Long for the heyday of the 2-D fighting game? Well, SNK is back, and their first release under the moniker of SNK/Playmore is King of Fighters 2000/2001. I was greatly looking forward to this game as I have not played a King of Fighters game for several years. Leave it to SNK to bring back a classic in 2D fighting. The problem is, with such a late debut of this game, it’s clear that its time has passed. In order for 2-D fighting games to compete in the 3-D world of visuals today, they have to be near flawless, and have truly innovative features. King of Fighters 2000/2001 just does not measure up to the competition.The concept is simple. Select your fighter (or team of fighters), and defeat a series of challengers in your quest to be the best. The King of Fighters series has always boasted a wide array of playable characters, and this game is no exception, with over 35 characters in each game. The control was fairly tight, as it has to be to perform the special moves and combos. One of the most aggravating things was the inability to use the analog stick. After playing so many titles using the analog stick, I picked up my controller and naturally attempted to control my character. Well, not this time… the player is relegated to using the D-Pad. As far as the game itself, I was somewhat shocked at how lack luster the experience was. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything, just a series of mechanical movements to pull off super moves and combos. There is nothing really interesting to keep my attention for too long. Another issue I have is the character “special appearances”. Throughout the game, you can call in your teammates to help you out. Well, after trying dozens of combinations, I didn’t find one special appearance that seemed to do anything at all. The menu system in 2000 is horrendous. It’s functional, but is one of the most unattractive character selection screens I have ever seen on any console fighting game (except for maybe Battle Arena: Toshinden 2 on PSOne). The 2001 version is MUCH better, with very nice hand-drawn pictures of the fighters, and a better menu system. The game has a pretty standard selection of game variations to play and I didn’t find myself awed or upset by the game’s flexibility.
The sound track was uninspiring in both King of Fighters 2000 and 2001, just more of the same music that has been around for years. The characters do talk quite a bit during the fight. So much so, that it becomes annoying. Some characters continually chatter throughout the battle and it was beginning to drive me crazy. I was almost begging for a translation so I could understand what was being said. Otherwise the sound effects were fairly standard.
The biggest fault of this game is the extremely dated graphics. I understand that this is a port to the PS2 from other formats, but the graphics cannot hold up to games like Marvel vs Capcom 2. The characters are small and the resolution and pixel count made me think that this should have been a GBA game. One think that irked me was graphical censorship. For anyone who has ever played a King of Fighters game, the one thing you can count on is Mai’s patented jiggle. This is noticeably absent in both versions of the game. They have no qualms about showing her backside all over the place, but the jiggle is gone. Come on, people. We have games like Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball on the market and Mai, a 2-D character, gets censored here. The backgrounds in 2000 are all 2-D and not impressive to say the least. In the 2001 version, the backgrounds have added a few 3-D elements, but are still unattractive, and not worthy of an SNK game. I remember back to the beauty of the Samurai Shodown backgrounds, and how well they were done, and this game doesn’t live up to that game, which happens to be 7 or so years old.
King of Fighters 2000/2001 is a trip down memory lane for those of us remembering the days of the SNK fighters. Unfortunately, it just does not stand up very well with today’s games. SNK is releasing King of Fighters 2002/2003 this winter, and hopefully that will help refresh the franchise and bring it properly into the 21st century. Unless you are feeling nostalgic, or you are an SNK nut, I would recommend looking somewhere else for your 2-D fighting game fix.
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