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 Post subject: KOF Sky Stage (PS3 - XB360 - XB1 Compatible)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:43 am 

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Joined: 11 Oct 2008
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Location: Autobot City, Sugiura Base
Up there with the Best of the Best (of Fighting)

The King of Fighters. One of the biggest names that echoed on the arcades since 1994 when SNK released The King of Fighters '94 on the Neo Geo as one of the many contenders waiting to dethrone Street Fighter II and its many variations (Super Street Fighter II Turbo in 1994) alongside with Mortal Kombat II, Primal Rage and Killer Instinct.
When The King of Fighters '94 was released, it was an innovation as we had (and have) the 3-character team comprising SNK's well known casts from their classic fighting games like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting along with classic characters like the Ikari Warriors Ralf and Clark (no longer Paul and Vince) and the Psycho Soldier duo Athena and Kensou (formerly known as Kensu).
Originally concieved to be a lone entry due to its crossover nature, the immediate success and fan reception made SNK to change its mind and release a sequel each year 'cos they realized they've made something, and something big with that game. You could be the unwanted classmate in school, but when you were passing moves and special attacks of a KOF game, you became some sort of a "Hero of the block" (back then our only source of info was either magazines like Gamepro, or figuring things by ourselves).

Whether you're a "Fighting" genre veteran who knows all the character's moves and beats everyone who challenges you, an Anti-KOF Snob whose loyal to either Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, or just a total sucker at fighting but excels in other genres like shooting, there's no doubt that the KOF series are the pinnacle of 2D fighting genre.

With KOF's success, the spin-off materials came out, like The King of Fighters Kyo, King of Fighters R-1 and The King of Fighters Battle de Paradise. SNK already exploited some of the most common genres for KOF like the Visual Novel and Board Game-style. So they decided to give a try to something different, and that was making a shooter based on The King of Fighters. Thus, KOF Sky Stage came to existence.

The plot of this game combines the cast from KOF '99-2001 in the Orochi Saga of the King of Fighters '97. In this case, six fighters have the mission of save their captured friends from Orochi's dimensional prison, with the power of flight given by Chizuru Kagura, they take the skies to engage in combat against demons and wraiths.

If you are a long time KOF fan/fighting game enthusiast, you'll be very familiarized with Kyo and his buddies, but for those who don't here's a quick rundown on who is who in this game.

First of all, let's start with the boys. These are not a bunch of wimpy kids.

Iori Yagami: One of the antagonists of the KOF series, an original character of the KOF series and Kyo's rival. He teamed up with Billy Kane from the Fatal Fury series and former KOF-champion in South Town and Eiji Kisaragi from Art of Fighting 2 a ninja with unfinished things to settle with the Sakazaki family, forming the Rival Team in KOF '95 robbing the place of the USA Team from KOF '94 'cos Eiji and Kane stole the invitations. The team was renamed as Yagami Team, along with the name change Iori replaced Billy and Eiji with Mature and Vice, former secretaries of Rugal Bernstein.
Iori's weapon is to shoot a wide but full frontal shot, its width is helpful as it adresses the common problem of frontal shots of being unable to take multiple enemies. His "bomb" consists of making deadly slashes.

Kyo Kusanagi: The main protagonist of the KOF series, like Iori, he is also an original character created for the series. He teams up with his friends Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon, leading the Japan Team (KOF '94-'95), later renamed to Hero Team.
Kyo's main attack is a 5 way spread shot that is backed up by diagonal angled beams that explode on impact. His special attack consist on releasing a short ranged "prominence" that destroys any enemy on its path, while destroys all bullets on screen.

Terry Bogard: For old schoolers, Terry is one of the many "I wanna dethrone Ryu in the arcades" contenders along with Sub-Zero, Sauron and Ryo Sakazaki. He is the protagonist of the Garou Densetsu/Fatal Fury series, Andy's brother, Joe Higashi's friend and the leader of the Italy Team in KOF '94 and '95, later renamed as Fatal Fury Team.
In Sky Stage, Terry's main weapon is a rapid frontal shot, but lacks of any support weapon to back him up. His special attack is the "Power Geyser" which fires an explosion with a considerable blast radius, pretty much like the Super Hornet's "Super Tomahawk" bomb in Strikers 1945 III but with a shorter burn time.

Time for the best part of the cast. The ladies of King of Fighters: Sky Stage.

Kula Diamond: She was introduced in The King of Fighters 2001, she is a member of Team N.E.S.T.S. led by K'. She is one of the clones of Kyo Kusanagi along with K', K9999 and Krizalid (the main antagonist of The King of Fighters '99). Ironically, she uses ice-based powers while Kyo is fire-based.
Kula's main attack is a double 5 way spread shot using two ice boulders as pods while she shoots a 5 way snowflake shot. The boulders can move at an angle pretty much like the helicopters in Zero Gunner. Her special attack is to freeze the screen.

Athena Asamiya: Protagonist and Player 1 character from the 1986 platformer Psycho Soldier, descendant of the original Athena of the arcade game of the same name (also released in 1986), and leader of the China Team in KOF '94 and '95 with her friend Sie Kensou and their master Chin Gentsai. The team is later known as Psycho Soldier Team.
In this game, her main shot is a frontal shot of 4 thin bullets in a single line, backed up by Psycho Balls that moves making curves. Her special attack is to generate a phoenix and make a frontal attack (a reference to her Psycho Beast special attack in Psycho Soldier and the Phoenix armor in Alpha Mission II).

Mai Shiranui: For those who are new to Fatal Fury, King of Fighters and fighting in general, Mai is more than just "another female character", she was originally introduced in Fatal Fury 2 as the first female character of the series (and one of the first playable girls in general gaming along with Chun-Li, Tyris Flare, Ellinor Waizen and Samus Aran). She's member of the England Team in KOF '94 and '95 led by King, the club bouncer from Art of Fighting. The team was later known as the Women Fighters Team. However, Mai switched teams ocasionally, like in KOF '99 where she's member of the Fatal Fury Team.
In KOF Sky Stage, Mai's main weapon is a rapid straight shot of fans in a single line, the line swings as long as you hold the button while moving either left or right, just like the Swing Vulcan in Raiden V. She's backed by larger fans that move across the screen. The only problem is her firepower is the weakest. Her special bomb is a blast of petals while she spins.

It is interesting to see how much of the fighting game elements made their way to the shmup adaptation, starting off with the Combo Bonus, which although we know them in STG as multipliers, the combinations (combo for short) were introduced in fighting games. As we all know, killing multiple enemies continuosly for a period of time adds "Hits", which increase the overall bonus.
The "Provocation" move was also included in the game as well and improved from being a simple taunt. In KOF Sky Stage, provoking makes the screen turn red and all the enemies will become more agressive, affecting your score. It also affects the medals (example: bronze medals will become silver). Think of this as the Order-Chaos field switch in Chaos Field.
The concept of special moves and the level gauge were also adapted to 1-button moves with causes a certain amount of damage depending on holding down the button when the gauge lights up at a specific level. Some characters can nullify bullets, while in others this is more of a defensive move.

You can't have a plot without stopping the action...

Despite being an arcade shooter, it features some "Story" elements like Giga Wing and Triggerheart Exelica by interrupting the gameplay and adding a simple cutscene. Fortunately, this only happens before and after boss battles, while the rest of the game is fluid and un-interrupted.

The game has a second loop, however, to access the loop you'll have to obtain the cards that can be picked by shooting a specific character on each stage (Ryo Sakazaki in Stage 1 for example), once you've get all the cards, the second loop is available.

Like in the fighting games, 2 players can select the same character, so just like in Street Fighter II' Champion Edition and Blazing Star, you and your friends can figure out who's the best Terry Bogard out there. My only complaint about the game will be the unavailability of picking alternate colors regardless of playing in 1 or 2 player mode.

See this, Mortal Kombat?, This is how a fighting game spin-off should be made. Not that Mythologies and Special Forces nonsense.

Once again, SNK broke the "common topics of STG" of Military, Sci-Fi just like it did with Prehistoric Isle in 1930 back in 1989. One of the things of taking a fighting game into a shooting game is that you have liberties you can take on the game itself since the characters are taking the skies by their own power (well, the ability was given by Chizuru, while Athena flies using her Psycho Powers) and fight not just other KOF characters, but also some in-universe elements within the KOF lore (the Sacred Relics for instance), you have to learn many things of the KOF universe and mostly of the Orochi Saga to fully understand the game. Aside from that, the enemy design is very reminiscent of Shikigami no Shiro/Mobile Light Force.
It's quite uncommon to see Kyo and his pals as 3d models after all those years as 2D sprites, but i guess SNK decided to use the 3D models since reducing the character size for a shmup would require to reduce the size of the pixel figure, which would result in losing details (lets remember, the Neo-Geo made things in big scale and KOF was no exception).

As for the music, most KOF fans will recognize the soundtrack perfectly, as it features themes from several of the main games that comprise the KOF series arranged as remixes. However, there's a change that most fans won't like and that's the english dubbed voices. Anyone who's familiar with KOF and most fighting games know that the games had japanese voices. The problem with the dub is that sounds horribly voiced, and the voices hardly fit on the character. Even Mai's voice in the 90's Fatal Fury OVA's sounded much better, and Athena's voice is just an injury to the ears. it's quite bad, when they could do better if they knew they're dealing with a big name such as The King of Fighters.
Watch out, Megaman X4, you might have a contender for the title of "Worst English Dub Ever".

- Ironically, this Street Fighter II competitor was developed by former Capcom employees that joined SNK, this Ex-company staff hiring resulted in memorable games such as Last Resort, Pulstar, Blazing Star and the Metal Slug series (thanks to Ex-IREM workers).
- The origins of the King of Fighters tournament can be traced to Fatal Fury, where the KOF Tournament took place in South Town.
- Rugal Bernstein is the main antagonist of The King of Fighters '94.
- He's also friend of Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser from the Fatal Fury series according to the Italy Team ending in KOF '94.
- Rugal is also the main enemy of Heidern, the commanding officer of the Ikari Warriors.
- This arms and drug trafficker is also the one who made the KOF Tournament change from being a local South Town event to a global contest.
- Omega Rugal is the final opponent of The King of Fighters '95.
- The Orochi versions of Shermie, Chris and Yashiro Nanakase come from The King of Fighters '97. They're the New Face Team and the servants of Orochi, they're the last team to fight before him.
- Geese Howard's appearance falling off the building at the end of stage 2 is a reference to his demise in Fatal Fury.
- Chris' power is called Pyrokinesis, this power grants the ability of controlling fire to its owner.
- Shermie's power is Electrokinesis, which means she can control lightning and thunder.
- Yashiro's power is Geokinesis, which grants him to control the earth at the point of provoking earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
- Orochi is the main antagonist of The King of Fighters '97, the final chapter of the "Orochi Saga".
- Kyo appears using the same clothes he wore in The King of Fighters '99.
- A hint for those who want to give the main KOF games a try, the best option is to pick the Fatal Fury Team, since their moves are the most easy-to-learn "Street Fighter II-like" (the basic Hadoken "Half U + Punch" command for example). The same goes for the Art of Fighting Team.
- Mai Shiranui is SNK's answer to Street Fighter II's Chun-Li, along with Yuri Sakazaki from Art of Fighting 2. The inclusion and popularity of these characters not just broke with the once predominant "damsel in distress" premise, it established a permanent and defining rule of gaming to include one or more female characters to the cast of any game or even a whole female cast of characters.
- In Fatal Fury and KOF continuity, Shiranui is the name of an ages long Ninja style that controls fire, handling all flames. Andy and Mai are masters of that style.
- Terry's cap hat originally had the word "Neo-Geo" during the Fatal Fury series. It was replaced with the Fatal Fury logo when Terry, Andy and Joe formed the Italy/Fatal Fury Team in the King of Fighters tournaments, in Sky Stage's case, Terry's cap is in white.

If Blazing Star is "Metal Slug with Spaceships", then KOF Sky Stage is "Shikigami no Shiro with The King of Fighters". SNK really gave their beloved franchise a whole new twist that attracts both Fighting and Shmup fans alike. KOF fan or not, this game is definitely worth a try.
Now, if only Capcom, Microsoft, Rare and NetherRealm Studios do that to Street Fighter, Cyberbots, Tech Romancer, Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat...
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