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The Correct Order of The King of Fighters Series, From Best to Worst: Either '98 or 2001, followed by '97, '95, '94, 2000, '99, and '96 last
Violent Fighting to Come Again
Let me say this to you now: Dream match never ends. Thanks and good night.
$300 buys a lot of strikers.
Oh, in case you were wondering what that meant, I was talking about the annual King of Fighters series on SNK's NeoGeo arcade hardware. And of course, you've at least heard of the NeoGeo, even if you haven't played it--if you've ever set foot in a halfway decent arcade (or just a really cool pizza parlor or Laundromat), you've seen good old big red--the red NeoGeo Multi-Video System (MVS) arcade cabinet. And last year's game, The King of Fighters 2001, was just released for the NeoGeo home cartridge system; I got mine in the mail on Thursday, March 14, from National Console Support, one of the best damn video game import shops around, if not the best. Paid about $300 for it.
That's right, $300. Am I crazy? No, I just...OK, wait, yes, I am crazy. $300 is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a single video game. That same $300 could buy a brand-new PS2 or Xbox console or a brand-new GameCube plus two new games (or cover a few weeks' worth of groceries or several months' credit card bills or...a lot of other things). Why would I spend that kind of money on any game, let alone a game for a system that's more than 10 years old?
This guy didn't make the cut.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Well no, it didn't; the previous two games that were released for the NeoGeo (and the last two that were developed by SNK before it closed its doors)--Sengoku 2001 and The King of Fighters 2000--weren't very good. SNK's best fighting games, The King of Fighters '98 and Mark of the Wolves, had come and gone. KOF 2001 isn't even a full-fledged SNK game; it was a joint effort between SNK's designers and a company called Eolith. Also, one of my personal favorite characters, Jhun Hoon, got cut from the game. And KOF 2001 still has the striker system--which lets you call in an additional character to do one or two attacks and then leave, like in Capcom's Marvel vs. series--a system I don't really like too much. Anyway, I had heard mixed reports about the game; some people loved it, others hated it.
I still got it. I rationalized my purchase to myself. I figured I could get away with it, since I [hopefully] have a big, fat tax refund check coming for me in the mail. It would keep my collection of KOF home carts (which now includes '94-2001) complete. It would help support Eolith's first effort and hopefully pave the way for more home cartridge releases. But in the end, the real reason I got it was that I love the KOF series and my NeoGeo. Same reason I imported Sengoku 2001 for $270--and if you've played that awful game, you'll know that means real devotion, right there.
New and old faces.
Fortunately for me, KOF 2001 seems like it was worth picking up. Eolith apparently tried to restore a lot of older characters to their former glory by giving older characters back some of the tricks they had lost over the years and also by reinstating some older, classic characters, such as Goro and Heidern. And KOF 2001's new characters look great, and they're very cool to play. May Lee, the character who was swapped in for Jhun Hoon, seems like a worthy replacement, and the new character Angel (a shoot fighter with a bizarre set of chained kick-and-punch attacks) is one of the most original and interesting characters ever to appear in a fighting game. I'll be spending a heck of a lot of time with just these two characters alone (that's not counting the game's 38 other characters), so I'll definitely get my money's worth.
My next home cart: Metal Slug 4. I hope.
As I write this on Monday evening, I'm still getting the hang of some of the new characters and new systems in the game, like the "wire" juggles, which let you bounce your opponents off walls...but I imagine I'll be a full-fledged KOF 2001 expert by the time you read this. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Pricey home cartridges like the one I just picked up won't be enough to support the NeoGeo, and that's why SNK went out of business. But if new NeoGeo developers, such as Eolith and Mega Enterprises (the developer of the upcoming Metal Slug 4), can make sure the next few games are as good as KOF 2001, I'll keep getting those new home cartridges--at least for a little while.
Special thanks to the Madman's Cafe for the screenshots.
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