reviews\ Nov 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood - GBA - Review

Over the past 12 months, Game Boy Advance owners have seen a lot of great fighting games.  From Street Fighter II: Turbo to Tekken Advance, gamers no longer have to stay home to get their fighting game fix.  Adding to the list of stellar games is Sammy, who has brought SNK's stellar King of Fighters series to everyone's favorite portable game system.  Although pocket-sized, The King of Fighters: NeoBlood EX's fun is as big as some of the best console fighting games available.

To the uninformed gamer, the KoF series may appear to be a major Street Fighter knock-off.  If the only characters you're familiar with are Ryo, Chang and Andy, you'd be right.  Those characters mimic at least some of Ken, Zangeif and Ryu's moves, respectively.  But the other characters, especially the female fighters, are much more unique than that.  Moe has a nice array of kick and punch attacks that are ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Xiayou (from Tekken).  She has very little in common with the ladies of Street Fighter, except for the fact that most of her moves are performed with rolling motions (this is true for all the characters in the game).  Mai is another unique character.  She uses fans like Kitana from Mortal Kombat, but her attacks are almost entirely physical; Mai can throw one of her fans for a quick attack, but her strength comes in the form of her ability to get up close and personal with her opponents and win.  Leona is another great physical fighter, using a fake (but cool-looking) kick boxing style.  There are 18 fighters in all, most of which have a great (but small) list of unique special moves and attacks.

For a Game Boy Advance game, KoF: NeoBlood EX moves remarkably fast.  It's not as fast as Capcom's Vs. games or Mortal Kombat 4 (which were developed for the arcade, and then the consoles), but all of the characters have the ability to perform their moves very quickly.  General movement (walking, running, jumping, etc.) is also relatively fast.

KoF: NeoBlood EX tells a story about a King of Fighters Tournament, which is about as original as the King of Iron Fist Tournament.  Some old guy wants power.  The only way to obtain the desired power is by having a tournament, which will lead all of his enemies into a trap, thus opening the door to powerful success.  As the fighters battle their way through the KoF Tournament, they repeat the same lines over and over again (a la Street Fighter).  Andy consistently reminds us that you "can't win on talent alone," while Moe can't seem to stop questioning her beauty.  It amuses me that game developers say that the story is an important part of fighting games, because it never has and never will be the reason why I play them.  If this empty storyline was the only thing the game had to offer, it wouldn't be worth playing.  Thankfully, it has a lot more to offer than that.

This game is a must-buy for every fighting fan.  Whether you like Street Fighter, Tekken or something else, KoF: NeoBlood EX is entertaining enough for everyone to enjoy.  The variety in special moves and attacks is amazing.  You won't spend a lifetime trying to master this game, but you will spend weeks -- maybe even several months -- playing against your friends.  It's the kind of game that makes you glad that Game Boy Advance is portable, because it enables you to enjoy the game everywhere you go.  It's the kind of game you could take on a road trip to entertain you and your older/younger brother.  Up until this point, my experience with the King of Fighters series did not extend far beyond Capcom Vs. SNK 1 and 2.  Now that I've played and fallen in love with KoF: NeoBlood EX, I'm saddened by the loss of SNK as a developer.  Its properties have been picked up by other publishers, but without SNK at the helm, it just won't be the same.  This game was developed by Marvelous Entertainment, but SNK laid out all of the ground work for them.  Both developers have done a stellar job.  Hopefully the creators of the series will start their own development studio and continue making great fighting games.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.7
You won't believe how much depth is packed inside this tiny game!  The fact that this game has 18 playable fighters is more than enough of a reason for gamers to sit up and take notice.  But when you add in all of the unique special moves, this game becomes more than a fighting game with variety, it becomes an extremely entertaining package that you should have shipped to your home immediately.

Graphics: 8.5 
Fighting games have proven to be the best way to demonstrate the GBA's 2D power.  The graphics are nice and clear, with fairly decent backgrounds, great-looking characters and higher quality animation.

Sound: 7
The sound quality is pretty low, but the music is actually good.  The kick/punch sound effects aren't bad either.

Difficulty: Easy
It won't be hard for fighting fans (and especially fighting masters) to enter the King of Fighters Tournament and win.

Concept: 7.4
What do you get when you shrink the latest King of Fighters game down to the small, easy-to-carry GBA format?  An extremely memorable fighting game that no fighting fan should live without.

Multiplayer: 8.7

Overall: 8.7
Marvelous Entertainment has created a game that is truly marvelous.  Game Boy Advance owners take note: this is a must-buy fighting game.  I repeat, a must-buy fighting game!  The King of Fighters series may not be that familiar to you, but it should be, because this is one of the best fighting games out there.


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