You can’t keep a good dog down, or so the saying goes. It seems the same could be said about a good videogame company. Bottom lines, profit margins, and a rapid decline in popularity for everything 2D has done quite a number on the genre, and nearly extinguished the flame of the company once known simply as SNK in the process. Creator of numerous ass kicking game franchises and the widely acclaimed NeoGeo home/arcade system, SNK has been around for quite some time and established a very large and very vocal following of fans across the nation. It wasn’t too long ago that it looked as if the Powers That Be had succeeded at shutting SNK’s doors once and for all. But like a phoenix, bathed in fire and scorched to indiscernible ashes, SNK has risen once again in the form of SNK Playmore to continue their tradition of spreading their good ol’ fashioned 2D love to all the boys and girls.
SNK Playmore’s newest release, a two-game, two-disc compilation containing The King of Fighters 2000 and 2001, should come as quite a treat for fans of the KoF franchise. The two included games are arcade-perfect ports but also feature an assortment of non-gameplay additions that come in the form of unlockables. Hardcore SNK enthusiasts will appreciate the handful of introduction sequences from some of the older KoF games that can be viewed on this compilation, and the new background stages and hidden characters that are waiting to be tapped into are just plain cool irregardless. All this comes at a reduced price-point. Your wallet will thank you.
The King of Fighters series has been a long-time staple in the NeoGeo arsenal of fighting games. By combining different characters from various SNK games and updating the roster, graphics, and technical gameplay mechanics in each installment, KoF proved to be the company’s premiere fighting game of choice. While plenty of KoF games were released, most agree that the games included on this compilation are the best of the best.
Both 2000 and 2001 utilized “strikers”; backup characters that you could call into battle to deliver a few surprise hits on your opponent, sometimes setting up a perfect opportunity to execute a series of devastating combination blows. These games also introduced counter and canceling moves that skilled players could utilize to stop an assault in its tracks or even turn the tables on the attacker completely. 2001 refined this concept a bit by allowing you to bust out with super attacks and air-juggle combos.
But chances are you already know all this if you’re thinking about buying the games. So lets move on to some stuff you probably didn’t know about. The aforementioned intro sequences include the opening of every previous King of Fighters game (94 to 99) and can be unlocked by completing various challenges such as performing a 30 hit combo in practice mode, playing the game for 10 hours, or beating the game on expert difficulty. All the other new goodies can only be unlocked by playing through the game’s “party mode”, which is actually just a series of consecutive battles against computer-controlled opponents. Every tenth battle you’ll be rewarded with a different prize in the form of a new striker character, playable character, or arcade stage.
We pride ourselves on having a keen eye for attention to detail, but as far as can be told, these KoF recreations look, smell, sound and taste exactly like the original arcade games we knew and loved. If there was one gripe about the compilation that is worth mentioning it is that the lack of the original game hardware (ie: an analog control club) makes pulling off the game’s more complicated moves very difficult, if impossible. Of course, this is not the fault of the game itself and can easily be remedied by using a high quality third-party joystick.
It almost goes without saying that the graphics in these games are far from impressive relative to other games on the PS2, or at least it should go without saying. The NeoGeo arcade hardware that both KoF 2000 and 2001 was designed to run on is of the 24-bit variety, substantially less sophisticated than Sony’s 128-bit rice burner. And since the games are already a few years old, their lack of polish is even more apparent. But the games are brimming with artistic style and the original 2D charm and flair. There are tons of characters to choose from and they all animate nicely and are adequately detailed. The improvement in terms of visual presentation from 2000 to 2001 is minimal, the main differences come in the form of updated gameplay mechanics.
Both games sound really good, however. Plenty of digital dialogue clips were recorded for each character in the games. All the sound effects of the originals have successfully made the jump to the PS2. The soundtracks are piled high with techno style music. As we said earlier, these are pixel-perfect emulations of the arcade games and the dead-on sound emulation is simply part of the deal.
The golden age of 2D fighting games may be a memory in the annals of videogame history, but thanks to the efforts of companies like Capcom, Sammy, and the venerable SNK, the fire still burns. This two-disc compilation rekindles the flame of mid-90’s arcade fighting game era and offers up two heaping servings of nostalgia at a very reasonable price. Fans of the genre, KoF, or SNK should feel very lucky right about now.