Below are a couple of large shots of the box art that show some small screenshots followed by my review of the game.
“Go head-to-ugly-head in a blood-drenched slugfest! Seven gore-hungry monsters go all out in Killing Zone's eyepopping arenas! The more they kill, the stronger and meaner they get. What's more you can design your own monsters from a selection of twisted body parts and then unleash them in an automated Death Tournament. Killer graphics! Killer monsters! Killer 3-D combat!”
The description on the back of the case.
Firstly, the graphics. The characters look ok... in still shots. Once they start moving, the poly clipping is very bad. Even chunks of a couple of the arenas vanish on occasion when the camera is panning at the start of a match.
The animation is pretty awful to the point that you can barely tell what your fighter is actually doing in some moves. There even seems to be a few throws that don't even have animation. For instance the Dark Fairies throw involves both characters jumping up into the air in a single frame, and then a sudden camera change and they are coming down in another single frame animation with a loud thud.
Going back to the arenas. Most of them don't look to bad, if very sparse and are set in fairly creative locations from a falling elevator to a floating platform, in the sky or on a glacier careering past other glaciers. Though there are some pretty ugly arenas. The first arena in particular, as an example, features a terribly flat looking background that looks heavily faded.
The sound effects are so few that each character seems to literally have two growls total. The game has no speech beyond a fitting sounding round announcer.
The music is quite fitting and some of the tracks are also fairly catchy. But some of it is awful. For instance, the long notes on Stage 3's music.
The control is terrible with the fighters feeling like lead weights. Now it does look like this was intentional to stay true to the stereotypes of the monsters represented. Having Frankenstein among others leap around like a flea wouldn't be staying true.
There is a fair list of moves for each fighter, all listed in the manual, even if the manual tries to pad them out by writing the same combo several times for each part in it (i.e. combo one is pressing square twice, combo two is pressing square three times etc). But most of them are un-nescerry because they only do a negligible amount more damage than the basic attacks.
It is evident that the attacks are supposed to be pretty "brutal". For instance the Skeleton jumps onto the front of its opponent and stab's them in the neck several times with its sword. The problem is that despite the afore mentioned heaviness of the fighters, it feels more like they are prodding each other with an individual finger rather than slashing them with an axe or breaking their backs.
Next up we have the games camera. Given that these fighters move sooooo slowly, it does keep up with the action pretty well, though some of the "cinematic views" during the throws are horribly disorientating. But it never quite sit's still. For instance when playing as the Minotaur and performing a basic hard slash, the camera will jerk slightly.
There isn't allot of content in Killing Zone. You get seven monsters, all unlocked from the start and that's it. There isn't even a big boss or any plot to explain why these mythological creatures have come together to beat each other to a pulp. As an example of the minimal-ness of the game, there isn't even any intro movie or text.
Interestingly the game CD contains a bunch of unused voice samples spoken by two unknown entities (in several languages) and also two unused music tracks. Indications of a cut plot and monsters perhaps?
The two game modes available are Arcade and Auto match. A second player has to press start in the former to initiate a two player fight.
The Arcade mode is the traditional fight your way through all the other fighters. The arena's are in a preset order, but the order of opponent's is randomized.
The computer opponents are pretty capable, though in later rounds they do have an unnaturally perfect ability to quickly dash in and throw you if you are blocking. The mode ends with a text based analysis of your fighting prowess in every stage and finally a screen that says "congratulations" and list's the games development credits.
Auto mode is actually a pretty novel idea. The monster of your choice is controlled by the AI and you train him or her and take them through several tournaments. This is achieved by “suggesting" various actions to him by pressing certain button's on your controller.
Despite what the back of the box suggests, you pick from one of the seven standard monsters and are then presented with a bunch of identical looking versions of them with slightly differing stat's.
However your monster will start off so brain dead, that you'll probably quickly quit after watching your trainee constantly attack thin air while it get's pummelled by the superior opponents.
This is further compounded by the fact you only start with the ability to give your monster the command to attack or act of their own will. According to the manual, you need to win some matches with your monster before you can "suggest" to them to use any special moves, side step or even block (though the monster will block a little when they are acting of their own will).
The manual does state that your monster will change visually as it gains experience though. But what the reality of that means, I couldn't say.
But Auto Mode is largely rendered moot by the fact that Killing Zone has no save function at tall.
Killing Zone does have a considerable charm. The idea of faithful representations of several classic monsters brought together in a battle royale is an attractive one and largely unique.
But looking at this, the end result of such a faithful approach simply doesn't make a good Toshinden/Tekken style beat em up. Even if the game was more polished (for instance, the bad animation fixed and lack of sounds addressed), the inherit game play would remain horribly lacking.