Review by Shirow
"Employees leave Capcom, employees make game, bye-bye Capcom"
Capcom made Street Fighter and created beat-em-ups. Most probably, Capcom would have controlled the genre hadn't it been for an unknown company which went by the coll name of SNK. When Street Fighter came out, most of us found it amazing and just kept on playing it. Then, SNK made Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. These two were great too. But SNK thought of something else meanwhile. That idea consisted of taking certain characters from these two series and put them in a single game while creating new characters and a completely different storyline for this new title. And thus, The King of Fighters '94 came out. Popular characters from the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series likes Terry, Joe, Robert and Ryo were present in it as well as new ones which were Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru or Goro Daimon. Other characters from different genres like Athena, Kensou and Chin from the Psycho Soldiers and Ralf, Clark and Heidern from the side-scroller Ikari Warriors were also included.
This game differed from Capcom's beat-em-up as you could choose 3 characters which fought one after the other but the main difference was the thing that would soon become SNK's trademark, a superb control to pull out devastating combos. And it must be said that The King of Fighters remains one of the best beat-em-ups even now. In the King of Fighters '94, you are not limited to only one character as you must make up a team of 3. The best thing remains that you can change their order before each battle so that you don't have to play with the same player all the time. It also gives us the opportunity to choose a suitable character to be able to defeat your opponent without too much of a hard time. Yeah, some characters are rather weak against another one's move and it's just a question of pattern. The number of characters was already impressive and this granted KOF with an exceptional replay value as there were a lot of possibilities. The new characters were cool too with soon-to-be-popular Kyo Kusanagi leading the way.
Most importantly, this game actually had a real plot in it. For the first time, players actually cared about the plot behind the game in the genre. The set-up behind the King of Fighters is simple. Invitations have been sent to the greatest fighters all over the world to participate in a tournament. It starts out pretty dull but gets very interesting through the tournament when the participants find out there's other 'secret reasons' to this tournament. Geese seems to have other reasons for setting up this tournament and it's up to Terry to revenge his dad while Joe and Andy try their best to look cool but fail miserably beside the Lonesome Wolf. The plot is revealed as you battle with each team and each of those has its own ending where you know most about them and their reasons for participating.
As for the graphics, SNK preferred to give the characters an anime look and these were nice. In spite of the year, KOF got decent graphics which made it an enjoyable game. The characters are well-done despite some flaws here and there but that's normal considering the year in which the game was released. Still, that doesn't prevent some of them from being particularly detailed and the colors are pretty good for such an old game.
As for the backgrounds, they were not that bad but people didn't really pay attention to these as the animation was pretty fast. The CPU was really tough and made the gameplay even better. The characters are well-detailed and I was much impressed with that. The Fatal Fury stage was awesome and I still remember how I would hope to fight against them the first time I played the game. While they're not exceptionally done, they're perfect for a beat-em-up and fit in perfectly with the game.
But one thing which shines in KOF '94 and which still does is the control. The control is awesome and you won't find yourself kicking the machine in anger as with other games. If you lose, it's bacause you are not good enough and that's all ! The combos were a great innovation and attracted a lot of players who found KOF a truly challenging game. The music and sound effects were not that great but are still decent and contribute to make KoF '94 a thoroughly enjoyable game. The voices were great though, with Terry, Joe and Heidern shining here, and the vast number of moves made up for a somewhat itchy sound effect in certain cases. But hey, that's not much of a problem.
Another great thing in this game is the challenge. You'll need patience and luck to become good at this game. This game is tough and just bashing at the buttons won't take you anywhere. Instead, you'll have to discover the combos and know when to use them. You won't get anywhere if you don't know the basic combos and knowing all of them for a pretty character is cool but that may not be enough at time…
The Escape system from Fatal Fury is present and it's possible to taunt your enemy to decrease his power gauge. Check out Joe's taunt which is very funny ! The specials from FF also made their way onto this new title except that they were called Desperation Moves here and they took a lot od life away whether used alone or in combos. The FF and AOF characters have the same specials as in their own game and, of course, the others have miraculously got whole new sets of moves.
Very good graphics for such an old game. The characters are nicely done as well as the backgrounds which fit nicely in the game and are not too flashy, not too dull. There are some flaws like bad designs and ugly parts but that's OK because they're barely noticeable once you're engrossed in the game.
The best point about this great beat-em-up. An excellent control that will make you come back for more. Getting to know all the combos is a real challenge and is excellent served by KOF's good control.
Quite good music for a start with some nice themes which will get you in the mood to fight. And hats off for the Psycho Soldiers' music, it's terrific.
Sound effects: 6
A bit itchy and annoying but the voices are great though. And they're all well-timed which was a bit rare at the time.
Replay value: 10
With the large number of characters available and all the endings, you'll know what to expect as soon as you start playing it. Besides, the 2P mode is terrific.
In other words, The King of Fighters '94 was and remains a great beat-em-up which you should play. If you've played the other ones, you should still play it as '94 was the one that started everything. Great job, SNK!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/29/01, Updated 11/09/02
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