Home Review – King of Fighters: Sky Stage

Review – King of Fighters: Sky Stage

by GaryTun

Sometimes a game comes along that, so unlikely is its nature, that it brings about a collective double take. King of Fighters: Sky Stage (KOF: SS) most definitely elicits such a reaction. A marriage of vertical shooter, wedded to the cast of SNK’s long-running King of Fighters series, this insipid hybrid has made its way to Xbox Live Arcade.

The premise is simple; select a character from the roster on offer (and before you ask, yes Terry Bogard is included) and take to the skies, defeating enemies along the way before reaching a boss fight. Control is a simple three button affair, much in keeping with the industry standard for shooters, providing a shot, ultimate technique and bomb. The shot can be held down for rapid fire at the cost of mobility, while the ultimate technique (depending on which of the six characters has been chosen) will unleash a devastating attack that will wipe out any enemies in close proximity. The bomb function is pretty self-explanatory.

Each downed foe releases a medal that, depending on the proximity to the enemy when killed, will be gold, silver or bronze in nature. These add to the overall score the player acquires as they make their way through the different stages. This is about as deep as Sky Stage gets, since it really is a meat and potatoes shmup, with an illustrious cast tacked on in the vain attempt to provide it with some gravitas. Even the bullet patterns and boss fights reek of being average, never rising above their station or attempting to do something interesting.

While playing KOF: SS there’s a sense of being witness to a cheap knock off. It’s akin to that feeling when on holiday and trying desperately to kid yourself that the fake Rolex watch you’ve just bought is the real deal, when it clearly isn’t. There are already a lot of very good shmups for the download services that offer a multi-layered intricacy and keep the player coming back for more, but KOF: SS has none of the elan or poise that an Ikaruga or R-Type Dimensions would offer, and crucially none of the fun either. The overriding feeling of playing Sky Stage is one of asphyxiating banality.

Ending up as a game which isn’t for fans of the King of Fighters series, nor those who hanker after a halfway decent shmup experience, King of Fighter: Sky Stage is every bit the ugly abomination that its premise suggests it to be. As such it needs to be avoided like the plague unless you feel the crushing need to subject yourself to a title that will most likely make you hate yourself for wasting your bandwidth, let alone the Microsoft Points, on what amounts to a monumental display of mendacity.