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[02/12/05] King of Fighters 2002 and 2003 (PS2)


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Game: King of Fighters 2002 & 2003

System: Playstation 2 (Xbox in 03/05, may be different!)

Emulators: Not Exactly...

 

Images from http://www.snkplaymoreusa.com/

Thanks to ImageShack for Free Image Hosting

Review by: Daeval

 

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If you're reading this, you probably already know that this title is actually the two most recent games in the legendary King of Fighters series to make their way from the arcade to the home consoles. Following on last year's two-pack release of KOF 2000 and 2001, this year's iteration brings us one of the largest rosters ever to grace the NeoGeo, combined with the most radical update ever to happen to its most popular series!

 

In short, these are some very nice ports! I'm going to be reviewing them seperately, and then I'll give scores for the two-pack. Also, since most readers have probably already played these in their arcade formats, I'm going to focus more on the port-specific features than the core gameplay.

 

 

 

King of Fighters 2002

===============

The 2002 edition is a Dream Match - taking characters from all walks of the series, regardless of story, and throwing them all together for some mindless fun. It has one of the largest rosters in the history of the series, with a total of 44 characters (plus 4 alternates). The questionable "strikers" of 2000 and 2001 are gone, and it's back to the solid 3 on 3 team matches that made the series famous. Your options in combat have been streamlined back to a more classic feel, so no more Armor Mode, etc. All in all, the gameplay is as solid as it has ever been, invoking the heyday of '98 more than the recent releases. But how well did it port?

 

At first glance, 2002 looks like a straight AES dump - same style main menu, etc - similar to the PS2 port of KOF 2000. It has the usual Team and Single, Arcade and Vs. modes, plus the options menu with the choices you'd expect on a home console. However, where the KOF 2000 port had only the terrible "Party" mode to add to its AES features, 2002 comes with a little more.

 

In a throwback to SNK's older console ports, there is a large, 75 image Gallery with pictures that you have to unlock through regular play. If the old games are any indication, we can expect concept artwork, posters, endings and other odds and ends to show up here.

 

kof2k25do.jpg

 

There is also something called "Challenge" mode, which is really three different gameplay modes under a single heading - Team Attack, Single Attack, and Time Attack. The first two are your basic Survival modes, and are more or less what you would expect, which isn't a bad thing after the disaster that was "Party" mode. Also, in Team Attack mode, you get one dead character back, in the order you lost them, for every team of three you beat. I thought that was a nice touch. Time Attack mode is actually a series of 40 challenges that require you to beat a certain number of opponents in under a certain time limit. There may be more to it, such as special rules on certain challenges, but I've only unlocked a few so far.

 

Graphically, the game has seen some subtle, but excellent upgrades. Projectiles and other fire and energy effects are rendered with transparency, but are faithful to the originals and look really nice. The backgrounds have also gotten a facelift. Essentially, the 2D backgrounds have been rendered in 3D, and they use many of the same sprites for animation. The effect is basically that of an upgrade in resolution and parallax effects, rather than a change in content.. Best of all, if any of these changes bother you (purists, give them a chance!), you have the option of switching to Arcade graphics mode for the original backgrounds and effect sprites at the cost of some smoothness.

 

The sound sampling does seem a little muffled on the PS2, which is a shame because I like the voice acting and effects in 2002. It's not terrible, but it did catch me off guard at first.

 

New characters for the PS2 port include Geese, Goenitz, Shingo, King and Riot Iori. Kusanagi may be missing, or maybe I'm just not sure where to find him. There is a single-character practice mode with a wide variety of options like those in Capcom Vs. SNK 2. There is also a complete move list for each character on the pause menu, which is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than those in the older ports.

 

 

 

 

King of Fighters 2003

===============

If 2002 was a throwback to the King of Fighters' heyday, 2003 is definately a step into its future. King of Fighters 2003 is the first game in a new storyline for the series, and it has brought some interesting developments to the table. The most obvious change is the new Leader system, which is a lot like the standard 3 on 3 gameplay except that you can switch characters mid-round. One character is chosen as the "Leader," and only he or she can use their strongest super attack, called the Leader Super Special Move. You can switch by calling in a teammate with R1 or R2 (also T+C or T+X), or by performing a Switch Attack, which will hit the opponent and then switch to another character to continue with a combo. There are also some new characters, such as Malin and the New Hero Team, as well Gato and Tizoc imported from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. This is not as huge a deal, but you can also now roll while ducking. This was included in Capcom Vs. SNK 2, but I believe this is the first time you can do it in a King of Fighters game. (I might be wrong about this)

 

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As soon as the main menu loads, it's clear that some time was spent on this port. It's not as fancy, nor as gaudy, as the 2001 port, but it's different. Arcade mode, Single mode, and Arcade and Single Vs. modes are all here. This one also has a large gallery mode, a lot of which is endings and character art.

 

Team and Single Survival modes are here, although the opponents are complete pushovers in these modes, which makes them less interesting than 2002's. In Team Survival mode, you still get characters back for beating an entire team, but they start with almost no health. Some health regenerates while they sit out, however. Team Survival should really be called Arcade Survival, but we'll get to that in a second.

 

This brings us to Team Mode, one of my favorite additions to the PS2 port. This mode does away with the Leader system in favor of the original 3 on 3 team matches the series is known for. The Leader system is fun, but I like having the option of playing the new game in the old style. This mode is available in single player or Vs.

 

While I loved the graphical improvements to 2K2, 2K3's didn't quite do it for me. The flame and energy effects are just as good (in fact, they may be identical in places), but the 3D backgrounds are more obviously 3D this time around. They are just as clean, and all in all look as good as anything else on the PS2, but to me they stood out just a little too much. In all honesty, that's a nitpick though, and you always have the option to switch to Arcade mode to see the original graphics. Speaking of which, Arcade mode seems to look a bit better than 2K2's, being less pixelated and choppy. The backgrounds also lack character camoes this time around, which makes them seem kind of generic and boring. 2K3 has another new graphics option, called Focus. Setting this to "Soft" puts a slight blur filter over the sprites. Some players might prefer this, but my TV isn't the greatest so it's "soft" enough already, thanks. :(

 

The sounds in King of Fighters 2003 are easily my biggest gripe. Unlike 2002, they come through crisp and clear, but some of the sounds themselves are horrible. The music is some of the worst in the series, and many of the sound effects sound out of place, overused, or just plain goofy. The voice acting is another low point, although it isn't on the same level as that of Maximum Impact. Billy, for example, sounds like a little girl when he is hit, and Blue Mary sounds like she has a speech impediment on top of her usual Engrish. Not all of them are bad though, and they're still better than, say, your average budget title. They're bad in comparison to other King of Fighters games, let's put it that way.

 

Adelheid, Mukai, Kusanagi, Chizuru, and Maki (Not the CVS2 Maki!) are all playable on the PS2, although some need to be unlocked. Practice Mode is 3 on 3, which I didn't like because it meant you could only practice one character's Leader Move at a time. In order to try someone else's, you have to exit Practice mode and load it all up again. That's a relatively small gripe though, and otherwise the practice mode is full featured and almost identical to 2002's.

 

 

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Overall

=====

Overall, fans of the series will probably enjoy King of Fighters 2002 & 2003, but we already knew that. More importantly, these games are proof that 2D fighters can still be quality console products, and a hell of a lot of fun, in an age when dime-a-dozen 3D games and their developers would drive them into extinction. At $39.99 for two games, this is an excellent chance to introduce new fans to the King of Fighters series, to quench a neglected thirst for 2D fighters, or to breathe new life into a dying genre.

 

Controls: 10

Gameplay: 9

Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

 

Overall Score: 8.5

 

Grade: B (Make that an A if you're a 2D Fighter Fan!)

 

Overall I give this game a :lol:

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A brief update after a little more play:

 

Kusanagi IS in 2002.

 

Turns out my gripe about Practice Mode in 2K3 was unwarranted. You can set it so that all 3 of your characters act as leaders, and so you can effectively test out three different characters at once! Just put the power bar setting on "LeaderMax."

Edited by Daeval
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i agree with u, i would give this game a B too but more of a C to me since i don't like 2d fighting games that much

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This port gets a C in my book. Frankly because most of the bonus stuff is unwanted too me. Arranged soundtracks are a big plus, but all the characters look like blurry sheit to me and I used S-video when I got these 2 games (a while back, when they were first released in Japan, I just dl'ed the isos after my whole "I am not buying anything Sony related unless I really want it")

 

Now, if I got a modded PS2 again or something

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Well the added things mostly ARE useless. The port itself, with all the 3D remade backgrounds and Arragned soundtrack aren't worth it on it's own. It's only good to get if you want to support SNK. Which is the only reason TO get it at all seeing how most of the features blow.

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Well the added things mostly ARE useless. The port itself, with all the 3D remade backgrounds and Arragned soundtrack aren't worth it on it's own. It's only good to get if you want to support SNK. Which is the only reason TO get it at all seeing how most of the features blow.

Aside from possibly a color edit, or online play, what more could you want from these titles? The higher resolution graphics will come with the AtomisWave-to-console ports.

 

If I had to pick reasons to get it, in no particular order:

- The graphic updates : They look a LOT better than emulated or even the actual arcade graphics, especially the projectiles in 2K2. Maybe the japanese versions were worse, or maybe you're a picky purist, I don't know. They look as nice as any other 2D fighter on the PS2. Save possibly Guilty Gear.

 

- Team Mode in 2K3

 

- The extra characters in 2K2 : King and Shingo are missing in the arcade, how lame is that? And on top of the Dreamcast release, Geese is in now too.

 

- Gallery mode in 2K2 : 2k3's is mostly just promo art and endings, but 2K2's has some neat stuff thrown in.

 

- Convenience : I know a lot more people with PS2s than I do with the right working emulators installed or with these titles at a nearby arcade. That makes it easier to bring this game to a friend's. And in most cases, even where there are emulators involved, the PS2 they also have is in a much more comfortable position for gathering around. Finally, the really nice movelists and the practice modes make it easier to learn stuff on the fly without having to alt-tab and check gamefaqs or print some huge document for reference.

 

- So you can play 2D fighters in the future : Especially since 2D fighters are a dying breed, it's important to support developers when they do well. Even if the extras aren't a huge deal to you, the game itself is fun as hell, and you're not saying "Thanks" with an emulator, let alone putting towards any paychecks. It's only $40, and that's if you don't buy it online somewhere.

 

 

With these games, SNK-Playmore has a chance to make something of the unstable SNK dynasty in the US. Making your mark in arcades doesn't do anything for you anymore, not in the US. You've got to hit the home market to make it big. KOF 2K/2K1 wasn't going to do that - they were too awkward as ports, and were strictly fan service. SVC:Chaos wasn't going to do it, as much as it should have with the famous Capcom characters - it was too ugly and had more than its fair share of gameplay problems.

 

KOF 2K2/2K3 has a good chance to hit that sweet spot. It looks as good as anyone can expect from the PS2, the gameplay is rock solid on both titles, a lot of love was put into the port, and there is a hell of a lot of bang for your buck, as well as variety, in the two pack. It's a damn shame if the relatively small group of fans SNK already has won't support them because they don't want to shell out a measly $20 per excellent title, where they'll pay $50 to gamble on others.

Edited by Daeval
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I'm just really picky at the ports. Because they offer nothing new to me other then a kick ass soundtrack and SNK-crappily rendered backgrounds. The only diff between this and the japense version is the localizations. It's pretty much same thing i was playing 3-4 months ago when both of them came out on the ps2.

 

On that note. Please avoid KOF`94 Rebout. Nothings changed in it other then the graphics and the addintion of team edit.

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I'm just really picky at the ports. Because they offer nothing new to me other then a kick ass soundtrack and SNK-crappily rendered backgrounds. The only  diff between this and the japense version is the localizations. It's pretty much same thing i was playing 3-4 months ago when both of them came out on the ps2.

 

On that note. Please avoid KOF`94 Rebout. Nothings changed in it other then the graphics and the addintion of team edit.

 

It just sounds like you're discounting a lot of things to justify the alternative, which is "free." Forgive me if you honestly think all the little touches are completely worthless, but I can't help thinking your opinion would be different if the titles weren't so easy to pirate in their non-upgraded form.

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I know how the world is all happy for online play, sure there was that with the emulators, but it sucks and it's laggy. I'm just saying, even I've played the arcade versions of this game (not my stick, Playdium had them imported, like their friking #reload machine). I disown the rom versions I have because I hate playing them on my PC since decemeber. When i dl'd the ps2 version of 2k2 (the full dvd rip, all 2.4 gigs of it). But I can't help to think that the DC version > PS2(the PS2 exclusive characters are ripped from SVCC, complete with all their draw backs, geese infinity is still there) and Arcade version. Sure theres some plus sides to the PS2 version of 2k3 (Duo-Lon infinity is harder timed, they added the old school 3v3 no tag team). It still doesn't even seem right. Hell, the only thing that needs my money is PC and gamecube games. PS2 is PS2, anything sells on that crappy box anyways.

 

I even deleted all my NG roms because Emulation doesn't even have a big interest in me anymore as it is.

Edited by K`dash
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I know how the world is all happy for online play, sure there was that with the emulators, but it sucks and it's laggy. I'm just saying, even I've played the arcade versions of this game (not my stick, Playdium had them imported, like their friking #reload machine). I disown the rom versions I have because I hate playing them on my PC since decemeber. When i dl'd the ps2 version of 2k2 (the full dvd rip, all 2.4 gigs of it). But I can't help to think that the DC version > PS2(the PS2 exclusive characters are ripped from SVCC, complete with all their draw backs, geese infinity is still there) and Arcade version.  Sure theres some plus sides to the PS2 version of 2k3 (Duo-Lon infinity is harder timed, they added the old school 3v3 no tag team). It still doesn't even seem right. Hell, the only thing that needs my money is PC and gamecube games. PS2 is PS2, anything sells on that crappy box anyways.

 

I even deleted all my NG roms because Emulation doesn't even have a big interest in me anymore as it is.

 

Wow you hate a lot of stuff.

 

I do think a bit more polish on the game could have been used, but overall i think its a great port, and im glad its released in the us. 2d is getting really hard to enjoy nowadays.

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