Graphists on Strike
by Tibe (2011)
Next to a particularly disappointing Kof 2001 , players didn't expected too much anymore in 2002. Before the fall of the historical SNK company (1978-2001), fans were said goodbye with some major pieces: Garou, Metal Slug 3, The King of Fighters 2000 ... which were programmed by experienced Neo Geo engineers. The revival of the firm led by Playmore in 2001 had led to the worst fears, and these confirmed those. Ouch... We came from one of the best episodes in the Kof saga, to a 2001 partially sacked by the koreans from Eolith: ugly graphics, infamous melodies, below average new characters... After Hell, it' s Purgatory that awaits us. Leaving off the strikers' system, the gameplay takes back the excellent basics from The King of Fighters 98. Eolith' s team, starting from the foundations laid by SNK, managed to sophisticate and balance the gameplay to a new remarkable level. Yes, let us not mince words, Kof 02' is featuring one of the best gameplay in the series.
Programmers have increased the amount of combos, and created new technical moves and mechanisms. Anyway, the basics from our good old Kofs are still there: 3 vs 3 team battle, counters, dodges, reversals... but also timing, which is almost identical to 98'. No more "extra" and "advanced" modes here, the power gauge became a mix of both. It fills up when special moves and combos are performed: three to five gauges can be stored. By activating one (B+C), it multiplies for a short time the fighter's power and abilities. In this mode, it becomes possible to perform "super cancels": hit opponent with a special, cancel during hit to hit with another blow, and so on. Quantity and power of the combinations are reaching a degenerate level sometimes, but what a a pleasure to trigger these! Desperation Moves are still in the game, Super Desperation Moves too (activate a gauge while having another one in stock to perform). The new feature is the Hidden Desperation Move: when health falls below 20%, and with the conditions of a SDM, you can trigger this demonic attack (which can remove up to 70% of health)...
All this tech is served by an impressive forty-four characters' roster darn balanced. With thirty-nine basic fighters, plus Rugal, Kusanagi and the Orochi team selectable with a code, we reach here one of the most consistent warrior's choice ever seen in the VS fighting history. The timing is as thin as in Kof 98 and controls are improved , with new mechanisms and some details corrected. Indeed, the depth and technicality of Kof 2002 has something to appeal any fan of the series. Now, let's review one aspect of the game that has particularly decreased since the disappearance of the historic SNK teams: realization... This is disappointing in many ways. Let's start with what is still good enough: characters' animations are flawless. The sprites of 98, 2000 and 2001 episodes were included in full, and steps have even been added. The new fighters from 2001 (K 9999, Angel, May Lee) are well drawn and move smoothly. Plus, emblematic figures of the series are back: Rugal, Billy, Yamazaki, the Orochi Team, Vice, Mature... Faces design is not bad, the character design being not the worst the series has seen - Kof 2001 standing as the undisputed number one in ugliness.
In fact, the matter resides in the backgrounds... they are so ugly! The choices themselves are already distressing: desertic fields with a view on a giant shoe; cheap chinese decorum, cloudy weather in Cambodia ... As for the treatment, it's uninspired, dull, flat. People who gesticulate in the back are ridiculous and uncouth. I can only think about Italy's stage and its Pisa tower that just makes Par. As for melodies, if we hear some known glorious themes, most of them are odiously re-orchestrated, while the new ones are tasteless. Soft electro-techno and poor arrangements, please kill me. Only vocals and sound effects raise the level. But let's relativize: after all, even if this is far from what we were used to see with SNK, there are still some positive points. Despite this poor realization, Kof 02' has beautiful tricks up his sleeve. The rich and tasteful roster, the accurate and comprehensive gameplay, featuring the HDM and plenty new combos... Vomit, forget the abominable graphics and awful musics... and you'll send very good times fighting with your friends!
|The characters' sprites are nice, but the backgrounds are few, dull and tasteless.|
|Animation is as good as we were used to. Fighter's moves are fast and smooth, even slightly better than in Kof 98'.|
|New themes totally suck, but the effects are doing good, as usual.|
|Forty-four characters offering deep possibilities, with many new combos and Hidden Desperation Moves to learn. Simply amazing!|
|Millimetered: engineers worked on the 98' base and improved it.|
|A great Kof' episode packing a fabulous gameplay, alas providing a deceiving realization, not matching the system's standards.|
VALUE FOR MONEY (2011)
Not bad, as for almost every title of the King of Fighters saga. You can buy it for about 120/130 euros on ebay or other sites of this kind. But I have to say if you have to pick only one AES of Kof series, a good'ol 98' will be the wisest choice.