Review: The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (Sony PSP)

box cover
The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Genre: 2D Fighter
Release Date: 10/28/2008

A compilation of King of Fighters ’94 through ’98 that you can take with you on the go. Will it handle well on the PSP which is notorious for being hard on fighters? Will it load up better than its PS2 big brother? What other horrors could await inside this little UMD? Let’s take a peek.

Story/Modes:
Let’s start with multi-player. It does have ad-hoc, but if you don’t have any friends with a PSP and this game you’re out of luck, kind of like me. Yes, I know people who have PSPs, but they don’t have this game and they aren’t my friends. Just another in a long list of PSP games that missed the boat on a wi-fi set-up so you could look for players that are global.

Now that we have that out of the way, you’ve got each of the games from ’94 through ’98 to play through in arcade mode. Not a lot of story to go on other than brief cut-scenes at the end of the games, but that does give you five different options to choose from when you first start up. Aside from Arcade, you can hone your button mashing skills with a practice mode for each game as well.

There is also a challenge mode that has some real challenge to it and some not so much. They consist of challenges of fighting without having a health or power gauge, another you have to fill your power gauge three times before you deal any damage at all. Each challenge unlocks different media, be it posters, or production artwork or music. So that should fuel the need of those people that have to ‘collect it all’. Pretty standard fare for a fighter.

Story/Mode Rating: Decent

Graphics:
The challenge mode and the arcade mode are all the 2D King of Fighters games from ’94 to ’98. While the sprites and backgrounds are great to look at, most of us have seen them before. Nothing has been tweaked or changed here. And here is where I’m going to knock off a few more points.

I can appreciate the 2D fighters just like the next guy. They’re more fun than 90% of the 3D ones out there, but King of Fighters was designed to be played on a 4:3 aspect ratio screen. In case the developers hadn’t noticed, the PSP uses a widescreen ratio. Sure, they give you some options to compensate for this, from having it show in the original pixel size, to a 4:3 size, to a ‘smart-stretch’ and full screen. Like most of the PSOne games you can download, the full screen modes that are available stretch the game in varying ways that really don’t make the game all that appealing and sometimes cut off something you need to actually see to play.

A little bit of effort could have been made to set the backgrounds up as widescreen and then you wouldn’t have to look at bloated fighters on your screen while you play. Sure it’s a nit-pick, but I don’t play these to watch bloated people fighting. Say what you will about other game companies and their revamps, but they take this into account when going over to the PSP and they make sure they look damn good.

Not so in this case, and I feel it distracts and detracts from the overall good look of the games. They have held up over the years pretty well, but looking at it on the PSP, you wonder why they bothered.

Graphics Rating: Decent

Sound:
The sound, as will all King of Fighters games is great. The music is fun and driving and actually decent to listen to on its own. The moves and sounds from the fighters are great and it all flows together pretty well, when it works right.

Just like a few other PSP titles, this one suffers from UMD load-itis. All PSP owners are familiar with this particular game disease. It’s where the game loads up MOST of the sound, but not all of it, so that when it encounters a sound it didn’t load it spits and sputters while it searches the vast reaches of hyperspace on that little UMD to deliver you the sound it forgot to load in the first place.

This doesn’t happen a lot, not even every fight, but it was happening often enough in my 3 day binge with this game that I thought it was worth mentioning. This does take it down a notch.

Sound Rating: Great

Control/Gameplay:
Fighters on the PSP have been notorious for having issues with the D-pad. The PSP-2k takes care of some of this, but you will ruin your thumb with prolonged play. Moving on to actual gameplay, let me talk to you about lag, and what it can mean to you and you game. For some reason, it gets better with each game in the collection. It’s pretty noticeable with ’94, but by the time you get up to ’98 it’s playing pretty smooth with little lag. But with it being a collection, I’m going to have to rate all of them on this, and that lag is there in the earlier titles and for the fans of the series it is annoying.

They’ve done a pretty decent job with the controls and most of the special moves aren’t terribly hard to pull off, but there is no way to know HOW to do this with any of the characters. The booklet isn’t helpful, and there isn’t a whole lot in the game to help you with it either. Sure they have a list in practice mode but it still doesn’t tell you if you’ve succeeded or not, or if you did succeed which move you actually managed to pull off.

Control/Gameplay Score: Good

Replayability:
Other than the Arcade version and having varying degrees of difficulty built into it, as well as the Challenge mode, there isn’t much to keep you playing over and over again if you’re not a fan of fighters or the original games. You’ve got the usual cadre of fighters and you can try varying combos, but the multi-player isn’t useful at all without a friend with a copy of the game. This cuts down on the replayability of the game. There’s some substance here to keep the ADD/OCD crowd going, but if you don’t like the game there isn’t much keeping you here after your first few run throughs.

Replayability Score: Above Average

Balance:
The early games in the collection have a pretty high degree of difficulty, with the latter games getting a bit easier as you go. No idea if that’s the lag, or how they are, but they all get progressively easier as you play, at least until the final boss in each game. They are insanely hard in each of them, which is par for the course with a King of Fighters game. Gotta keep the kiddies popping in them quarters!

You don’t really get anything in this version you don’t get in the PS2 version, but for some reason, they’ve decided to gouge the PSP owner another 10 bucks for the title. If you’re a fan of the series or are n need of a good fighter collection for your PSP though, it’s worth the extra money. It’s kept me busy for awhile now.

Balance Rating: Great

Originality:
It’s a collection, so Originality gets thrown out the window. Other than the challenge mode, there is nothing new here, at all. If you’ve been to an arcade in the 90’s you’ve seen or played these before. Trust me. I was there. I’ve seen me do it.

Originality Score: Dreadful

Addictiveness:
It’s a great series of fighting games with a great challenge rating to it. I cursed, I spit, I almost threw my PSP across the room in frustration, but I kept playing it. I played it for 3 days, and not just to write a review, but because I was having fun. It kept my attention, made me want to sharpen my skills so I could use the fighters I wanted, not just the ones that worked well.

Yes, this game is addictive as hell. Embrace it, enjoy it. It won’t be leaving your UMD tray for a long while once you put it in.

Addictiveness Score: Classic

Appeal Factor:
I have a feeling this little collection is going to get overlooked by a bunch of people. As popular as King of Fighters is and was, it’s tough and not easy on players at first. This frustration factor and the fact that it’s a 2D fighter in an overwhelming sea of newer 3D fighters is going to get it overlooked. I don’t know many fans of the franchise. Then there’s the fact this is on the PSP, which isn’t the best for fighting games anyway. It’s murder on the thumb, no matter which version of the PSP you have, and then there are the loading times, which I’ll cover next, that can be a pain when you’re on the go.

Appeal Factor Rating: Decent

Miscellaneous:
Loading…Loading…Loading…
Get used to this when you play this game. The loading times are completely out of whack on this game. ’94 isn’t too bad, but with each game in the collection it gets worse and worse. ’98 has a loading screen when it starts, a loading screen when you go to select your fighters, a loading screen after that for your first fight. Oh look, you’ve won or lost the first round, now we have a loading screen in between matches to load up the fighters we should have had ready in the first place.

I realize the PSP has a UMD drive and it takes some time to load, but this is a 2D fighting game here. I should have as many load times or as lengthy load times as Smackdown vs Raw ’06! Ok, so they aren’t THAT bad, but ’98 has far too many loading screens for it’s own good. If ’94 can take a few extra seconds to get it loaded up without any issues, then why can’t ’98? It’s sloppy programming, and at this point in the PSP’s life-cycle it’s pretty unforgivable.

And then there was the screen size issue. If Square Enix can take the time to fix Valkyrie Profile and put out Valkyrie Profile Lenneth on the PSP so that it fits properly on the widescreen, why couldn’t SNK Playmore have taken the time to do that on the their game? It’s LAZY. Have a second setting for the purists who want they good ole arcade feel and give the rest of us our HD widescreen on the PSP.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Great
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: Very Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary
While there isn’t any other King of Fighters out for the PSP, there are other 2D fighters that have done the conversion over to PSP a bit better, but if you’re jonesing for a King of Fighters fix on the go, you can’t really beat this collection. Some lag issues on a few of the versions and the 8-10 second loading times on a PSP-2k really make me hesitant to recommend this one to anyone other than hardcore fans, but I had a blast.

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