Reviewed: July 24, 2005
Released: June 28, 2005
Have you ever put a game into your system and after playing for about five minutes had to stop and look at a calendar? Itís not that you are that concerned about that dentist appointment next week or afraid you forgot about some anniversary or another. No, the problem is that youíre pretty sure you saw all the fantastic features in this new game about three years ago, and want to be sure you werenít just imagining things.
Thatís pretty much what youíre looking at with KOF: Maximum Impact - Maniax. SNK has put together a fairly good looking fighter for this latest installment of the KOF series, but thatís about all it has going for it. If youíre looking for a real 3D fighter go get Soul Calibur, Tekken or DOA. There is really no plot to speak of, only the barest of nods to any sort of actual 3D fighting, and they have brought back the completely insane final boss fight that saps any last possibility of fun you might have.
One of the reasons Iíve never been a big fan of the KOF series is because Iím so adapted to the Street Fighter control style, which is also why Iím not that good at Tekken or DOA, but KOF has just always gotten under my skin. There are the typical quarter- or half-circle motions with the controller, but also there are all sorts of weird repetitions or configurations, like a half-circle from front to back and then quarter-circle to the down position. Thatís a not terrible example, but basically itís always seemed like a ďweíre not Street Fighter, even though we really areĒ sort of control style.
Thatís just a personal gripe however; my real problem with the controls of this fighter, and many others on the Xbox and PS2, is that they give you joystick controls and then program the game to be more effectively played on a D-pad. Personally, Iíd like just one or the other, none of this mix and match stuff. If you want us to use the sticks then program the game to play well with the sticks, if not, then donít enable them. I know, all of you out there are already ridiculing any game that would only allow the D-pad, considering current gaming, but sometimes old tech works just as well as new for the job you need it to do.
Also, and everyone but SNK has gotten the message on this already, but as with controls, so with the combat. If you want to build a 3D fighter, build a 3D fighter, and utilize the environments and some nice sidestepping capabilities. If not, donít half ass it, just build your 2D fighter and make it good. It worked for Guilty Gear.
If you are a fan of KOF this is probably a game thatís right up your alley. Controls that I would guess are pretty close to the 2D predecessor and a return of all the characters you know and love (or hate) should satisfy fans. However, as mentioned earlier itís like they just gave the 2D a 3D face-lift, slapped a little polish on it and called it a new game.
I am also going to take a moment here and vent just a little. Yes I know that a lot of fighting games have final bosses that are completely unfair fights, where they change the rules on you and otherwise just make it nearly impossible to win. Itís kind of been the rule since M. Bison since way back in the day. This game, though, goes a little out of its way to achieve this end. It does this by giving the final boss a power meter that starts off full and is never depleted. Umm, hello? Cheating much? Itís not like they are even trying to hide it.
I mean in other fighting games, with the exception of maybe DOA 3, they at least give it the appearance of playing within their own rules. This is just a fight you are going to lose, a lot. I spent a half an hour trying to win this one fight and only managed to win a single round the whole time trying. That's a 30-minute boss fight I never won compared to the entire series of fights leading up to that boss that took no longer than 15-minutes.
The balance is totally off in the single-player game, not just in the impossible final boss, but also with a select few characters that can easily overpower the rest of the cast. Is it so much to ask for at least consistent increases in difficulty, rather than easy, a little bit harder, a little bit harder, impossible.
Let it not be said that Maniax isnít pretty. It is a good looking game with varied environments, and some nice updated character models and flashy special effects. The problem is that they used a lot of modern tech to pull off a game environment thatís years out of date, and itís not like they did it particularly well either, they just did it.
On the bright side a lot of the motion is pretty fluid and many of the character animations are very individualized, so instead of just having basic punches and kicks you have one character who fights with a sort of cat like style (humorous, not Tiger Kung Fu) and another who has a fairly poor imitation of Capoeria. This is nice because there are some characters that will just click for you; you like their moves and look, but some will have the exact opposite effect on you.
There are also some really good effects in the game. You of course have your typical fireballs, etc, that generate some nice effects, but then there are bigger combos and of course the power meter that when full allows for all sorts of fantastic moves. These super moves all have a blur effect and some other slow motion or zoom that gives you a real intimate feel of the action.
As good as any of this is though, itís still rather flat and uninteresting. The game has great window dressing, including more female jiggles than any two DOA games, but no real substance.
Iíve heard worse sound in fighting games, Iím sure. I donít know where, but itís possible. All the fighters have about two different opening and closing phrases so after one play through the game you feel like throttling your own character. If that werenít bad enough it would seem that the developers were proud of their creations, so if you havenít listened to a character enough once you have beaten the game with them, you can open their profile and listen to all those sounds individually, again.
Of course this is a nearly impossible task anyway, so I guess I shouldnít gripe about that too much. The good news is that you can switch out to the Japanese voice actors (not available on the PS2 version), so at least you can avoid the terrible American substitutes.
Music is pretty unremarkable, as it is in most fighting games, and the effects are ok, but about as interesting as listening to paint dry.
If you like the KOF series this may be more interesting to you than to other fans of fighting games. For me I played it through once on the default difficulty setting, slammed my head against the boss for a half hour and then played through on the easiest setting just to see if that made the guy beatable (it did). After that, I was pretty much done with the game.
There are, of course, versus and Xbox live modes, so you can play against actual people, or find people online to smack around, and if you like the game that would get you more than your moneyís worth out of the title. Xbox Live Scoreboards track monthly, weekly, and overall statistics that show wins, losses, draws, cups won, player's level, and the total number of points that have been scored while online.
I started off disinterested in the KOF games and KOF: Maximum Impact - Maniax pretty much validated every reason I had for not liking the originals. Unless you really like KOF series or plan on playing exclusively on Xbox Live you will probably want to steer clear of this game.