If the Street Fighter franchise is the Dark Souls of 2D fighting games, The King of Fighters is surely Lords of the Fallen. It’s a franchise most people are aware of, but only a limited number of players have actually taken seriously. This is a franchise that has existed since 1994 and has switched developers, or more precisely holding companies, a handful of times. But of each of its 20 installments it has always failed to equal its self-proclaimed rival, Street Fighter. Today we’re talking specifically about the PS4 port of the 7th installment in the franchise, named The King of Fighters 2000 (TKOF2K) by SNK Playmore. This iteration is of course labeled 2000 because it was originally released in the year 2000 on the PS2. The first 10 games in the franchise followed this naming rule from 1994 – 2003. Before you read any farther, know that I’m in no way endorsing you to purchase this game. Feel free to save yourself some time and go read one of my other reviews for various games that you definitely should consider.
This is a pretty straightforward 2D fighter. Visually, it can best be described as a low quality Street Fighter 3 (1997) and yes I did take the time to look at multiple installments of both franchises in order to make that specific graphics comparison. It’s definitely better looking than SF2, but TKOF2K doesn’t match up with SF3 even though it came out three years later. It has a very similar art style, but it’s quite pixelated by comparison, even in this ported version. The stages are set in various locations around the world such as in temples, construction zones, and on beaches. Some of the backgrounds are dynamic between rounds such as the construction zone. In the first round there is a wall. In the second round a bulldozer has crashed through the wall. I didn’t notice any interactive objects in any of the levels to be used as attack items. As with most 2D fighters, there is a limit to how far you can walk in either direction before you hit an invisible wall. The HUD is your basic fighting game style with name, fighter avatar, life bar, and power meter. The power meter is a bit overdone in this game, but it’s not so invasive that it will affect your performance.
What is impressive about this game is the more than 34 playable characters from all over the world. Some extra ones can be unlocked when certain objectives are completed. Each character has its own look, voice, and fighting style. The fighting animations aren’t anything spectacular. There are some special moves like power blasts and special team attacks, but it’s a pretty average looking game. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t run smoothly. I noticed a bit of rigidity in the movement of certain characters, but that was clearly by design because of their size and fighting style, not because the game had any running issues. I would say that while it isn’t that great of a game, it runs very well. The menus are pretty boring. It’s just blue backgrounds with yellow, red, or orange text with a slight gradient and an afterimage to make it appear 3D.
There are some cutscenes in this game. That might be a bit of an overstatement because they don’t actually move. What you get is a series of back to back still images with text under them. Maybe one or two portions of the game’s plot based cinematics actually move and not by much. These scenes are very bare bones. It’s mostly dark backgrounds and no more than three people on screen at once. The art style is appropriate for the game’s general visual tone and style. All in all this is not a great looking game, but it’s definitely playable on a graphics level.
This is a 2D fighter and as such the gameplay is pretty standard. I would say the controls are somewhere between Tekken and Street Fighter. You have your standard punch, kick, high, low, counter, and throw combination system. There are a lot of longer combos which require a lot of time and effort to master, but you can also just mash your way through. It’s one of those games where block and jump are directional commands instead of dedicated to a button. The controls are mappable in this game though, which is always nice. I’d say it’s not as stiff as Street Fighter is for beginners, but it’s also not as fluid as Mortal Kombat or Dead or Alive. If anything I’d say it bridges the gap between fighters that are so complicated and stiff that they aren’t fun for beginners and games where you can just mash your way to victory without having to actually learn anything about the mechanics. Aside from the final boss, I’d say the gameplay is very balanced on the normal difficulty. There are eight different difficulties to choose from, with normal being set at three.
There are three different gameplay modes plus a practice mode. The practice mode is just like any other fighting game where you can program the behavior of your opponent in order to master specific things. The other three modes are “Single Play”, “Team Play”, and “Party Mode”. Single play and team play can both be used in two player mode as well. Single play is your standard best of three fights between two fighters, each with an assist team mate. The assist teammate does a single attack that can miss and can only be summoned a set number of times in any one battle. What I really liked was that you can hit the opposing assist character if you time it right. If time runs out during a round, the fighter with the higher HP wins. At the start of each round both fighters are at full health. In the event of a tie it goes to the player. I can’t speak for what happens in a tied PVP scenario. This is a story based mode with six battles and a final boss. At the end of each battle you are given a score, but I couldn’t figure out what constitutes that score and how to improve it because I kept getting the same average range of scores in both single and team play.
Team play has you pick four fighters for a 3v3 match. The fourth player will act as your assist character or “striker”. You can choose the order these three appear at the beginning of each battle. You must defeat all three front members of the opposing team to win the battle. You only have to beat each one once unlike the best of three fights in single play. When you defeat one of the opposing teammates you get some life back. Team play is much easier than single play mode because you only have to defeat the final boss once as opposed to two out of three fights. This mode has the same story, cutscenes, and final boss as single play mode. You can continue as many times as you want and you have the ability to handicap your opponent in one of three ways. You get to choose between having them start with 1/3 of their health, a full power meter, or striker at maximum power. You can change characters every time you continue. For each of these two modes, there are a lot of options that can be changed in the battle configuration menu. Some examples include the power gauge and striker options.
The party mode is a bit weird. It’s just a never ending fight mode where you defeat fighters in waves of 10 at a time. Each hit you land gives you some life back and you have a timer which starts with five minutes and slowly counts down. Winning battles adds more time. But what’s odd is that when the timer runs out the game keeps going. You don’t suddenly lose. It’s just that the timer says zero, but you keep on fighting. The opponents in this mode don’t always have full health at the start of each round and they also fight at different levels. Most of them are set to extremely easy when playing on normal difficulty. I made it through 60 opponents before I finally got bored and quit. At the end of the day this is a run of the mill fighter when it comes to gameplay. It was clearly created to ride the coattails of Street Fighter and just try to make some money off the hype train. You won’t really see anything special as far as gameplay with this one.
The sound is actually not bad in TKOF2K. In fact that might be the game’s best feature. The soundtrack is pretty solid with a number of high tempo rock tracks that fit the mood of the game very well. The sound effects are very good quality and don’t have any lag. Everything has a sound and characters also have grunts and yells. Characters also have taunts and speak in different languages based on where they’re from. You also have sound options for music and effects. There’s not really much more that can be said about the sound in this game, but I was quite happy with it.
This is one of those games where there is clearly a fully developed story that was created in the studio but we only got to see a part of that. I also don’t know how much of this game’s plot is connected to the six predecessor titles in the franchise. Truth be told, you only get story cutscenes in the last two battles of either story mode. The first four lead you to believe there is no plot unless you can actually make it to the last portion of the game. Then suddenly you get the smallest of pieces of an epic story about a secret organization, clones, a space cannon that can destroy entire cities, and a villain that wants to take over the world. This is all done in a sequence of still images and text one sentence at a time. It’s extremely bad writing that could have been way better with some actual plot development. The only other writing in the game is that each character has a different text based victory cry at the end of a battle. The character that lands the final punch is the one who gets their victory sentence shown. In general, I guess it’s impressive to see a fighter with any semblance of a plot from that era, but they really did a bad job of writing this one as far as presentation and delivery is concerned.
There is a decent amount of replay in what is ultimately a very simple and straight forward fighter. There are six in game achievements which require various objectives to be completed. You can unlock extra characters. There are eight difficulties. And to top it all off, there are 13 PSN trophies of various types with four of them being hidden. While I don’t particularly care for the game, I actually do believe that you could get 10 hours out of it if you really wanted to without counting multiplayer. But it will be extremely repetitive because you’ll just be playing the same two modes over and over through eight difficulties and trying to accomplish some achievements which you may not care about after experiencing the extremely OP final boss and terribly written story. The $10 price tag can kind of be justified, but considering how many installments of this franchise and various other fighters there are at this point, why would you want to?
Having not played The King of Fighters 2000 at the time of its original release, I can’t say how good it was back then. But in the current fighting game landscape it’s lacking in every way save for sound. Even collectors have little use for this particular title. It’s just not worth your time. If you really want to play The King of Fighters, save you money and buy the latest installment which just came out last month. I had more fun playing that demo than this entire game.
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