Review by KLantis
"Sweet dreams are made of these!"
As every KOF comes and goes, new and old characters make their way into the KOF universe...some pass without much glory, but still keep hanging out in the series (seriously, do we really NEED Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge in another KOF game?), and others leave a great impression, but SNK sees it fit to remove them for some unknown reason (why did they cut Geese Howard so soon?). If you were one of those fans who thought your favorite character deserved more than just one chance, or have ever wondered how your favorite character fairs against a past character, fear not! SNK brings you to the ultimate KOF brawl EVER created...The King of Fighters '98 is in town!
In KOF '98, KOF mega-maniacs can get the blast of playing nothing more than 38 characters, the most in any KOF game! You basically get all the KOF '97 characters (formed in the same teams), Iori Yagami teams up once again with Mature and Vice from KOF '96 (how did THEY survive Iori's beating back then? Keep on reading...), the USA Sports Team from KOF '94 (Heavy D!, Lucky Glauber, and Brian Battler) make a long comeback, and the old, retired veterans of past KOFs (Heidern, Takuma Sakazaki, and Saisyu Kusanagi) decide to revive old leaves and go at it again. Shingo Yabuki continues as a single entry, as well as Rugal Bernstein, another character who ''mysteriously'' comes back from the dead....
And why is it that so many ''dead'' characters come back you ask? Well, SNK has done the risky task of completly stripping the game from any relation with the main KOF storyline. Your final boss gets to be Omega Rugal Bernstein, and the events turn out to be just much like the first KOFs (Rugal challenges you in the...um, remains of the Blacknoah, he loses, he blows the place up). While this may be enfuriating with KOF purists who seek a follow-up for the Orochi plotline, but a perfect excuse to give us more fighters, and by consecuence, more fun than you can throw a Yami Barai at! (Besides, the multiple ending pics have some funny ones to be seen...:).
Esentially, the game is much like KOF '97: you have two modes to choose from, Advanced or Extra. Advanced allows you to stock energy ala SF series, and use the stocks for Desperation Moves (supers), or other uses such as to counter-roll, counter-CD, or MAX the character so they can do Super DMs (however, once you do a SDM, you stop being MAXed up, unlike KOF '97, where you remained MAXed up until the time bar expired). You get the ability to roll back or forth (press Light Punch+Light Kick together) to escape from hairy situations or to sneak in on your opponent. Extra is like old-school KOF playing: you can dodge (same command as rolling), counter after a dodge, and you can charge your POW meter just like old times (hold Light Punch+Light Kick+Heavy Punch together). Once MAXed, you can do the same options as Advanced (counter-roll, counter-CD, which is literally Heavy Punch+Heavy Kick, or do DMs). If your energy drops too low, it will begin to flash red, and you can infinite DMs, and if you happen to have a MAXed POW meter, you can do SDMs!
Both modes have suffered some facial changes as well. Advanced has a green energy bar, while Extra gets the classic yellow color. Also, you can now access all four colors (one for each button) no matter which mode you choose!
The most important option added to both modes, is the advantage given to every subsecuent fighter that replaces the one that was defeated before them (remember, the rules are the same: battles of teams of three characters. Once one character gets offed, the next one in the lineup enters to kick some ass. The first team to run up of members, loses the match). Advanced mode members get to have a extra stocking place to keep another stock (so, the first character gets 3 stocking places, the second one gets 4, and the third one gets 5. You can also pass one stocks from one character to another if one character is defeated, but that has to do a lot with the relationship between characters). Extra mode get to have shorter POW meters to charge up by every member that dies.
Kept from '97 is the relationship data as well. When you choose characters, you can check how one character gets along with one another by the faces that appear during order select (happy, neutral, or frown faces). Depending on these relationships will affect the ability to aid the character in need if they are in a hold or dizzy, pass on stock in Advanced mode, among other things. However, unlike KOF '97, the relationships are not 100% stable, so it's not likely that Iori will always hate Kyo. The machine seems to choose it at random, at times. You have to keep an eye on that....
Afterwards, KOF '98 is pure fun! While retaining the same feel as KOF '97, the game's techniques is improved all for the better! No more ridiculous damage, plus the remove of the Riot of Blood characters as playable ones (Iori and Leona), add a lot, but also, the combo system allows for some imagination as well as a door to some damaging combos. Like before you can be able to chain normal attacks into command attacks and command attcks into special/DM! The mind is the limit, but some characters seem to combo more easily than others (no point in comparing Yuri to Terry, in any case).
The game balance is also pretty fair. While characters like Goro Daimon or Chris have the upper hand due to some high priority moves/combos, they don't beat anybody else. That means a beginner Chris won't have an easy time on a expert Chizuru Kagura. That means more fun, boys and girls!
KOF '98 may certainly not improve anything on the KOF game engine, not introduce anything truly relevant, or advance the storyline, but it tweaks the gameplay to perfection. With some bugs and hiccups here and there, the game maintains it's huge funfactor, skill level, and the sheer amount of characters. Don't mind that it's much like KOF '97. The engine is what counts. And you just can't go wrong with '98!
However, it does miss Geese...so...
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/31/00, Updated 01/31/00
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