If you know your fighting games, you probably know about the King of Fighters franchise. If you also happen to own a PS2, the recent release of The King of Fighters 02/03 will let you relive some of the good KOF glory days. This two-disk set includes direct ports of the original King of Fighters 2002 and 2003 games from the NeoGeo hardware, meaning it will keep any fan of the KOF franchise busy for a long time. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, this set offers some of the fastest and most furious 2D fighting action to ever come to the PS2. In other words, be prepared for finger cramps and blistered thumbs.
The first disk in the set, the KOF 2002, offers more than 40 fighters, each of which features his or her own special moves and combos. Like a traditional two-dimensional fighter, KOF 02 lets players take part in one-on-one battles, but it features three-on-three single-elimination matches. In these three-on-three fights, players choose three of their own fighters to compete against three opposing combatants. When the first character is knocked out, the next fighter enters the ring, and when all three fighters are knocked out, that team loses the match. Pretty straightforward stuff, but it definitely captures the old-school style we all grew up with.
The second game in the set, KOF 2003, expands on the concept of three-on-three matches. Instead of having to use one fighter until he is knocked out, you can switch between your team of fighters at any time. This tag-team style of play opens up a whole new level of tactics. Say, for instance, you use your favorite character for the first fight, and your opponent takes him down to half health. In KOF 03, you can tag your next fighter to finish the round and save your favorite character for later. Just remember that your opponent can use the same tactics. As a result, the tag-team matches are fast, brutal and filled with tons special attacks and super moves as players try to take down the opponent’s favorite character.
Other than the tag-team gameplay, there are only a few differences between KOF 2002 and KOF 2003. The backgrounds in KOF 03 are rendered in three dimensions, although the fighters are still in two, while KOF 02 uses strictly two-dimensional backgrounds. The only other noticeable difference is that KOF 03 doesn’t offer as many fighters. In spite of the minimal differences, each game manages to have its own unique feel, which makes it tough to choose one over the other. But why choose? In this package, you can play them both.
While the differences between the two KOF games are minute, the differences between these two games and their more-modern counterparts are incredible. Case in point: the multimedia. Both games retain their original look, so the characters appear pixilated when compared to newer fighting titles. Both games also retain their original soundtrack, meaning that the old midi synthesized music in KOF 02 has grown no less repetitive. The soundtrack in KOF 03 is a bit better, with a more-modern sound that is much more bearable, but it’s still not up to snuff for gamers raised with higher audio standards.
No, these games don’t have famous bands playing on the soundtracks. No, they don’t have updated graphics. No, there haven’t been any new game modes or content. And no, there is no online play.
But yes, these games offer a true port of their original selves. Yes, they offer hours of fun and excitement. And yes, with both games available in a single package for less than $40, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong.
- Gameplay: 8
- Old-school 2D fighting at its best.
- Graphics: 7
- Very outdated, but the character models have lots of style.
- Sound: 6
- Some very bad midi music, but hey, it’s true to the original sounds.
- Replay: 7
- Not many game modes hinders the overall replayability.
- Overall: 8
- If you’re into 2D fighters, buy this now. If you’re a King of Fighters fan, you should already own this.
— Randie Kilgore