The King of Fighters Neowave

The King Of Fighters Neowave

The King Of Fighters Neowave

Kick, punch – it's all in the mind.

As you've probably noticed over the last week or so, the whole world has been going crazy for that gathering of the gaming industry's finest, largest and loudest that is E3. With plenty of new PS3 and Wii stuff to marvel at as well as some great new 360 titles, it's fair to say that this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was the next-gen show. An appropriate introduction to this review really, since SNK Playmore has really gone to town with the glorious high-def visuals of Neowave to give the world's shiniest fighters like DOA4 a real run for their money. Ahem. If you hadn't already guessed, that was an absolute lie. If we were to crank the Cynic-O-Meter up to 11, we could even say that this should have been a Xbox Live Arcade download. But were not going to do that because we're not idiots.

True to form in this genre, what we have here is a collection of reused sprites from older games thrown onto a set of not-so-spectacular backdrops and told to fight. On paper, that might look like a bit of a mess but then traditional fighters seldom sell themselves through such deconstruction and beneath the tired surface lie a slew of enhancements and surprises that make Neowave a worthy purchase. To give the game its due, there's a definite charm to its style despite its ageing looks and with almost fifty characters to pick from, you could spend weeks learning the strengths and weaknesses of each. There have been some far greater changes under the bonnet than these few, however...

The crucial difference between this and the rest of the King Of Fighters games is the choice of fighting styles this time around. Super Cancel gives you a triple stock of supers and allows you to link specials into supers (like in the Street Fighter games) and vice versa for some impressive looking chains while Guard Break grants just two bars of super in exchange for a powerful guard crush move and the wonderfully technical Just Defence system (guard at the right time to avoid chip damage). Third option MAX2 is by far the simplest, giving the player exclusive access to a character's most powerful super (in theory, at least) and upping attack power at the cost of losing many evasive moves and only having a single, constantly building super meter. The three are surprisingly well-balanced and just like in Capcom vs SNK 2, different characters are better suited to different styles. For instance, there's little point in picking Super Cancel mode with a grappler and by experimenting in Practice mode, you'll be able to work out which characters have useless MAX2 desperation moves. There's also the addition of Heat Mode across all three systems, allowing you to drain your own life in exchange for a power boost.

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SNK brings KoF Neowave to Xbox

Due out in March across the pond.

With Xbox 1 still totally in Microsoft's thoughts (right), it's absolutely not up to third parties to give us all our kicks this year. Except in this one alternate reality where it is, and the people there are quite pleased because SNK's just thrown its hat in with The King of Fighters Neowave, due out in March in the USA.