Review by shiva

Reviewed: 09/25/02 | Updated: 11/16/02

KoFs always imply quality, but this one is just SUPERB!

What living being on the planet earth doesn't know KoF? King of Fighters Evolution for the Dreamcast is no other than KoF '99 from the arcades. It introduced some changes to the series. Due to this, KoF fans became divided: many preferred KoF '98's battle system, and others praised the changes made in the new one. As you can see by the synopsis, I really liked the changes SNK made. Never mind this, it's only a matter of preferences anyway. KoF is always the great 2D fighter we all know and love, with superb character designs and explosive gameplay. Now, let's get into the action. ''Vapor Cannooooon!''

STORY - 9/10 - You know the common crap every fighting game reviewer usually writes here about no one playing fighters for the story, and stories in fighting games are always bad (myself included)? Well, that is true, but FORGET IT. KoFs are also known for featuring interesting plots (KoF '97's story in particular is acclaimed by many as the best story EVER in a fighting game, and with good reason), and this is not an exception. It introduces the N.E.S.T.S. saga, an organization shrouded in mystery. I won't spoil anything nor will I tell more. I just wanna say that, if you want to fully understand it, you will also have to play KoF 2000 and 2001. As always, endings are great and really do a great job in showing you your team's personality, what they want, why were they involved in this. Story doesn't matter in a fighter? Sure. But there's nothing wrong if, for a change, the story in a fighter is interesting and stylish. Which is what you get here.

CHARACTER CAST - 10/10 - SNK has done it again. Great character designs, as always. K' and Kyo with a new look in particular are just too much. Almost everyone else is here too, and looking good as always: Ryo, Robert (new look), Yori, Terry. Kim, May, King and many others. If you have played any KoF, you know what I'm talking about. Some favorites are gone, but nothing that will annoy you to the point of giving up the game - Heidern and New Face/Orochi team are gone - since the new characters compensate for that. In terms of gameplay, they remain faithful to the KoF series style. All of them play very differently, and all worthy of a chance to prove his/her valor at your hand. The characters are certainly one of the highlights of the game. Style and variety at your disposal!

GRAPHICS - 8/10 - KoF graphics continue remaining faithful to traditions. Every character is fully detailed, and created in a semi-realistic style that is opposed, for instance, to the Street Fighters' anime look. They all look great, as always, and feature lots of frames of animation. The only flaw is that the animation isn't really on the same level as other bidimensional fighters. The special effects are good, and some supers remain as flashy and as cool-looking as they have always been. Stages are again done in 3D, unlike the arcade version, possibly to take more advantage of the DC's hardware. They have lots of trademark SNK touches, such as lots of people cheering the fighters. Additionally, every stage now boasts 2 different sets (for example, Art of Fighting team's stage can be graced by a sunny day, or all the fighting can take place under a totally atmospheric raining scenery). Character art can be viewed in the intro, in the character select screen and in the endings, and has the same quality SNK used us to right from the start of the series.

GAMEPLAY/CONTROL - 10/10 - Nothing has changed and everything has changed. Whether or not you like the new features introduced in the combat system, the gameplay is as solid as it ever was. The game mixes current KoF battle system features, such as 4 normal attack buttons, running, dodges, jumps, hops, throws and cancels with a respectable number of innovations. The most flagrant one is the addition of strikers. Here's what it is all about: upon being called, your striker character will come on-screen, and, usually, attack the enemy with one of their moves. I said 'usually' because they can also taunt him or recover some health points on your stamina bar. Directly related to this is the new 4-on-4 system. You now select 4 fighters instead of 3, one of them being the before mentioned striker. Gone is the choice between Advanced and Extra Mode. Desperation Moves are now similar to Super Combos of the SF series. Every character has a bar that fills each time you attack and block, that can stock up to 3 supers. Super DMs, souped-up versions of DMs, can only be activated when your health bar is critical and flashing. In KoF Dream Match, you could increase your character's power during some time. Here, you can use 3 stocks to activate either Armor or Counter Mode, so you can cause more damage (Counter Mode) or be able to continue attacks even when hit (Armor Mode). Just remember you'll use all the 3 stocks and you won't be able to gain any more in the current match after doing so. The rest is what you can expect in an update of a fighting title: new characters, a new technique here, revamped supers there... Also, KoF remains an offense-oriented fighting game, so if you like to turtle, GET OUTTA HERE or you'll get slaughtered. Control is intuitive, responsive, you'll perform anything easily and when you command your fighter to. With all these cool features, it's eas to realize SNK has done it again!

AUDIO - 10/10 - Never had my ears been as much pleased while playing a fighter before. Or ANY game for that matter. SNK really outdone themselves this time, the music is, simply put, phenomenal! This is one of those rare cases where every single tune is a must. Some are pure techno (K's team), others have kind of a cool jazzy feel to them (Fatal Fury team), others are purely light-hearted (Psycho Soldier team). All of them are HIGHLY memorable, they'll get stuck in your head forever. Everything accompanied by appropriate voices for all the characters (thank God Athena's high pitched voice of KoF '98 is gone) and the ass-kicking sound effects we all know and love. Definitely another of the game's strong departments.

CHALLENGE - 8/10 - Set the difficulty to 8-expert, and you're bound to have some exciting matches against the CPU-controlled fighters, and in some cases, prepare to be surprised by how nasty they can be. The only regret I have is that they don't use DMs all that much. If you are experienced in KoF, though, then the AI won't pose that much of a threat. As decent as the AI is, the real challenge comes from the final boss. As we all know, KoF always features some kind of aparently-impossible-to-get-past-through enemy for the final boss. This time, we are greeted to Krizalid, a tornado-abusing bastard, complete with the overpowered set of moves we all expect from an SNK boss. The general opinion is that he ain't as challenging as past KoF bosses, but at least he does not fall for stupid patterns like KoF '98 Rugal. A 2-form bastard that stands in your way if you want to see any ending at all. If you do beat him and you have enough battle points, you may even fight one of two secret final characters after, but I won't spoil who they are. I'll only say they are deadly rivals...

REPLAY - 10/10 - Infinite. Lots of superb characters to learn and strikers to incorporate into each character's fighting style. The 1P mode is superb, with decent AI, great BMG and an infamous end boss, SNK style. The play modes are abundant and varied. You get Team Mode, Team Vs, Single Play, Single Vs, Survival and Practice modes. The Options Mode is surprisingly complete, you can even change the language setting. So set it to Portuguese - my home language - and have a laugh reading the horribly translated after-fight taunts, like ''Eu sou uma legenda'' (means ''I am a caption'' in Portuguese - lol). You also get a mode where you can unlock new strikers and power up existing ones. The end boss is readily accessible when you first play the game, so you don't have to unlock him. And, as we all know, fighters are great if you have people to compete against, and if the two of you are on the same level, then you'll play this for years. But this time even playing alone isn't all that bad, since the 1P modes are excellent. Well done, SNK.

Final Thought - In spite all the changes introduced, this is still a KoF and plays as good as ever. It is a MUST buy; in my opinion, even more essential than KoF Dream Match, also available for the DC. Every battle is so explosive, the characters are so great, the engine is so fine tuned every fighter fan will find this is a blast to play. And if you really think about it, how many other games can you quote that mix explosive fights and great competition with excellent play modes and incredible music? Stop reading this, go buy it IMMEDIATELY (if you can find it, that is) One of the final SNK games, that does a great job in showing just why they will be remembered as one of the best software producers ever.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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