The King of Fighters Collection - The Orochi Saga
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-12-04 PS2 Fighting E10 (Everyone 10+) SNK Playmore

Any self-respecting fighting game fan will have undoubtedly heard of the King of Fighters franchise. However, depending on their age, they very well may have missed out on most games in the series, especially those released in the mid-1990's. For those younger fighting game fans, and for seasoned veterans alike, SNK Playmore has released a compilation of five King of Fighters games, overall entitled The King of Fighters Collection ? The Orochi Saga.

Quite a mouthful in both name and content, The Orochi Saga brings together King of Fighters 94, 95, 96, 97, and 98 and returns them to their former arcade and Neo-Geo glory by including not only five complete games, but various extras as well.

As for the games themselves, 95-97 play as different chapters in the story of Orochi, an ancient demon that was released from its tomb and begins to create havoc in the world. In each game, the overall franchise's main character, Kyo Kusanagi, is tasked with the ultimate goal of defeating Orochi and to seal the demon away again, along with winning each year's King of Fighters tournament in the process.

No matter which of the five games you choose, each plays as a three-on-three competition between various teams from around the world. Throughout the compilation, you have access to a fairly large roster of fighters, and have the opportunity, if you so choose, to play as certain fighters from the first game all the way to the last. Not only does this add a sense of continuity to the compilation, but also allows you to become incredibly familiar with the move set of your chosen fighters, giving you an edge in later games.

Aside from the five games, the title also comes with various challenges, separated into numerous difficulty levels, which set up specific battles with various exceptions, advantages or disadvantages. These changes include simple visual alterations like the removal of the health and power up bars, as well as the timer, from the screen, or can be more impactful, requiring you to use only one attack button for the entirety of the three-on-three match.

After completing each challenge, you'll unlock an assortment of game art, music, and even secret characters for certain games within the quintet. Luckily, these challenges are made easier by the fact that, in my humble opinion, you need little more than to simply bash the triangle and circle buttons (kick and punch, respectively) in order to win each match, no matter which game you are playing.

That's not to say that combos are entirely out of the question, as they do deal out more damage than singular kicks or punches; however, for players like myself, who don't want to mess with memorizing dozens of attack combos, button mashing works just fine.

For others, the game's tutorial mode comes in quite handy, by allowing you to practice your moves without the fear of losing your progress within each game's story. In addition, the entire compilation can be set to a specific difficulty level ranging from 1 (easiest) to 8, giving the game great playability no matter how in tune your fighting skills may be. Lastly, you can also target real world opponents by taking advantage of the compilation's head-to-head two player matches with a friend.

With hyper-defined muscles being about as detailed as the graphics get, and seeing as how each game within the compilation is at least ten years old, the game's graphics are unlikely to impress. On the flip side of that coin however, the game's soundtrack is still as intense and addictive as ever. Even the compilation's main menu theme had me humming along in a matter of seconds.

It's this traditional look and feel to the compilation that makes the title a great trip down memory lane. And while there are plenty of more realistic and technologically advanced fighting games out there, there's still something so satisfying in releasing a primal scream of victory after you hear the guttural moans of your opponents' defeat, made even more satisfying by the game's budget price.

For die-hard fans of the franchise, The Orochi Saga is of course a definite purchase, but for those who are simply interested in discovering classic fighting games from the days of old, getting these five games for the price of one is definitely a great place to start.

Special thanks to David Bruno and SNK Playmore for providing a copy of this title.