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  • I’ve mentioned before, I came kinda late to the whole King of Fighters party. I get

  • that there’s separte sagas of about three years apiece, and that these make up a long

  • and storied history... but take it from my perspective. I was introduced to this nonsense

  • with Maximum Impact 1, and yes, I already hear your collective screams ofUR DOIN

  • IT RONG.” Bear with me. That was my entry point to this backstory, with the Meira brothers

  • and Duke and later Nagase and Luise and the rest. Yes, I missed out on the largest part

  • of the plot. And that kinda comes to a head with this King of Fighters, released in Japan

  • in 2006, which isn’t KOF ‘06, it’s XI. Which isn’t 2011, just... XI. Does your

  • head hurt yet?

  • To fill you in on the story... y’know what? You can go ahead and play the 10 Kings of

  • Fighterses and 10 Fatal Furies and Mark of the Wolves and... what, three Arts of Fighting?

  • And Samurai Showdown, and you get the point. There’s some kerfluffle about the Orochi

  • Seal, and some stupidly overpowered boss character is using it to their own evil ends. As three

  • of the 33 characters available from the start, your job is to investigate said kerfluffle

  • by beating down anyone in your way. Simple, right?

  • And here’s where the madness begins. Guilty Gear XX was complex enough with just the original

  • and two flavors of X before it. This King of Fighters rides on the back of the more

  • than two dozen games before it, so there’s a whole system of desperation moves, guard

  • cancels, guard evasion, saving shifts, quick shifts, super cancels, dream cancels, enough

  • to make Solomon revolve in his grave. And if youre new to this particular system,

  • it can be a bear just to try to digest it all. Sure, you can flail through with a random

  • team of your favorite four-letter words. But sooner or later, some SNK boss is going to

  • roll up and Tommy Lee Jones you back to reality, Agent J. Fortunately, a challenge mode gives

  • you a perfect opportunity to practice roll recoveries, throw breaks, and get practice

  • against some of the bosses, while unlocking not only the bosses but some of the more egregious

  • exclusions from the roster, including Mai, Robert Garcia, and Geese Howard.

  • Also when you inevitability when you bite the dust, here’s where the game takes a

  • bit of pity on you, in a shrewd move for the arcade industry: your reward for plunking

  • in another quarter (or, given that this is the PS2 version, deigning to press the start

  • button) is a power boost for the upcoming rematch. You can either knock down the opponents

  • health by a quarter right off the bat, begin the match loaded with for special attacks,

  • or turn down said pity and prove that you can do it the hard way. Your choice.

  • My primary issue, though, is that - compared to contemporaries like the Guilty Gear series,

  • the sprites look kinda dated. I know there was a lot of frustration regarding the recycling

  • of Darkstalkers-era graphics in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series; I hoped that in 2006 we

  • could do better. And it’s upsetting, because the UI itself pushes a much more modern aesthetic,

  • with a robust sound palate. Chances are, if youre the kind of fan who’s already put

  • countless hours into sussing out the plot of this monstrous undertaking, youve already

  • got a copy. If you don’t, prepare to get very, very lost while enjoying a decent fighter.

  • Besides, with re-releases and virtual console ports, how hard can it be to amass twenty

  • four or so of the older games so as to get a clue?

I’ve mentioned before, I came kinda late to the whole King of Fighters party. I get

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