Continued from Page One
King of Fighters 2001
Where the first disc of this set offers a true-to-arcade experience, King of Fighters 2001 keeps all the same gameplay elements of its cabinet cousin, but tries to complement that with upgraded music and visuals. "Try" being the key word there, because all that really happens is the backgrounds are redone in hi-res without actually redrawing them, and all the character sprites are shoved in the hi-res mix. Now, follow me in this:
Low res sprites + hi-res display = sharp and ugly edges.
The backgrounds feel like they were softened (read: blurry as sin), and when all elements are put together the entire visual package feels disjointed, much like the characters are fighting in front of a blue screen. To be perfectly honest, it doesn't bother the gameplay and it's not ugly per se - it's just that with 2000 the developers didn't touch a thing, and the result was better than when they did decide to improve things. Hi-res or not, the presentation isn't all that exciting. Arcade or PS2, the backgrounds lack that certain spark or shine that a lot of other installments retain. And the music? Easily the worst MIDI assault on your ears since Final Fantasy VII on the PC. Yeah, it's that bad.
No matter, because the end result of all the striker nonsense can be found right here. The gameplay is the same - kick, punch, combo, roll, swear at the ludicrous AI - but the team and striker aspects have been completely retooled. You still have four members to use, but now you can choose how to use them - all four characters can be active, three characters can be strikers, or any combination in between. This also affects your super meter, which increases in length and has fewer levels the more active characters you use. This makes for some interesting teams, combinations, and strategies, since two players can choose the same teams and still implement them in different ways. Add to that the fact that 2001 has forty brawlers to choose from, the largest selection in the series, and it's a given that this is the definitive King of Fighters to own at home, whether you use the strikers or not.
While it takes some time to adjust your eyes, King of Fighters 2001 stands on its own as another solid, fun fighter. It tries a few things that no other KoF has done, and makes for the freshest gameplay experience in the series yet. Now, if you still can't get over the retouched visuals or the striker drama, then stick to something else. I hear Dream Match 99 sells for a king's ransom on eBay.
And the Verdict is . . .
For $40, you can't go wrong with two great fighters from a company that has gotten back on its feet. If you're waiting for something completely brand new from SNK, you'll have to wait for the next King of Fighters games, of which there will be three at the same time - and on new hardware, no less. To kill the time until then, to take a trip down memory lane, or to just add some worthwhile fighters to your collection, it gets no better than this compilation.
King of Fighters 2000/2001 trading cards - uncut sheet 1 (189KB PDF)
King of Fighters 2000/2001 trading cards - uncut sheet 2 (203KB PDF)
King of Fighters 2000/2001 trading cards - uncut sheet 3 (229KB PDF)
Please note that the ratings below are only for King of Fighters 2001.
Back to the review and rating of King of Fighters 2000
· · · Kevin Cameron