The King of Fighters XI (PlayStation 2) review
"It's the mediocre games that are destined to be forgotten about, confined to the great recycling centre in the sky, leaving a trail of average reviews in their wake. Sadly, King Of Fighters XI is one such game. Check out our review to find out why."
A good piece of music should elicit a strong emotional response, whether it be positive or negative. It should interest and excite the listener, and should never truly feel like background filler. The musical scores to which you have the strongest responses will be the ones you remember, whether you love them or hate them. A "bad" piece of music, on the other hand, will invariably be the one that generates the least response. Instead, it will blend in with your surroundings and merely turn into background noise. To be mediocre in music is to commit a heinous offense - as Oscar Wilde said, "It is better to be talked about than not to be talked about." Music as background noise quickly becomes like chewing gum for the ears - pleasant for a short time, but soon becomes bland and is forgotten about fast.
It's the same too with games; or if it isn't, it at least should be. Every abysmal game out there will have in turn its own army of supporters, each buying a copy of those games that become renowned for being awful and/or unplayable, just to see whether it is really quite so bad. It's the mediocre games that are destined to be forgotten about, confined to the great recycling centre in the sky, leaving a trail of average reviews in their wake. Sadly, King Of Fighters XI is one such game. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but nor is there anything particularly right about it - it's just all a bit "meh".
The King Of Fighters series' last hoorah to the era of 2D fighters, King Of Fighters XI is a game I so wanted to love. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with 2D graphics, and there's certainly nothing wrong with playing 2D games. The lack of complexity in the graphics engine can allow developers to add in extra detail elsewhere in their titles, and while this is certainly true of many other modern games released in 2D, sadly it's difficult to see here where the extra detail is. In fact, the whole game just feels rushed. There are certainly plenty of characters (over 40 actually), many of whom are new. There's also the team-based combat system that fans of the series will know and love. A selection of new gameplay modes has also been added here to round-off the experience. The problem is though, that this title doesn't offer anything new - there's nothing available here that wouldn't be available in other, existing games. The characters wouldn't be the same of course, but beyond that, there's nothing unique here. Not really. I just would have expected more from this title given that it's from such a widely-respected series.
Naturally, as with all of these games, there are several new moves available here, which can be executed upon reaching a full power-meter. I'm still not entirely sure what the pattern is for getting your power-meter maxed out. I achieved this several times, but largely it seemed to be a fluke for me. Given that my usual playing-style with fighting games consists of bashing the heck out of the controller randomly though, that's perhaps not something I'm ever going to rectify. At least it works relatively well here though - button mashing as a strategy seems to pay off in this title, although strangely, I don't think I've ever found a fighting game that it doesn't work well for!
While controls are for the mostpart pretty responsive, when it comes to the larger characters they just move too slowly. It's true that larger characters are just naturally less agile than their smaller counterparts, and yes, this is meant to be the case. Heavy characters just seem to have been over-compensated for here, and this title doesn't achieve a true balance in comparison with the earlier games in this series. When it takes you vast quantities of time to move your heavy, clunky character across the screen, quite often your opponent's lightweight, more agile character will have pulled off a whole series of hits already. It's over the top, and makes it extremely difficult to win with a larger character.
While other fighting series have moved away from their 2D roots, King of Fighters has remained steadfastly rooted to its past in this title. Given this, it makes sense to assume that the graphics would be simple, crystal-clear and pretty damn sharp, and this is one area of the game that certainly doesn't disappoint. Just a shame about the music being so terrible, particularly given that you need to be able to hear what's going on on-screen in order to time moves to their most effective, particularly when the action is fast-paced. Sound effects are necessary to get the most from this game and these work very well, but the music is distractingly dismal. It sounds like kindergarten soft-rock at its very worst, and the cringe-worthiness of it all makes the player want to bang his or her head against the wall. Not good.
The modes of play are well-executed, although several feel resoundingly similar (particularly arcade and team battle), the multiplayer option works extremely well and arguably makes up for this. Several times during my own playing experience, my younger brother probably wished he was wearing a cod-piece due to me becoming rather too embroiled into the atmosphere of fighting to the death. At least it kept him entertained for a while. At least he said so, but he may just have been too scared to deny it.
It's difficult to find much of a reason to buy a copy of King Of Fighters XI. This is a game that could have been blooming brilliant, but came out looking pleasant, although really rather average. The main problem is that it's hard to see what it offers to the player that really differs from anything else that's available on the market. It's a swamped market, a swamped genre, and this is really a shame, because KOF as a series was historically always so good at coming up with whatever was necessary to achieve tremendous success. Beyond the surface, there's an enjoyable little game here. Just a shame that it perhaps wasn't what many fans of the series or the genre were expecting.
Freelance review by Lisa Harrison (July 05, 2007)
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