KOF: MAXIMUM IMPACT 2

a review of KOF: Maximum Impact 2 (The King of Fighters 2006)
a videogame developed by SNK Playmore
and published by SNK Playmore
for the sony playstation 2 computer entertainment system
text by Stephen Kelly

3.5 stars

Bottom line: KOF: Maximum Impact 2 is “the first post-fighting game.”

If, like me, you were part of the fighter’s generation (let’s not kid ourselves, you’re reading a videogame blog and no doubt armed with a list of internet memes longer than the mop of hair covering one/both of your eyes, you’ve definitely played Street Fighter 2), you’ll no doubt remember many an afternoon in the presence of the bullstuffters. You know the kind; children with vaguely off-putting faces and shifty eyes, people who dress now as they did then. Kids with sweatpants, white trainers and a mysteriously constant supply of fireworks/makeshift explosives. A kind of proto-chav. The children you didn’t want to share your Megadrive or SNES with, yet they were sort of there anyway. I was a clever boy, I could easily tell when bullstuff was being spouted, though I was careful of course not to actually say so. The hallmark of the chav/proto-chav is their aggressive pursuit and maintenance of ignorance in all things, and besides, would I really want to be the boy in class who gets in fights over videogame characters? I’m afraid I’m just not that righteous! Cue claims of:

The cast of Mortal Kombat are hidden away in Street Fighter!

Chun Li takes her clothes off in the Megadrive version!

My dad’s friend works for Capcom!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Falcoon, then, serves as something of a rotund, blonde-on-black savior for everyone who got a bit flustered over Shen Long, Gouken and the rest of Capcom of America’s hall of never-have-beens. As fan artist-turned-producer of King of Fighters, the man gets a nod from those of us who endured many a grievous infringement upon established canon, those of us who knew the Japanese names. One of our peers has really made it! Someone else has bought and played fighting games in single-player mode!

The result, KOF: Maximum Impact 2, is the most smile-inducing fighting game in years, a love letter to the genre that, knowing it can’t meet even Capcom’s most meagre scraps in terms of sheer balance (though hey, if most of the cast has been a permanent fixture for 5 years you have no excuse at this point), provides a remarkably sincere and charming celebration of it’s parent series, company, and genre. KOF: Maximum Impact 2 is the first post-fighting game. It is in love, and concerned almost exclusively with, the accumulated conventions of a genre that has spent a lot of time doing very little. Why is each character given 16 costumes? Well, Street Fighter had multiple colour palettes, and 3D fighters have had alternate character models for years now, so lets put those together. Why are there a parries, a guard meter, and multiple levels of super meter? People enjoyed them in other fighters! Reams of voice-recorded story dialogue and text profiles for every character? People enjoy the ridiculousness! The ability to pause the game and freely direct the camera? Entire series of fighting games are maintained by a fanbase who wants nothing more than the constant chance of a down-shirt or up-skirt opportunity. Put it in the game! KOF: MI2 essentially takes all the frustrations and niggles associated with being Child Who liked Fighting Games from Faraway Countries, and replies with a breadth of content that seems like sensory overload compared to the scraps of muddled translations and hand-me-down FAQs from a decade ago.

The game most directly embraces its fanbase in the character roster. Here is where Falcoon’s roots as a fan are most utilised. References to Gundam and the Gothic Lolita craze(can we call it a lifestyle yet?), coupled with a strip-mining of SNK’s other franchises, culminate in a beast that is entirely the opposite of Capcom’s aloof, you-will-use-what-we-give-you approach. The man has crammed so much into such a relatively low-budget project that it damns what few contemporaries it has, and speaks volumes about what could have been done whenever fighting games had genuine widespread appeal and the possibility of big budgets.


Now, I’m sure there are hideous problems with character balancing. I don’t even have to play the game at any kind of, urgh, “professional” level to tell you this. I can tell you this because just about every character I’ve played as has been outrageously fun from the off. The gameplay itself could best be described as Rival Schools without the Capcom chastity belt. It is entirely devoted to aesthetic, and if aesthetic requires that a certain super attack take this much damage and have this many explosions, then so be it. It has that kind of fan-made feel to it, though it isn’t some hecking Sonic game made in Flash. Lets just say that on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is DarkChao1993’s Sonic Adventure Zero and 5 is Ryan Payton’s excellent Metal Gear Saga DVD, KOF: Maximum Impact 2 gets a 4. It is utter ridiculousness, sometimes on the scale of bad fan-fiction, yet it does so with a knowing smile and a wink. I can respect that. At least it isn’t bullstuffting me with a straight face.

–Stephen Kelly

Comments

18 Responses to KOF: MAXIMUM IMPACT 2

  1. The thought that an ‘aesthetic’ can extend to gameplay is an intriguing one. So, are you saying that the main heroes and villains of the game are given star treatment when it comes to power levels?

    And oh yes – you can find a hecking Sonic game made in Flash at
    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/151706

  2. It isn’t so much the main cast as the entire roster. Characters created by Falcoon himself tend to have the most bombastic animations and movesets, though every cast member has received a significant amping-up since the more conservative and dry Maximum Impact 1.

    The important thing to note here is that the game is not simply style over substance, rather that it espouses sheer breadth of content rather than a huge amount of depth. The sheer number of characters and moves means that coming up against someone with a noticeable strength advantage on a regular basis is essentially a random event. Similarly, the wealth of game modes and unlockable content means that players are given the right balance of time to become comfortable with the character, without hitting any obvious brick walls in terms of game balance.

  3. I think Falcoon is a terrible artist as well as designer. They should’ve gone with a more talented artist.

  4. I’ll just have to disagree. I’m a fan of the bawdiness and blatant self-insertion (the Nagase character). It adds to the atmosphere, especially given some of the situations the game throws at you (knocking bulldozers over cliffsides, for one). Do you have a problem with the game itself, Anonymous? Much of the meat of the game is there directly because of Falcoon.

  5. Every time I read a fighting game review, I’m looking for the same thing: what does this game offer someone who doesn’t play fighting games? Paradoxical, I know, but bear with me.

    I rented Street Fighter as a kid. I played a little Soul Calibur. Beyond that, the closest I came to fighting games was a couple of months of intense Super Smash Brothers in college. I never had the interest or opportunity to get into King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, or the impenetrable interbreeding of Marvel vs. Capcom vs. SNK, et cetera. The barriers to entry were too high.

    Now: the arcade may be dying in Wichita (and the rest of the western world, I presume), but I still manage to find myself in arcade-like environments. All these places ever seem to have is a single overworked DDR stage, a couple of racing games with scooter or motorcycle controllers, an infinitude of “insert a token, get a bunch of tickets” machines, and House of the Dead. Oh, and one of those fighting games I’ve never gotten into.

    I admire those games, and the dedication it takes to play them. I would like to patronize them in an arcade setting. Every time I try, I might as well be pouring my change down a storm drain, for all the good the provided movelists do me. And so I continue to search for this mythical gateway game, through which the secrets of arcade fighters will be laid bare.

    Maybe I just suck, huh?

  6. Jason, they made a game for you and all good men and it is called Power Stone 2. It is seriously great stuff that assumes you want to mash on buttons and unleash huge hurricanes of super meter power at the touch of a trigger while you kick the crap out of everything and the whole stage slowly collapses around you. It doesn’t branch into the 2D school of fighters but it shows another way to punch some face.

    You can’t get much more complex that Street Fighter 2 without alienating people. That’s a contributing factor to how fast the series fell from grace. 3D games were a visual novelty until the second sequels started turning up, then they fell from grace too. Now you’ve got SSMB, I guess? Lets four guys feel big while not much actual skill is used.

    KOF is kind of like the Mortal Kombat of Japan: huge shameful fanfiction plot, all the women are rendered as busty sluts, jerky flow, no real attempt to do anything the best it can be done safe in the knowledge the competition isn’t interested in that territory anymore. It’s turned into some kind of horrible gaming society page where all the fanboys want to see the latest outfits and hear the latest gossip: OMG, Mai got a bob! Athena is kissing whatever that Captian Planet ring team throwback is called! Terry has a new jacket!

    Still, I’m interested in C+C3 for the cutscenes, so who am I?

  7. There was a second C+C Music Factory game?

    (Digital Pictures forever!)

  8. James: Yeah, this review kept making me think of Mortal Kombat 3, which is arguably the REAL first “post-fighting game”.

    That being said, King of Fighters is an entertaining game, if not especially well-designed or balance. It’s got flow and crunch and nice looking graphics, and the characters have loads of personality.

    I’d argue that MI2 is actually a better single player game because the unlockable content is so entertaining. I usually dislike that sort of thing in games, but when I first saw Nagase’s frog costume I was won over.

    Too bad I can’t figure out how to guard cancel. Or whatever it is training mode asked me to do.

    Power Stone is some good stuff, though yeah. I like Smash Bros. 64 a tad better, but they both hit the same sweet spot.

  9. ssssh toups “post-fighting game” is a vapid assembly of words

    if we want to be super picky anything after Street Fighter II is the super-post-omega-post-post-post-post-post-post fighting game because Karate Champ. Fan service is fan service, and the day Math-core-post-tengen-brawl-em-up is accepted as a gaming genre is the day I spend five hours crying and trying to commit completely ineffectual suicide with a light zapper. Ptang ptang ptang 🙁

    True sad story: When I was… 12 or 13 I used to trudge around school like a sad little ape with a book full of Mortal Kombat 3 move lists I was slowly transcribing. I didn’t even realise what a stuffty mess of content over virtue the whole thing was, I just trundled around with a little red book of movelists for a game I had no easy access to (I didn’t have a copy of a MK home game until about 1997 or 1998 until I picked up UMK3 ex-rental for the Saturn) while I wondered while I was so utterly alienated from the other children. Kind of disgusts me to think back to it, really. Thank heck there’s no unchanging self or I’d probably… stuff, I’d be spending hours a week making FAQs.

    MK3. Wow, what a terrible game.

  10. Next review, then?

    Find an excuse to give it three and a half stars and you’re golden.

  11. I will probably end up buying this in the future, though I don’t know why I continually bother with each new The King Of Fighters installment. There’s like, how many ports of Super Street Fighter II out there? Thems all the fightin’ words you need.

  12. I once had a copy of UMK 3 for the super nintendo entertainment system, and man, what a bunch of horrid crap I spent literally years playing.

  13. I think I didnt like the game for the same reasons you liked it.

    Sure there are tons of fanfic type things to grin over, lots of unlockables, some zanny ideas (OMG I’m fighting a tank LOL!!!). But the game itself is very shallow. All the hits feel cheap, and any time spent learning the game reveals a pretty broken fighting system in general. With no real reason to play at all aside from seeing how else Falcoon is going to jerk off KoF fans.

    The term “Kingdom Hearts of fighting games” comes to mind.

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