Reviewed in 2010 by Tibe

CREAM OF THE CROP !

by Tibe

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The KOF series needs no introduction.  Standing as a major saga in the VS fighting world still today, its first episode - The King of Fighters 94 - set the stage in 1994. Back then, it was the beginning of a croosover saga that keeps going until today: by the time it hit the arcades, it was a tremendous success that brought the fighting genre to a new level. Games were never that technical before, and core players soon adopted this revolutionary gameplay, while the more casual ones kept playing mostly on popular series. After ten episodes released on the Neo Geo, the next episodes were made on Atomiswave and later on Taito hardwares, and finally on many 32 and 128-bit home systems. Each year has seen its corresponding episode, gameplay and realization constantly improving, with cartridges reaching monstrous sizes. From a modest 196 Mb in 1994, we have come to 683 Mb with that Kof 98 opus inflated with hormones. Let's take a tour in this fantastic vintage fighting game, let's say one of the most loved episodes ever.

Athena is part of the top tier in this 98' episode.
Athena is part of the top tier in this 98' episode.

The King of Fighters 96 and 97 episodes were kinda revolutionary ones in the series, and this for more than a reason. New sprites, smarter animations,  smoother style for characters, improved graphics, more consistent rosters , refined gameplay... Kof 98' polish all these improvements without starting from scratch, and offers both realization and gameplay damn well refined. Everything is better: gorgeous backgrounds, partially redrawn sprites, enhanced animations, many new melodies combined with reorchestrated popular themes, but also top-notch sound effects. The roster is one of the most impressive ever presented: no less than forty-two characters (thirty-eight basically, plus four bosses that can be selected simply by holding 'start' while choosing) , and i didn't count the available "alternative" versions for Terry, Robert and Joe, for example. The game allows  to play with teams of three fighters or a more casual single play, but it also packs a real versus mode, a survivor game and a comprehensive practice.

Gameplay is at its climax in this fifth installment.
Gameplay is at its climax in this fifth installment.

Shingo (appeared in 97) will make you a visit during the game, if you're doing well. Boss side, there is the unalterable Rugal, in a nightmare version that will thrill the most seasoned fighters. Quite simply, his special moves are extremely powerful and have priority over almost everything. Let's say, good luck dudes! As for ghosts raising from the past, the 94' United States team is back, redesigned and greatly improved in terms of moves. Lucky, Heavy D and Bryan are now quite powerful warriors in this 98' episode, packing full of combos and enhanced specials. Heidern, Saysiu and Takuma are also back after two years of retirement. In addition to combos, each character packs two special attacks, with two power levels each. Depending on whether you're playing "Advanced" or "Extra" mode, to perform the the strongest attack you'll need a full gauge stock plus one already activated (A+B+C) in 'ADV', or having your life flashing (like in Fatal Fury) and activate a power gauge (hold A+B+C) in 'EX'.

The stages are few (8) but they're evolutive, varied and beautiful.
The stages are few (8) but they're evolutive, varied and beautiful.

However, it should be noticed that some characters are a bit unbalanced compared to others, but that's also what makes the charm of the game. Among other things, 98' versions  of Ralf, Athena, Clark, Daimon, Kensou and Terry, are among the most powerful fighters ever seen. If you're a fan of these dudes, they are highly recommended in this millesim! All warriors have a very large range of moves, with possibilities and room for improvement with each of them being just tremendous. Discover - and master - the immensity of combos and techniques from the numerous characters is a long and exciting learning! Rarely a VS fighting game had so far shown such technical depth. The King of Fighters 98 is a gold mine in this very genre, and I badly see how any human being could fully master the game, as the possibilities and technical depth are great. A big, big game of fighting, let's say a must-have for any Neo Geo owner, and even for any versus fighting adept.


GRAPHICS

95%

Character design, sprites, stages, visual effects: all is successful!
ANIMATION 97%
Warrior's moves are fast and perfectly decomposed, and slowdowns from 97' have been totally cleared. Backgrounds are alive and evolutive, in a word: it's great!
SOUND 96%
Musics are catchy with classic themes such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting or Japan team ones. Effects and voices, as usual, are excellent.
REPLAY VALUE 99%
Forty-two fighters up to build in teams of three, let's say it's neverending fun for the VS mode, while survivor and story are particularly challenging!
GAMEPLAY 98%
Many minor flaws from previous episodes have been fixed, in order to provide this millesim one of the widest and nicest gameplay ever seen in a fighting game.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

98%
The King of Fighters 98' is simply one of the best fighting games available on the Neo Geo.

VALUE FOR MONEY

KOF 98' can be found around 80 euros in good stores. Taking into account the depth of the game, it's one of the best investments you can make on the system.

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