Kicking the new year off to a good start, N-Gage scores its first-ever 2D fighter that gets big bonus points from me simply on account of its ease of play. It’s a mystery how Nokia managed to land a popular franchise like King of Fighters on its handheld platform, but I guarantee that they’ll get little argument from faithful owners.
KOF Extreme crams just about everything you could ever hope for in a portable package…and for the most part, it’s a good fit. For starters, you’ve got over 20 characters to choose from, including such favorites like Kyo, Iori, Leona, and the vivacious Mai Shiranui. Diehard KOF fans who've played the handheld edition King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood should be especially delighted to see Miu and Moe are also available. As for the game's plot (which these days is generally disregarded by players), the marquee cast return for another epic tournament, orchestrated by Gustav Munchausen. And if you think his name alone sounds intense, just wait until you face him. He's a bad mutha...
Eh...let me just shut my mouth and continue on with the review.
It may seem hard to believe, but the combat is surprisingly solid, mostly thanks to the fact critical commands have been mapped to the system’s “action buttons”. Ultimately, this makes the potential awkwardness with the D-pad a lot less cumbersome than some may expect. There’s even a “Master Command” function, which in actuality, allows players to execute some of the more complex attacks at the touch of a button. However, despite its namesake, the action is anything but extreme due to a mysterious lack of speed. Even by handheld standards, this is inarguably one of the slowest portable fighting games I’ve played to date.
To its credit, KOF Extreme is one of the best looking games I’ve played on the system so far. Every character is rich in detail and color, complimented by a respectable variety of backdrops ranging from city locales to sandy dunes. The sound quality is also impressive, but make sure that you set the volume levels on high. On its default setting, you'll find it’s nearly impossible to hear anything unless you decide on hooking up some headphones (or being in a room with absolute silence). One other notable feature that deserves special mention is the game’s incorporation of Bluetooth wireless gaming, allowing players to upload high scores, download additional content, and go head-to-head against another player.
As it stands, KOF: Extreme is an exceptional title that maintains the tradition of a phenomenal franchise. After the torrential wave of lackluster first-generation titles, it’s great to see the N-Gage has finally emerged with some top-notch quality. And while I won’t go as far to say it will be remembered as a classic, Extreme will definitely offer plenty of enjoyment for fighting fanatics who cherish the art of fighting.