The King of Fighters 2001 is a 2D tag-team fighting game developed by Eolith (in conjunction with BrezzaSoft) and released by Playmore (under the SNK brand, and released by Eolith outside of Japan) for arcades (running Neo Geo MVS hardware) on November 15, 2001. It was subsequently released for the Neo Geo AES (by SUN in Japan and by Eolith outside of Japan) on March 14, 2002.
The eighth installment of the King of Fighters series, the sequel to The King of Fighters 2000, and the first in the series developed after SNK’s bankruptcy, King of Fighters 2001 introduces the “Tactical Order System”: a revamp of the “Striker” mechanic that allows players to form any combination of both Fighters and Strikers with their four-man team (including a safe four-Fighter team with limited tech and a risky one-Fighter team with additional tech). The game also revamps the Striker system to use the Power Gauge instead, and adds the “Wire Whip”: a technique that bounces enemies off the side of the screen for additional juggling.
The final part of the “NESTS Saga” arc, the game’s story takes place a year after the destruction of the Zero Cannon (which had decimated most of the city of South Town). A new worldwide King of Fighters tournament (as much of a spectacle as the 1997 tournament) is hosted by the NESTS syndicate themselves, bringing their mysterious plans involving the series protagonists (Kyo Kusanagi and K’) and their rivals (Iori Yagami and Kula Diamond) into fruition.
The King of Fighters 2001 plays like a traditional 2D fighting game, using four buttons (Light Punch, Light Kick, Strong Punch, and Strong Kick). Most of the gameplay remains the same as its predecessor, with some new additions and changes (including updated movelists for all characters).
The game includes two team-based modes (which can be switched by the arcade operator or in the home version):
- Team Mode – Players choose four characters for their team. Prior to each match, each player chooses which characters are Fighters and which characters are Strikers (with the order chosen determining their summon command). Fights are played in single-elimination rounds, with the winner of each round receiving some of their vitality back. The match ends when all Fighters of one team are eliminated.
- Solo Mode – Players choose four characters for their team. Prior to each match, each player chooses which character they wish to fight with. They also choose the Striker order of the other three characters (with the order chosen determining their summon command). Fights are played in traditional rounds (one-round, best-of-three, and best-of-five).
Main Changes from King of Fighters 2000
- New “Tactical Order System” and updated Striker system. Multiple Strikers can be assigned. Strike Bomb system removed (with Strikers using the Power Gauge instead).
- Power Gauge changed to accommodate the Tactical Order System. The less Fighters in the team, the more efficient it becomes.
- Counter Mode and Armor Mode systems removed.
- Some characters’ moves have a “Wire Whip” property, bouncing the enemy off the screen for an extended combo.
Each player has their own Power Gauge, displayed at the bottom of the screen. The gauge is charged mainly by performing special moves, but is also charged at a slower pace by both giving and receiving damage. When a player fills the gauge up, it is stored and, if the player has less than their maximum number of gauges stored, a new gauge replaces it. When a fighter is defeated, the progress of the current gauge is lost, but all stored gauges are kept.
The maximum number of gauges stored, and each gauge’s charge rate, are determined by how many Fighters they have access to. Players who have 1 Fighter and 3 Strikers have the highest possible number of gauges (4) and the fastest growth rate, while players who have 4 Fighters and no Strikers have the lowest possible number of gauges (1) and the slowest growth rate.
Each stored gauge can be used to activate one of three things: a Super Special Move, a Guard Cancel Dodge, or a Guard Cancel Attack. Two stored gauges can be used for either the more powerful MAX Super Special Move or a Super Cancel.
Each player has access to unique limited-use assist characters (or “Striker”) that jump into the fray and perform a unique assist attack. Unlike the previous game, players can configure their team to have any number of Strikers, and players can choose which Striker to call out by holding the joystick in a certain direction while pressing both Light Kick and Strong Punch (B+C) simultaneously:
- If the team has one Striker, a variations of the command calls out that Striker.
- If the team has two Strikers, the first one chosen is called out by holding backwards and the second one chosen is called out otherwise.
- If the team has three Strikers, the first one chosen is called out by holding backwards, the third one chosen is called out by holding forwards, and the second one chosen is called out otherwise.
Unlike the previous game, calling out Striker no longer uses the limited-use “Strike Bombs”, and instead uses one stored Power Gauge. In addition, players can call out Strikers at any time, with the possibility of having multiple Strikers on-screen at once.
Each character has their own unique assist attack (usually based on one of their special moves or Super Special Moves). Some characters are unique in that their attacks change based on whether or not the enemy is in-range of their attack.
- Holding forward or backwards on the joystick wile pressing a Strong button at a close distance can make the fighter perform an unblockable throw. Strong Punch performs a forwards throw, while Strong Kick performs a backwards throw.
- Double-tapping the joystick backwards can make the fighter perform a hopping backwards dash, allowing players to widen the gap between both fighters. Double-tapping (and then holding) the joystick forwards can make the fighter perform a forwards run, allowing players to close the gap between both fighters at a more controllable pace.
- Pressing Down on the joystick quickly before jumping (or jumping during a forwards run) performs a more effective jump (as shown with the fighter leaving an “afterimage” trail). Tapping Up on the joystick (rather than holding Up) performs a shorter hop for quicker recovery.
- Pressing both Light buttons simultaneously (A+B) can make a forwards dodge used for avoiding attacks (including projectiles). Players can dodge to the other side of the enemy (for cross-up opportunities) and can attack out of it for a unique attack. Doing the same maneuver while holding Backwards on the joystick performs a backwards dodge for quick attack evasion. The backwards version can be performed at the right time while being knocked down for an instant recovery.
- Pressing both Strong buttons simultaneously (C+D) can make the fighter perform a knockdown attack that pushes away opponents (knocking them down in the process). While stronger than normal Strong attacks, it has a lengthy animation that leaves the fighter vulnerable to attacks.
The game’s roster is mostly unchanged from The King of Fighters 2000, including 40 playable fighters, split into 10 teams.
The roster includes 4 new additions, three of which are teammates for minor antagonist Kula Diamond. Jhun Hoon was replaced in the Kim Team with newcomer May Lee. The game also includes the return of 3 characters from previous games in the series (Goro Daimon, Heidern, and Li Xiangfei), and two characters were removed (Jhun Hoon and Kasumi Todoh).
Some teams have been shuffled, namely with the Hero, Kyo, and Iori teams.