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The character select screen doesn't give you nearly enough time (20 seconds), and the victory screens are incredibly lame ("Announcing the victors. Here they are.") When Mai Shiranui ppears on these screens she has the shoulders of a linebacker and a head the size of a peanut! I do like how the high score screen appears immediately after you enter your initials. King of Fighters 97 tries to rock the boat, but it's not entirely successful. But even a mediocre King of Fighters game can kick the ass of most other 2D fighters.
This series would continue on an upswing, changing, manipulating, and swapping out pieces of the formula. King of Fighters '97 is true the start of all that. It would occasionally seem desperate, and that makes '97 the best of the initial four.
Where King of Fighters excels is the massive amount of playable, diverse characters. Even before Capcom started teaming their fighters up to see who was the better (my bet will always be on Strider), SNK was teaming the Art of Fighting combatants and the Fatal Fury kids with the Ikari Troupe ... all representing a different game SNK developed. I must say, this was always intriguing, and I wished more companies would do things like this. However, as much as I like this game, it seems like they have missed a wonderful oppurtunity to cross some of the Samurai Shodown, or Last Blade characters into the King of Fighters universe. This series has just improved over time, however subtly. And while it's not Street Fighter II, it isn't Time Killers, either. I wish there was more to it, but each of the games is fun to play.