Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Virtual Console Review - The King of Fighters '94 (Neo-Geo)

The King of Fighters '94 - SNK for Neo-Geo - 5/10

What the hell's the problem, SNK?!  This game is too $%&@#! hard!  What's the deal with all these impossible Neo-Geo fighters?  Here is yet another one where I can't get past the first stage. In fact, I can't get anywhere on any of the system's early fighters.  I'm still feeling cranky about Fatal Fury Special and Art of Fighting 2.  And World Heroes can bite me for all I care.

Well, that tears it.  I know it's far too late to raise a ruckus about it now, since these games are 15-20 years old.  So I'm docking King of Fighters '94 three points off the review score.  I wanted to give it a solid seven or maybe an eight...but forget it, kid.  This game earns a 5/10 on the report card for teeing off the reviewer.

This is especially frustrating for me because, during the research for this game, I've become a great fan of the King of Fighters series.  That means I've been spending my time playing all ten titles on the Neo-Geo, from KoF '94 to 2K3.  And they're excellent games, just bloody brilliant, once the series gets rolling.

Strangely enough, only KoF '94 is currently available on the Virtual Console in North America, and the '95 edition is only available in Japan.  What's the holdup?  When is SNK going to bother to get around to the rest of the series?  They were kind enough to release a a compilation disc, dubbed The Orochi Saga, which contains the first five games up to KoF '98.  Unfortunately, this retail disc was released in 2008, and may be difficult to find today.  Way to drop the ball, SNK.

Anyway, enough complaining.  The King of Fighters '94 is the first of what would become ten yearly installments on Neo-Geo, becoming the console's flagship series.  It all but invented the "team-based" fighting games, as well as the "dream match," featuring characters from SNK's vast roster of arcade hits.  Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting are represented, naturally.  But you'll also see nods to Ikari Warriors and Athena, among others.  Years later, Sega, Nintendo and Capcom would all offer their own "dream match" fighters, and it all began here, with the first King of Fighters.

Since this is the earliest title in the series, it's no surprise that KoF '94 has the smallest characters, the fewest martial-arts moves, the chunkiest graphics, and the fewest animation frames.  And this is without question the most difficult.  The 3-on-3 teams cannot be edited or customized - a feature that becomes standard immediately in KoF '95.  The ability to dodge attacks by stepping to the side is interesting, but I much prefer the ability to roll, which also appears later.

In other words, King of Fighters '94 is the foundation for the classic series.  That doesn't make it a classic by its own merits.  In fact, I think this is the worst episode of the series.  You might have better luck than I have, so don't let my frustration get in the way.  But I would strongly advise buying King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga, or simply waiting for whenever SNK bothers to get around to releasing the sequels on Virtual Console.

No comments: