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The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (Wii) artwork

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (Wii) review

"...all of the games are emulated wonderfully - without any sound problems that sometimes plague compilation discs."

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga brings the series’ first five entries (‘94-’98) together on one disc for the first time and gives long-time fans the ability to play them more conveniently than ever before, while those new to the series get a chance to see how the franchise evolved in its early days. Unfortunately, gathering so many entries on a single disc tends to bring some issues to light that one may not think about when there's just one new installment every now and then. Here, the problem is that each game is a bit too similar to the next. There's not much beyond roster changes, some new moves and gameplay enhancements to differentiate one from the next.

As a result, it’s tempting to just skip ahead to play the newest entry available while forgoing the older ones that boast less refined gameplay. It’s not as if this is just an issue with this series, either; it was a crippling issue with the World Heroes Anthology, as well. I recall being excited about that compliation, until I played it and realized how much more the early games' flaws stood out when played back to back. I ended up sticking with the newest offering since it was the most refined. Here, the problem isn’t quite that devastating to the collection, but it does still cause problems since once a player finds the game that strikes his fancy the most, he isn’t likely to play anything else on the collection. Fortunately, all of the games are emulated wonderfully - without any sound problems that sometimes plague compilation discs.

Also, no matter which one of the five games strikes your fancy the most, you’ll be able to control it easily…if you’ve got a GC controller handy. Neither the Nunchuck+Remote or especially the dreadful Remote-only control setups feel right, with the former being functional but not particularly comfortable, and it’s also a pain to try and mentally keep track of just which button on the two devices does what - including the 1 and 2 buttons on the Remote, which act as action buttons despite being ill-suited for the task due to their small size and awkward placement on the Remote.

The Classic Controller is also supported for those who have that device. However, as someone with a GC pad who has no real need for that yet, I don’t have one. That left me with just the GC pad to (hopefully) control the included games well and be able to play them in a way that actually did justice to them. Prior to this collection, I never had a chance to use the pad for a 2D fighter, and to my pleasant surprise, it worked far better than I expected. I was overjoyed to see how well the analog stick works for both accurate character movement and directional movement to input attack commands. The face buttons’ positioning also makes it very easy to reach any button and also press multiple buttons at once when needed, and their being recognizable just based on touch due to their unique shape is also something I rarely appreciated until now, where it played a vital role in easily being able to remember which button did what. The pad is also quite comfortable to use for extended periods of time - making it ideal for a fighting compilation that can easily require long play sessions in one player games and can easily result in them due to the gameplay‘s addictive nature when two players are involved.

Beyond just offering up the games themselves and the usual array of unlockable art and background music, this also features an addictive challenge mode that puts a series of tasks in front of you to unlock items, and will likely also improve your skills along the way. The gameplay itself seems fresher since you‘re playing with a different goal in mind, too. Instead of the usual, sometimes monotonous “beat X amount of rival teams to fight a seemingly impossible boss“ goal, you’re given things like a handicap of only being able to use one button to attack, or facing enemies who have the benefit of temporary invulnerability. Not only do these tasks break up the monotony that can creep up - especially since this series requires you to beat three foes per fight - but it also winds up making you a better player by forcing you to overcome these handicaps and play in a way you never would have without the challenge mode.

I definitely found myself getting hooked on the challenge mode more than I expected, and I appreciate how loading times are non-existent after fights (and even after individual rounds) - a common complaint that kept me away from the PS2 incarnation of the collection. I do wish that there was an option to save at any time though. Sure, that wouldn’t exactly be accurate for replicating the arcade experience, but it is something that has become fairly commonplace in these retro collections, and is a huge time-saver. It would have been a welcome addition here too, given that one bout against three rivals can sometimes take a while and you don’t always have time to play through the entire roster and the boss battle in one sitting. Plus, it would’ve reduced the sure-fire frustration caused by the aforementioned impossible bosses that have permeated the series, as you could just go back and fight them again at your leisure instead of having to go through the game again to fight them/lose to them in slightly less time in successive attempts.

Despite that oversight bugging me a bit, I am thankful that this compilation isn’t plagued by graphical or sound problems; each one looks and sounds like its arcade counterpart. While that may seem like an odd thing to be thankful for since it should be a given, there have been instances of arcade to home conversions of fighters being absolutely massacred over the years. I’m glad that isn’t the case here.

While I absolutely love the challenge mode, and find that the games included are quite good, are emulated well and are done justice in this compilation as long as you have a controller that can adequately play them, the overall product is one that is probably best played by series die-hards. The kind of players who know they absolutely want to have a handful of the series’ entries playable at any time. Casual fans of the series or those who have never played it before would probably be better off getting SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1, which includes KoF ‘94 and a slew of other games from other genres and series as well. That’s probably a better starting point for this series for most people, and if you find that you like what you see there, get this down the line to enjoy more of the series.

jpeeples's avatar
Freelance review by Jeremy Peeples (February 23, 2009)

Jeremy Peeples has been writing about games since 2000. GameFAQs was his first stop, and that led to a writing gig on Game2Extreme, then VGPub. In 2005, he was brought aboard Hardcore Gamer Magazine, and has been a regular Youtuber since 2006.

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