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October 21 2018

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  The King of Fighters 2002 - ©Playmore/Eolith 2002 (Review 1 Page 3)

I've talked a lot about how the artwork and backgrounds have been improved in this game, but I haven't really mentioned much about the rest of the graphics. KOF 2002 is definitely better looking than the KOF's from the past couple of years (and Eolith seems to be learning), but I would still say that overall it is still not as impressive as say, KOF '98 or '99.

While being good, many of the backgrounds still seem to be missing that "special something" that many of the older SNK ones used to have. I think a part of the problem is that SNK games have always been famous for having lots of little details in them. However, many of these new backgrounds seem a little bit bland and lacking in anything to make you say "wow that looks cool". One or two of them such as the Japan stage come close in my opinion, but if you play KOF 2002 for a while and then go back and play one of the earlier KOF games (or some of the Real Bout Fatal Fury games), you will see what I am talking about. Some of the passion and creative flair of the old SNK seems to have been lost if you ask me, but things are getting better.

The animation for this game has been improved a little bit, although this is something of a mixed blessing at times. For instance, Kim Kaphwan has LOADS of new animation, especially on his standing pose, where as other characters like Terry have not been changed at all really. When you fight against Kim the animation actually seems out of place - my guess is that the animator for him must have been working some serious overtime, while the other animators were slacking off ;)

Once again, the sprites for the characters haven't changed much, although this isn't a big surprise. Andy is still wearing his cool new outfit from KOF 2001 and Athena has a new outfit as usual, but other than that there aren't many changes. I'd really like to see some total overhauls for some of the characters - something like what happened to Terry in the change from Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 --> Garou: MotW. In fact, Terry should probably change to have the leather coat outfit from that game as it is very cool. The designers really could do with starting from scratch with most if the characters, because using the same sprites for the past few years just shows laziness on their part.

The game does kick off with a very nice intro sequence though, which really shows off the improved artwork... very nice indeed.


Before I go into any more detail about my thoughts on the game, I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think The King of Fighters 2002 is good, and one of my favourite KOF's overall. It is great fun to play and features many of the characters we have been hoping to see in a KOF game again for some time, as well as many other neat touches.

Now that is out the way, let's talk about what is wrong with this game. To be honest, the main problem with KOF 2002 is that the King of Fighters really did peak on the Neo Geo a few years back. Although a lot of us would probably be happy if they churned out a KOF game on the Neo Geo every year for another 9 years (being the KOF fanboys/girls that we are ;), in my opinion if they want to move forward they really can't continue to make any more on this system. Graphically, I think that this series peaked in '99, and due to memory/hardware limitations I don't think there is any way to improve the series further (with regards to animation etc). Well, that is unless they decide to drastically cut down on the amount of playable characters and go for a Garou: MotW style game - but that would make the whole idea of KOF pretty pointless really. That's probably the most likely reason for Kim being one of the few characters with extra frames - there probably wouldn't be room to fit in extra animation for everyone.

I'm not quite sure what direction Eolith should head in for the next KOF game (let's be honest, another KOF is a 100% certainty :). Some people think that it should be moved to another arcade platform (such as Sega's Naomi) and then ported over to the home systems. This wouldn't be a bad idea (the Naomi is a very solid system for 2d stuff), but the only problem I can see is that the MVS is still a reasonably popular format with arcade ops, mainly because it is very cheap and needs little maintenance. Think about it - there are thousands of MVS machines all over the place, but a lot less Naomi machines. As the developers of any new game are a business, they have to think about money and will most likely take the route that will allow them to make the most cash... this more than likely means that they will stick with the MVS for a while longer at least (maybe I am totally wrong though). Playmore/Eolith aren't the biggest companies in the world either, so they will need to be cautious and make the right decision... KOF is probably their most popular and important property at the moment and we wouldn't want them to go the same way as the original SNK.

If KOF continues and stays with the MVS for another year or whatever, I am not totally against this (hell, I'm always happy to see a new Neo Geo game), but the developers MUST do something new with the next game. We all want to see redrawn sprites for many of the older fighters, more good new characters (not lame ones like Ramon) and there really needs to be some kind of significant gameplay changes, and not just minor tweaks here and there. I think they have definitely gone in the right direction with the removal of strikers, and I like being able to choose my next opponent before a fight, but Eolith needs to work on some new big additions that will keep everyone happy and increase the long term appeal of the game.

Having said all that, I will say that this game is a lot more balanced than any KOF game has been in a while. I don't think that it is possible for any game (especially one with this many characters) to be totally balanced, but it really doesn't seem like there are any REALLY overpowered characters in this one... although I am sure some experts could pick it apart! The only exception is the games final boss Omega Rugal. He has been powered up BIG time and has had an extra hit added to his Genocide Cutter... which is very annoying as he flys right back across the screen after performing it, making it harder to hit him. Thankfully Omega Rugal is not as much of a cheap bas**rd as Zero from KOF 2001 though, and can be beaten reasonably easily when you get your tactics right. We should all be used to cheapo bosses in these games by now anyway ;)

Final Judgement

Despite some drawbacks and a lack of creativity, KOF 2002 is still a VERY solid game and one that most true KOF fans will get a lot of enjoyment from. At the end of the day it is still the same old KOF and if you like these games then you will get a lot of play time out of it (two player VS mode is especially good fun). If you have never liked the series, then you would be advised to steer well clear of this game as it will definitely not change your mind. Long term KOF players will be happy about the return of some older characters (but will probably mourn the loss of King etc) and I'm guessing the majority of old school KOF players will be VERY glad that the Strikers have gone.

The only thing that might hurt the replay value a little in single player is that there are no endings for each team in this game, just one generic ending for everyone. As I mentioned before though, this is supposed to be a "dream match", so there isn't a proper storyline for the game at all. One thing that does make completing the game worth it is that there are a lot of little skits featuring the characters that play during the end credits (there are a number of these that play randomly every time). These are similar to the ones found in Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, and some of them are very funny indeed.

Overall I would say that this is one of the best new releases to come out since the original SNK folded, and one that I would recommend adding to your collection... provided you are a KOF fan that is.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Game play: 8/10
Replay Value: 8.5/10

Overall Rating: 8/10

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