Well, no actually, it would be better! In their first stab at N64 development, Rare has once again achieved the impossible and converted a $2000 arcade game to a $70 N64 cartridge... and improved it!
Ok, facts before opinion. KI Gold is an enhanced conversion of the KI2 coin-op, with the same number of playable characters (11 including Gargos), the same game engine and a few exclusive features, including a training mode, a practice mode (where you can see your moves like Tekken 2), gold/shadow characters and a host of new gameplay options (cheap juggles, early ultimates, quick openers) that can be turned on or off.
Graphically, Rare has done a great job of cramming the coin-op into a 96-meg cart, and even though there had to be some compromises, it still looks remarkably faithful to the coin-op. About 10% of the animation frames have been cut due to memory constraints, and in order to keep the frame rate up, the anti-aliasing had to be turned off. However, to make up for this there are more colors in the rendered characters, different camera angles, smoother scaling and better transparencies than the arcade. And all at a silky smooth 60 FPS.
The biggest surprise, however, are the all new real-time 3D polygon backgrounds which look (in my opinion) every bit as impressive as the arcades pre-rendered backdrops. Jago's bridge and T.J. Combo's street are outstanding, and I particularly like the way the camera swoops down through the castle hall at the start of Sabrewulf's stage.
KI2 had great music, and despite what you may have heard, KI Gold's music is nearly identical. All of the coin-op's stage tunes and intermission music is intact, and yes that includes singing and rap! The sound effects are also arcade perfect, with sampled screams and clear speech. Anyone who still doubts the N64's audio capabilities should get an earful of this.
Now, I've got to be honest with you: I'm not the biggest fan of KI's hybrid gameplay. There's no doubting that KI fights are fast, furious and brutal, but I'm not that keen on the million hit+ ultra combo system. I appreciate that long combos are tough, and that the larger they get, the easier they are to break, but it's just not my style. It's cool that you can start a combo from the ground, take it into the air, then finish it back on the ground, but in my opinion every hit of a combo should be earned. I mean, you can pull off some pretty amazing stuff just by wiggling the pad and tapping the buttons randomly (though, admittedly, that won't get you very far against a KI pro). There's a standing joke in the office that when Enquirer or Hikaru start a combo on you, you can go and make a cup of coffee, drink it, come back, and the combo still won't have finished!
I suppose what it comes down to is what type of gameplay you feel comfortable with. People who criticize KI without having ever played it are as foolish as those who praise it without recognizing its faults. There's a lot of technique in there, almost like an SNK style beat-'em-up, and those ridiculous combos are equally as difficult to pull off in a two player battle. Personally, I prefer the balance and timing of the Street Fighter series, but that's just me.
For what it is, and what it does, I would have to commend KI Gold as a decent fighting game. If you're a KI fan, then this review is pointless. You've already bought it. If you're not a KI fan, and you're in the market for an N64 beat-'em-up, I'd recommend this over MK Trilogy any day of the week.