K-1 World Grand Prix Review (PS2)
“K-1 World Grand Prix” is the latest entry into the fighting market; aimed more towards the sporting side as opposed to the outlandish side. Konami has taken the actual K1 circuit and given the gamer 20 actual fighters to choose from. I knew a little bit about K1 from the start, but as I started playing this, I also started noticing the K1 commercials for an upcoming pay-per-view event from my local cable company. The biggest thing that grasped my attention was that there were no American fighters (at least being represented by the U.S. Flag) in the title. That in itself brought to my attention the initial problem with this game - in the American market, it could be a hard sell when there are no American fighters in the game. Read on to find out what I thought about this game. In the end you might be as surprised as I was after spending some time with this one.
The graphics in K1 initially surprised me, especially when I saw some of the real-life counterparts. A few of the fighters resemble the real thing in extreme detail. There were also a couple times when I wondered what they were thinking after I saw the real person. Overall, I was pleased since the fighters look extremely good. During the matches, there is a slowdown blurring effect when a solid punch is landed. I liked how this was implemented and it helps sell the stronger moves really well.
One thing that caught my eye that was out of whack happened during the intros. I could see lights flashing on the ring on the arena’s video screen, but looking at the ring itself, I never saw the same lights. This is just one of those small things I caught that I thought might make an interesting mention.
As you can tell with my section on graphics, it seems that realism is the aim for the overall feel of K1. The fighting sounds for K1 are great. I thoroughly enjoyed the sounds of the kicks and punches connecting with the opponent. Even the misses sounded good. The intro music is an excellent choice for the pre-introduction segment. Any sort of entrance by the fighters is not present here, however. In an age where flash sells, the lack of any entrance is missed. I don’t know if the K1 fighters just do not use entrances or not, so this could also replicate the sport, in which case it would have done this part right. The music between rounds is also a good choice. Again, it’s just fluff, but it added to the experience for me.
On to the negative side, the thing that really had me disliking this game was the endless stream of annoying repetitive music that I could not find a way to shut off. After 3 matches, I was so damned frustrated that I was ready to toss this game out the window and let the squirrels store the game along with the rest of their nuts. After my wife told me to quit complaining at the game, I decided to look deeper. All I had seen before was an option to change the music to Japanese commentary. So, that’s what I did, and it turned out to be the savior of the game for me. Once I went back into the match I no longer heard the annoying music. What was in its place, however, was great. I cannot speak or read Japanese, but after a few hours of playing, I can honestly say I understand more then I ever did before. The enthusiasm of the commentary resembled that of soccer commentators and their excitement when a goal is scored, made it even more intense when a knockdown or flurries of punches occur.
The main menu consists of a few different options. Of course, there is the obligatory Exhibition Mode; pitting you against a CPU or human controlled fighter using any of the fighters in the game. There are a couple of different ways you can set up the Exhibition match besides the standard one-on-one match. You can set up a Team Battle in numerous different ways, or set up a quick 8-man tournament to see who may be the best fighter of your session. The next mode, Trial, is a different take on the usual time-killing single player modes, in that one of the options, Time Trial Fight, has you attempting to defeat 12 different opponents in the fastest overall time possible. The other option is to go through an Iron Man Fight; trying to defeat as many opponents as possible in succession. Both of these modes have a high score table associated with them so you can view your accomplishments at a later date if you so desire. The last of the pick up and play modes would be the Revival mode. This is a little different in that you take on a scenario of K-1 past and try and relive it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds either, as you have to beat the opponent the same way they were beaten in real life. So if you opponent was knocked down by body blows, then you will have to knock your opponent down the same way in the game.
The two main modes of the game are Grand Prix and Champion’s Revolution. Grand Prix consists of taking a fighter through the paces from the challenge match all the way through the Final Round (if you make it that far). By and large the only thing that is going to get you to play this game more than a handful of times (unless you are a diehard follower of the sport) is going to be the Champion’s Revolution. This is likened to the career modes of most games, but has more of an RPG element as opposed to being career oriented. You start out the Revolution by having to score so many ‘style’ points in your first few fights, which will then qualify you for the K-1 circuit. As you progress, even through the qualifying fights, you are able to upgrade and enhance your fighter through one of five training sessions. Areas of training that you can use are centered around Power, Response, Combination, Defense, or Sparring. During the mode, you are expected to consistently perform the objective well. I liked the training sessions, but they were extremely difficult, and occasionally frustrating for an amateur fighting gamer like me.
The problem I have with all of the modes above is the replay value is extremely limited. Champion’s Revolution definitely has some merit to it, but it doesn’t really have the variety one would hope for to keep you coming back time and time again. Some gamers are going to be extremely frustrated just because the qualifying portion can be tough. I did enjoy this mode, and this was the only reason why I still continue to play this game after a few weeks of ownership.
The actual gameplay itself is handled in an interesting fashion. The four different face buttons are linked to a different limb on the fighters’ body. R2, when used correctly with a face button performs a combo move, and R1, also when used with a face button performs a powerful punch. L1 performs a block, and L2 is useless as a taunt button, that does absolutely nothing for this game. When controlling the fighter, you’d better get into the button mashing habits that a lot of fighting games require. Yes, there is some button mashing involved, but only after you’ve set up your opponent to leave themselves open for your onslaught of punches. The fighters react very well to taking and receiving hits. It definitely feels like you are getting punished when your opponent is kicking your rear all over the arena. Winning in this game is accomplished more by patience than anything else, and that was one of the elements I really enjoyed about this game. It felt good to be able to set up my opponent, or plan a block, take his opening and beat the heck out of them. Unfortunately, the AI fighters, even at the low levels, are often too hard to beat. This may be a due to my newness to this genre of fighting; the unfamiliarity of the fighters and their styles can create a steep learning curve that tends to detract from the positives of the game.
At the beginning of the review I stated how surprised I was at this game. I was definitely surprised and happy for a while. Initially, I had no hopes of liking this game; as I am not a big fighting gamer, but my feelings went from surprise to eventual disappointment that the lasting power of the game will only be short; as opposed to one that could sit in my collection for a while. “K-1 World Grand Prix” is a game that feels like a perfect fit for those that follow this genre of fighting. The positives far outweigh the minimal negatives in this game. There is not really anything groundbreaking here, but the element it provides does the sport justice and brings an entertaining time to the gamer. However, the lack of seeing anything new affects the amount of time you’ll spend playing “K-1 World Grand Prix”. Even with a friend, this can only hold the majority of gamers’ interest for so long before they give up on the title as well.