King of Fighters R2 is a 2D Fighter and the first handheld game in the series to feature actual colors. This title is a port of KoF 98 that has been downscaled from its arcade version in order to play well on the much less powerful Neo Geo Pocket Color. The main differences to be found are the new chibi sprites for the character as well as easier moves to pull off due to the Pocket only having two buttons. It is easier to pick up but still as hard to master and retains the feel of the original game. If you have already played KoF 98, you can effortlessly jump right into this with no problem and play as you’ve always had, only now on the go.
Once you start up the game, you can choose either single or team battles to make your way through the ladders until you make your way to the boss character Rugal. Team battles has you select three characters and pits you against other teams of three with the last man standing winning the match for their side. This series is known for its 3v3 matches and is the ideal way to play it though playing it like a regular fighting game on single is still a fun experience. You will start with 14 characters to pick from with more being able to be unlocked later on. All these characters handle very differently, and each have their own way of fighting.
You only have one button to kick and another to punch, but it still manages to be an in-depth fighter with plenty to learn about. The graphics look nice with each character being instantly recognizable in their cute chibi form, and it runs perfectly smooth, having no slow down whatsoever. It is extremely fluid, responsive and the amazing DPad on the Pocket will allow you to easily control what you are doing. Every stage is from KoF 98, and there are six to fight in overall. They look pretty good all things considered. There are thick black bars on both the top and bottom of the screen to better allow you to see the meters. It was also likely done to render less of the play area and in turn, make the game run better.
None of the characters feature any voice clips, so the fights will be silent other than the music and sound effects. Aside from the regular arcade like mode, you will also have Sparring to practice your moves against the AI, VS if you have a friend that owns an NGP as well and DC mode to connect with the Dreamcast version of KoF 99. I have no idea what that last one does since I sadly haven’t owned a Sega Dreamcast in many years. The last mode is called Making and it allows you to pick a single fighter which you will then name and customize later on. This mode has an actual story to it, and it will take you through each arena fighting off evil clones of characters until you manage to take down Rugal.
It is much easier said than done. This mode does not mess around and will put you by yourself to face seven characters back to back with a modifier such as your health slowly draining or no blocking. Hopefully you’ve picked a character you are decent as since the only way to change characters is to delete your current one alongside all the skills you’ve gained. After each fight, you manage to win you will randomly be awarded a skill which can range from allowing you change what you say at the start or end of a fight to increasing your health, defense or normal attack power. Farming earlier levels and equipping the two best skills for you will help you out massively, making deleting your character and starting from nothing a difficult thing to do.
This is a nice addition to the game though it does go a bit overboard with the situations and handicaps it lays on you. Nothing insurmountable but man, does it make you work for a single victory, even in the first mission. While fun, the basic K.O.F mode is where you will likely be spending most of your time with as you keep going through the ladder and upping the difficulty as you get better. With the Pocket’s great buttons and D-pad, this is easy to accomplish. It has more characters, content and actual colors compared to KoF R1 and is overall a slightly better game. If you are going to get one of them, this is the one to pick though both are worthy of your time. The fast, fluid and responsive action makes this a portable title that will be difficult to put down once you boot it up.