The worst of all kofs.... and still great!
by Tibe (2015)
The King of Fighters stands undoubtedly as one of the great ambassador series of SNK and the Neo Geo. Appeared in 1994, this fighting game franchise has propelled the firm on the vertices of VS fighting not only in the arcades, but also on home systems, improving its reputation over the seven episodes released until 2000. If you've read the History of the Neo Geo on the site, you probably remember that 2001 was the year during which SNK went into bankrupt, but also when Playmore was created a few months later. Meanwhile, most of the graphic artists, programmers and talented musicians of the firm have left the ship... And it's forced to delegate the development of KOF 2001 to Eolith that Eikichi Kawasaki assumes the continuity of the releases for the immortal Neo Geo. Ironically, the game sees the day in early 2002: if the screenshots spotted here and there in magazines and on the internet are not too attractive, however the aficionados still eagerly await.
Oh, stay reassured, no big surprises await you: we are indeed dealing with a real KOF game, packing a roster still as monstrous as ever, a concrete gameplay, a high-level animation (99% of the sprites were taken from previous episodes). No, the disappointment comes from the few little things that were created especially for this album! Namely graphics, both for backgrounds and for the new characters, but also musics and new sounds. Eolith really didn't invent gunpowder, now we're sure about that fact! The new fighters are five total: among them, three new members of the NESTS team, the villains, if you prefer! K9999 which is a dead ringer for Tetsuo in Akira; Angel, a sexy fighter relatively interesting to play; Foxy finally, is armed with a foil and is pretty low. The other two newcomers are Li Xiangfei, recruited in Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 and May Lee, a young fighter who joined the Korean team. The other surprise is the return of Daimon and Heidern in their respective teams.
The now popular strikers system is still used, but KOF 2001 innovates by offering the player the power to modulate its use. In fact, once you've chosen your four characters, you can assign from one to four fighters, and/or zero to three strikers. This affects the game strategy and technique in combat, but also affects your potential. The more you have fighters, the more their life bars are weak. Power gauges depend on the same factor, because with one warrior, you can store up to four, against only one with four fighters (stay focused...). This tactic incursion is nice, but frankly do not add much to the gameplay. On this part too, programmers have significantly changed geometries and tempos for some characters who were a little too powerful, in order to balance the roster. The regulars will be a little confused, but the intention is still commendable ... even if it is a little awkward.
Despite its impressive forty characters' roster, the Bosses that are well made and the difficulty more balanced than in most other episodes, KOF 2001 can't get to shine among his elders. The realization is in sharp decline, with the heros' portraits that are completely rotten (they all are puffy!), bland and flat backgrounds, as well as its awful, poor electro music and some new effects we would have loved never to hear. In short, everything that is good in our game come from older episodes of the saga! Even the new characters don't mark the spirits with their charisma, or even the fresh blood they bring to the gameplay. Testimony of a company in complete disarray, The King of Fighters 2001 remains in the memories a cruel disappointment, that of a reality that we take right in the face: SNK will no more be the legendary game editor it used to be...
|KOF 2001 is still the ugliest album of the whole saga. The fighters faces are ridiculous, the stages go from bland to horrible... only sprites do much better, but not all of them!|
|Sprites borrowed from KOF 2000 didn't change, and the newcomers move pretty well. Only the background animations and various effects are too simple, way behind what we were used to see with SNK.|
|Noises and effects are for the most coming from KOF 2000, but the melodies are crappy as hell and frankly speaking, we want to turn off the sound many times!|
|There are forty selectable characters, you can set from one to four fighters, and up to three strikers. If this does not bring much to the gameplay, the replay value is still huge, like in every KOF.|
|The newcomers are not particularly interesting (Foxy, Xian Fei, May Lee...) and we note some attempts to balance the roster with some tempos that have changed .|
|Kof 2001 is doubtlessly the weakest episode of the saga. If the roster is impressive and the game mechanics still excellent, there's no reason not to choose any other episode: for example, a 98 or a 02!|
VALUE FOR MONEY (2015)
During this year 2015, the Neo Geo AES prices are globaly taking off and it now seems impossible to find a Kof 2001 for less than 150 euros! You got it, this album is totally dispensable: Any other episode might be cheaper and way more interesting to buy.