Well so I got NESTS for PS2 to avoid the supposed input delay in PS2 games on the PS3 : P. I'm to unsophisticated to tell the difference, really, but I'll just add new comments about the three included games--KOFs 99, 2000, 2001--to this entry, since it's the one I'm playing now. For the comments prior, see the PS3 version, entry 1341.
I didn't think so before (see entry 140, for instance), but 2001 is actually pretty darn fun. Eolith kind of took the KOF battle system from SNK and greased up the works. In a certain way it fundamentally breaks it, at least by the time they got to 2002, where you can definitely just combo by doing the same move repeatedly ; P (that may work in 2001, but I haven't seen it yet and at this point I really don't want to know x_x), but until you're smart enough to get to that point, it feels so darn fun and smooth.
The teammate/striker choice is a weird one. In team mode you can pick three characters and a striker (can you even pick four team members and no striker? now I can't remember; I didn't think so, though), or you can pick some other combination, such as...one team member and three strikers! That one team member seems to be stronger than individuals on a team with more members--kind of a CvS-style ratio system, really--so I wonder where the balance really comes out on this. Anyway, in my ignorance, it's kind of fun to mess around with.
I'm a little concerned about the difficulty level; at the default difficulty, and not really knowing the characters (even picking random characters in team mode, which re-randomizes them for each fight! (that doesn't get fixed until 2003), I got to the (first?) boss on the first try in both Team and Single modes! So hopefully the higher difficulties ratchet up appropriately, or, if I manage actually to get slightly better by playing this semi-regularly for once, I would face the what for me would be the ludicrous situation of out-leveling the non-boss CPU opponents in a KOF game for the first time ever. : o And then I'd have to ditch this (2001) for a harder KOF, ie any of them...well okay, except for XII. : P
2001 is a weird beast. Poking at it in Practice mode, which you can set up to run as endless, randomized single-round matches, I found some things: - on a team with 1 fighter and 3 strikers, the 1 fighter is stronger than individual fighters on teams with more fighters - The difficulty level is tricky. On the highest setting in Options, 8, it provides me a pretty good challenge--maybe slightly better than the 3 I usually play on in other KOF games. - You can artificially increase the difficulty in Training mode by giving yourself a team with more fighters, and the CPU a team with fewer fighters--because only the first fighter actually fights. It's a frustrating means of raising difficulty though because it just means you have to hit the opponent more times is all. - Some of the strikers don't seem as effective as the ones in 2000--Whip here, for instance, seems less effective. I guess maybe they wanted to tone down some of 2000's craziness. But now that a striker costs as much as a super...is a striker still worth it? I guess if you know the good ones and how to use them effectively (which I do not). - You can pick a stage or two or three each of the previous KOF games! Standouts for me include the street in front of the NeoGeoLand store from '95 (Japan stage), the Mid. East stage from '98, and the aquarium from '00. Fantastic stages! This is a great feature, only missing a random option (but most of the stages aren't so hot--especially the '01 stages--so maybe it's just as well). - The '01 stages have "'" duplicates you can select; these seem to be variant versions, although I can't spot the difference for some of them; the most obvious is the race track stage, which becomes a strict side view with very cut-and-paste-looking, oddly bright race zooming by from left to right; it's kind of crude, but at least more interesting than the regular, really dead and colorless version. - At least in Practice mode, you can pick the boss characters from two invisible, blank spots to the right of the "?" icon on the character select screen. (And for some reason, I can't pick the "?" icon...) The boss characters, when picked, remove all other characters from the team--no strikers or anything allowed. They are really overpowered, of course. - If you set characters to randomize when one is killed, only the first fighter per team is re-randomized. This means that you will never get to fight as the other members of your team. But it also means that if there are up to three characters you really don't want fighting--say because you find them annoying : P--you can "bench" them by putting them in as secondary fighters, or strikers. - If you have characters randomize when killed, you can eliminate this "bench" effect by starting out picking a boss character for the team; once they are killed or otherwise randomized out, they'll be replaced by a regular character, but that character will still have no team-mates, so nobody stuck in a "benched" role. - All-in-all, the game is kind of wack. : P Some of the new characters, like May Lee and K9999, feel pretty clunky with some of their moves. The fighters vs strikers and supers vs strikers balancing act feels a wobbly. Having two "wire" bounce attacks seems eh not so great. Not being able to use a super charge to activate a powered-up mode feels lacking! The music and new backgrounds are a low point in the series. It plays faster than 2000, but so much shakier, that I think I'll stick with 2000 if I want endless battle rounds of striker craziness, and I'd go with 2002 if I wanted really fast gameplay (2002 feels faster than 2001). Eolith tried out a lot of nutty ideas in 2001, but it's definitely a rough draft.
In 2000's Practice mode, you can set the game to play endless, 1-round battles against randomized opponents--it doesn't have the "beat" setting for a winner-stays-on randomization, it just randomizes all fighters and strikers.
The first of two unfortunate oversights in the Practice mode is that the random selection does not select from the Another and Manic strikers, meaning it isn't picking most of the available strikers, and definitely not the weirder ones. A real shame!
The second is that while the pause menu in, say, Team Play mode has a move list display option, you can't access these move lists while in Practice mode! !! !!!! I mean for me it's just as well because then I get obsessed with trying to do super moves and play terribly and don't have any fun, but still, what an oversight! If I was actually trying to practice, it's definitely the spot where I would want to be able to view the move list.
There is no stage select in 2000's Practice menu; normally, it just picks a random KOF 2000 stage. Since I really only like the Aquarium stage (the Korea street stage is okay, and so is the desert stage, but they're still quite bland and a little depressing by older KOF standards), this is a bit of a pain, because you just have to keep going back and re-doing character select to make it randomize the stage again, until you get the one you want. It does not change the stage between battle rounds.
Gah, it's "Maniac" strikers, not "Manic" strikers. So anyway in this version of 2000, each character can not only be a striker (Kula becomes Candy as a striker, for some reason--oh and Zero cannot be a striker), but can also swap with a different, striker-only character--and these are often strange alternate versions of regular characters, or obscure, sometimes side characters from other SNK fighting games, or even non-fighting games! And finally, some characters have not one but TWO other characters they can swap to as strikers; the second are the "Maniac" strikers. I think.
Actually, 2001's Practice mode has I think *all* the stages from KOF 2000. Really though, what were they thinking with all those dull industrial stages in '00? Like, there's literally a dump stage. It's a dump. At one point, a bulldozer breaks through a wall. It's dirty brown. Oh boy. : P Thank goodness for the aquarium stage!
I haven't found this documented anywhere else on the internet, aside from a mention in an ancient Gamespot article about KOF 2000 being an upcoming game for Dreamcast -- https://www.gamespot.com/articles/the-king-of-fighters-2000-heads-to-the-dreamcast/1100-2861162/ -- but there are 20 hidden stages in the "Dreamcast" version of KOF 2000 in NESTS Collection!
To fight in one of the following stages from other SNK games, select one of the listed characters and pick their indicated Another/Maniac striker--this must be done by 2P in VS mode, and for the CPU in Practice mode:
0:04 - BURNING FIGHT: Main Street - Ramon - Duke
0:35 - FATAL FURY: Geese Building - Terry - Geese
1:03 - FATAL FURY: South Town Village - Hinako - Lilly - Andy - Billy
1:30 - FATAL FURY SPECIAL: Bay Area, USA - Joe - Duck
One slight drawback is that they aren't the full, multi-round stages--so if you play a multi-round VS match in say the elevator (Mexico) stage from KOF '94, you'll just stay on a single floor the whole time instead of riding the elevator up.