K-1 Grand Prix Review

By: John Doe

More brutal than boxing! More violent than kicking! It's kickboxing, and this is Jaleco's third attempt at the sport. Featuring real kickboxers, K-1 Grand Prix is the one and only choice for fans of this hybrid sport. Unfortunately compared to other recent boxing titles, K-1 Grand Prix just can't seem to hold it's own. In fact this version loses some of the advances set by its predecessor, K-1 Revenge.


If you are a fan of kickboxing or the K-1 games, you'll love the fact that there are 16 real life kickboxers to choose from at the start; powerhouses like Ernest Hoost, the 1997 K-1 Grand Prix champ. If you are a fan of videogames than you'll probably detest the slow pace of this game and the lack of any action or excitement. What happened? K-1 Revenge had much faster gameplay than this title. It didn't look as nice, but things snapped along.

Why is my kickboxer nailed to the floor? I'm pretty sure my d-pad was working in the last game, so what is going on? Oh, I get it now, he can't really move back and forth like how you would expect. He can only really move back and forth with two taps of the d-pad in either direction or pull of a sidestep to the left or right. That's convenient. Why are they fighting underwater? Oh, wait, that's just the delay between button press and slow animation. I remember thinking the first Knockout Kings was slow. Well, the benchmark for slow just got moved down a few notches. If you've ever seen a real kickboxing match then you'll understand just how painfully slow the "action" is in this game. Real kickboxing is a wild flurry of kicks, punches and spins, but you won't find that in this game.

If the 16 selectable fighters aren't your style, you can choose to create your own fighter. You can call him whatever you want, as well you can select from a small selection of body styles, skin colors and trucks and proceed to train him in one of the most uninteractive training modes I've ever witnessed. You pick a fighting style to train in (karate, boxing or kicking) and then you have several training exercises to choose from to hone your abilities. Instead of actually doing these exercises, you simply sit back and the game runs an animation of your character doing a few of things selected. If you don't care to watch this, simply press the X button and everything will be instant. Ah, that workout was refreshing. Do this a number of times and you'll be ready for your first fight, albeit with less than full power. The one aspect to this training mode that is useful, is that as you build up training points, you'll be able to "buy" certain moves. Unfortunately this means having to sit through a lot of repetition. You can also assign your moves to different joystick and button combinations which is a nice touch. This mode is worth it, if you really want to have complete control over your character.

K-1 offers up the following modes of fighting: K-1 Kings (1 player), K-1 Hercules (2 player), K-1 Grand Prix (Tournament 1-16 Players), K-1 Challenge (Create-A-Fighter) and Ringside which allows you to watch a bout. The K-1 Grand Prix is the most interesting as you are at least fighting towards a goal. However in any game, is seems that the CPU can throw together combos and get off kicks and punches much faster than you, making some bouts extremely tough. I thought it was because, naturally some fighters are faster than others, but when I tried playing as one of the "fast" fighters I noticed how slow he was. It seems the CPU has an unfair advantage in this game.

Visually this game is nice and clean. The boxers look good, have nice body detail and resemble their real life counterparts for the most part. As mentioned earlier, it is the sluggish control that brings this game down. The animations of the various kicks and punches look good, but when it takes up to two seconds from button press to impact, that's inexcusable.

The tunes in K-1 Grand Prix rock. Screeching guitars and pounding drums drive what should have been a major kick ass game. The sound effects on the other hand are watered down and sound like they've been lifted off of the NES. The "whooshing" sound that accompanies your assault as it cuts through the air like a knife, is in stark contrast to the meek thwack that connects your fist to his face. Compared to the bone jarring thuds of K-1 Revenge, Grand Prix just can't compete.

In the end, Grand Prix is 1 step forward, 2 steps backwards for the series. Yes it looks nicer, but plays much slower than you'd expect. While K-1 Revenge was almost too fast at times, the opposite is completely true of Grand Prix. I'm certain X-ing wanted to refine the experience, but instead they ripped the soul out of what should have been the best in the series. I did receive this game two months before it's intended release (January 2000) and was told it was a reviewable version. However, I'm really hoping that X-ing and Jaleco have spent the last two months tweaking the game speed and sluggish gameplay. If that is the case, I'll be happy to review another "final version". As it is now, I'd avoid it and pick up K-1 Revenge to satisfy my kickboxing needs.






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