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
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.