The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga Review
Wii | PS2 | PSP
The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga box art
System: Wii, PS2, PSP 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: Dec. 2, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

For those who loved the King of Fighters series in the mid-to-late '90s, the new Orochi Saga collection is a no-brainer: five classic games (King of Fighters '94 through '98), emulated with no discernable problems, for $30. Still, what about people who didn't frequent arcades, didn't own the few consoles on which these games appeared, and/or weren't born soon enough? That's a tough question, as these titles will annoy and impress in roughly equal measure.

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga screenshot

Let's start with the annoyances (we're mean like that). Four things are off-putting and apparent after spending but a little time with each game. For one, besides swaps in the roster (King of Fighters characters come from publisher SNK's other fighters, and some move in and out each year), there's very little change from game to game; this often feels more like a collection of John Madden Football titles than like a true five-for-one deal. The graphics improve only marginally over the half-decade span, and by King of Fighters '98, they look noticeably behind the times (that's the year Half-Life came out, and SNK's Neo-Geo machines were known for their unusual processing power and expense at the time).

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Another odd aspect is how uncanny the resemblance is between these games and those in the Street Fighter II franchise. The art and animation styles are indistinguishable, you could switch out the MIDI tracks without noticing, and the overall play mechanics pretty much match. This isn't necessarily to accuse SNK of plagiarism; in the late '80s and early '90s, Capcom and SNK both worked hard to develop fighting games, and while the former was indisputably the leader, SNK did some important work. It's not surprising that both companies ended up turning out some similar products.

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga screenshot

This is, however, to point out that the question "Why don't I just play Super Street Fighter II Turbo instead?" might enter your head, and there's no good answer. These are straight-up emulations with few improvements, so naturally, they look, sound, and feel dated. The developers haven't even added online capabilities - a must for fighters released in modern times whether they're remakes/re-releases of old titles or not.

A third annoyance is that, when it came to control, the developers took a "throw a bunch of configurations at the wall and see what sticks" approach. There are no fewer than four ways to play: Wii-mote only, Wii-mote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and Gamecube controller. In each, you can assign the functions (normally two punches, two kicks, avoid, and knockdown) to buttons as you see fit.

The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga screenshot

The Wii-mote alone is truly awful, requiring you to somehow enter fireball and dragon-punch motions on the soreness-inducing D-pad while also using your left hand to press the A and B buttons. The Nunchuk controller at least makes it physically possible to play the game, but it feels weird for anyone at all familiar with fighting games. The Classic Controller is a serious step in the right direction, but you can't really position your thumb quite right on D-pad or the joystick. The best option is the Gamecube controller; its comfortable joystick is perfect for moving around with precision and entering moves. The right-hand button configuration (with the huge A button in the middle) is far from ideal, but that's an issue worth coping with in exchange for the joystick.

Screenshots / Images
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