IGN Review of King of Fighters: Neowave
In the long-running history of the King of Fighters 2D fighting series, the newest entry, NeoWave, falls somewhere in the middle. Sure it's got updated graphics, a few different styles of play, and a huge roster of fighters, but it does little to entice any non-KoF fans into the mix, something this genre desperately needs. For hardcore fans, likely the only people actually reading this review, you'll likely want to pick this up for nothing other than its online support, which is extensive.
The core of any fighting game is its battle system, and NeoWave's has been altered from previous versions. Its new fighting modes all add new wrinkles to the fighting mix, allowing for even more options to the existing array of special and super moves. Playing in Super Cancel mode gives you three super bars that fill as you do damage and allows you to cancel moves in progress if it looks like your opponent is anticipating your attack. Guard Break gives you the opportunity to expend one super bar to, as the title implies, bust through a block, and Max2 lets you pull off an additional, extra-flashy special move when your health gets low and turns red.
What does all this amount to? Not much, the combat still feels largely the same as previous KoF entries, though with a few attack ranges and damage amounts that have seemingly been fine-tuned. In addition to the three modes of play, you'll also get "heat mode," which sacrifices life for attack power. Considering the amount of life this eats up while active, the damage output doesn't compensate. Since it's only really useful to finish off an opponent near death, it's not all that important an addition to the KoF system.
While the game plays and feels much like KoF games of the past, it does look a little better. Character models have less jaggies and a few enhanced animations, and backgrounds are significantly improved. Despite the slight improvements, NeoWave's looks and moves are, like the gameplay, disappointingly similar to what we've seen in the past. Even though the previously released arcade version of this game is based on the newer Atomiswave hardware, it makes surprisingly little difference on Xbox.
Sound suffers, with little in the way of memorable voices or tunes. In fact, the game's music is generally forgettable or annoying, even if it's similar to what KoF's been doing in the past. Voices get repetitive quickly. Progressing from match to match will expose you to KoF's mysterious load times, which occur during every round break, before and after matches. Why this couldn't be eliminated is a confounding question indeed. Aside from that, matches proceed at a relatively quick pace.
NeoWave has single and team modes, none of which have storyline associated with them so they're extra boring. The team battles have you choose three fighters from the overall 43. The order of appearance can be chosen before battle, and each fighter will appear successively as others fall. You can't switch them out in the middle of a fight. As a bonus, you also get to square off against an insanely cheap endboss, which if you're a fan of KoF at all, should be no surprise. Endless, Practice and Versus modes round out the single player portion, but none of these will keep you playing long, or amount to enough to warrant a purchase.
It's online where NeoWave's value lies, allowing you to participate in single or team battles, instantly rematch an opponent you faced, or set up a tournament for up to 128 players. Like in arcades, the only reason to ever play a fighting game is to compete against others. While the single player computer A.I. can be challenging, it's never as satisfying as taking down a real person in combat.
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