The King of Fighters: All Star Review – Gacha Beat ‘Em Up

    Title: The King of Fighters: All Star
    Developer: Netmarble
    Release Date: October 22, 2019
    Reviewed On: iOS
    Publisher: SNK
    Genre: Fighter

Let me tell you a story of when I was little Brock Jensen and my first experience with a fighting game, The King of Fighters ’94. It’s a pretty short story since I was horrible at the game, and the only characters I was okay with were Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui. While I lost interest in the game and never really picked it back up as a kid, I will say it did open me to the world of the rest of the fantastic fighters out there.

Today, I can finally revisit the entire franchise (more or less) in Netmarble’s action RPG beat ’em up, The King of Fighters All Star on mobile devices. I’ve always wanted a beat ’em up on my phone. I know there’s a few out there, but none of these titles felt responsive while playing or fun for very long after downloading.

The King of Fighters All Star presents a nostalgic experience for fans of the franchise and the beat ’em up genre. Let’s start with the story. You’re a person who randomly wakes up in the King of Fighters World with no memory of their past. A girl named Noah finds you and decides to help you out as you participate in The King of Fighters ’94 through ’98 tournaments to regain your memory.

I know, not the most original story. But it does give a good idea of the general storyline of the older games that I missed. Honestly, the game’s story is an afterthought for me as I was more into the introduction of other King of Fighters characters and the overarching story from previous titles. In the game, three new characters play a role in the main character’s existence. I know it’s not particularly exciting. So as you could expect, I found myself skipping a lot of the story whenever they would appear. Luckily, King of Fighters: All Star has what I’m looking for in a tense beat ’em up when it comes to everything else.

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Visually, the game looks stunning. You get to take three gacha obtained fighters along with support characters to fight in 3D environments that are generally themed after the opponent you have to face that chapter. Before you get to that fighter, you have to fight a couple of waves of goons and bosses.

Each enemy, including your opponents, have a specific style that’s color-coded that indicate if you’ll have an advantage in a fight to do more or less damage. It’s rock paper scissors rules. You can level up your 5-star fighters all you want, but you do run the risk of not completing all challenges in a level like finishing with less than 30 hits on enemies. The first couple of chapters are easy enough, but even by chapter 6 of the first tournament, my level 15 Terry died to a few hits from a random boss.

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So along with making sure you’re chaining your combos, you have to make use of your support characters, tag in your teammates, block, and dodge. It’s a great mix of action RPG elements and fighting mechanics that I haven’t seen done adequately on a mobile device yet. On top of that, it’s not a good idea to run your favorite three fighters in every scenario (RIP to my K’, Terry, Mai combo).

It’s essential to have multiple well-rounded teams for any situation. So I ended up having to level up some obscure characters (at least to me) to flesh out my fighting roster. Luckily throughout the single-player modes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to obtain materials to help quickly level up your character even if it’s a bit of a grind fest. There are skill trees to develop each fighter to increase their stats and also unlock new moves.

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While most people I know have a particular distaste for gacha elements, I honestly didn’t get bad pulls at all. I got a 5 star K’, a couple of 4-star Terrys and Mais from King of Fighters ’94 and ’95, and a whole host of other fighters I don’t really know but still seem fresh. Getting duplicates isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. You can draw a couple of 4-star Terry Boggards, but all with different styles, stats, and can come from different versions of the game.

Yeah, you can say, “Oh, but that’s still pay-to-win. How am I supposed to compete in the PVP modes without getting smashed by someone with all 5 star Mais.” And that’s a valid statement. Because it definitely can and would happen. I’d probably stay away from the PVP until you have a heavily-leveled, well-balanced team to take on opponents and start climbing the leaderboards.

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Overall, there’s plenty to love about The King of Fighters: All Star. Button mashing on the phone has never felt better. It brought me back to the days of the old button mashers I used to love, like The Simpsons arcade game and Final Fight. Like I’ve said about a lot of the other gacha games I’ve reviewed, don’t be turned off by the gacha mechanics. There’s so much to enjoy with The King of Fighters: All Star purely from a gameplay perspective even though the story may be somewhat lacking.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brock Jensen

Saebyeolbe is the Tom Brady of Overwatch. MOBILE GAMERS ARE STILL GAMERS. Send me stuff [email protected]