I love a good fighting game just as much as the next guy, so when King of Fighters 2002/2003 was released I jumped at the chance to review them. Now that I’ve had some playing time with them, well, I’m no longer jumping, but I am writing a review to help you decide whether or not you should buy The King of Fighters 2002/2003. The King of Fighters games feature some great, if not dated, hardcore fighting, that will remind of you of the days when you visited the arcades, put your quarters on the screen and proclaimed, “I got next”. That was a long time ago, and the arcade scene has changed. While the games may both look ancient when compared to anything released today, they put up a good challenge, and fortunately for you, SNK decided to package these two fighters together rather than milk them individually.Let me start off by saying I never played either of these games in the arcade, so I can’t say how well they compare to their arcade counterparts, but I can say that the graphics in neither of these games represent their respective years very well. Both games have extremely pixilated two dimensional graphics with 2003 being the better looking game, though not by much. The graphics in both games are very outdated and look as if they were ported over from a handheld console, rather than an actual arcade machine. The menus are equally lacking, as they display absolutely no graphics, only game options. In the one player game when there is a brief cut scene, it is shown in a box equal to maybe one-fourth of the entire screen. It’s safe to say that these graphics could have and should have been cleaned up if only to make these games more presentable to the mainstream gamer of today accustomed to three dimensional graphics on the home console.
After getting over your initial shock of how dated The King of Fighters games look, you’ll also hear how dated the games’ sound is. The music is forgettable, and seems to be recorded incorrectly and at times won’t sound right due to clipping. Normally, I’m all for keeping everything as true to the original version as possible, but they should have fixed the audio for the home console user. Also, they kept the original voices for each character; unfortunately most are in Japanese, so chances are you won’t understand them. There’s just a lot of work that could have went into making this a better sounding game especially for the home versions.
Long ago, the fighting game controls format was pretty much set, and everything else since has been a variation of that format. The King of Fighters 2002/2003 are no exceptions, hold back to block, different strengths of punches and kicks and a meter that builds up for super moves. The King of Fighters doesn’t really add much to change the genre; it’s mostly more of the same. The thing that will probably hit you more than anything is how incredibly difficult the computer plays against you. Some matches are devastatingly hard and will definitely have you throwing controllers or other handy objects at the screen. The characters all control well, but the battling against the computer who won’t waste time with pushing directions or pressing buttons (like you do especially for the super moves), is difficult, and they have no problems with cheating. They will hit you even when you’ve clearly gone past them, they can wait next to you for three full seconds and the second you hit a button to attack, they nail you, which can’t be by coincidence. One could argue that it’s supposed to be hard, that it shouldn’t be a pushover and that the game is for those who truly master the controls and don’t just mash buttons, or one could argue it’s unbalanced and unfair to most gamers. Either way you slice it, the gameplay is good, but the cheating in the single player will cut down on many a players enjoyment.
Any fan of fighting games knows that the real game begins only when you have a friend to compete with. The King of Fighters 2002/2003 offer up some good single player action, but they offer up even better two player action. The standard one on one is included in both games, but there is also a team match up that pits three on three and is a bit more fun as well as strategic. The good thing is the available choice of characters is large and they each have distinctive moves and fighting styles and there are bound to be a few that you will find to suit your own playing style.
The King of Fighters 2002/2003 both offer up very few extras. Most of the characters are available from the very start and there are too few that can be unlocked. There are also some galleries to unlock, but not much more beyond that. The roster could have been cut down in the beginning to give you more characters to unlock and therefore extend some of the solo playing time. There’s really not much more beyond the galleries as far as extras are concerned.
The King of Fighters 2002/2003 are both solid games, they’re not spectacular or really innovative or genre defining. These are two games that look like they are much older than their respective dates would have you believe; 2002 and 2003 weren’t that long ago, the games look ancient and like they could have easily come from a handheld. The computer’s artificial intelligence is brutal, and unforgiving. The game offers little for the single player and little reason to come back since it looks and plays like a fighter past his prime. Fortunately, the two player mode will be enough to make the game enjoyable for most gamers.
It’s hard to believe that King of Fighters 2002/2003 will appeal to anyone beyond the most nostalgic and hardcore gamers. The dated graphics will be a huge turnoff to today’s gamer who has been weaned on three dimensional fighters for the past three console generations. There are many reasons to pick this up, but there are just as many reasons not to. Hardcore fighting fans need apply only.
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