Review by JIrish

Reviewed: 09/26/02 | Updated: 09/26/02

The King of Fighters claims its crown

After four years of battling the dark force of Orochi and those touched by it, you’d think the cast of the King of Fighters would take a break, right? Well… yes and no. King of Fighters 98 is a Dream Match, that is to say that it doesn’t technically take place in the continuity of the game, yet here it is because the fans want to have their KoF for the year. And what a game! I seriously doubt that there has been a finer installment in the series to date.

Here’s what’s going on with the roster. Every single team from 97 has returned in the same teams as that game. And there are three new “old” teams thrown back into the mix. Iori reunites with his partners from KoF 96, Vice and Mature. The Sports Team from KoF 94, consisting of Heavy D, Lucky Glauber and Brian Battler, have also returned for another go. The third team, called the “old masters” team, is made of Heidern, Leona’s adopted father and Ralf and Clark’s commanding officer; Takuma Sakazaki, the leading master of Kyokugen Karate, and the father of Ryo and Yuri Sakazaki; and Saisyu Kusanagi, Kyo’s dad, who makes his first fully playable appearance in the series to date. Shingo Yabuki is back in the role of edit character (that is a character without a team), while the second edit slot is occupied by… RUGAL BERNSTEIN!?!?

Yes, that’s right, Rugal Bernstein. He’s back, and as tough as ever, if not tougher. He’ll be your boss for this tournament, as well, and anyone who remembers 94 and 95 will tell you that’s not exactly a good thing. Regardless, this makes for a cast of 38 total individual characters, the most in any KoF title in the series so far.

Anyhow, the game plays the same as it did last year, complete with Extra and Advanced mode. You go through 5 of the 9 teams from last year, then one of the other teams, and finally it’s Rugal time! All the returning characters from the older games have been redrawn for this installment. Vice and Mature have even gained new stances. Mature is flirtatious, while Vice sulks and looks like she’s a step away from going berserk. There are also hidden versions of some of the characters, ranging from Kyo’s 94-95 incarnation to a Terry players of the Real Bout series will be more familiar with to even more after that. This adds even more to the replay options in the game. Everybody also now has a whopping four win poses.

Graphically, the stages are less active this time for the most part, but that works to the benefit of the game. Less stage information means more characters. Athena, as usual, gets a new costume and a new voice actor. There are also new intro poses for older characters, like Terry pulling his hat out of his pocket. Not to mention new special intros, like Chris waving happily to Yashiro or Shermie, or Yamazaki laughing insanely at any of the three of them. The Sports team stage has become the haven for the cameos, with Duck King and Ryuhaku Todoh cheering on their pal Heavy D, while Mr. Big hangs out with his ladies. Later on in the stage, as nightfalls, expect another familiar face brooding to himself.

The music is back in KoF! Yes! Classic themes from KoF years past, not to mention Fatal Fury 2 and Art of Fighting 1, are all here and have been remixed to sound better than ever. Voices, except for Athena’s and the older returning characters, have not been re-recorded, except when needed for new win poses.

Folks, I love this game. This is by and large my favorite of the series. If you’re a King of Fighters fan with a Neo Geo and don’t own this game, buy it. It’s the best of them all, and it holds up amazingly well even today.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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