King Of Fighters: Sky Stage

Cast yourselves back, gamers, to 1994, when a little console called the Neo Geo played host to a game called King of Fighters. As a producer of arcade cabinets and home consoles to boot, company SNK were not shy to the growing notion of being able to develop games for local arcades that would also be popular enough to port into living rooms across the globe. King of Fighters, along with many of SNK’s titles such as Fatal Fury and Metal Slug, became a classic favourite and spawned many a spin-off for a variety of consoles.

Fast forward 16 years and you will find that SNK Playmore (the phoenix that rose from SNK’s ashes) are still open minded in continuing many of their franchises. The latest edition to be released is King of Fighters: Sky Stage for Xbox Live Arcade.

Based as part of the KOF series, Sky Stage features six recognisable characters from the game’s history: Kyo Kusanagi, Athena Asamiya, Iori Yagami, Kula Diamond, Mai Shiranui and Terry Bogard. However, instead of battling it out against each other with fireball punches and high kicks, the focus of their attacks has shifted to robots and boss fights in a stage by stage scrolling shooter.

Like many similar titles, the controls for KOF: Sky Stage are simple but effective. Using the three varieties of attack (quick fire, special moves and bombs) the main aim is to fire the hell out of everything in front of you while avoiding what’s getting shot back. Each character’s moves are varied and individual in appearance, but have little variation in strength. The ability to charge special moves adds a little twist when firing against the host of bots swarming down the screen, and is especially useful when timed well against bosses. They also help to charge through collecting bonuses dropped as you destroy more and more enemies, so it can prove lucrative to hold down the A button!

Throughout the game’s 11 stages, you can also hope to meet a variety of popular bad guys from the KOF series; with the forever resurrecting Ochuri as your main foe. Although it is a welcomed sight to see many classic characters return, their transformation into a shooting game dulls their impact and feels repetitive after several stages. On the flip side, because of the small number of levels, yet higher playable character set, the game has some sense of replay value. The plot conversation between levels and bosses is personalised to the characters and will be of interest to King of Fighter die-hards.

Like most Xbox Live Arcade releases there is also the addition of a local two player co-op mode as well as multiplayer Team Play and Versus mode. While co-op mode runs much like the single player game, the versus mode pits players against one another, where the trick to winning relies on filling a Judgement Gauge through collecting dropped bonuses. Unfortunately, like the majority of KOF: Sky Stage, it feels lost and confused, like two ingredients that shouldn’t really have been put in a mixing pot together.







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