If for no other reason, K-1 World Grand Prix will be known as the “Fighting game that sounds like a racing game.” Grand Prix sounds to us like a racing game, and K-1 fighting isn’t very well known in the US. However, ESPN is bringing some K-1 fighting to the US, so it shows that the sport is growing.
K-1 World Grand Prix brings you several of the fighters in the K-1 circuit to the PlayStation 2. Although this is a fighting game, it won’t be the traditional fighting game that most are used to. The game isn’t action oriented like Tekken or Soul Calibur, but it’s not a boxing game like Knockout Kings. K-1 might be compared to Ultimate Fighting, but it doesn’t have the grapple and takedown actions that UFC does. K-1 is a unique fighting experience. Does that mean that it’s a good experience?
The graphics in K-1 are very well done for a PS2 game. The characters all have different body types that match their real life persona, it’s not the same body with different textures. When hitting someone hard, sweat will come off of the hit. The fights aren’t flashy, but they are more focused on realism. The only “flashy” effect is when you are getting in a good run of hits, and the graphics blur around the action, similar to the crash animations in the Burnout series.
The background does have a screen that will show the action in the ring as it is happening, but you don’t see it very often during the fight. The trainers are close to the corners, but they don’t do much. The crowd is animated a little, but you don’t see anyone get up to yell and cheer, or take pictures. Ring girls come out between rounds to indicate what round is coming up, but they aren’t anything special. They are nice touches though to the game to make it feel more authentic.
The game does include in engine cutscenes and videos as well. These are sometimes used to introduce the fighters before championship bouts, or after a championship win. Each fighter has their own unique intro, and the announcer gives stats for the two fighters. These can thankfully be skipped with the Start button if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.The music for the game during the menus are a hard rock mix that get you in the mood for fighting. However, the sound is fairly lacking during the fights. The fights don’t need music though. Every hit makes a noise, whether you punch the gloves or hit the other boxer directly. Again, since this is a more realistic fighting game than other games, it is appropriate.
The first thing players must understand is that K-1 is not a twitch game or button-masher. The pace is slower than most games, deliberate. Because of this, some gamers might not feel the controls are responsive. However, the controls are very responsive in the game. K-1 will let you punch and kick high, mid, and low, depending on how you position the analog stick.
The controls are laid out logically as well. The pad or the left analog stick can be used for movement. Square is left punch, triangle is a right punch, X is left kick and circle for a right kick. L1 is a taunt, L2 for defense, R1 is for a knockout blow with an attack button, and R2 is for a combination attack when in combination of an attack. The kicks and punches are laid out well, and using the shoulder keys for combo and defense becomes second nature quickly. Although the left analog stick is used for the height of the attacks, it works just fine.
The fighting is the meat of the game, but there are a few other modes available.
Grand Prix: This mode lets you choose a character and fight other characters to the final championship.
Champion’s Revolution: This mode is similar to Grand Prix, except it lets you do two actions between each fight. One action is to rest your fighter, healing any fatigue or injuries. The other action is training, to increase your attacks, defense, and combos, among other things. This adds a bit of an RPG element to the game.
Exhibition: This lets you select your match format and your opponent. This can be a two-player fight or a CPU fight.
Trial: Try to break existing match records, such as clear time or number of opponents defeated.
Revival: Famous matches are reenacted.
Extra games: This area lets you practice the training games, as well as an unlockable mode where you can pit two fighters that look like one of those Lego men.
Fighter’s Museum: View profiles and video footage of the K-1 Fighters.
Options: Change the game settings.
As mentioned before, the fights are more deliberate in nature. Many elements of the game play a part of this.
The Stamina Gauge will go down with hits, and if it goes down completely, your fighter will act sluggish and won’t respond quickly until the stamina is filled up again.
The Condition Gauge displays the damage to the head, body, and legs by color, from green to red. If one of these shows red, you need to make sure you protect that part of your body. One hit in that area could cause a KO.
The Hit Point Gauge is very typical of fighting games. If this gauge goes all the way down to zero, the fighter will be knocked out for a KO as well.
During the fight, if the fighter is downed by a head attack, a meter is displayed and a pointer moves across it. To get back up, you need to hit the pointer inside the green zone. The lower your hit points, the faster the pointer moves across the screen. This is similar to the golf simulations where you need to click in the right area to hit the ball straight. When downed by a body or leg attack, a gauge is displayed on the screen and you need to press any buttons to raise the gauge to a target point within 10 seconds to get up. Anyone familiar with the “Test Your Might” sections of the Mortal Kombat games will be right at home. These might sound easy, but it is much easier said than done.
Between rounds, you are given four options for the upcoming round. Aim for a KO will increase your attack power, but no damage will be recovered. Normal recovery will recover damage evenly over the fighter. A body recovery will recover mostly damage to the torso. Low recovery will recover damage to the legs.
All of these elements ad for a lot more depth than your typical fighting game. Moves must be planned, and care taken to each attack. Too many attacks at once will drain your stamina and leave your fighter open to an attack. The Champion’s Revolution adds a lot of strategy as well. Determining to go after more strength or defense could change the balance of the game. If a winner isn’t determined by the end of the set amount of rounds, judges will decide the winner of the match.The game has a lot of replay value. Winning a championship round will unlock costumes and other features. I do wish that Konami would have put a save feature in the Grand Prix mode, since going through all the fighters could last over an hour. Also, each of the fighters feel different, some faster and some more powerful than others. However, there might not be enough differences between the characters for people to play through all of the modes. The extra games included do provide gamers a nice diversion though, as well as help develop their skills at fighting.