Back in the late 90’s and into early 00’s, SNK’s The King of Fighters series truly lived up to its name. It was an arcade fighting series with more depth than the Atlantic, graphics that other arcade titles wished for and great variety of characters. Recently, the newly revived SNK (now SNK/NEOGEO) resurrected KOF 2000 and 2001 in a PlayStation 2 combo pack that set retro gaming fans into a lather. They finally had their beloved fighter on a console, and it was almost a direct port from the arcade. And it wasn’t just one, but two King of Fighters titles included in one package. While that might be cool for hardcore fans of the series, the rest of us will probably find it’s a dated looking and sounding title with control issues that hearken back to its arcade origins.
Let’s start with the controls, shall we? When you take an arcade fighter that had the combo depth of the King of Fighters series, you have to expect a billion different button-press and stick twisting combinations. And that’s what you get with this game. Problem is, you’re using the Dual Shock controller this time around, and not an arcade stick with six big buttons to get the job done. You’ll find pretty quickly that a handheld controller just doesn’t cut it for a fighter this complex, and you’ll be limited to the easiest combos because of this, losing out on the ability to whip out the seriously hardcore moves that arcade fighting fans have come to love.
Then there’s the presentation, which may have looked good three and four years ago in a stand up console, but man, they look dated on the PS2. The character sprites lack much detail, and bounce between incredibly jaggy and strangely blurry. When you try to hold either of the games in this combo pack up against something recent like Guilty Gear X2, the KOF titles come up very short. It’s nearly painful to look at this game after playing anything recent on the PS2. Sure KOF 2000/2001 are direct ports that are designed to rile up those feelings of nostalgia in us all, but SNK/NEOGEO should’ve taken some extra time to smooth out the edges and brighten up the environments. The audio is almost as bad, with a soundtrack of techno-ish tunes providing a background for a veritable dump truck full of voice work.
Gameplay-wise, all the feel of the original titles has been faithfully preserved, including the speed and depth that made the series famous. Sure the combos can be brutal to have to fire off with the PlayStation 2 controller, but at least they’re there for you to try. And there are moves oozing out of every digital bit in KOF. One of the more unique features of the series, the Strikers, is still there, which brings in an extra bit of gameplay, though their implementation cheapens the gameplay. Strikers are special teammates that you can call upon for a quick attack on your opponent. Calling a Striker in for help is just a button tap away, which makes it too easy to pull yourself out of a losing position. The Striker is a feature that should’ve been more limited in use, or required a finger-twisting combo of button presses; instead, you just pop a button and suddenly go from wimp to winner.
As a package, KOF 2000/2001 is a good purchase for fans of the series with its arcade faithful gameplay and list of unlockables, but for those who aren’t familiar with the series, it’s probably a rental at best. Those gamers who are interested in newer 2D fighters should go grab Guilty Gear X2 and see what happens when a deep game gets plenty of polish before shipping to consoles. All in all, this combo pack is great if you’re looking for a walk down memory lane, but wears thin after a few hours.
- Gameplay: 7.5
- Graphics: 6
- Sound: 6
- Replay: 7.5
- Overall: 6.5
- A quick, yet tiresome, trip down memory lane.
— Craig Falstaff