King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match PS4 Review: The Gang’s All Here

With quite possibly the largest fight roster since the UFC, King Of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match is here on the PS4.

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match is here for PS4 players, technically that’s PS5 too, courtesy of Code Mystics, bringing the beloved SNK title to another platform.

King of Fighters is a classic. I think I’m more up-to-speed with Samurai Showdown or Fatal Fury, so when looking at this INSANE roster of players, I had to opt for the random character selection. We all have our favourite players, so random seems redundant, but there are just so many here.

As a Tekken and Mortal Kombat fan, SNK fighting titles have been neglected a little as back in the day; the only option was the arcade or a NeoGeo. The only chance to play these games were played on emulators (saying for a friend), until now.

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match PS4 Review

From the 60+ roster, we have our all-rounders, the beginner characters, agile characters for combos, then the Zangief type brutes that are slow but do tons of damage. My first foray into the game was with a character named Chang Koehan. He was like a building on legs and moved as fast as one. Within two rounds of what seemed like ten seconds each, I was defeated.

Slowly but surely, I found that the pattern remained true in King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match as a lot of the female characters were super quick. Some gi-wearing flagship fighters worked well as all-rounders, plus there were the more accessible ones. Between Joe and Billy, I’d found my connection.

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match - Meet the gang
Meet the gang. Source: PR

Joe is probably most like Bruce from Tekken but with Muay Thai skills and a spammy punch. Billy resembled Kilik from Soul Calibur and had another spammy option where he would spin his stick (not a euphemism) or poke them with it from afar (again, not what you think…). Still, this didn’t fast track my way to the few trophies on offer – even the entry-level ‘defeat 10 enemies in a row’ in the Endless mode was quite elusive.

You can’t manually change the difficulty in King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match – at least, that I saw, but if you repeatedly lose, there will be the option to lower it. A further kick in the teeth when you lose; do you want us to make it easier for you, lil’ baby? Balls on the floor, pride in the bin – yes, please.

Retro Style

Now 2002 might have seemed like an age away, and games have advanced so much since then. Yes, and yes, but it wasn’t really that long ago. I could rattle off a few decent titles from the year that stand up to time. However, King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match does feel a teeny bit dated.

I’m a scanline whore, so the aesthetic was great for my tastes, as were the 4:3 screens with bevels. I’m all for the authenticity, but I had mixed feelings with the overall feel. Sometimes the characters would appear arcade-perfect, and I’d drool about the days in the arcade, then other times I’d be a bit miffed about the animation of a character whose arm disappears as they’re beating you.

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match - Playground rules
Playground rules. Source: PR

It’s not lag, but sometimes the action doesn’t happen in cooperation with the input. This is a PS4 game played on a PS5, but that’s irrelevant really both in one player and against a family member suffered no slowdown in terms of frame rate, I think it was fundamentally the animation.

Still, the character options are brilliant. They don’t feel like reskinned ones, and their movesets have a uniqueness to them. I’m quite in awe at the variety, and unless you’re a King Of Fighters veteran, it would be well worth investing in characters to see who’s best suited; especially as there’s the customary practice mode to learn the moves.

Bring Your Friends, Or Make Them

The real jewel of the crown is online play – if you’re up for competitive play. The last genuine attempt I made at an online fighter was probably the most recent Mortal Kombat, and I sucked arse. Despite the difficulty curve against some of the AI characters, online ranking offers some casual play as well, putting you up against carefree players, or the odd pro who likes to goad you a bit with perfect victories. I say pro

There’s even the replay mode for your most recent online plays so you can adequately study your flaws and climb the ranks accordingly. Seriously, this online feature is solid and King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match is likely to have a renewed fanbase in this PS4/PS5 version.

As an old school game, I’d recommend investing in a joystick if you have the funds to do so and passionate about fighting games. Well, if that were true, you probably already have one. I use a Horii ‘whatever’ I picked up in Japan. It’s a big unit but adds to the nostalgia, adding precision with some half-circle combos. That said, it’s not an essential purchase – you could use your analogue sticks. Just don’t blame your tools.

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match - Kamehameha
Origins of the kamehameha. Ish. Source: PR

If you’re a fan of the King Of Fighters series, you can’t go wrong with King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match as it’s a perfect port. I must have played the entire King of Fighters series now, and this is my favourite. 

King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match Review Summary

While it’s the best King of Fighters, in my opinion, it may not resonate with newcomers who are more familiar with 3D beat ’em ups, or perhaps aren’t fans of the aesthetic. For every other beat ’em up fan, it’s most definitely worth your time.

The score totals a 9 out of 10