Review by bluemanadrop

Reviewed: 01/22/02 | Updated: 01/22/02

Possibly the series' best.

The King Of Fighters series has been around for quite some time now. Currently 8 KOF games have been released (9 if you count the original Fatal Fury, technically the first ''King Of Fighters Tournament''), with one on the way in 2002. KOF '96 was the last of the ''old style'', so to speak.

KOF '96 was the last to feature charging only without the option of power stocks for building up super moves. It was probably a good idea to introduce stocking, but this is the original KOF gameplay at it's most polished. Controls are a tad tighter and more responsive than the previous 2 games, moves feel like they just fall into place a little better.

Graphics are quite bright and detailed. Even with all of the improvements made to Neo Geo fighters over the years as the carts get bigger and bigger, KOF '96 is one of the best looking fighters on the system. The characters received an overhaul the next year in '97, but the backgrounds in '96 really stand out for me, especially the docks background (Iori/Vice/Mature) and the arena background (Team Korea). Character animations are sharper than '94 and '95, with Robert sporting his Art Of Fighting 3 duds.

Soundtrack is, as with all KOF games, a high point. Fatal Fury's theme is the oddball, as usual though, not really fitting. Art Of Fighting's guitar strumming and trumpet (Mexico-themed) background is nice, and Psycho team's J-pop song (sung by Athena, presumably) is a classic. Team Ikari's theme was good enough to be repeated in KOF '98.

All of your favorite teams are along for the ride in KOF '96, with Team Ikari (first appearance of Leona), Team Art Of Fighting, Psycho Team, New Heroes Team, Iori Team, Gals Team (first appearace of Kasumi), Fatal Fury Team, Team Korea and the only appearance of the ''bosses team.'' Bosses team was the team-up of Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser from Fatal Fury and Mr. Big from Art Of Fighting. Geese appears as a striker in KOF 2000, but the others haven't been seen since.

Goenitz, the boss of this installment of KOF, was an odd component to the Orochi storyline. He only makes one more KOF appearance, as a striker in KOF 2000. Series favorite Chizuru Kagura appears for the first time in KOF '96 as a ''miniboss''.

Overall, KOF '96 remains as my favorite chapter of the KOF legacy. It's all you look for in a classic fighting game - it earns a 10 in my book.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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