The King of Fighters Kyo is one of those games I’ve been meaning to buy for a very long time but never quite got around to it, so when SNK had a 50% off sale on PSN a few months ago I… I didn’t buy it then either. But that’s OK, because a few weeks ago I charged my Japanese PSN account up in slavering anticipation for Biohazard HD Remaster (Resident Evil HD to normal folks, or my personal favourite alternative: REmake Remake) and had enough credit left over for a couple of Playstation games, including this one.
So what it is then? Well this comes from a time when SNK seemed to realise that while 2D beat ‘em ups were brilliant people weren’t really into them like they used to and their Neo Geo AES, bless its cotton socks, was always really more about the love than the money it could bring in. So SNK had a bit of a go at branching out, with mixed results. The most notable one was probably the Samurai Spirits RPG, if only because it sounds like a recipe for instant success but turned out to be almost irredeemable rubbish instead. Then there was… that adventure game with Athena in it too.
Oh! And The King of Fighters Kyo too of course!
This one’s an adventure game set thirty one days before The King of Fighters ‘97 tournament: an adventure game about a fighting game with menu-based adventure-style fighting in it. If that sounds like a bit of a train wreck, then that’s because it is.
Now in theory an adventure game in this setting could work; there’s enough plot and more than enough characters to get something exciting happening, so it’s a little sad to see Kyo spending so much of his time dropping in on friends just to make sure Iori doesn’t upset them. Y’see, one of KoF: Kyo’s main mechanics is that just about everyone Kyo meets is potentially a tournament team-mate, but you can only select them if they like him enough. This would be fairly straightforward “Don’t be mean to people, you moose” business if it weren’t for Iori dropping in on random locations several times a day and throwing a spanner in the works simply by being there, with the added kick in the teeth being that as soon as Iori’s shown up then win or lose your friend likes you less anyway, making the already tedious battling a complete waste of time.
When you’re not busy dealing with Iori the game plays out in typical adventure game fashion, visiting locations on the map to trigger events that occasionally have (largely superfluous) dialogue choices and the odd menu-based battle against just about anyone with a pulse. As you’d expect all the KoF regulars use their standard KoF ‘97 sprites and animations, while the new characters are done in a similar style. In stills these new fighters look good and fit in well with SNK’s sprite work, but in motion it becomes obvious that they’ve been created on the cheap using simplistic and choppy animations.
It’s not all bad though; there’s a hell of a lot of optional content in the game, the flashy battle effects/made-for-the-game animated FMV supers are impressive and the Terry/Andy/Geese South Town mini-arc was genuinely engaging, but these are all-too-brief highlights in an otherwise unremarkable game.
It’s certainly not as bad as Samurai Spirits: Bushido Retsuden, not by a long shot; but while that game had me outright raging in places The King of Fighters Kyo only had me switching from “mildly interested” to “mildly bored” most of the time, which is arguably worse. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the game should be avoided, but I expected something more exciting from a game with as many explosive and iconic characters in it as this one does.
At least we can thank the game for giving us this excellent image of Benimaru playing the guitar.