I’m going to preface this review with an admission; I’m not really the biggest fan of fighting games. Sure, I love the old Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games, but I’ve never been a huge follower of the genre. In fact, the only King of Fighters game that I had played previously to Maximum Impact was King of Fighters ’99. That alone should say how much of an unbiased opinion I had coming into this game.
I wasn’t full of preconceived notions that it was better than other specific titles or didn’t compare with another game in the genre. Instead, I was coming in completely fresh-faced. So, with that said, let’s take a look, shall we?
The base storyline of King of Fighters: Maximum Impact revolves around two gangs; Addis and Mephistopheles. Addis was run by a man called Fate, who was a Robin-Hood style character. However, a little while before the events of the game, Fate is killed by the leader of Mephistopheles, called Duke. Now in complete control of the area known as Southtown, Duke and Mephistopheles decide to hold a fighting tournament, under the guise of a charity called the Metatron Foundation.
This brings together fighters from all over the world, as well as the adoptive children of Addis. That sets up the groundwork for the various character specific storylines. However, when I say character specific storylines, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Apart from a very select handful of characters (I think 4, in total), everyone pretty much has the same experience. They go through the tournament and then face Duke at the end. That’s pretty much it. They don’t get any real swerves or plot twists.
On the other hand, the storyline is expanded on if you play with one of these select few characters I mentioned. This version of the story adds more detail and events, which is nice. It just makes me wonder why the developers didn’t put in a similar level of detail for the rest of the characters. It may have been due to time or budget constraints, and let’s be honest, people don’t play fighting games for the story, but it does feel a little underwhelming if your preferred player character isn’t one of those specific four.
As you would expect with a fighting game, the gameplay is very fast paced. King of Fighters: Maximum Impact feels more in line with the speed and tension you get from the Soul Calibur series, rather than the Street Fighter games. Whilst the latter can be quite fast, Soul Calibur and King of Fighters feels so much more hectic. This can be off-putting for many, as you don’t really have time to think about what you are going to do. Instead, you have to act with near-instant reactions.
Another big change to the series is the team system or lack thereof. King of Fighters: Maximum Impact ditches the team fighting from the previous games, going for a more traditional one on one style fighting game. This changes the entire dynamic of the game, but personally, I feel it was a bit of a setback. Part of the reason why I did play KoF ’99 so much was that it featured the team system. It felt different at the time compared to the more “mainstream” fighting games that I always heard about. I mean, even Tekken implemented it with Tekken Tag Tournament. So to remove it was a bit of a disappointment for me. It made the game feel very much like any other game in the genre.
However, the actual fighting is slick and enjoyable. The difficulty is there, but it isn’t overwhelming either… Plus, there are a huge amount of combos in the game, which reminded me a lot of Bloody Roar for the PSX. There’s also the obligatory Arcade mode, as well as a Time Attack mode where you have to beat as many opponents as you can as fast as you can.
All in all, the gameplay is fun and entertaining but feels like it has lost part of what made King of Fighters stand out from the crowd.
The first thing that hit me when I played King of Fighters: Maximum Impact was the fact that it was fully 3D. As stated earlier, the only other game in the series that I had played was KoF ’99 for the PS1. That was a 2D, sprite-based fighting game like the older Street Fighter. However, even by PS2 standards, I do feel that the character models were a bit lacking. If you were to compare it to some of the other big-name titles from other genres (e.g FFX, released 3 years earlier), they feel somewhat dated. This may sound like a pointless comparison, but when you consider everything else that has to go into an RPG (graphically), from the world, characters, monsters and more, you’d expect a fighting game to have far superior graphics.
Why? Well, they only have a limited amount of areas to design, as a very small selection of characters monsters (comparatively speaking). Therefore, they could (theoretically) have spent more time developing the character models. This isn’t to say that the graphics are bad… They really aren’t. They just could have been better…
The jump from 2D to 3D can always be hard for a series, and you can never expect their first attempt to be a resounding success. Because of that, I don’t think the graphics really are a massive negative on the game. They could have been improved, but they aren’t ugly, they don’t make you want to turn away from the screen, and they don’t break the immersion of the fight.
And That’s All Folks
In the end, King of Fighters: Maximum Impact is a pretty good game, that could have been a great game. That’s the only real way to look at it, in my opinion. It is a fun, well-rounded and entertaining fighting game that would be great to play with your friends. It’s just a shame that they removed the aspects that made the series somewhat different, as Maximum Impact really doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Have you played King of Fighters: Maximum Impact? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!