The King of Fighters 2006
As the sun rises over the slums of Southtown, Alba and Soiree Meira prepare for battle. It’s been a while since the brothers wrested control of the city’s underworld away from Duke, a demonic thug and former crime lord. Despite the drastic regime change, old habits die hard. To keep up the tradition of Southtown’s brutal and bloody history, the dynamic duo has let the yearly King of Fighters tournament begin anew. Fighters from all over have come to kick some ass, including seasoned veterans like Terry Bogard, Kyo Kusanagi, Rock Howard, the Art of Fighting team, the Ikari Warriors, and a slew of other contenders that have endured years of competition. But as with any other King of Fighters tournaments, not everything as it seems. Some new crime organization is working behind the scenes in an attempt to gather the world’s strongest fighters for a greater (and likely sinister) end. With buckets of adrenaline flowing through their veins and the prospects of prize money dancing through their minds, the warriors of The King of Fighters 2006 are ready to play.
However, the latest tournament has drawn far more outside attention than that of the previous competition. This game nearly doubles the character roster of King of Fighters Maximum Impact, allowing you to choose among 38 fighters, including seasoned brawlers like Ralf, Mai, and K’ and newer faces like Lien, Duke, and Chae Lim. However, fans of the King of Fighters series will be pleasantly surprised by a few familiar faces; Billy Kane, Kim, Richard Meyer, Mr. Karate, Kula Diamond have transcended their 2D origins and have become fully developed 3D fighters. Also, Hanzo Hattori and Fio Germi show up to represent Samurai Showdown and Metal Slug respectively. Even Kyo and Terry, two of the main heroes of the series, get their own old-school alternate clones with distinctive moves and abilities. But if the fans are ready for a massive tidal wave of nostalgia, then the unlockable suped-up version of Geese Howard (aka one of the most infamous villains of the series) will be more than enough to leave the veterans of the King of Fighters games gaping in awe.
Yes, you read that right. A fully functional 3D version of Geese Howard, Billy Kane, and a slew of other old King of Fighters characters are at your disposal. Luckily for the fans, however, The King of Fighters 2006 doesn’t just boast an improved roster; it’s got the gameplay mechanics to back it up. The game’s predecessor was marred by incredibly unbalanced characters, super combos that could be abused with ease, predictable AI, and plenty of other drawbacks. The latest installment fixes quite a few of these shortcomings; though some of the computer-controlled enemies may overuse certain maneuvers to a fault, their moves have been greatly toned down in damage to allow for fairer fights. Unfortunately, these little alterations to the moves have resulted in the characters being able to knock an opponent on the ground, get in several free kicks, use a combo to send the victim airborne, and lead into all sorts of multi-hit offenses on the way back down. Thankfully, the game tries to balance it out by implementing improved dodges, defensive rolls, and even a fairly intuitive countering system. You can counter almost every move your foe will throw at you, but the AI’s nigh-perfect reaction time will usually result in a countering of your counter (or a dozen counters back and forth, depending on your reflexes). It may not be the most perfect fighting game engine ever conceived, but it’s quite an improvement over SNK’s previous efforts.
The updated features don’t just revolve around the fighting, though. Aside from a decent biography page for each character, The King of Fighters 2006 boasts a wealth of extra gameplay modes, including the standard renditions of Practice, VS combat, and Time Attack. The Survival Mode not only pits you against a never-ending lineup of opponents, but also rewards you with bonus points that can be spent toward your character’s health, overall attack power, and the round’s time limit. But if you’re looking to test your King of Fighters gaming prowess, the game includes a long list of mission challenges. You’ll have to hit an enemy enough times with a certain attack, perform a successful chain of counters, break through a foe’s guard, smack someone into a wall, and complete plenty of other progressively difficult objectives. There’s even a mini-game that pits your character against an SUV in an epic brawl of vehicular destruction. You’ll also be justly rewarded for your efforts; once you’ve completed each objective, you’ll unlock another of the several dozen character costumes available. Considering that there are over one hundred missions to unlock and complete, it’s a fair bet that completionists won’t put this game down anytime soon.
And it’s not like you’ll want to stop staring at the game, either. King of Fighters: Maximum Impact took pride in being the series’ first three-dimensional game, and King of Fighters 2006 does no different. Many of the characters have been revamped with more detailed costumes and smoother animations, reflecting the influence of older King of Fighters games. All of the characters have retained their usually battle stances, cheesy one-liners and victory quotes. Though Mai and Lien’s breasts have become large enough to break their backs, the sheer amount of perverted jiggle camera shots more than makes up for their unrealistic designs. Terry can still pull off his classic Buster Wolf with ease, complete with an overly dramatic “ARE YOU OKAAAAYUH?! BUSTER WOOF!” to accompany it. Kyo, K’, and Iori can all sling smoldering fireballs with ease, while Ryo’s devastating punch and kick combos can be performed with grace and near perfection. Unfortunately, the game retains several of its American and Japanese voice actors from the previous title. Rock’s throaty rants about his cursed heritage are still cringe inducing as ever, and Mignon’s high-pitched squeals make her even more adorably irritating. At least Billy Kane’s sounds like the badass British thug he was meant to be. It may not be of the same quality of its 2D heritage, but this game comes close.
After the horrid quality of the last King of Fighters game, one had to wonder if SNK had any idea what they were getting themselves into. Thankfully, they’ve learned from most of their mistakes and have given us a game that vastly improves upon its predecessor. The King of Fighters 2006 features a huge roster of playable characters and a fairly detailed storyline to back it up. The game has significantly tweaked the gameplay to make the combat more fluid and balanced in nearly every aspect. The sheer amount of extra missions, unlockable items, and multiplayer options will provide plenty of hours of entertainment for fans of the series and fighting game fans alike. And for those of you that worship the 2D games of old, don’t worry; these three-dimensional warriors possess the personality and zest of their forefathers. So ends the King of Fighters tournament for this year, a wonderful installment for underrated series.
Eight out of ten