Review by Tkohl15

"You won't go to the arcade anymore."

SNK’s King of Fighters is one of the oldest fighting game series out there. Introduced in 1994, the series was every SNK fan’s dream come true. Fan favorite characters (and some never before seen new faces) came together to see who was the best warrior in a tournament held loosely together by a laughable storyline.

KOF: Evolution is a Dreamcast port of the NeoGeo game King of Fighters ’99. Five years (and five sequels) after the original, does this version of KOF mark an evolution in the series?

Well… no.

Story

I won’t waste your time here. If you really want to know, look in the comments section.

Gameplay

KOF features a cast of 33 playable characters, broken up into 7 teams of four plus stragglers. Many old favorites are back, including eternal rivals Kyo Kasunagi and Iori Yagami; Fatal Fury vets Terry Bogard and bouncy Mai Shiranui; and Ryo and Robert from Art of Fighting. Some new faces make their first SNK appearance: K’ (K-dash), a mysterious warrior whose motives are unknown; Maxima, a big man with an equally shady history; Bao, the new addition to the Chinese psychic team; Whip, latest recruit for the Ikari team, and Jhun, the Korean Tae Kwan Do expert.

The standard arcade mode lets you select a team of four members, one more than previous incarnations. Before each match, you select the order of the participants, with the fourth member acting as a striker. Matches are divided into rounds where you go mano-a-mano, one fighter at a time, trying to KO the opposing team. Matches are typical 2D fighting game fare without the frills of insane juggles, vicious looking air combos, or whole screen mega death attacks. Rounds go by slower as you need to perform pokes and feints in order to find that one opening for a killer combo. Special attacks have mediocre priority in KOF while desperation attacks (a.k.a. supers) have even less. Fans of old school 2D fighting will not be disappointed here!

New to KOF are strikers. Before each match, you are given striker bombs (you can alter the number in the options menu). At the press of a button, you can call out your striker for an assist. Each character has a preset striker attack that you cannot adjust. There are a few problems with the striker system. First, strikers can rarely land their attack unless your opponent is on your half of the screen. This makes most of the strikers only useful as a defensive measure for keeping you out of the corner, which they rarely do successfully. It is difficult to create an offense with most strikers. Second, strikers do a pathetic amount of damage. This plus the fact that they have such low priority attacks and can be knocked away limits their effectiveness.

Also new to KOF 99 are the Counter and Armor modes, both of which can be accessed when your super meter is completely maxed out. Counter mode opens up the door for new combos as it gives you unlimited supers and the ability to cancel special attacks into desperation attacks (just like the super canceling system in Capcom’s Versus games). Armor mode gives you super armor (borrowed again from Capcom’s Versus series). Both modes are fun to play (especially Counter mode for the combo happy folk out there), and both can dramatically alter the match if used skillfully.

KOF: Evolution also features other gameplay modes: Single Play for those who want the traditional one-on-one fighting experience, Versus mode, Survival modes, and a Practice mode. The DC version also has an Extra Striker option wherein you can trade the points you accumulate in the other play modes for extra, to unlock striker only characters. It adds some life and replay value, but not much.

Also included in the DC GD-ROM are character art that can be accessed through your PC. There’s a nice piece of fan service for you.

Graphics and Sound

Graphics are a mixed bag. The backgrounds are 3D polygonal backgrounds. While there is practically no interaction between the characters and their environment, the changes in perspective as you move is very nicely done. All of the backgrounds contain much detail, but not too much to distract you from the fight.

The characters are traditional 2D sprites. This is one area where KOF shows its stagnation. The KOF veterans such as Ralf from the Ikari team and Benimaru from the Hero team feature most (if not all) of the same frames as when they first debuted in 1994! Two of the characters (Kyo and Athena) have a complete costume change (but they return with the same movelist as before). And you thought Capcom was milking their character sprites; SNK used the same sprites in KOF 2000! How does that affect the DC port? Characters look pretty, but they do not animate as well as the characters in Capcom’s Versus series or Street Fighter III. When compared to the competition, I wish SNK put more effort into the characters.

Sound is pretty much standard fighting game fare. Each team’s theme music is nicely done and matches the quirkiness of the team itself. The standard grunts, screams, taunts, and special move name shouting are heard very clearly. Good overall job, but nothing spectacular.

Control

KOF controls are very tight. Most attacks and combos can be pulled off relative easily. The real problem here is the Dreamcast gamepads are not well suited for fighting games. It is simple enough to do quarter-circle, “SF2 fireball” motions, but many KOF commands, especially for desperation attacks, are more complex than this. Pulling off Iori’s Scum Gale throw (a special move), for example, requires you to press forward then a half circle back before pressing a punch button. After trying this on the DC pad, your thumbs will be sore and you may still have trouble performing a move consistently. Control was actually worse with the Mad Catz Dream pad, with my characters jumping around the screen most times I tried to rip off a desperation attack. This is one game that definitely cries out for a joystick!

Final Thoughts

Fans of the KOF series or old school fighting games will be right at home here. Even the casual fighting game fan can reap a lot of enjoyment for this under $20 title. Players who want 50+ hits combos and dazzling whole screen attacks, however, may want to stick to Capcom's Versus series.

So while KOF: Evolution is little in the way of an evolution for the fighting game genre or the KOF series, it is still a good fighting game for your DC.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/01, Updated 11/10/01


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