Year after year it seems like critics have the same complaint, the King of Fighters games are the same games with a new roster. But 2003 was different, in 2003 those critics weren't complaining. Did SNK decide to skip a King of Fighters game for that year? Nope ... they decided to completely renovate this stale old franchise. No really, they added a new style of game play that changes EVERYTHING.
If you've read any of my other King of Fighters reviews then you already know that this series is all about the three on three battles. In the past you select three different fighters, and then you fight with them one at a time until you've either defeated all of your enemies or they have defeated you. But that is not the case for this 2003 edition. No longer must you wait until another character has fallen before you can use a better fighter, now you can cycle through your roster at any time. Instead of feeling like every other King of Fighters title, this 2003 edition feels a lot more like Marvel vs. Capcom.
This new style of game play may not sound like much, but it ends up changing this series in a number of good ways. For example, you can finally have a balanced fight no matter who you're up against. It also makes it possible to do tag attacks and frustrate your enemy in all kinds of new ways. This single new addition makes the King of Fighters 2003 feel like a brand new game, one you will want to keep playing more many months to come.
The graphics haven't improved much, but you can still expect amazing animation and one breathtaking back grounds. This time around you can expect to see more moving levels, including fights on trains. While this has always been a staple of the King of Fighters, it's something that had gone missing over the last couple of games. This time around everything feels fresh, like the King of Fighters team finally got their inspiration back.
Unfortunately not everything is wine and roses; SNK has decided to leave nearly 20 characters homeless. While the King of Fighters 2002 features almost 50 combatants, this 2003 model only has around 30. While most of the "best" King of Fighters have remained, it's a shame they had to drop so many. There are a number of older King of Fighters I would have loved to have battled with using this new "tag-team" style of game play.
The King of Fighters has been one of SNK's most consistent entries, but after a decade they've finally decided to try something new. If you've been holding off on buying a King of Fighters game, then this 2003 is well worth checking out. Even if you've grown tired of SNK's predictable formula, the King of Fighters 2003 is one of the best games you can buy for your Neo Geo.