Review by Shirow

"The birth of a legend, the great (Orochi) K'!"

After the stunning Dream Match 1999, the sixth installment of SNK's trademark series gets ported to the Dreamcast too as The King of Fighters Evolution. This also remains the game which brought forward a lot of changes to the series such as the striker system and the blend between the usual 2 modes of play, Extra and Advanced.

But first, why did SNK take the risk of changing everything that made the series so popular ?! To the casual gamer, this may look as a wild bet as the series could have lost all its dedicated fans if SNK had screwed things up. As it is, the concept was getting old and sensing how the gameplay needed a major boost, SNK finally decided to include Capcom's Assists system in KOF. This gave way to the so-called Striker System.

You now have the sweet possibility to play choose 4 players. As a matter of fact, teams now consist of 4 characters except for Kyo and Iori who are single entries and the other 2 Kyo-clones who are edit characters (but hey…Magatama Team, anyone ? ^_^). The Hero Team is now composed of Benimaru, Shingo and the 2 new leading characters, K' (i.e. the non-orochi me) and Maxima. A new character by the pseudo of Whip has joined the Ikari Warriors while a little kid (boy or girl…nobody knows yet), Bao, has teamed up with Athena and friends.

Other new characters are Kim's friend, Jhun who gets to test the stupidity of Chang, Xiang Fei from Fatal Fury and Kasumi makes a return in the new Gals Team. There has been a few changes to existing teams too to give each 4 characters like Mai Shiranui finally joining the Fatal Fury team to keep an eye on Andy. So, you get to choose 4 characters instead of the previous 3.

However, you are still playing with 3 characters. The fourth one is the Striker which you can call from time to time provided you have a Striker Bomb. Once summoned, that character will jump in and perform an attack. Each character has one Striker Action while some have a couple and they'll pull one depending on certain conditions. Needless to say, this adds more depth to the game as with time, strikers can influence the whole outcome of a match.

Even better, the DC port is more advanced in this feature than the original Arcade and Neo-Geo versions as it holds more strikers which can be unlocked later. Among those are older characters like Ryuji Yamazaki and Goro Daimon while 2 new KOF 2000 characters, Vanessa and Seth, are also in it as special (and questionable because of Agetec) strikers. Yep, this is the real game where they are featured (Agetec put them on the PSX port casing and messed things up for a while) !

Super desperation moves are now performed when your life flashes red and require only power stock. Like I mentioned earlier, you no longer have the choice between Extra and Advance modes. Instead, there is only 1 mode where you get stocks through a system closely ressembling Advance and as I just pointed out, SDM's use the old Extra feature. The new system is much better than the 2 old ones and are very easy to get used to although purists will take a while and they may still complain.

Plot : 7

Orochi is dead…The great battle had now ended…Following the release of '98 (Dream Match 1999 on the DC, check out my review while you're at it), a lot of people speculated that SNK wouldn't be able to come up with such a storyline again. In a sense, they were true because the Orochi battle literally hooked tons of players up and proved that fighting games could actually have interesting plots.

N.E.S.T.S.…These 4 letters will haunt you now. While the new plot revolving mainly around Kyo and K' isn't as good as the previous one, SNK have managed to strike with a complex and entertaining story again. The story behind Krizallid, the new mega-cheap boss with a lame design, is probably the best part and as usual, its team has its own ending.

Evolution has a good plot and once more, you'll love beating the game and seeing all the teams' endings. One weak point is that there are no hidden teams which would unlock new endings but I guess that it would ruin everything.

Graphics : 8

Although the graphics of Evolution are a step-down from those of DM 1999, they are still decent and show how the DC was just the console which would be able to do near-perfect games of SNK title. I, however, miss the stylish designs of the previous title but that doesn't mean those of Evolution suck. The game now seems to have a ''dark'' side (no pun intended) as the backgrounds and characters themselves are less colorful.

On the other hand, they are more detailed and don't ''belong'' to the background as it was the case previously, which is a very good thing. Kyo sports a whole new very good-looking stylish while K' is simply magnificent, dressed in black with that red glove of his making a sharp contrast with everything else. All the characters retain their admirable outfits and animation such that the old feeling is still present.

The backgrounds, for their part, look much better and more detailed than in DM. The changes in those as you move on to a new round are simply spectacular and those who have played the Arcade version will still remember how good and astonishingly clear the raining stage looked.

Sound : 10

I won't say much, except that Evolution has the best soundtrack of the whole KOF story ! Yes, even better than that of '96 ! Just choose from the variety of music available, among which are some really extraordinary ones like World War III (my favorite), KD-0079, Sadistic Eyes and even a remix of the popular Esaka for the damn powerful clones.

What amazes me most is how each theme differs so much from the rest and provides real fun without ever getting boring. And the best thing is that the music doesn't stop during the loading time but plays on ! The voice-acting is as always perfect with Terry, Iori and K' shining with a top-notch seiyuu -- K' getting very close to Iori thanks to his attitude and rare comments.

Control : 9

Like every other KOF title, Evolution benefits from a classy control although the regular DC pad is a real drawback. It's like this : either you get a proper joytick to play the game, or you'll never be able to enjoy it. Otherwise, with a joystick, the control is tight and responsive. Moreover, the movelists are also provided in the game and this is a nice addition that will immensely help you.

Gameplay : 9

With a 30+ cast, KOF Evolution has a very high gameplay. The extra strikers, some of which must be unlocked by playing the game a lot, give it a very long lifespan suc that even alone, you're in for some good time. The game, however, simply shines in 2P mode with an amazing replay value and funfactor and this is just one of those rare games you'll never grow tired of.

All this is made even better by all the new features and newbies will really enjoy the smooth combo system and although vets complain that the strikers were not such a good idea, these still have their fans.

Overall : 8

KOF Evolution is a great addition to SNK's library and an excellent port to a Sega's console. There have been mixed opinions about it, with newbies claiming SNK had at last made an enjoyable title with veterans claimed the striker system hampered everything. As a vet myself, I agree that the previous title was better but Evolution is great too.

If you're a KOF newbie, there is no doubt that you should start with this title because the new features make it more accessible. You should at least give it a try since '99 remains the episode that actually made KOF more popular. And the vets who are still grumbling must not forget that the great (Orochi) K', yours truthfully, is being introduced here…And that, my friend, is a good reason to play the game over and over again.

''Now, the finish ! Get up, fool !'' Heheheh!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/02, Updated 11/09/02


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