Review by Kane
"Evolution or Revolution?"
''King Of Fighters''... This name sounds almost mythical to most hardcore fighting games fans. It is SNK's main series, and also its main pride. Each year, a new different and improved KOF game comes out on Neogeo, a 10 year-old-but-still-impressive system (even though the release of a KOF2001 is uncertain as of now). SNK and Takara ported many of their games to the Megadrive, the Super Nes, the Playstation and the Saturn, but none of these consoles could provide them with enough graphic possibilities to make perfect ports. Now that the Dreamcast is out, SNK finally have a chance to prove themselves and show that they are able to make good ports of their own games. Looking back, it seems obvious that KOF99 Evolution was one of SNK's last chances to make themselves popular to the casual gamers. Indeed, most SNK fighting games are extremely technical and it takes a while to totally understand the game's mechanics. Even though they came out around the same time in Japan, Marvel vs Capcom 2 and this game are very different. Contrary to KOF99 Dream Match, this game is the true KOF99 which came out on Neogeo the previous year. This is obviously the best version of this game (apart from the Neogeo version maybe) since the Playstation version features long loading times.
One might wonder why SNK decided to name the game evolution... Is this game really different from the original Neogeo version or is SNK just trying to rip off gamers?
The most important aspect of any videogame in my opinion. You've probably already heard about the reputation of the KOF series: most people tend to think that it has an extremely deep gameplay, and very responsive controls. I personally share this opinion. The speed of the game feels perfect, I think (mind you there is no speed setting here). There are many characters, as always (actually there are less characters than in KOF99DM/KOF98 but the game feels more balanced). A few new characters were introduced in this game, such as K', who seems to be a Kyo clone and can control flames as well, Maxima, his friend, who's a pure grappler in the same style as Goro Daimon. They are the heroes of this game. New characters also feature Jhun, a Tae-Kwon-do master, Bao, a communist kid, Whip, a girl who uses a... whip, Xianfei, a Chinese girl (from the Fatal Fury series), Kasumi a ''counter-expert'' (who's back in this game), and Krizalid, the last boss (who's extremely overpowered and has a nasty infinite -see SNK boss syndrome-). The ''new'' cast of characters is very interesting and many different fighting styles are represented. Although some might think that SNK could have brought back a few older characters, it seems obvious that SNK wanted to come out with an original and brand new game. Another proof is that the returning characters have new moves or Desperation Moves. There are some gameplay changes compared to KOF99DM/KOF98: the Advanced and Extra modes are no longer here and are replaced by Counter and Armor modes, who are quite similar. I won't get too much into detail as this isn't the most important change. The backwards roll has been changed, and now it makes your character hop back a bit then hop forward again. It is quite awkward, and I personally liked the old roll system better. But this doesn't deteriorate the gameplay at all. Emergency evades and CD counters are still in the game, of course. The more striking element of this game is the introduction of the strikers. When you choose your team, you have to choose 4 characters instead of 3 now. Your fourth character will only appear a limited number of times to help your main team. This system is an obvious rip off from Capcom's VS series and honestly I don't think it adds much to the gameplay. But it might seem more appealing to the casual/mainstream gamer... The evolution of this game compared to the Neogeo version is that it features many more strikers and many of them are old characters such as Billy Kane ^_^, Yamazaki, Chizuru, Goro... This game also has Vanessa and Seth as strikers (these characters are only playable in KOF2000). So yes, the game can be considered as better than its Neogeo counterpart in some way. But as always, I have to recommend the use of an arcade stick for this kind of game: playing with the original DC controller can be a pain. To sum up, this game plays VERY well... Even if you've never played a KOF game before, you shouldn't have any problem to perform all the moves.
This game looks pretty good. While it doesn't reach the excellence of a SF3 Third Strike to my eyes, it still looks a lot better than KOF99DM. The 3D backgrounds are impressive, this time. There are nice ''weather'' effects too. All the characters looks very detailed and have unique style (particularly Iori and K'). Kyo was given a new look and looks better than ever, in my opinion. The animation is above average: it is very detailed but could have been smoother. But considering this is a port from the Neogeo, it is pretty good. The game doesn't have a nice anime intro like its predecessor though. The artworks are pretty neat, and the overall presentation is nice. With Last Blade 2 Final Edition, this is the best-looking SNK game on DC.
I can already hear some Capcom purists laugh when they read this section: the thing is that KOF games have a deep story and each character has a very detailed story (check out Kailu Lantis' Story FAQ on this same site, great FAQ for a great guy! ^_^). There are even cool pre-fight intros (try Andy vs Mai!)! While KOF98 was simply introduced as some kind of compilation (some say that it was just Shingo's dream) this game has an actual storyline. The Orochi battle is over, and Kyo has disappeared. Shingo finds out that this is his chance to finally win the tourney and decides to team up with Benimaru. They also meet K' and Maxima, two mysterious fighters. The storyline shows a new evil known as the ''nest cartels''. Without spoiling much, I'd like to say that this year's story is innovative and interesting. Even though it is not as great as the Orochi story, it's still nice to see that every team has a different ending.
This game has a very nice soundtrack. It sounds very SNK-ish, and some themes are still in the game. Some of the tunes are rather slow but still catchy, and all of them match their respective characters. It isn't the ''best soundtrack ever'', but it's very decent in my opinion. Another good thing is that the music doesn't stop between the rounds anymore (this was one of the major flaws of KOF99DM). The vocals and sound effects are great, as usual with SNK. I'd even say that they are better than Capcom's: if you know Japanese basics, you might be able to understand the pre-fight dialogues. I would have given this game a better grade if it wasn't for Third Strike's soundtrack, which I absolutely love: it made me realize that I should have high standard for music, even in fighting games.
It's always tough to judge the replayability of a fighting game: since fighting games are mainly made to be played in versus mode, it could basically be said that if the game is good its replay value is automatically high. This game has more than enough to keep you busy for months in versus mode. All the characters have numerous combos and many tactics can be used. This game should make both die-hard KOF fans and fighting games newbies happy. What's more, the game has a good replay value on arcade mode, too. The CPU grades most of your fights (and this feature is nicely explained in the scenario of the game) and you have to unlock the extra strikers by finishing the game a certain number of times. There's also a Neogeo Pocket option on the Japanese version (it unlocks 2 new strikers). It wasn't included on the US version (ported by Agetec). The training mode is nothing special, but we can notice a nice feature: in-game movelists. It should take you while while to unlock everything, and a decade to totally master all the characters!
buy or rent?
I usually think that it is always better to try a game before actually getting it: that way you'll never be disappointed with any of your purchases. This game is a must-buy for every fighting games fans, though. But I wouldn't recommend it to the people who have never played a fighting game before as it is quite technical. If you're a KOF fan and you don't own this game, go get it right now! I think this game is now quite rare in the US (Agetec didn't produce many copies I think) so if you ever see it, don't hesitate! While this may not be the best KOF game ever, it is without a doubt the best KOF port ever!
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/27/01, Updated 02/02/03
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