[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 09/05/02 ] = Cuty Mask Melon

I have finally got the chance to play The King Of Fighters EX, and I must say, it is a great game. Special thanks go to Marvelous Entertainment for helping KOFEX see the light of day during SNK's times of crisis. Hats off to Marvelous Entertainment. Prior to playing KOFEX, I had not heard a single bad thing about it, and now I know why. SNK has stole my heart again, with the goodness that is The King Of Fighters EX NeoBlood. I was hyped to play the game to see how SNK's effort on Nintendo's GBA hardware would turn out, and although I think SSFIITR is a hard game to beat, KOFEX turned out really well. SNK took a break from developing on the Giga-Spec and Naomi to develop on Nintendo's wonderful GBA hardware, and their first work looks, feels, and plays great. Fans of KOF'99 (and to some extent '94) will eat KOFEX right up. Get ready for another dose of SNK's long-running KOF series. Essentially, KOFEX is like an altered version of KOF'99, a little of KOF2000, with some welcome additions. Get ready for KOFEX.

The most noticeable part of KOFEX is the new j-pop fiend character Moe, and the return of badboy Geese. What else? Well, for starters, I am pretty sure that just about everyone from KOF'99 made it to the KOFEX line-up; K', Vanessa, Andy, Terry,Kim, and other faves like Iori raise hell in KOFEX. Though I haven't unlocked any of the secrets or secret characters as of yet, I will say that Iori is not a playable fighter from the start because he's actually the boss before the fight with Geese. Yes, you heard right, SNK made Iori a boss in KOFEX! Kick ass. And again, I haven't unlocked any of the secrets, but I am pretty sure that of Kyo's three KOF'99 incarnations, only the one with the white & black cross shirt seems to be present in KOFEX (sorry Kyo fans).The complete roster of KOFEX consists of:

- Andy (YEAH!)
- Mai
- Kim
- Ryo
- Benimaru
- Yuri


- Iori
- Jhun
- Leona
- Clark
- Ralf
- Moe
- Terry
- Joe
- Chang
- Choi
- Kyo
- Vanessa
- Robert
- King
- Whip
- Bao
- K'
- Maxima
- Chin (the drunk)
- Geese
- Athena
- Kensou
- Shingo

Very similar to my selections in KOF'99 (thankfully), my favorite team in KOFEX is Andy / Kim / Mai / Ryo (the terror team). This team is fantastic; after popping the opponent into the air with a Kim assist, Andy can rock their shit with an Shoryu Dan or the Cho Reppa Dan juggle. Awesome. I like this team because off of Kim's assist you can do so many things, and with Ryo's assist you can very easily pressure opponents into submission. Since Andy is my favorite character, it's an absolutely great to use some of the crazy combos he has at his disposal; stuff that I was amazed at when I pulled them off. Some other teams I like in KOFEX are Andy / Mai / Ryo / Yuri, Ryo / Kim / Yuri / Benimaru, Andy / Kim / Mai / Jhun, Kim / Clark / Leona / Benimaru, or the newly formed Kim / Mai / Vanessa / Moe team. The Andy / Mai / Ryo / Yuri team is one of my classic teams, and the Andy / Kim / Mai / Jhun team is my KOF'99 team, while the Kim / Clark / Leona / Benimaru team is one of the more odd groups. I like Moe, the new character, but I seem to always put her on a team with Jhun instead of anyone else. Why? Don't know. There are so many characters in the game though, that loads of teams can be created through mixing or matching the old with the new; maybe finding a favorite team will be difficult for the non-traditionals. Quite possibly the greatest aspect of the KOF series are the many, many different teams that can be created to fit the taste of any KOF player; fanatics and casual players alike.

KOFEX's gameplay is essentially that of KOF'99 with a bit of KOF2000; from the Armor and Counter power-ups to the various types of jumps and power hits, everything's in. Just like the gameplay in the other KOF installments, KOFEX is a fast, crazy fighter with sometimes up to four fighters on the screen battling. KOFEX, just like KOF'99, KOF2000, and KOF'99E, gets especially out of hand when you have both players attacking and two other Strikers attacking. Add in the fact that with a Striker attacking you can do various Special Moves and Super Moves, and you got yourself a recipe for madness. Absolute chaos. Those asking for slightly more chaotic gameplay than Fatal Fury or Street Fighter, but don't like the Capcom VS games (MVSC2, etc.), would like KOFEX (or KOF'99, KOF2000, or KOF2000 for that matter) a lot. KOFEX's gameplay has the frantic style of gameplay found in Capcom's VS crossover games, but with different collision of hits.







However, I have played both KOF'99 and KOFEX fairly thoroughly, and it seems that in KOFEX there are some crazy tweaks that allow you to do some combos that I didn't see in KOF'99. It may be just me, but some hits just seem to have been tweaked to connect easier; I didn't see a lot of the combos in KOFEX in KOF'99, but they sure remind me KOF2001's combos. Were the hits connecting this easy in other KOF games like KOF'98 or KOF'99E? I don't know all the answers, but it didn't feel so forgiving in the other games (especially in KOF'99). For example, there's some pretty rotten shit like the SP into the Zan Ei Reppa (I think this was in KOF'99), or the Low WP, Kim Assist, SP Sho Ryu Dan combo (was this in KOF'99?). There's some really rotten combos you can pull in KOFEX if you try hard enough; with Ryo, you can do 4 Low WP, Yuri Striker, and as the opponent is falling you can catch them with the Ryuukou Ranbu for 25 hits! Damn! Kim has an 8-Hit combo that involves some chaining of his Special Moves (Jump In SK Hisyo Kyaku, 2 Low WP, SK Han Getsu Zan), and the longest combo I've found with him is a 17-Hit Desperation Move Combo (Jump In SK Hisyo Kyaku, 2 Low WP, Hoh Oh Tenbu Kyaku). With some characters, you can start a huge combo out by doing a few Low WP or Low SK while calling in a Striker, followed by a Desperation Move or Special Move. For those of you wondering if the 100% or Infinite combos from KOF'99 were carried to KOFEX, I have no idea if they were or not; I imagine they were taken out, but it never ceases to amaze me that with every new fighter that comes out, this breed of combos exists somewhere in the game. I'm not saying the combos are as out of hand as in KOF2000 or KOF2001, but they get really close. Of course, for this reason, although the KOF series is good and to many the best SNK fighter, it's not as polished as Fatal Fury. It should be noted however, that it is very hard not to like this game; there's just so much to like in KOFEX.







Graphically, KOF soars with some very nice visuals; great animation, good effects, and nice backgrounds make KOF pleasing to the eye (just as in the other entries). Of course, KOFEX features the same unique style of class with some of the most intricately, classy dressed characters not only in any fighting game, but in any video game. SNK continues the vanity issue with the design of the new character Moe, who seems to mimic recent fashion trends almost perfectly. Some say the KOF characters are the best-designed characters in the industry; they are good designs, indeed. With smoothly dressed, clean character design comes the loads of animation. KOFEX uses the GBA hardware to create the smooth, quick animation that SNK's KOF series has been known for. In KOF, many, many moves are at the player's disposal, and with every character they all animate with fluidity. Among the best animations in the game are Andy's Desperation Moves, Moe's Special Moves, and Benimaru's many poses. Mai animates with the same great frames all KOF fans love, while Vanessa animates just as beautifully as she did in KOF'99 and KOF'99E. Vanessa is a great character, and it's great to see she's in KOFEX. Moe's Special Moves are cool because at a certain point in the animation of her moves, Sakura leaves explode from her and slowly fall to the ground. Beautiful. Geese also has some cool frames, but most of the time you'll be too busy beating his face in to notice it. Just as in the other KOF games, Shingo has some of the funniest, crazy animation ever in a fighting game. The animation of KOFEX is right on, just as the animation in SNK's fighters has always been. One But although the animation is splendid in KOFEX, SSFIITR (powered by the same hardware) has more animation and slightly splashier effects. This does not deny the fact that KOFEX is packed with tons of animation however, and is just a comparison between two games made by two different developers on the same new hardware. KOFEX is a great product, and you're lucky if you'll even find any developer that utilizes the GBA hardware for fighters (besides Capcom) as good as SNK. Let's just hope it isn't a one-time development tool.









The backgrounds in KOFEX were carried over from KOF'99; the airport, courtyard, museum, and clock tower stages all make their appearance. In addition to those stages, SNK added in two new stages to fit with the game's theme. Iori's stage is a building under construction after hours, featuring dim lights that give the stage a blue hue, with various table, boxes and other things in the background. A nice stage that deviates from every other stage in the game. Geese's stage is the same as it was in every other fighter where Geese was callin' the shots - it's the top of a business building with traditional Japanese architecture and other fun background details. Overall it's just a re-made version of the same stage we always get to fight Geese in; enough said. Of course, since Krisalid (that bastard) is not the end boss of KOFEX, both of his stages have been left out of KOFEX. Are they as good as the backgrounds in SSFIITR? Well, it really depends on how you like your backgrounds to look, but there are some nice backgrounds in KOFEX; they just don't have the kick that some of the backgrounds in KOF'97 and KOF'95 had. It should be noted, however, that there are some very nice backgrounds in KOFEX; probably the best among them is the airport stage where you fight in front of a jumbo jet on a runway (with a nice sunset cast over the stage). The backgrounds are good in their own respect though, and have all of SNK's signature touches and minor details scattered about (lots of minor details were put into the new stages). The GBA hardware is filled to the brim with deeply shaded, intricate backgrounds (the typical KOF type). The stages have nicely shaded sunsets, shining lights, and some really nice textures (the dinosaur bones in the museum stage). Although most are from KOF'99, KOFEX's stages are overall nice and are fit for battling. Plainly put, if you like the stages in KOF'99, you will have no problem fighting in KOFEX's battlegrounds.




KOFEX's graphical effects are also similar to that of KOF'99 and KOF2000; the hit sparks, Rolls, Armor Mode, Counter Mode, and Desperation Moves all look familiar. And just as in the other KOF games, when an opponent's last fighter is defeated, the screen whites out as the fighter is falling, followed by the victory portrait screen. With Super Jumps, shadows trail the fighters just like in KOF'99, and the fire effects of KOF'99 were also carried to KOFEX (example: Choi caught on fire from Kyo's uppercut). As far as effects go, I guess the only other one to mention is the background change while doing a Max Desperation Move; I don't know if this was in KOF'99 or KOF'99E (I don't remember it), but the background changes into a blue negative image until the DM finishes (similar in a way to one of Athena's DM backgrounds in KOF2000). KOFEX's effects are nice, but are definitely not as splashy as those in SSFIITR. Just as KOFEX's great animation and nice stages, the effects of KOFEX also shine.

The sounds of KOFEX are another thing the game shares with KOF'99; most of the sounds are the same, with a few tweaks here and there (some audio might have been changed or left out), brought together by the new sounds from Moe and Geese. Kim's battle cries, Andy's quick hits, and Ryo's hard hits all sound good, but I always find myself laughing at Moe's little battle cries (I don't know why). Some of the music from KOF'99 has made it in, and I think some might have even been remixed or something (I can't recognize some of the tracks). Like SSFIITR and FFO, some of the music in KOFEX has more upbeat, remixed versions of the older tracks. Which do I like better? Well, it's all a matter of preference, but KOFEX has a few tracks that aren't so upbeat and ready to get you "pumped up" (like a GamePro editor). KOFEX has a mix of relaxing and upbeat tracks for the different audio tastes of KOF fans; dig in.




Presentation is yet another aspect of KOF'99 that was carried over to KOFEX. The green cybernetic-looking backgrounds for the fighter select, order select, and VS screens are present in KOFEX, along with the same fonts and colors for the game's text. I think the only difference between the text in KOFEX and KOF'99 is the yellow, taller and more narrow combo counter in KOFEX. I think the High Score table in KOFEX looks very similar to the one in KOF'99; maybe they're the same, but I can't really remember. The character portraits in KOFEX are okay, with some borrowed from KOF'99. Some of the portraits (Vanessa, Mai, Jhun, K', Terry) look great, but others I'm not crazy about (were they the same in KOF'99?). Some may like the character illustrations in KOF'98 or KOF2000 better than those in KOFEX. The game also features a short intro, pretty much an altered KOF'99 cinema; Terry, Ryo, and Kyo grace the screen, followed by vertically scrolling portraits of the other KOFEX fighters and then a shot of the j-pop Moe. Of course, since KOFEX has a slightly different roster than KOF'99, the character select screen has been rearranged a bit but not completely redesigned. One way KOFEX differs from KOF'99 is in the story; the progressing story and ending in KOFEX are completely different from that of KOF'99. Why? Well, mainly because Geese and Iori are the new bosses, so the story mostly revolves around Geese and Iori's "evil" powers. Just like many other SNK fighters, KOFEX has a story that unfolds and reveals just what the fighting is for. For those who are wondering what the game's story is about, all I can say is that since I couldn't read some of the Kanji, I saw only lots of talking about the Orochi power.

Ultimately, KOFEX will satisfy not only just about any KOF fan, but also casual fighters. KOF fans will like it because it's a new KOF (and most of the KOF fans I know love it), and the casual players will like KOFEX because it's such a fun game to play. After loving the greatness that SNK created with KOF2000, I was hyped up for KOFEX and was not let down. I loved KOF2000 when it came out, and I have the same fascination with KOFEX. The game has all of SNK's signature attributes; nice animation, cool characters (quite possibly the coolest dressed), good sounds, and good stages. And most of all, the game is fun. That's right, KOFEX is such a fun game, that you'll put just as much time into it as you did with KOF'99E (or KOF'96 for the KOF fanatics). I don't know how many times I either stayed up too late playing it, or actually fell asleep playing it (in a good way). Just go out and play the game to see what everyone is talking about; it's the only way you'll be able to understand. It may take a while to find the game (to buy or just to play), but it's well worth it once you do. KOFEX is a cool game, and definitely in my top 5 fighters of 2001 (falling after SSFIITR and CVSS2 but in front of everything else). After the many bumpy roads, rainy days, and other obstacles SNK has encountered in the recent few years, it was not only a relief to see KOFEX but also proof that 2-D still exists. Let's hope to see another KOF on the GBA hardware, or even a Fatal Fury...or maybe a Samurai Shodown...or a Double Dragon...