Although Hamster Corporation is doing God’s work by bringing a horde of classic Neo Geo games to the Switch, by this point it’s starting to become pretty clear that there’s no logical rhyme or reason to the order they’re being released.
On the day the Switch launched in March we were treated to The King Of Fighters ‘98, one of the finest games in SNK’s much-loved fighting series. Two weeks later, for some odd reason, Hamster then released The King Of Fighters ‘94, a game four years older than ‘98 and inferior in many ways. In May it jumped forward again to The King Of Fighters ‘99 and now here we have the 2000 edition, with ‘95-’97 still nowhere to be seen.
While Hamster boots up its random number generator to choose its next release, let’s take a look at The King Of Fighters 2000, the seventh game in the King Of Fighters series and one which builds on the major changes introduced in the ‘99 version. It was also the last KOF game developed by SNK before it was liquidated, so for many fans it’s considered the final entry in the ‘original’ King Of Fighters series.
As in most previous King Of Fighters games, KOF 2000 has you picking teams of three fighters instead of just one. You then take on another trio and have to defeat all three opponents before they can batter all three of yours. In this respect, it’s very much business as usual King Of Fighters style.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own quirks, though, the most notable being the Active Striker system. Its predecessor KOF 99 made some major changes to the series formula by adding the ‘Striker’ mechanic. This meant players also chose a fourth character, who was designated the ‘striker’ and could be called to jump in at any point to perform a special move before leaping off again.
The Striker system is a similar idea to the ‘assist’ system in the Marvel vs Capcom games (or, if you’d rather, the Support Pokémon in Pokkén Tournament), and it’s one that KOF 2000 carries over. In 2000, though, it’s been tweaked to become the Active Striker system: whereas in ‘99 you could only summon your Striker if you were standing still, now you can summon them whenever you like (as long as you have a ‘Strike Bomb’ left).
This adds a new tactical element to proceedings, because your Striker character can now be called upon to enhance either your attacking or defensive play. Clever use of Strikers can lead to some impressive combos, where their attacks can keep a combo going while your character transitions between moves. Meanwhile, if you’re taking a kicking or on the receiving end of a combo yourself, you can bring your Striker in to try and break it up.
Whereas in KOF ‘99 you were only given one Striker after choosing your team, in KOF 2000 you get the choice of the default one or ‘Another Striker’: the latter lets you bring in guest characters from previous King Of Fighters games and other SNK titles like Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown. It’s a fun way of mixing things up a bit, especially if you’re a Neo Geo nut who knows their Kim Jae Hoon from their Kim Dong Hwan. And who doesn’t.
For the most part the game looks fantastic. Character animations are smooth and detailed, and there’s a satisfying feeling of impact any time you hit an enemy. Most of the backgrounds are also beautifully drawn and animated, although there are a couple – like the aquarium – which are a little less active and colourful than the usual high standards set by the series. The sound fares better, with one of the best soundtracks in any SNK fighting game.
As one of Hamster’s ACA Neo Geo games, KOF 2000 has the same front-end shared by every other Hamster offering. The same screen filtering options are available, as are the ability to choose between the English and Japanese versions of the game (in short, the latter has blood and bouncier boobs) and mess around with the arcade settings menu.
Emulation runs as smoothly as other Neo Geo games do on the Switch, and it also has the usual High Score and Caravan modes: although, as with other fighting games in the series, it’s a bit pointless since getting a high score isn’t really the point here.
Although it’s one of the better instalments in the series, The King Of Fighters 2000 isn’t quite the best of the bunch. It isn’t even the best of the ones available on Switch: many would argue that KOF ‘98 presents the game at its purest before the Striker system was introduced and started complicating things. If you’ve yet to buy a King Of Fighters game on your Switch, then, it might be worth trying out the 1998 version first to see if it’s the sort of thing you enjoy. If it is, then by all means get stuck into KOF 2000 to see how it evolved, for better or worse.