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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

SNK

 

Developer

SNK

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 31, 2005

 

 

- Two superb fighting games for one price
- 2002 offers huge character roster
- 2003 offers faster paced gameplay
- Online enabled

 

 

- Still looks a bit dated
- 2002's music is awful

 

 

Review: King of Fighters: Maximum Impact Manix (XB)

Review: King of Fighters 2000/2001 (PS2)

Review: Dead or Alive Ultimate (XB)

Action Figure: Vanessa (King of Fighters)

 

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King of Fighters 02/03

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

king of fighters 02/03         king of fighters 02/03

 

For a long time, it seemed as if the King of Fighters existed to please its fans and no one else. Ever since the series began in 1994, the series has only really evolved by tweaking gameplay mechanics and adding or subtracting characters. SNK, perhaps realizing its fanbase wasn't enough to keep it alive anymore, finally changed up things with The King of Fighters 2003. SNK has released one of the best one-two punches in recent memory with this package - including both King of Fighters 2002, regarded by fans of the series as being one of the best; and KoF 2003, a faster-paced game eager to change up the formula.

The King of Fighters 2003 gives the game a jolt by allowing on-the-fly character switching, much like the Capcom Versus titles. This tag-team gameplay is much faster and more flexible, but keeps the rock solid foundation of the previous games.

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As a result, it dodges falling into the hyperactive flashiness of the Marvel games. Additionally, one of your three team members can be designated as the "leader" allowing them an additional set of super moves. An entirely new set of 3D backgrounds have also been created for the home console releases. They're much better than the standard 2D ones, even though they look extremely pixellated unless you turn

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on the "Soft Focus" option.

The character selection has been paired down a bit from older offerings, removing classic fighters like Andy and Choi. The new characters are freckled-face pretty boy Ash (mostly a Guile ripoff), punk-ish martial artist Shen Woo, and the mysterious Duo Lan, who can disintegrate and materialize at any part of the screen. SNK is also doing a bit more to integrate Mark of the Wolves into the King of Fighters games, as they've included badass outlaw Gato and Mexican wrestler Tizoc, as well as outfitting Terry Bogard in his Garou uniform. The game also marks the return of Chizuru (from KoF '96) and a classic version of Kyo under the moniker Kusanagi.

Even if you're not a fan of the changes made to 2003, more conservative aficionados will have their fill of King of Fighters 2002. Being the the second "Dream Match" of the series, KoF 2002 collects characters from both recent and classic titles, regardless of the ongoing storyline. In addition to characters from the NESTS saga (K', K9999, May Lee, Angel, Whip, and Kula), plenty of old faces like the Shermie, Chris, Vice and Mature -- and Rugal once again returns as the final boss. Exclusive to the home release are King, Shingo, and perennial Fatal Fury villain Geese Howard. Unless you really miss the Sports Team from '94, this is one of the best rosters in all of the KoF games, and longtime fans will probably not be disappointed.

 

king of fighters 02/03          king of fighters 02/03


After taking the reigns from Eolith, SNK has delivered a decidedly more polished game than its predecessor, KoF 2001. The backgrounds have been greatly improved, many with tons of characters from past games. The Xbox version also adds 3D versions of the stages, which actually look pretty decent. Unfortunately, the music suffers from exceedingly poor instrumentation, butchering many classic SNK themes. Since 2003 got an arranged soundtrack, I don't know why they didn't bother sprucing up the 2002 music into something more listenable.

While this package has been out for the PS2 for quite awhile, the XBox version adds online play via Live. Surprisingly, Xbox the controller holds up pretty well, much better than in Street Fighter Anniversary or Guilty Gear X2. Other than some minor additional load times, nothing much has changed from the PS2 version.

Given that these are still pretty much just Neo Geo games with a few enhancements, the graphics aren't going to stun anybody, at least those that care about those sort of things. Anyone with an appreciation for 2D artwork will be in heaven, because even though the sprites are still low-res, they're incredibly detailed and express extraordinary amounts of personality just through their animations. Whether it be May Lee's heroic stance (complete with red scarf floating in the wind) or Whip's casual sauntering or Mai's infamous jiggling (which hasn't been censored this time), SNK continues to prove that it can create some of the most memorable characters in all of video gaming, even if they haven't redrawn most of them for the better part of a decade.

2D fighting fans haven't exactly been catered to this generation of gaming -- Guilty Gear hasn't really changed since its release back in 2001, while all Capcom has to offer are re-releases and incredibly shoddy efforts like Fighting Evolution. As a result, it's always welcome that SNK, usually stalwart in its refusal to change, has given a kick to the pants in its most popular series. It's not going to win over those convinced that 3D fighters are the only way to go, but for everyone else, the King of Fighters 02/03 pack offers some of the best 2D fighting game action in recent memory, both for long time fans and newcomers.

- Kurt Kalata
(November 7, 2005)

 

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