It seems a new collection from SNK hits every week, which I guess is no surprise for a company so chock full of great series’. The latest collection is King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga for PSP. It’s a loaded package for sure, but some unfortunate technical issues with the PSP hardware hold the game back substantially.
For you fighting game enthusiasts, the King of Fighters series needs no introduction. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, KOF is a kind of “Who’s Who” of characters from SNK fighting games thrown together in a 3v3 cataclysm of fists and fury. The games pride themselves on great characters, and top notch 2D action.
As mentioned, The Orochi saga contains KOF 94, 95, 96, 97, and 98. Most players won’t notice a huge progression from year to year, although more hardcore SNK gamers will pick up on the subtleties. Mostly you’ll find many of the same mechanics in each game, with the differences coming in characters, movesets, and slightly updated graphics. My personal favorites are 96 and 98; however each of the games is well worth playing.
The sprites in all the games look great on the PSP screen, and fans of 2D graphics will not be disappointed. The games get progressively better looking (as expected), and the animations are top notch. The backgrounds look great as well, especially in KOF 97 and 98.
The 3v3 gameplay and the ability to change the order of your fighters adds a layer of strategy to the combat, and you’ll quickly discover which fighters gel together the best. The action is fast and frenzied, and each character has a unique set of special moves at their disposal. SNK vets will be happy to know that the play mechanics make a very faithful transition from the originals, although wrapping your thumbs around them may prove more difficult than before due to some problems exclusive to the PSP itself.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about KOF:OS is that while the gameplay is mostly solid, and the emulation is good, the platform lets the game down in several areas. The PSP is not the most comfortable system to play a fighting game on, and I found the d-pad to be a bit awkwardly placed for a game with this much precision. This is more of a personal nitpick, rather than a criticism of the game itself, as overall the controls do seem accurate.
Load times are also a big buzzkill in this game. It takes an excessive amount of time for any of the 5 games to load up, and once they do you can expect more loading to follow. Sometimes, the loads even cause the game to stutter midway through a battle, breaking the even flow that 2D fighters need to perform up to their potential.
In addition to the main games, the title also features an Ad-Hoc multiplayer mode. You’ll also find several challenges that require you to complete matches with special conditions attached. These challenges unlock bonus material like music and artwork, and add a great deal of replay value to an already extensive collection of gameplay. The training mode is also top notch in all of the games, featuring both demos of all the special moves as well as an option to display the command for a move on screen while playing.
It’s a shame that technical issues hold KOF: Orochi Saga back so much, because it’s a collection with a heck of a lot of potential. Fans of the series will no doubt find a lot to love here, and the game is a great value for the money. As it stands though, the excessive load times and mid match pauses tarnish the game’s quality. Here’s hoping that they can get these issues straightened out for the inevitable next entry in the growing collection of SNK..well-collections.