Before Capcom vs SNK, there was, well, SNK vs SNK. While the Neo Geo had several good shooters and platformers, it would be fighting games which would really put SNK and the Neo Geo on the map. Games such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and Samurai Showdown would show that SNK was every bit as equal to Capcom in the fighting game arena. Even third party developers such as ADV and Data East made games for the Neo Geo. In 1994, after the several Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting games, SNK decided change the genre and do something completely new. They created a fighting game in which fighters were placed into 3-man teams, something which was unheard of at the time. Even more amazing, they teamed up characters from their back catalog. Fatal Fury fighters mixed it up with Art of Fighting characters. Yeah, people flipped when they fought Ryo Sazaki in Fatal Fury Special, and it was cool to see Geese Howard as the boss of Art of Fighting 2, but now the crossover appeal had been taken to the next level. It wasn’t just SNK FIGHTERS who joined in the fun. Characters from Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier also threw down with Terry Bogard and crew. There were also several new characters who joined as well. In fact, Kyo Kusanagi, one of the new blood, would rise to become KOF’s main hero. The series itself would become one of the Neo Geo’s (as well as the genre’s) most prolific titles. Subsequent entries were released on an almost-yearly basis, and the newest entry in the series is being developed even now. To tide us over until then, SNK has released this collection of the first 5 games in the series. This disc is a must-own for fans of the series, fans of SNK, or fans of 2-d fighters period.

The Orichi saga contains the original KOF 94, which introduces the series, along with villain Rugal. 95 allowed players to pick their 3 fighters for the first time in the series, and it serves as the introduction to the Orochi storyline. It also introduced Kyo’s arch rival Iori Yagami. 96 and 97 introduce even more new characters(including new faces Chris, Yashiro and Shermie) and fleshed out the Orochi storyline further, culminating with its end in KOF 97. KOF 98 is a ‘dream match’, which is an out of continuity entry that allows for characters who were killed or incapacitated in previous entries. The games are as good as you remember them, and an all new challenge mode allows players to unlock artwork, special characters, and arranged versions of the soundtrack. The challenges are fun, and beating each of them unlocks multiple items. You may be spending even more time in the challenge mode than in the games themselves.

The NESTS saga, which encompasses KOF 99 – 2001 will be released in Japan soon if not already. Given SNK’s current track record with their compilations, I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up over here as well. Until then, these five games will be more than enough to keep you happy. This PS2 disc is a must-own for any fan of the series. It demonstrates the innovative concepts and characters that have made SNK one of the kings of the fighting game genre.