PlayStation 2 games aren't supposed to look this good. Everything from the characters' numerous clothing styles to the cheering crowds in the backgrounds are loaded with detail. Even the flashy effects from the special attacks are like an adrenaline-fueled fireworks display. All of this happens with the fluidity of animation that only sixty frames per second can bring, with only rare moments of slowdown.
The returning fighters have also been faithfully recreated from their 2D originals. From Seth's suspenders to the rakofmiedness of Ryo's gi, not a pixel has been left forgotten. Even the animations were given special attention, from Ralf's little impatient side to side hop, to Terry tossing off his cap after a win, to Kyo and Iori's special rivalry intro...really, when are those two going to learn to get along? Much to Yuri's relief, each character has been provided with a second entirely new outfit, with some familiar sights like Terry's Mark of the Wolves' gear, or the shirtless Ralf looking ready to relive his Ikari Warriors days.
For unlocking maniacs, there is plenty here to keep you occupied. Alternate colors for both outfits, extra stages and variants of existing ones, character profiles, and even rikofming models, which alter a character's current outfit to either add a dash of extra pizzazz or transform them into an entirely different costume. They vary from the cool, like Lien's dashing adventuress alteration, to the strange, like Seth's party hat and funny glasses, but they all add more visual variety to an already diverse game. The extras aren't just limited to the game, however, since it also came with a DVD that provides more details on the newer members of the cast, a gallery of character designs, and even an interview with the people responsible for this new fighting game monarch.
KOF: MI is a hard sell by its very nature. Fans of the King of Fighters tend to rebel at the very mention of 3D, and those weaned on "true" 3D Fighters will find the gameplay contrary to their ingrained instincts. If you manage to shake all those prejudices and false expectations out of your head, and approach Maximum Impact for what it is, you'll find an engrossing and incredibly fun fighter that's hard to put down. At least until you get to the final trials of mission mode, which are far more likely to put you down.