, having to pay attention to everything at once while your thumbs get in the way is a tad annoying. This goes doubly so if you are the type of gamer that has to move the controller when you play the game.

The absence of the other two shoulder buttons (i.e. (R2) and (L2)) creates a somewhat inhibited play style. These games were designed to be played with an arcade stick and since that isn't a possibility on a PSP, having extra buttons to map multiple buttons or layouts makes up for that. The face buttons are just too small to press some at the same time without unintentionally pressing a different button.

At the end of the day, this is a good deal since it comes with 5 games, but you should consider looking into a console version first to have a more fully featured experience. But if you find yourself with this version, you could do much worse and there is some fun to be had in the more recent entries. There isn't anything you haven't seen before except for a good time.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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