|System: PSP, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SNK Playmore||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SNK Playmore||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 28, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Capcom may have been the fighting game heavyweight with arcade classics like Street Fighter II and comic book-based franchises such as X-Men, but that didn't stop SNK from producing a string of 2D one-on-one fighters.
SNK, known for their Neo-Geo arcade and home systems, kept a solid pace with Capcom throughout the '90s, with series like The Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury. Even while SNK was cranking out new entries to these staple series, it also produced The King of Fighters every year beginning in '94 and ending in '98. This series took fighters from The Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Ikari Warriors, and Psycho Soldiers and threw them into one big tournament, moving from one-on-one battles to group brawls, pitting three fighters at-a-time against one another.
In the past, gamers had to buy an entry at-a-time when it came to The King of Fighters series. Now, SNK has packaged all five games '94, '95, '96, '97, and '98 on one UMD. It all seems like a matter of simple economics five for the price of one should always be a better deal but technical issues as well as redundant gameplay keep this fighting compilation from rising above the rest of the fighting pack.
Before dissecting Orochi Saga's technical problems, it's important to remember its point of specialized origin. All these games were meant for an arcade cabinet with a 4:3 SDTV screen with a nimble eight-way joystick. Once you realize those two facts, you can already begin to imagine the problems of chucking that experience onto the PSP. Since the PSP has a default aspect ratio of 16:9 (that is, it's widescreen) that means that SNK had two options: it could either rework its code to properly reflect this or run the titles through an emulator and experiment with aspect ratios. SNK chose the latter route, which is unfortunate. There are several screen resizing options for instance, you can crop the screen to 4:3 or stretch the image across all of the PSP's display but neither of these options is stellar. If you want to get the game's original aspect ratio, you have to crop the image so much that you're left with a box in the middle of your PSP that roughly takes up only half the screen. And if you stretch the image, then you miss out on a good amount of pixels.
Then there's the joystick side of the equation. There's two replacement options for that: the PSP's D-pad or analog nub. The nub might as well not be an option as it doesn't register input very well. The D-pad while much better than one would assume is still insufficient compared to a proper joystick; it does its job, but in more of a serviceable manner than an excellent one. The PSP also doesn't help matters with the slow nature of its UMD drive. It leads to delays in sound effects sometimes taking several seconds to register and load times that reach the half minute marker.
Playing through these five fighters serves as a form of narrative flashback. Fighting games have never been strong on story, but this was even more so in the heyday of 2D, one-on-one fighters, and each entry in The King of Fighters Collection is a reminder of that fact. If you try to follow the two main story lines one revolving around the rich drug trafficker Rugal Bernstein and the other, which dances around a mystical power called Orochi you'll either find yourself not caring or completely lost in nonsensical ramblings. This all carries over to the lines delivered by the characters that seem to always straddle between sloppy English and full-blown Engrish. Of course, games like Street Fighter had these same silly bouts of dialogue, but when you read a character saying, You need to find the real meaning of battle. Pain! or The only enemy I have is me...And my old girlfriend, and... all those 2D fighting memories come back, for better or worse.