The second plotless "dream match" in The King of Fighters series, this game sports 39 normal characters and 5 hidden characters, some of whom haven't appeared since KOF98. The King of Fighters 2002 also has five characters exclusive to the X-Box, the PS2 and/or Dreamcast systems: Shingo Yabuki, King, Geese Howard, "Riot of the Blood" Iori and Leopold Goenitz. Shingo and King are available on all the non-Neo Geo systems, while Geese and the rest are only available on the PS2 and X-Box platforms.
The gameplay system has also changed. The striker system and four-character teams found in the last three KOF releases have been totally removed. In their place are the old-school three man teams and the "Advanced system" from The King of Fighters '97 and The King of Fighters '98.