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KOF2K3 isn't perfect--it has a few balance issues, like how the team with Duo Lon in it wins at the select screen--but compared to 2K2, it's the best thing ever. The music's back to its surprisingly catchy old self, there are a bunch of new and good-looking backgrounds, and the whole game has a great, solid feel. The last time SNK tried to reinvent the KOF series, you got KOF99 and its readily abusable Striker system. This time, they've kept things relatively simple, and in so doing, created one of their best games yet. King of Fighters 2003 is a great addition to anyone's Xbox library, and it's another great 2D fighter on Xbox Live. Just try to pretend it's the only game in its case, and leave King of Fighters 2002 to gather dust.
However, I really wish there were a couple of different selectable outfits for some of the characters, like KOF: Maximum Impact. King of Fighters characters have always had this weird trendier-than-thou type of style, and since trendy people tend to buy clothes quite frequently, this feature wouldn't have been incongruous with the series' overall style. Unfortunately, as King of Fighters 02/03 is a port from the arcade game and this feature wasn't present in the original, it makes sense that it's not there, but the title would definitely have benefited from it. If you've enjoyed previous King of Fighter offerings, then King of Fighters 02/03 should be an inexpensive addition to your gaming collection. Let the world know that people still play 2D fighting games!
It's hard to get too bent out of shape about the weak points of this package, considering all that you do get in The King of Fighters 02/03. This isn't exactly the product that's going to make a fighting game fan out of anybody who wouldn't already fit that description. But if you've ever enjoyed the King of Fighters series over the years--or any of SNK's other great fighting games, for that matter--then you might as well spring for The King of Fighters 02/03. These games may be about as homely as anything on the market right now, but NeoGeo fans kept buying them, and others like them, for hundreds of dollars a pop year after year for very good reason.
It’s nice to see a classic entry into a long running series take itself seriously enough to include a few of the nice touches that we see from King of Fighters 02/03. From the language options and color modifier to the inclusion of Xbox Live functionality there’s plenty to show that SNK isn’t simply trying to make a buck from one of its best series. Despite the fact that there are a few blemishes on the overall playability for each of the two titles, this classic compilation should earn a spot in the library of those looking for a fun filled look at how videogames were played back in the day.
If you’ve been able to put off a purchase of the game until now, I do say go with the Xbox package, if only for the Live version of 2003. If you don’t have Live, then really, it’s a toss up. I prefer the Xbox joystick over the PS2 for fighting games myself, but that’s only a matter of preference. Whether you go with the older PS2 version, or the new Xbox port, these are two of the best fighting games ever made, and a must for any fan of the genre. Plus, you’re saving what? $450 off the original sticker price if you had purchased them both for the Neo Geo.
The King of Fighters series holds a special place in the hearts of many 2D fighting aficionados. Both titles are fast-paced, offense-heavy fighting games that offer plenty of depth for players who are willing to spend the time learning the mechanics. The Xbox versions of KOF 2002 and 2003 are more than just repackaged ports, they add an online mode and a bevy of options that should make them attractive to anyone looking to relive the glory days of 2D fighting.
The Next Level
King of Fighters has always been a major player in the world of fighting games, and the royal treatment that the series is given here in this double pack is proof that SNK NeoGeo knows it. The games themselves aren't the best, but when you have to live up to prior installments - some ranking up there with the best fighting games ever created - it's hard to be too mad about it. Besides, the games aren't terrible in the slightest, and with all the extra functions and bonuses, the King of Fighters 2002/2003 double pack for Xbox is still a worthy purchase for any gamer looking for a taste of the good old days.