Review: King of Fighters: Maximum Impact – Maniax (XB)

King of Fighters: Maximum Impact-Maniax
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Genre: 3D Fighter
Release Date: 06/29/05

Back on October 19th, I reviewed King of Fighters: Maximum Impact for the PS2. KoF: MI was basically SNK’s sucking up to Sony by making a 3D fighting game for the PS2 since SCEA throws a fit about 2D gaming, as we saw with their blunder towards SVC Chaos and Metal Slug 3.

I was surprised that the game was actually really good. It was a 2D fighter that played as a 3D fighter. And I gave the game a very strong 7. In retrospect, there is a chance I was just so happy KoF:MI wasn’t a total suckfest that I gave the game a higher score than it deserved. But after getting my hands on the new and improved Xbox version, I have to say no, 3/4th of a year later, KoF: MI is still a very fun 3D fighting game.

To be honest though, there are very few changes between the PS2 and Xbox version, but what changes are there really add to the game, and I have to say right away, if you have both systems, go for the Xbox version. But ONLY if you have Xbox Live, because truthfully, almost all the changes involve Xbox Live in some way. Then it doesn’t really matter. The PS2 collector’s edition is 10$ cheaper so it’s really an individual call.

So for this review, I’ll be actually reprinting bits and pieces from the original review, because it’s basically me reviewing the same game twice. So enjoy the 50% new content people.

What? Quit your whining! There’s more new content in this review than in Maniax!

Let’s Review

1. Story

Recently in Southtown, home to the KoF and Fatal Fury games, the leader of the main street gang in Southtown was assassinated. Fate was dead, and a new gang knows as “Mephistopheles” took control. Whereas Fate was a champion to the working class and the downtrodden citizens of Southtown, the leader of the Mephistopheles gang, Duke, was evil incarnate, claiming to be spawned from Hell itself. Fate’s adopted children, Alba and Soiree, vowed to prove Duke was behind Fate’s death and to destroy the Mephistopheles gang forever.

Alba and Soiree try on their own to establish a meeting with Duke to settle things one on one. Duke’s lackey, Hyena tells them that in order to meet Duke, they must enter and win the King of Fighters Tournament.

At the same time, various competitors from previous SNK games, ranging from Terry Bogard from the Fatal Fury games to Yuri from the Art of Fighting games to even Ralf Jones from Ikari Warriors, enter this year’s KOF Tournament. This year the Tournament is supposed to be a charity event with the money raised from it going to the needy. However, as the competitor’s arrive, they learn there is a dark side to the organization throwing this year’s tournament.

And this is the basic plot of the KoF tournament. What’s great is the fact that there are two distinct playable storylines in this game. If you play as Alba or Soiree, the main event characters for the Maximum Impact line (if KOF:MI has a sequel), you will get a completely different plot line and cut scenes than if you play as any of the other 18 characters in the game. It’s a nice change of pace and really emphasizes who is supposed to win the tournament/who the main characters are, unlike previous KoF games where you have the plots completely written out, ranging from who lives and dies, to who wins and ends up feuding with someone else, but said stories never actually appear in the games. I’m very happy to see SNK finally start including a lot of plot in their KoF games, as the King of Fighters line has always had deeply detailed storylines that the casual or average gamer would never get to know unless they were a hardcore KoF fanatic.

KoF: MI doesn’t have the best storyline to ever grace a King of Fighters game, but it has the most detailed in terms of what is actually played out before you across the screen. Most fighting games fans will be surprised by how much meat the story mode has, especially compared to what else has come before it in the 3D version of this genre.

Story Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics

Originally I was quite happy with MI’s graphics. And I still am. Originally I said it was the best looking SNK game ever. I still think that. However the Xbox has a lot more graphics potential than the PS2 and so although it was good on Sony’s system, I do have to downgrade my graphics rating here and say that it’s slightly about average for what the Xbox can produce.

The character designs are still hit or miss though. All the girls look… weird. Especially in the face. Yuri and Mai, I don’t know. They just don’t look right in 3-D. Which is a shame as Yuri is my preferred character every time she is available. In game they look like they’ve got the mumps or something. They just look odd.

The male characters however, for some reason, look fantastic. Iori and Terry? Wow. Just wow. And the first time Terry did his hat toss after winning a battle, I totally marked out. And the new main character, Alba, is amazingly bad ass looking. I really enjoy this new character, far more than I ever have Kyo or K’. He’s no Terry Bogard though.

I also enjoy the new alternate looks for each character that you unlock when you beat the game for the first time. Once you have any character defeat Duke, you can get all new versions and looks for the playable characters. See Iori with very short hair. See, Terry Bogard looks just like Sabertooth from Marvel Comics (Mark of the Wolves outfit). See Yuri as a ghetto chick. It’s great.

The rigging models are hit or miss though. Rigging models are unlocked for a specific character when you beat the game. Some characters have one rigging model for both looks. Some only have one. Yuri has two. In her original outfit she gets a Mr. Karate mask! In the alt look, she gets either a baseball cap or a bandanna. Terry…gets a wolf furrie costume for both appearances. I KNOW! Furries suck, right? Poor Terry.

Overall, I am very impressed with how Maximum Impact looks. I may be a bit biased though because of how amazing it looks compared to every other SNK game. It’s not as pretty as a lot of other games that are out. But one thing I think all SNK fans can agree on, is that the KoF crew has never looked better.

It is important to note that this praise doesn’t mean “OMGWTF! Best 3d Fighter EVER!” graphics wise. It is not. It is not even close. There are many other 3D fighters I would recommend if you are a graphics whore. But this is one of the rare times I will not use profanity when a 2D franchise is turned 3D. Not like say, Street Fighter EX, that pile of crap.

Graphis Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

Again, we’ve got some hit or miss stuff going on here. All the music in MI is great. It fits the game perfectly. From the opening theme to the closing credits, the music just feels right. It’s there without being distracting, but you find yourself humming the tunes after the game is turned off trying to remember where you heard that music.

Voice acting though? Hmmm. I will say I dislike Yuri’s voice. It doesn’t sound right. Terry is perfect though. Simply perfect. All the new characters voices fit them perfectly as well. Duke sounds evil (although he is sure a shitty fighter) Other characters besides Yuri whose voices I don’t like include Chae Lim, Seth, and Hyena, who sadly talks the most in the game. However, Rock and Mai are spot on. Like I said, it’s extreme whether I like the voice acting or not, but you have to give SNK props for having every single bit of the game’s voice acting. Impressive. Especially for a fighter. But ESPECIALLY for an SNK fighter.

God I wish Geese was in this game though. Or Shingo. Hearing them totally voice acted would have made my day.

Aside from a very small selection of voice actors I found annoying, this game is brilliant in terms of the auditory quality. Too bad the collector’s edition didn’t come with a CD too.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control & Gameplay

The controls are amazing in Maximum Impact. Everything is spot on. There’s no lag. There’s no screaming “Where was my burning knuckle?” Even the DOA moves are able to be pulled off without a hitch.

Each character has a dozen plus combos they can do and SNK even includes an in-depth manual of everyone’s moves. After games like SVC Chaos and CVS2, this was a breath of fresh air in regards to responsive controls. I was very happy and impressed with everything SNK gave us here.

I also want to point out that Maximum Impact does not play like a 3D fighter. It plays like a 2D fighter. I went in as Yuri and Terry, ignored anything 3D about the game and played as if it was a normal KoF game, and slaughtered the computer no matter what the difficulty level was at. I didn’t use the sidestep or spiral abilities that SNK put in at all. And neither does the computer really. Even the AI is like “This is an SNK game. Fuck that 3D shit.” And it fights you as if it was any other previous KoF game. Some 3D fans might be unhappy with this, but I LOVE it. Thank you SNK for giving us a game that looks like Sony wants a game to look like, but plays like what we SNK fans want.

I was also impressed with the fact I didn’t encounter any lag on Xbox Live while playing a few matches on there. It played very well and I was very pleasantly surprised to have a fighting game with SNK characters that doesn’t have this problem (Capcom vs SNK 2 = boo via Xbox Live).

I prefer the Xbox controller to the PS2 one for fighting games thanks to my time with the Sega Saturn NIGHTS stick and the Dreamcast pad for my SNK games. 3 generations of gaming with nearly the same layout lets me get my moves off faster and allows for more precision. But then, I’ve never liked the PS2 joystick for fighting games.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 8/10

5. Replayability

With 20 characters you have to beat story mode with, Duke to unlock as a playable character and 40 different missions to unlock in mission mode, you will be playing Maximum Impact for quite some time.

In addition to story and mission modes, you can even have team battles. After all, what is a KoF game without team battles, right? 3 on 3 play is what SNK does best.

Xbox Live gives you even more reasons to keep playing as you can now take anyone anywhere on via the net. You can also enjoy 360 Mode and the ability to save your matches to the hard drive. Have a great close match-up that you barely won with single digits in time left on the clock? Now you can relive it over and over again. To be honest, I can’t see myself EVER doing that, but hardcore fighting fanboys may really enjoy this.

KoF: MI I prefer to the DOA collection for pretty much ever reason unless I was a guy desperately in need of giant digital boobies. And even then, Mai has more than enough for anyone.

Right now, out of any Xbox Live capable fighter, This is probably the best for your replay dollar in regards to 3D gaming.

Replayability Rating: 8/10

6. Balance

What? You thought it was going to be all fanatical ravings from me here? Nope. Sorry. Balance is where this game falls short by a mile. Don’t get me wrong. KoF:MI is fun to play. So fun it shocked me. But it is very broken. The boss, Duke, is the weakest boss in any SNK ever. I was able to double perfect him with Yuri AND Alba. My god, speaking of Alba, he is one of the most unbalanced characters ever as well. His combos are strong, lightning fast and cheap, cheap, cheap. When playing through story mode with him, I got hit maybe once. ONCE. All you need are the kick buttons and no special at all, and he can tear through just about anyone. And some of his special attacks, like Winds of Pain, take up almost the entire screen! Likewise Rock and Iori are unbalanced and overpowered as well.

Almost every character has a combo or big move that can’t be blocked and can be used in a cheap cheesy fashion. It’s laughable how you can cheese at this game, from ten hit combos while the opponent is on the ground, to juggling combos, to combing specials immediately after each other.

Sure you can say that because every character has something cheap or unblockable about them that it’s balanced. But two (or in this case 20) wrongs don’t make a right. Still, it’s great when you can beat Iori or Rock on the highest difficultly, going in with the realization that they are broken characters. It’s a good thing this is not compatible with online play as the game would be flooded by people doing nothing but the same combo or special attack over and over again hoping they aren’t playing with someone smart enough to use the 3D moves like sidestep or spiral (which to be honest, very few people will ever use anyway) or guard.

Speaking of Guard, the computer sure loves doing it. You have a one in three chance of the computer blocking so much, you’ll activate the guard crush. ESPECIALLY Duke. Ugh. Duke, Duke, Duke. Easiest boss in the history of SNK games. After characters like Geese and Regal and Goenitz, Duke is just pathetic.

I am amazed by all the people who found the PS2 version of this game hard! Have they never played another SNK game? Was this their first? Because the AI here was brain dead. I’d hate to see what they would call a game with Rugal or Geese in it.

Even after all of this, I need to point out that Maximum Impact is fun. A lot of fun. It’s just not balanced. And I think that is part of the fun. Being able to find out all the cheap things you can do, and then see if you can win without doing any of them. But that doesn’t change the fact that some characters are just too superior to others.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality

Okay, it’s an 8 month old port. Aside from some Xbox Live stuff, there’s nothing really different. Why the massive length in time to get this to Microsoft after all the hardcore SNK kids went out and bought the PS2 version?

SNK is the king of fighting game makers. Always has been, always will be. Sorry Capcom, but aside from SF2, SSF2 and CVS, your fighting games haven’t been up to the quality gameplay wise of anything made by SNK (And SF2 is my favorite fighter of all time). Sure there are a lot of fighting games out there, and there are a growing number of 3D fighters, but KOF:MI has a degree of style that makes it stand out from the pack of lackluster games like Battle Arena Toshinden.. Heck, this isn’t even SNK’s first foray into 3D gaming, but this is there first time where it’s good.

SNK has made a very typical 3D Fighter. There’s an arcade/story mode, some unlockables, and a Mission Mode. They added a tournament mode and Xbox Live play for the Maniax edition. This is similar to games like MK:DA, MK:D, SFA3, and so many others. It’s par for the course for fighting games nowadays. SNK, in its first really hyped and watched 3D game played it conservative and safe. They gave us a good game, but there’s nothing truly original in it, aside from a few new characters and the fact SNK is putting a lot of emphasis on story for a title that could have been a throwaway for them.

In the end though, we see that SNK can make a decent 3D fighter. Let’s not think about the previous attempts. PLEASE. Decent game with some new innovations for SNK, and the stop action mode is a really nice idea too.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

8 months ago, I couldn’t stop playing this game. I loved it. I don ‘t know why or how SNK managed to make a 3D fighter that drew me in and basically super glued the PS2 control pad into my palm, but I wanted to keep playing. Just a few more mission mode battles. Just one more play through of story mode to unlock another rigging outfit. Things like that. I can’t believe how much I loved playing KoF:MI.

Now? Eh. I clobbered every single person I played on Xbox Live, which was maybe about 10-12 people. It was nice, but there was no challenge from any of them, and I quickly got bored.

Same holds true with the main game. Yeah, it was a great amount of fun originally, but I’d already unlocked everything for the PS2 version and beat the game on the highest difficulty with all the characters. There was a noticeable lack of enthusiasm on my part for this game this time around. If anything, the flaws were a lot more apparent.

For example, there’s the option to organize a 128 player tournament. All I can say to that is WHY? It’s going to be nigh impossible to get 128 people willing to play in a tournament of KOF. It seems like this would have been better spent on a different option.

KOF:MI is still a good game. It is still a fun game. But it is still an easy game and thus I don’t find myself into it as much as last time.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

9. Appeal Factor

KoF: MI does an amazing job here. It gives 3D fighting game fans a game that is actually fun to play, even if it is as easy as every other 3D fighting game on the planet. It gives 2D gaming fans a game that is as true to the KoF legacy as any 3D game can be. The fact it plays and feels like a 2D fighter is an amazing accomplishment and one SNK deserves huge props for. It more than makes up for the terrible 3D Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown games that came before it.

The fact that this is Xbox Live capable and suffers a lot less of the annoyances and lags that have plagued every other fighter on Live means Maximum Impact is sure to attract some new fans. Not only to the game, but to the whole KOF franchise as well.

Is it the best fighter ever? No. But it’s a darn good one. I can’t imagine any fighting game fan not enjoying Maximum Impact. But it has the dual problem of possibly alienating the core KoF fan base by not being 2-D, and also having the uphill struggle of trying to get casual gamers and 3D gaming fans to pick up a King of Fighters Title. As I said in the preceding paragraph, Live should help with this little bump in the road for the game.

Appeal Factor Rating: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous

I will harp here about the fact I’m not a big fan of some of the characters chosen for this. Damn it SNK, bring back SHINGO! People love Shingo! Give us Shingo in MI2. And Geese! God I want a 3-D fully vocalized Geese. There just seems to be a lot of big burly characters. Do we really need Seth, Ralf, Maxima, and Clark all in the same game? I would have liked a little more variety.

Let’s talk all the new stuff now. We have Xbox Live and modes that are compatible with it, but ONLY with it. And a lot of gamers still don’t have Xbox Live, and so these new modes are at best, an irritant. Much like Phantom Dust, where the real meat of the game is geared for online play ONLY, it’s a snub to the gamers without Live, and I disapprove of that.

You do get a free hat when buying the game, and a new “ogle the characters” bio mode, but for forty dollars? It’s a hard sale when you can get the PS2 version for 10$ cheaper.

For me, even though I prefer the Xbox controller, the entire “MANIAX” edition feels like it was released to score a few extra bucks. If this had been thought of from the get go and released alongside the PS2 version, this would be the version I’d be touting. But instead, the only way I can say “Buy this” is if you are an Xbox Live AND a KoF junkie at the same time.

I will give this one more thumbs up, in the fact that SNK gives you dual language capability on the Xbox version, You can toggle between English and Japanese, and for the more pretentious out there, you can switch it to Japanese and talk about how much better it is in Japanese even though you’re too lazy to take an intro course to the language.

There’s not a real improvement here, but there is a cost increase. Boo.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 7
Graphics: 6
Sound: 8
Gameplay/Control: 8
Replayability: 8
Balance: 3
Originality: 5
Addictiveness: 6
Appeal Factor: 6
Miscellaneous: 5
Overall Score: 62

Final Score: 6.0

Short Attention Span Summary
Decent game, but it was hard for me to get excited about KoF:MI-Maniax when it’s 10$ more than the PS2 version with no changes to the primary problem with the original version (AI) and some Xbox Live fellatio. The changes that should have been made to this game weren’t, and the add-on’s were superficial. However, if you don’t have the PS2 version, or you never played it, then you’ll have a good deal of fun with MI-Maniax, especially if you have Xbox Live. It’s faster and more entertaining than other 3D fighters. It’s just too bad the AI is brain dead. Rent it first, then see if it is worth the full amount.