Review by Shirow

Reviewed: 05/05/01 | Updated: 11/09/02

SNK's attempt to please a larger crowd is a complete success

SNK's flagship title returns once more

For those who don't know it (may I know where you have been all this time ?), I'll take the time to describe everything. And since this is the last KOF produced by my favorite company, I will be talking of all the prequels in general to help you understand The King of Fighters 2000 better.

It all started in 94 with only a bunch of characters (well, compared to now!). Kyo and his buddies, Goro and Benimaru made their way onto video games while the Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Ikari Warriors, and Psycho Soldiers characters also appeared in it. The game was a great innovation in the sense that you were not limited to a single character but could choose 3. A top-notch control and gameplay made it a great game.

It got better in 95 with a cool soundtrack and even better gameplay although people mainly remember this one as the one in which Iori made his debut.

In 96, the plot got very interesting and the number of characters increased. We got to know more about the rivalry between Kyo and Iori.

97 will always remain as the only beat-em-up with an astounding plot. As Orochi awakens, Iori gets much cooler and the Orochi Team just rocked.

98 was way different. No storyline this time but nearly all the characters present (sadly, Eiji could not be selected) and no new boss while Rugal is back. The graphics were amazing and this new edition was indeed a great game.

In 99, SNK decided to make changes to its title to appeal to a greater number of players. The 2 modes, Counter and Armor, appeared along with some other changes which I will not talk about. The most noticeable change was the Striker System which then allowed you to choose 4 players. This gave way to a lot of combos. And, of course, a lot of players were converted to what is known as K'ism. Did SNK achieve what it was looking for? Certainly!! KoF became more popular when 99 came out.

And, finally, we come to what it's all about in this review, The King of Fighters 2000. I will try to keep this review free of spoilers but since I have to talk of the storyline at one point, it'd be better if you've already played the game. I really advise you to play the game once and beat Zero before reading my review completely.

Of course, KoF 2000 comes with a bunch of new characters. This time, 6 characters make their appearance in the various teams. These are Ramon, Vanessa, Lin, Seth, Hinako, Kula and Zero who is the cheap boss, just like SNK likes them to be. There has been some changes in the already existing teams to make place for the newcomers like it was the case in 99.

The Hero Team now consists of K', Maxima, Ramon and Vanessa which makes me think : Is K' the main character now? What about Kyo? Benimaru now has his own name and is accompanied by Lin, Seth and, of course, Shingo. Yuri has left the Art of Fighting Team to be replaced by King while Mai and Blue Mary have swapped places. Kyo and Iori are again alone and are still consumed of hatred for each other!! Kula, who is actually a mid-boss, is referred to as the anti-K'. You'll understand everything when you play the game so I won't talk about her any further as it will spoil your fun. The new boss, Zero, is cheap as usual and is a real pain in the a** to beat with his devastating moves and his state-of-the-art desperation moves. Kyo and Iori are no longer hidden and the clones have completely disappeared much to my dismay.

Now, KoF2K is very different from 99. There have been a lot of changes and new ideas in this title. For the better or the worse? You'll see as you read...

The most noticeable change concerns 99's great innovation, must I say what? Well, just in case you still haven't figured out, I'm talking about the Striker System. Unlike in 99 where you could call your striker only when you weren't doing anything, you can call them practically whenever you want now. You may call your striker while you're attacking, while your being attacked and even when you're being thrown. And if you're a long-time KOF fan, you must already have grasped what SNK have tried to do here. Indeed, SNK have concentrated on creating even more combos. The Striker System, which is now known as the Active Striker System, is quite different and if you've been playing '99 a lot lately, you'll take some time to get used to 2000.

We now also have a cool option known as the Bonus Striker Attack. As you as you throw an opponent, just call your striker and he will hit the opponent once and bring him up instead of the usual attack which make place for more combos and hence, more damage. Taunts are different too since by taunting, you may refill your stock of Striker Bombs as long as you have a power stock. Basically, this allows you to change a Power Gauge stock to a Striker Bomb. I think this is a quite good idea as it helps you a lot once you've gotten used to all the innovations of KoF 2000. However, you should note that while you could end your taunts in the previous titles by pressing a button, this is no longer possible. Indeed, your character will perform the taunt completely even if you kick the machine will all your might. Thus, it's rather risky now. Taunt only when you are safe ! Like when the opponent is getting up or when the timer is near to its end to humiliate your human opponent and get back a bomb at the same time for future use.

Concerning the strikers themselves, a lot need to be said here but I'll try to make this as short as possible. You've probably already heard someone referring to KOF2k as ''The King of Strikers'' instead. This is mainly because SNK has simply overdone it in 2000. The system to choosing your striker is a bit different now. When you have chosen who your first 3 characters will be, you are left with the fourth one, right? Well, each character actually comes with 2 strikers and yes, it makes a lot. But what if I tell you that there are also hidden strikers? Yes Sir, some characters have a hidden one. Just imagine how many strikers there are!! It's great when you play the game for the first time and you realize you can now use characters like Yamazaki, Yashiro, Billy Kane, Geese Howard, Rugal, Yashiro, Kaede from Last Blade 2, Kim Jae Hoon from Mark of the Wolves, Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown, Fio from Metal Slug, Goenitz, and even Eiji (wouhou, thanks SNK) as your strikers. But it really gets dumb after some time. I really think SNK has overdone it this time! What's the point of having all these strikers!!? Yeah, I know, combos, combos and combos…

Moreover, SDMs are different now. To be able to use a SDM, you need to have 3 stocks. To perform it, you need to input the command and press the 2 punch or kick buttons. However, the characters have only one SDM except for a few which I'll let you discover by yourself or by reading Kao's FAQ. As an example, Terry only has the Power Geyser SDM and to perform it, you must do hcb,hcf+AC. Sounds confusing!? It does make combos involving SDMs harder but with practice, it becomes easier and you'll probably enjoy it. Well, at least, you don't have to wait to be in a critical condition to kick your opponent for major damage, heh !

Now, to talk about the graphics, music and so on. First of all, what I'm saying applies mainly to those who've palyed '99 or 9'8 before. If you're a newbie to the wonderful world of SNK's great game, you will not feel the same way and who knows, maybe you'll be writing a review to show me that I made a mistake. The game has only 5 reviews or so, man ! Hey, this is SNK's last game (well, alone !), give it some recognition !

The graphics in 2000 are great although I think '99 had better here. Indeed, there aren't details to each character like in '99 and some of the new characters do look ugly. But the backgrounds are much better though and I'm thankful to SNK for this. They're in 3D now for those who didn't know it ! The stages are great and there's still the changing element on each stage like the bulldozer which comes crashing in King's stage. The game is on the whole more colorful but I miss the unique details of '99. Well, I'm still glad SNK didn't mess things up like with the strikers. The characters' animation is cool specially Lin who really has a weird attitude about him. I find the game a little quicker though. K' has gained in rapidity and on the whole, the game is quicker than before. Makes me think of a certain Street Fighter game too much. Besides, you do need to be quick in this game !

As for the soundtrack, dude was I deceived! Nothing compared to '99. Remember the Esaka, World War 3 and Sadistic Eyes of '99, how these themes were great!!? KoF 2000 has decent themes but decent is bad for SNK. And it's very disappointing when you compare it to 99's soundtrack!! There are a bunch of good themes like Kyo's theme and the Hero Team's but it's not of the same quality as in '99. World War 3 has been remixed onto The Trooper (which begins very nicely) and Kyo's theme is good but you don't get to hear it very often, which is a pity !

Thankfully, the sound-effects are as great as ever as well as the voices. I like Vanessa's voice and Lin (a mix between Iori and Freeman for Garou: Mark of the Wolves) really packs a punch with his groans and his cool animation. He's already a favourite among KOF players and a dreaded CPU or challenger opponent! Terry and Shingo are still among the best while Bao is still a kid despite the whole year that has gone by. The old characters are pretty much the same as in '99 , there's been no changes to them.

The control is just like in any SNK game. Quick response and smooth controls which will get you hooked up to the game in no time. The combos are even easier to pull once you've played the game for a long time and you can bet your money SNK will never change this. I mean, what will be KOF with a lousy control!!?

The plot of 2000 is a follow-up of '99 and actually shows you why the tournament was organised in '99 when it was officially over. It isn't like the Orochi Awakening (which was awesome!) but well, storylines aren't that important in beat-em-ups although SNK used to shine here. The plot behind 2000 is just a decent one but disappointing compared to the one from '95 to '97. It's all about NESTS here and Zero's motives. K' is no longer the main protagonist although the presence of Kula first caused me to think so.

Like in any KOF title, this one comes packed with a perfect gameplay. With 35 playable characters (Kula is selectable through a code !) and a HUGE number of strikers (it'll be hard to count them!), you're in for a good time. This game is best played when you're a bunch of friends as long as you are used to it and know how to perform these deadly combos. No problem here, SNK knows what the game needs and what people look for first.
And the presence of all the strikers gives the game a long lifespan as you try to know all the characters and mastering a character now requires more time than ever.

Another thing that's worth mentioning concerns the infinite combos that have been included since '97. While there were only a few back then and they were damn hard to perform, there are now literally dozens of them and they're not that hard to perform for anybody who's played KOF a while. Some strikers are just infinte-based and 50+ combos are now a regular thing to see in KOF. Of course, it adds to the gameplay since it's a real treat to discover them and to successfully pull them out. How about watching an opponent's life get depleted as the hits add up non-stop. It's also a little drawback though, which explains the low score I'm giving 2000.

KOF 2000 is without doubt a good fighting game. But there's more here because of what SNK's gotten us used to over the years. If you're a newbie, you'll like it. You'll like the great number of characters, the strikers, the combos and everything else. But it's another story if, like me, you've been playing KOF since a long time and you've been following each edition. You'll most certainly feel that SNK have messed up with this one and return to '99 which is really much better than this one. Besides, even '98 is thought to be better. Personally, my favorite is '97 but mainly because of the characters and the storyline.

The King of Fighters 2000 is a great game which will please all beat-em-up fans but not all the veteran SNK players, which is a shame as they are the ones SNK should be thankful to. But it is still a great beat-em-up though and the combo-frenzy is now even better. This game is bound to eat all your money and make sure you take a lot of money with you the last time you go to your arcade.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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