Review – The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match (PS4)
If you ask a King of Fighters fan what’s their favorite game in the series, the vast majority will answer with The King of Fighters ’98. But if you ask them what’s the best game in the series, the nearly unanimous answer will be an odd one: The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match. It was originally released for the PS2 in 2009 in Japan, then later ported PC and Xbox 360. It was a remake (and later remaster) of SNK’s second-to-last Neo Geo title, featuring a ludicrous roster of fighters and robust online multiplayer.
SNK’s decision to re-remaster this game to the PS4 with the help of Code Mystics is a pleasant surprise, even though KOF XV is slated to be released later this year. An even prettier and better performing version of the best King of Fighters game ever made? Sign me up! Let’s take a look at this bad boy.
If you have never played a King of Fighters game before, the best way I can explain them to you is that they are a much less newcomer-friendly, but equally (if not more) rewarding than competitor to Capcom’s Street Fighter series. It features slightly more complex controls (an arcade stick isn’t required, but it does improve the overall experience), a more unforgiving difficulty curve, and a bigger emphasis on tag battles comprised of 3-on-3 fights. It’s as good as any of its main fighting competitors, even if it doesn’t have the same glamour or notoriety. The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match is the pinnacle of this classic KOF formula.
This PS4 remaster features a monstrous roster of sixty-six fighters, two kinds of local arcade modes (Tag and Solo), plus an endless survival mode, your run-of-the-mill practice mode, and a wide assortment of challenges. Considering the fact this is mostly a multiplayer-focused game, I was surprised with how much fun you can have on your own, as the ginormous amount of playable characters and varied modes at your disposal. That alone would be enough to make me recommend this title to all fighting enthusiasts out there.
But I cannot ignore the quality of the online multiplayer. The reason why the Xbox 360 version of The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match was so beloved by fans was due to its fantastic netcode. The same can be said here. Casual and ranked matches are available, and while there aren’t as many players hanging out at the moment, I am pretty sure the KOF community will migrate to The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match‘s lobbies in masses, even after the release of the polygonal and more newcomer friendly KOF XV.
What I love about Neo Geo games is that they have managed to age gracefully in terms of graphics and sound, even though they were all based on an arcade board initially released in 1990. The system’s sprite capabilities were way advanced for the time, as was its sound chip. Thanks to some additional tinkering by Code Mystics, The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match looks amazing for its age. The animations are crisp and the framerate will never even dare to go below 60.
All in all, there’s little else that needs to be said. The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match has always been considered the best game in the franchise, and this brand new PS4 port is its best version so far. If you’re a fan of the series, or a fan of fighting games in general, you need to own it. This will certainly keep you busy until the release of KOF XV later this year. Make sure to buy an arcade stick as well. This is the kind of game that deserves such investment.
The beauty of Neo Geo sprites is that they have aged like a fine wine. These remastered visuals look pretty freaking good for 2021 standards.
It plays like a dream, but you’re obviously better off with a proper fighting stick in order to perform more precise special attacks.
A pretty good soundtrack and a lot of prerecorded voice clips. It’s exactly what you need in an arcade fighter like this.
Fun Factor: 9.5
Between the ludicrous roster size, great controls, revamped visuals, nonexistent loading times, and pristine netcode, there’s a lot to love in the PS4 version of The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match.
Final Verdict: 9.0
The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match is available now on PS2, PS4, Xbox 360, and PC.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match was provided by the publisher.