A booze filled trip to Akihabara last weekend predictably ended up with me picking up a couple of bargain priced retro games on my way home. One of my purchases included the Sega Dreamcast release of King of Fighters 2000; the seventh game in the KOF series and the last one to be produced by SNK before they went belly up and development of the game handed over to Korean company, Eolith.



I'm not big on the cover, especially compared to the AES one, but for 300 yen?

Admittedly, while I am a huge Capcom Vs. SNK fan and have given my copy of Garou a serious amount of playtime over the past decade, I am not the biggest KOF player. Other than the wobbliness of Mai Shiranui's chest, the series has just never really appealed to me like Capcom's 2D fighters. Regardless, only costing me 300 yen and recovering from my hangover I went into the game with an open, if not hazy mind, a can of Sapporo on the table, and my stick hooked up to the Dreamcast.

 


What instantly grabbed me about the game was the awesome art style. The series is obviously heavily rooted in its 2D origins and the anime style art work is really quite special, especially when comparing it to the travesty that was KOF 2001; I really don't know where Playmore were going with that one. Anyway, KOF 2000 has two main modes, a team mode and single mode, each offering a one player arcade option, or a two player versus option. I jumped straight into the team mode option  and in which you are required to pick a team of four, including a character to sit out as the "Striker", who like "assist" characters in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, can be summoned into the fight a limited number of times to perform a special attack. There are tons of characters to choose from and the team I went with was led predictably by Mai and her wobblies, and also included girly lad Benimaru, bad boy  Kyo and Joe Highashi.


Mai's gravity defying chest, reason enough to get into KOF?

The story is the same sort of crap seen in most fighting games, and is probably best ignored, which I did. I played the game on original settings and the matches were quite challenging and kept me coming back to the game, which was gameplay wise, very solid. The controls were quite fluid and I didn't have too much trouble inputting special moves. You have the regular fireballs and uppercuts which you would expect from a 2D based fighter and it was also fun figuring out effective combos and ways to utilize the Striker system. The Striker system admittedly, did result in a lot of spamming, but if you can restrain yourself from taking advantage of its shortcomings, it also makes for a fun addition that does improve the excitement factor.
 
The game features a couple of token extras in the form of a gallery and puzzle mode. Yes, a puzzle mode in a fighting game (it surprised me a little as well)!? The puzzle mode is actually a way to open artwork for the gallery mode. You are given a picture which is split into many square tiles and is completely mixed up. The tiles need to be moved and rotated so that they final look like the original picture and from then it is viewable in the gallery mode. A nice addition but not something I would really recommend purchasing the game for.
Kyo kicking arse in Korea town.

Overall the game looks slick but falls behind Garou, Street Fighter III and Guilty Gear X, in turns of graphical quality for 2D fighters on the Dreamcast. I did love the backgrounds though, especially the Korea night stage with its signs in Hangul and the spectators in the background. From an audio perspective, the game was top notch with characters constantly shouting out comments in Japanese before and after the match and the the fast-paced techno/jazz music goes really well with the game.

It is really easy to recommend KOF 2000 to fighting aficionados. It's a solid, reasonably good looking and entertaining fighter. For those who are new to KOF or SNK fighters and own a PS2 then I would suggest trying out the Orochi Saga collection as that features five great KOF games on one disc, and includes what many say is the best KOF fighters' game of all time, King of Fighters 98. However, for those Dreamcast or retro fans, considering how cheaply this game can be bought for, then you could do far worse than checking out KOF 2000, like the god awful sequel- KOF 2001......