SNK has a long history of being regarded as a fringe gaming company in the U.S.
None of their products and franchises really seriously broke into the mainstream, and in fact most of them started out as lame rip-offs of other, often times better; games.
Despite this, nearly every arcade on the planet has at least one of SNK’s distinctive red arcade cabinets sitting somewhere in a dark corner.
SNK games are, for lack of a better term, the perfect gaming choice for the modern American hipster.
SNK games are relatively well-known, behind the times in terms of technology, and often regarded as “under-appreciated.”
Do the fucking math.
One of SNK’s flagship titles, The King of Fighters, had it’s debut in 1994.
If you want to nit-pick though, 1992’s Garou Densetsu AKA Fatal Fury, was actually the first instance in which The King of Fighters tournament was used in an SNK game.
Just figured I’d throw my nerd cap on the table for all to see.
The basic premise of virtually every King of Fighters game, is that of a one-on-one fighting game, with the added feature of both sides consisting of 3-man (or woman) teams.
Each battle is carried out in elimination style, with the victor of each match remaining in the fight to face the next members of the opposing team until they themselves are eliminated.
Between matches, a fraction of life energy is awarded to the victor to give them a fighting chance against their next opponent.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of The King of Fighters series, has always been it’s massive gallery of characters.
Among the linear King of Fighters games, meaning not including any of the spin-offs, there have been well over 100 characters rotated through the roster.
The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match currently holds the record for most number of characters in a King of Fighters game, with a staggering 66 individual combatants.
Over the years, the gameplay of the King of Fighters series has gone through subtle changes, but has never really attempted to change it’s stripes.
GEESE HOWARD automatically elevates any game he’s in to “legendary” status.
’97 represented the culmination of the series’ first (and best) story arc, the Orochi saga; as well as introduced the popular “Advance” and “Extra” styles of play.
It also represented the only instance in series’ history in which ambience was used instead of music for many of the stages.
That was dumb.
’98 was the first game in the series to not have a storyline, instead it was a “dream match” scenario where characters were inserted into the game based on their popularity.
’98 was, in my opinion; the best game in the series up until 2002: Unlimited Match.
’99 gave us 4-man teams and the retarded “strikers” system, as well as the equally retarded “Counter” and “Armor” modes.
It also made drastic changes to the games’ roster, and replaced the main character, Kyo, with K’.
While ’99 kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, The King of Fighters 2000 was easily on of my favorites in the series.
I’d rank it just behind ’98 in terms of badassery.
While the gameplay was largely unchanged from ’99, SNK made the wise decision of trimming some of the excess fat in removing the “Armor” and “Counter” modes.
Seriously man, those were bullshit.
2000 had a lot going for it: a good roster, great music, and gameplay that was more of the same, but tweaked to perfection.
It’s easy to see why 2000 ended up so good, as it would be SNK’s last real King of Fighters game they would develop before the Korean company, Eolith, bought them out and started raping their franchises.
Not only that, but I wonder why in King of Fighters 2002, Kim Kap Hwan, SNK’s resident KOREAN who hadn’t received a sprite overhaul in years, would suddenly receive some of the most detailed and smooth animations in the franchise history?
*Ahem!* Bullshit aside, King of Fighters 2000, as well as Metal Slug 3, which was released the same year; had some serious love put into them, and stand as some of; if not the best entries in their respective series.
The final boss in The King of Fighters 2000, was the mustachioed, dress wearing baddie, Zero.
Technically his name is actually “Clone Zero,” as he is merely a clone of white-haired, dress wearing baddie of the same name from King of Fighters 2001, but whatever.
It’s kind of funny though, Clone Zero has more moves, and is way more difficult to beat than the original Zero, largely because Zero was only a mid-boss in 2001.
Anyway, in case you didn’t know, King of Fighters games, and indeed SNK games in general; have a reputation of populating their games with broken-as-fuck final bosses.
It’s kind of easy to see why though, seeing as SNK games are primarily arcade games, and in that sense, any way you can squeeze quarters out of your customers is a good way to make money.
Oh yeah, and from a gameplay standpoint, one has to take into account the fact that King of Fighters games have the player going up against the final boss with 3 different characters to their 1.
Despite the numbers advantage though, King of Fighters bosses have always been almost sinfully difficult to overcome.
Many cite ’99’s Krizalid as being one of the harder bosses in the franchise history.
Though Omega Rugal from 2002: Unlimited Match shits on all of them, end of story.
In terms of difficulty, I would put Clone Zero somewhere on the upswing of the middle-tier.
I’ve had rounds where I went to town on his ass and swept him with one guy, and I’ve also had rounds where he took out my team without breaking a sweat.
Fighting him is kind of a toss-up.
If he hangs back and tries to counter you with his skirt attacks, then chances are you can chip away at him and eke out a victory.
If he goes offensive on you, and starts spamming his unblockable shadow punch, then you’re in trouble, ’cause you just know his black hole super combo is gonna’ come out just when you least expect it.
Of course, despite Clone Zero’s bi-polar fighting style, one plus to the experience, is the truly awesome background music of his stage.
The fight takes place in some sort of deep, dark dungeon, and the music is appropriately moody.
The music is pounding and ominous, lending itself well to Zero’s overwhelming strength advantage over your team, while at once maintaining an energy that fits well with the fighting game experience.
In other words, unlike say, Kain R. Heinlein’s overly dramatic and nearly non-existent theme from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Zero’s music keeps the player from getting bored.
Another example would be Orochi’s theme from King of Fighters ’97:
Both themes are good, but seem to put too much emphasis on the dramatic aspect of the situation, rather than matching the intensity of the gameplay.
Anyway, that’s King of Fighters 2000, someday I’ll do a 2002: Unlimited Match article, ’cause Krizalid’s remixed theme in that is easily one of the best boss tracks ever in a video game.
I won’t post the link, ’cause I’d like to save it for another day, but definitely check it out.