King of Fighters: Maximum Impact 2 PS2 Review

When 2D games with strong followings go into 3D for the first time, you can be sure that at least some of the fans aren’t going to be happy with their favourite game gaining an extra breadth, and all too often losing much of its visual charm. To them it can be almost like an old friend turning their back on them.

The first 3D King of Fighters, Maximum Impact is a good example of this, a game that met with a lot of hostility from KOF fans, not least of which because of its poor balance and an engine that seemed to still have its heart firmly in 2D territory, whilst still having an emphasis on combos.

Its sequel King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2 feels much the same, essentially a 2D fighter in 3D clothes in both its looks and its game play. The engine is more than adequate but can’t measure up to the best 3D fighting engines, such as Tekken and Dead or Alive. It all looks very nice too, but the animation is rather rigid and much of the charm that it has in 2D has been lost in its translation to the third dimension.

Maximum Impact 2 has been much better received with long time fans of the series then the previous 3D game was, and this is because the all important balance issues have largely been resolved.

The new judgement mechanic prevents the overpowered combos that were possible in the original game, cutting down the damage of particular chained moves, resulting in far more balanced fights.

The character roster is also far better poised. There are 38 in total (almost double the amount of the last game) and fans will be pleased to see the likes of Billy Kane, Kim, Kula Diamond and Geese Howard stepping into 3D for the first time, along with of course some fresh faces.

New gameplay additions are few but significant nonetheless. You’re now able to parry incoming attacks and the super cancel (featured in other KOF titles) has been implemented, allowing you to combo from a special move straight into a super.

The single player in a fighting game traditionally serves as a good training ground, where moves can be practiced on moving opponents, before facing off against fellow human competition. Unlockables can also usually be won this way. But With Maximum Impact 2, single player is more substantial than the norm.

As always, there’s an arcade mode, but also a rather sizable challenge mode. Both serve as a way to get the many hidden characters and unlockable costumes and will keep the single player busy for quite some time for reasons other than just training.

In its 2D incarnations, the King of Fighters series is largely one of the best of its kind, but in 3D it’s not quite as successfully crafted, which certainly isn’t to say it’s a bad game, just that it doesn’t possess the fluidity of the most proficient 3D fighters, nor does it have the most enjoyable of fighting engines. What it has done is manage to appease the KOF devotees and for that it deserves to be commended.