Review by aoshi900

"It feels like 2002 again"

We've all been whining about SNK to ditch their Neo Geo Hardware to improve the graphics on their games. Well, SNK actually listened and gave us a King of Fighters game running on the Atomis Wave Hardware. This game is dubbed by many as King of Fighters 2004 since there were no other KoF game released in 2004. This game is co-developed by Sammy and SNK. Sammy, well known for their Guilty Gear Series, gave the KoF series a graphical upgrade, but the gameplay is still KoF 2002 at heart.

Graphics: 7
Running on the Atomis Wave Hardware, the old Neo Geo sprites are much cleaner now. But still nowhere as fluid as Garou, Street Fighter III series, Guilty Gear series or the recent Rumble Fish games. Older KoF games that had console ports to the Dreamcast, PS2 and Xbox had their sprites cleaned up to take advantage of the hardware. KoF Neowave though is only slightly ahead to those ports. The backgrounds are the best looking in the series, but, although pretty to look at, there isn't much going on there. There are no cameos from other SNK fighters as in previous KoF games.

Sound: 6
The BGM fits the mood set by the stage. And it's not distracting or annoying that would make you turn down the volume. The voices on the other hand, are for the most part, holdovers form KoF 2002 (well, since most of the roster is from KoF 2002). Some of the voices may get irritating, especially Andy Bogard when he gets hit.

Gameplay: 7
First and foremost, you get to choose 3 different styles that dictate how you will play, the type of super meter you'll be using etc. First is Super Cancel, it's the KoF 2002 system minus the Max Mode power up, but you can still cancel special moves into another special move at the cost of a super stock. It also features canceling special moves into super moves. Next is Guard Break, which is the same as Super Cancel but with the canceling. But you get a Guard Break move which costs 1 stock, is unblockable and when connects has Counter Wire properties. Also you can Just Defend, but no life regain though. Lastly is Max 2, you can't roll and you have one level of super only. But the meter increases over time, and this is the only way you can execute a character's Hidden Desperation Move from KoF 2002. On top of everything, you have Heat Mode which you can activate on any of the 3 modes. You will basically increase your damage while draining your life.

Overall: 7
This PS2 port is a pretty good translation of the arcade original (albeit, I haven't played much of the arcade version). Players who want to have standard team based striker-less fighting can't go wrong, it's superior to KoF 2002, but a matter of personal taste when compared to KoF 2003. The PS2 version also has a color edit mode and a network match mode. Although I'm reviewing the Japanese version and there's still no word on a US release, the US version may not have online play.

- 43 characters (Seth didn't make it and the last boss Geese is playable)
- online mode
- 3 different super styles

- graphics are still dated
- not a huge leap in terms of gameplay
- it's more or less KoF 2002

Final Thought:
It may be hard to recommend this game to a casual gamer and even to fighting gamers. For starters, KoF 2002 and 2003 were released in the US. And if you have that already, you might feel cheated if you get this game, especially since this is import only. This game is for hardcore fighting gamers only, especially hardcore KoF players.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/31/05

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