As the end of the year approaches, many of us look forward to predictable events. The coming of a New Year, the cold temperatures (in some parts of the world anyway), traditional holidays spent with family and friends. For gamers, the end of the year is no different, as it brings with it new games of all kinds. One series of games the video game players of the world can always count on at the end of the year is a new installment in the King of Fighters series. 2000 is no exception to this rule. But will the dawn of a new millennium bring with it the end to the “mother of all fighters?” In a statement that is not at all surprising to SNK fans the world over, it would seem that the team behind the legendary King of Fighters has broken up after creating what could well be the last of the series. So how did possibly the last of the King of Fighters turn out? Read on and find out.
Graphically, the latest installment of KoF falls a bit short compared to last year’s game. The first thing the player will notice is the lack of color in some of the backgrounds. One shining example of this is the aquarium. While the detail of this backdrop itself is modest, with dolphins and other marine life swimming about, the color palette used is simply horrible. Dull, washed-out colors are used on the aquarium, the dolphins, and many of the spectators of the background. With a backdrop as full of life as what it is, you would expect to see brighter and more vibrant colors. This is a major disappointment that detracts from gameplay. All other backgrounds in the game range from mediocre to above average. Mediocre backgrounds include the neighborhood in the process of getting demolished, complete with front-end loader truck. By the second round, the truck comes by, smashing through a wall and staying still. A nice touch, but no-where near as jaw dropping as last year’s unforgettable down pouring rain stage. While some of the backgrounds are dull and colorless, there is one worth that really stands out, and that is the street stage. With neon signs flashing, people looking on, and standing water-showing reflections of the fighters, this is perhaps the most impressive KoF background in the game. A good background, but still not as impressive as the china street scene from last year’s KoF.
The graphics also fall down a notch in terms of some of the character’s moves. While supers and desperation moves look as flashy as ever, some of the fireballs look like there were put together at the last minute. Two standouts include Iori’s purple flame and Robert’s fireball. Both of these fireballs seemed to have lost some color and detail from last year’s games. Iori’s purple ball seems to have shrunk and turned white, while Roberts multi-colored arrow fireball from last year seems to have turned into a simple looking circular ring of red and yellow. Small gripes? Yes, but these, along with some other cosmetic changes don’t help the graphics of the game much.
While the graphics could have been better during the game, there are some points in the game where the graphics are noteworthy. This occurs at the character select screen. The artwork where you select your characters is superb, reminding me of KoF ’97 or Fatal Fury Real Bout Special. The characters are splashed with color, and most of them sport some goofy expressions, adding some fun to the game. Again, while it is not as great as the anime-inspired profiles of KoF ’99, it truly is a welcome departure from the usual select screens found in KoF games. While the select screen sports some great character graphics and artwork, poor use of color in the backgrounds and fireballs during the game brings the graphics a step down from KoF ’99.
Controls in this game are good, but not quite up to par with some of the other KoFs. It could be that I've only played the game for 3 weeks, but it seems as though some of the supers and desperation moves are a little tough to roll off. Many of the moves have been changed or altered for some of the popular characters such as Terry or Ryo, but their moves are still pretty easy to get off at the right time.
Gameplay, and especially new character selection is a mixed bag in KoF 2K. Gameplay is as tight as ever, with tons of moves to learn, combos to master, and supers to watch and marvel at. The moves for all characters are as numerous and varied as any KoF in recent memory. Gameplay, for the most part, seems balanced, as anyone with enough practice and skill with any character has a fair fight with any other character.
One thing that really adds to gameplay in this year’s KoF is the strikers. The number of strikers this year has doubled, with some familiar faces mixed with old SNK favorites. Together with all playable characters, look forward to the appearance of Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown fame, along with Kaede from Last Blade, Jack from Robo Army, and Duke from Burning Fight, among other obscure SNK characters. These familiar faces not only bring back fond SNK memories, but add tremendously to the gameplay, fun-factor, and up the combo possibilities of the game.
As mentioned above, the new characters of KoF 2K are a mixed bag. There are 6 new characters, Vanessa, a boxer, Seth, a bodyguard/counter character, Lin, a ninja, Ramon, a wrestler, Hinako; a schoolgirl turned sumo wrestler, and Kula.
The first of the new characters is Vanessa. Sporting suspenders with a belly button flashing dress shirt and tie, Vanessa is dressed to kill. In an unusual and unorthodox move, SNK has made her a boxer – a very uncommon character in fighting games. Vanessa, while seemingly limited in moves at first, turns out to be one of the game’s most interesting characters. She has few special moves, and doesn’t need many – her array of defensive teleports back-and-forth and wide-range punches assure her of that. A great character for all-out offensive players.
Next up is Seth. This character plays and looks like a bodyguard, with suspenders, a tie, dress pants, and a Mohawk. Blue Mary players will instantly fall in love with his assortment of throws, charges, and counter moves. A well-rounded character with lots of potential.
Another new character appearing in KoF 2K is Ramon. While he is quick for a wrestler, his moves are severely limited. With the exception of a move where he charges the other player and jumps off of their chest, him and his moves are really nothing special. The only players who would likely use this guy are for people who want to use a wrestler, but don’t like how slow they move. A deadly character in the hands of a seasoned vet of characters like Daimon, Zangief, and Maxima.
Probably the worst character in the game has to be Hinako. Not only is her character design weak, she also has to be the most difficult character to use in any fighting game. I mean – come on, a schoolgirl who is a wannabe sumo wrestler?! Give me a break. I like the idea of trying to use a new style of fighting in a game, but I’m sorry- this character was just implemented very poorly. Although some of her rapid-punch moves can get you out of a tight spot, her lack of range and pathetic moves will ensure she will be a character used by advanced players only.
The best new character in the game, without a doubt, has to be Lin. Appearing like a scrapped ninja character from the Mortal Kombat games, Lin has a large arsenal of moves, all of them deadly. From his teleports, to his multi-chop move, to his venom spit, to his copy of Kyo’s R.E.D. kick, Lin is a force to be reckoned with. A well-balanced character that will no doubt become a favorite of first-time KoF 2K players.
Finally, the last new character in the game is Kula. The best way to describe her is a cyborg with the ability to use ice as a weapon. I don’t know why, but she reminds me of a character in the old Japanese anime Galaxy Express 999. He moves are pretty standard, with a breath of ice, a dragon punch, and various other ice attacks. People who like K’ and some of the well-balanced characters like Kyo, Ryo, and Terry will definitely in love with her, but I personally thought she was only average.
Thus, the new characters, while varied are a little bit, are a disappointment when compared to the roster of KoF ’99. Lia Xiang Fei should have remained with Mai, Kasumi, and Yuri. It would also have been nice to see the return of Vice and Mature as active characters. They do return, but only as strikers.
Overall, KoF 2K is only an above average effort when compared to KoF ’99, but still worth checking out. The backgrounds, while more numerous, lack the color and character of last year’s KoF. Controls are typically good for KoF, except for some of the Supers and Desperations, which can be tricky to pull off correctly. New characters fall in the categories of good, OK, and ugly. Maybe with time and practice, some characters may be more interesting, but as they stand, some of them seem average and uninspired. My advice: wait until it gets ported to Dreamcast, if ever, or try it out in the arcade.