Over the past few years SNK Playmore has done an excellent
job of porting their recent (and classic) Neo Geo games to the current
generation consoles. From Metal Slug, to
Samurai Shodown, to the Kind of Fighters, fans of SNK and their 24-bit arcade
system have had a lot to celebrate lately.
The Kind of Fighters 2002/2003 may look like every other SNK collection,
it features familiar 2D graphics and a roster of returning characters, but
there’s no doubt that this is SNK’s most diverse collection yet.
Although the King of Fighters franchise has always featured
a lot of characters, diversity has never been its strong suit. From year to year the King of Fighters
installments felt like nothing more than roster updates, sort of like the
fighting game equivalent of the Madden series.
Despite the fact that the Kind of Fighters series had gone largely
unchanged up to the 2002 installment, this Xbox collection really is worth
buying in large part to how dissimilar the two installments are.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the King of Fighters series,
in the mid-1990s SNK decided to combine a few of their popular franchises into
one large, team-based battle. With
characters from games like Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and even Ikari
Warriors, the King of Fighters was a fun mix of styles, characters, and
backgrounds … something Capcom would later copy and make their own. With its large cast of unique characters and
deep fighting mechanics it’s easy to understand why fans of 2D fighters come
back to this SNK series year after year.
You won’t need to have played any of the older King of
Fighters titles to appreciate the 2002 and 2003 edition. Although the franchise
has a unique feel, most of the moves will be instantly familiar if you’ve
played any of Capcom or SNK’s early 2D efforts – Street Fighter, Darkstalkers,
Fatal Fury, etc. The fact that you aren’t
forced to re-learn a complicated set of attacks makes these titles extremely
easy to get into no matter what experience level you are.
The King of Fighters 2002 is the perfect example of the
style of game play the series has stuck with for nearly a decade. You choose three characters out of nearly 50 fighters
available to you; each character fights until he or she is knocked out, then
your next fighter jumps in and continues the fight. These three-on-three fights are what the King
of Fighters series is best known for, and there’s no doubt that this 2002
edition does it as well as anybody could want.
It features a roster of familiar faces, including Ryo, Joe
Higashi, Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, Athena, and of course Blue Mary. The rest of the characters are just as
interesting as this group (even more interesting, in some cases), but there are
simply too many to talk about at any kind of length. It’s a robust roster that should have fans of
2D fighters interested for at least a few days.
The King of Fighters 2003 looks a lot like the 2002 edition;
it features a lot of the same characters, and the moves are largely
unchanged. But it won’t take more than a
minute before you realize that SNK made some drastic changes to the formula, a
controversial change that may have some people frustrated by the title. In like the three-on-three battles of before
(where your character battled until they were knocked out), now you are able to
switch between fighters mid-battle. If
you’ve played Capcom’s Mavel vs. Capcom series (or even Capcom vs. SNK 2)
you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Being able to bring out other characters to better match up fights is a
great way of pumping some life back into the system, even if it’s not
The good news for those who hate this game play revision is
that you are able to go back to the old school method. Heck, if you want to, both games allow you to
take your battles down to the one-on-one style that resembles almost every
other fighting game on the market. With
35 characters and plenty of ways to play the game, it’s hard to be too upset
with SNK about this 2003 edition.
Both games feature incredible backgrounds, the type that you
rarely see outside of 2D fighting games.
The best part of SNK’s backgrounds is how they detail them for different
times of the day, so round two will be later in the day than round one, and
round three will often be at night.
There are a lot of fun details for each background, not to mention
plenty of cameos from other SNK characters.
2003’s arenas tend to have more going on, including a few that are
moving (such as a dramatic battle on a train).
The characters may not have improved much in the series 8 installments,
but the backgrounds sure have become more exciting.
With dozens of different levels between the
two games you won’t soon bore of the same level over and over.
Since these two games are packaged together you would expect
them to feature similar Xbox Live experiences, but SNK decided to go a
When it comes to King
of Fighter 2002 you can frequent a lobby and check your stats.
The 2003 edition also features the stats (as
well as the other basic ways of locating a game, friends, etc.), but instead of
a lobby you get a Competition mode.
mode allows you to take part in a multi-player tournament that is set up for a
specific time and must be registered for.
This is a great addition I hope other online fighters use in the
Unfortunately this mode is not
available in the 2002 edition, which features quite a few more characters to
Although I ran into some lag in my online battles, it was a
pleasant time for the most part.
complaint is that the game has a tendency to simply spit you out to the lobby
when you’re done with your fight, which can be kind of frustrating when you’re
ready for a rematch.
Most people will be
able to work around the few online hiccups without too much trouble, but it
would be nice if SNK would get around to making a fully functional online
experience that doesn’t contain these simple problems.
Besides the various arcade modes and the Xbox Live function,
both games manage to offer some extra content.
Beyond the usual art galleries you will find a few different challenge
modes, a few of which may hold your attention for ten or fifteen minutes before
you move back to the standard arcade battles.
By all accounts these two games are pretty bare bones, but considering
that most people have never played them, the amount of the extras hardly seems
If you’ve ever thought about picking up a King of Fighters
game this 2002/2003 set is a great place to start. Chances are you’re not going to find another
SNK collection with this much diversity.
They may not look as good as the 3D fighters of today, but both King of
Fighters 2002 and 2003 are fantastic fighting games with a deep roster of
unique characters to choose from.
The King of Fighters 2002/2003 may not look as good as Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive, but with itâ€™s cast of nearly 50 characters and deep fighting mechanics itâ€™s just as easy to get addicted to. SNK has managed to release a collection that is not only a good bargain but also features two diverse experiences, something you donâ€™t usually say about SNKâ€™s fighting games.