Friday, March 1, 2013

King of Fighters Retrospective: 2002

It’s King of Fighters ’98, but with some characters from the NESTS Chronicles.

This is going to be a relatively short one.

Like King of Fighters ’98, SNK and Eolith seem to have deemed it appropriate to give a grand finish to the NESTS Chronicles.  Just like ’98, the game brings back many characters from previous games to allow for matchups other games can't offer.  Mixed in with the usual regulars, many of the ’98 teams return again, like Iori’s '96 team, the '97 mercenary team and the New Faces team.  From the NESTS chronicles are K’’s team (minus Lin) and the NESTS team (minus Foxy).

2002 went back to teams of 3, and as a result, a lot of characters got the axe.  Heidern, King, Saisyu, Shingo, and more are all absent from 2002.  In fact, only three teams have characters that debuted in the NESTS chronicles, omitting Bao, Jhun Hoon, and even Li Xianfei.  You can imagine some people weren’t thoroughly satisfied by this offering.

2002 does introduce a new character though, unlike '98, though this new character isn't exactly new.  Near the end of the game, you have a chance of fighting one of four mid-bosses, one of which is a fighter simply named “Kusanagi” (not to be confused with Kyo).

Kusanagi is essentially Kyo’s hot-blooded evil twin.  Most fans speculated he was simply another Kyo clone, but SNK established where he came from in 2003.  We’ll get to that in the next article.

When I said 2002 is like ’98, I also meant that in terms of its gameplay.  2002 doesn’t have strikers, nor does it have ‘98’s control selection.  Really, it plays like a standard King of Fighters game, like ’97, but with only the option of the advanced control format.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

Same old rivalries.
The presentation in 2002 is far better than in 2001, thankfully.  Stages are colorful and change between rounds.  There are a lot of fun cameos of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters characters to spot, including ones omitted from the roster.

It’s almost as if the old SNK never left us.  Thank goodness they got rid of 2001's electro synth.  Now the tunes are peppy and great to fight with, if not only a little weaker than the likes of KOF '99.  They have a rhythm you can tap your foot to and are never overly-repetitive.

Saying it’s like the old SNK never left us is a good way to describe much of KOF 2002.  New sprites and a few altered movesets aside, King of Fighters 2002 didn’t bring a whole lot of anything new, but still kept what we liked about the pre-2001 games.

Even the finale is more or less a rehash.  See who the game’s final boss is here.

All of it adds up to 2002 being enjoyable, but skippable.  Personally I think KOF 98 is better.

The remake, on the other hand…

Like ‘98’s remake, King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match includes everything missing from the original and more.  Goenitz, Geese, Kasumi and all the characters from the NESTS saga are present in it, with the exception of K9999, who was replaced with a new character named Nameless (paradoxically).  Unlimited Match includes all the bosses from the NESTS chronicles as well, and they’re all fully playable once you unlock them.
You read that right.  You can play as Igniz!  With the typing of those words, your perception of game balance breaks in half with a sickening *crack!*.  The bosses take the place of the original's final boss (who is instead a bonus boss if you do well enough).  Which one you fight depends on how you’ve finished off a certain number of opponents, but I won’t go into any more detail on that.

Look at all dem characters!

With new 3D stages, Unlimited Match excels at its visual presentation along with its powerful character count.

Unlimited Match also tries to improve upon the original game’s soundtrack by completely replacing it with one much less limited by the Neo Geo system the original was on.  Though they’re objectively better than the original tracks, they don’t satisfy me, particularly the remixed tracks of songs from previous games.  The remixes all lack the melodic punch other games had and instead seem to try and lay it on a little too thick.
The biggest disappointment is the omission of all the excellent boss tracks from the NESTS Chronicles.  The closest thing players get to them is an inferior heavy-metal arrangement of Krizalid’s theme.  I know people who like Unlimited Match's version, but... I don't.

But I digress.  King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match is an excellent game superior to the original in just about every way.  Not only that, but, like some sort of godsend, it’s readily available on the Xbox Live Arcade.  I highly recommend it.  However, the remake on the XBLA does not include the original, and the original is ridiculously rare.  Not that you need to bother playing it, but... Winkawaks.

Bye bye NESTS Chronicles, hello Tales of Ash.  Bye bye Eolith and hello SNK Playmore.


  1. Would like to add that only the Playstation 2 version of 2k2: UM has the surprisingly amazing 3D polygon backgrounds. The Xbox Live and Steam versions have 2D backgrounds (just static screenshots of the PS2 3D backgrounds).

    1. They move though. They aren't static.