In this match, we have two major heavyweight of the versus fighting world colliding. Those monsters weigh more than a gigabit together... On my left, The King of Fighters 98... and on my right, Street Fighter Zero 3! We had to wait 1993 and Fatal Fury Special to see SNK finally compete with Capcom's fighting games. Then came The King of Fighters' saga, a real renaissance of the genre and the advent of SNK as a major actor in the VS fighting world. So for this great 1998 millesime, the two heavyweights of the rival companies are naturally designated. CPS-II and MVS have been competing for quite some years, and both systems are then fully exploited by its programmers. The CPS-II, more recent (1993) is slightly more powerful than the MVS. This one compensates with games packing enormous rom sizes, often the most important among the competition of their era. Both machines are technically similar (see history - technical comparison chart), with an identical CPU architecture (68 000 + assisted by Z80 sound chip) as well as very close resolutions (320x224 against 384x224).
We're facing excellent graphics on both sides, but here, Real Bout 2 would be much more comparable to Capcom's game. Indeed, their styles are quite the same: a mix of BD-Comics with a hint of "japanisation"... very successful! Here we are dealing with a Kof 98 finely drawn, colored and beautiful but offering few backgrounds: nine total. While SFZ3 packs more than the double. If the protagonists are definitely more stylized and more charismatic in SNK's game, Capcom is taking advantage with its splendid and varied stages: luxurious, voluptuous, well-colored, finely drawn and featuring great relief. The overall presentation of both softs is very neat, and the character design perfectly mastered (especially for SNK).
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Our rivals have a fast, dynamic and well-decomposed animation, the quality is to go. They're particularly close concerning the quality and size of the characters, but The King of Fighters 98 takes advantage on some details, like for example its more lively backgrounds and smoother and more realistic moves for fighters. In SFZ3, these features have not changed since the previous game (Street Fighter Zero 2).
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Str. Fighter Zero 3
If our Kof 98 is stingy with backgrounds, it's not with musical themes. Each team and almost every character have its own melody. Even the Orochi team (selectable with start on the corresponding characters) features a dedicated theme. Melodious and catchy at will, the melodies of the game are a real treat. Street Fighter Zero 3 packs a high quality soundtrack: it consists on various techno musics, releasing much less charisma than the themes of its competitor despite an abusive use of basses. For sound effects, the games are similar: tons of voices (sometimes the speaker even sucks a bit in SFZ3), effective sound effects, and of course deaf and powerful impact noises. An excellent job on both sides, but could you imagine anything else, with such experienced teams?
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Concerning the replay value and depth of our titles, the 10-count is pronounced on the very first round: forty-two characters on KOF side, against twenty-five on SF side. Plus, SNK's baby offers the ability to compose teams, strategies and even more technical depth that makes it win this round hands down. Nothing to say about the life of the game from Capcom, with its twenty-five characters almost all interesting to master, it's still excellent... but far to compete with the monstrous Kof 98.
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Different configurations are facing here, as usual: a four-buttons one for SNK and a six-buttons one for Capcom's. In this Kof - and others - pressing A+B simultaneously performs a roll or dodge, and C+D a powerful blow. In Street Fighter as usual, three levels of punches and three of kicks are used. SFZ3 is a technical game, with many combos and interesting strategies. The scope for improvement is good, but it's relatively quick to master your favorite character (with rare exceptions). In Kof, each fighter packs a wealth of possibilities. Combos and timing will require a lot of patience to master, and use correctly your favorite characters can take weeks. The combos that you can perform in training, you will then have to try it against CPU, then against a human opponent... And the progression is taking, the gameplay extremely technical. Capcom has always had the simplicity prevailing, but here the "technical" side of SFZ3 has gone far enough, with the game remaining accessible to all. No doubt a casual gamer will be happier playing the superb Street Fighter Zero 3. For a VS fighting seasoned player, things sound a little different!
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If Street Fighter games still have much charm in the late nineties, SNK now takes a sweet revenge on its rival. Definitely above every other competitor in the VS fighting world - particularly in terms of gameplay - this great 98' vintage opens the gap for even wider and more technical fighting games. The King of Fighters 98' dominates Street Fighter Zero 3 far ahead, despite the excellence of the latter.
King of Fighters 98
Str. Fighter Zero 3