Review by Macintosh User

"The King of Fighters '96 Raises the Bar for Excellence as the Definitive 'Classic' KOF Game"

The King of Fighters '96 may just be one of the most groundbreaking games in terms of music. The soundtrack is totally sweet, far and away the best of the KOF series as far as music is concerned. The graphics are improved over KOF '95, and the gameplay really began to assert itself as one of the greatest features in the KOF games in KOF '96. The gameplay wasn't always so solid, in KOF '94 the gameplay was pretty much a mixed bag, with some great points and some glaring flaws. KOF '95 didn't do all that much to improve on the gameplay, but KOF '96 did. It also features a great cast of fighters, with one of my personal favorites, Geese Howard included. All of the games in the KOF series have great replay value and are worth purchasing, all of them except for maybe KOF '94 which is definitely the weakest link in the lineup, but KOF '96 is so enjoyable, the replay value for this game is incredible. The controls have finally been fine-tuned, the music is kicking, and the graphics have been beefed up with some of the best backgrounds ever seen in a fighting game. The King Of Fighters '96 truly is the total package.

(gameplay - 10)
The gameplay in KOF '96 is markedly improved over its predecessors, as this game responds accurately and rapidly. There is a lot of action going on in this game but there is no hint of slowdown anywhere. The controls are two punch buttons, two kick buttons, special attacks, super moves, and desperation moves as well as a 'roll' system which allows you to avoid oncoming attacks and set yourself up for your own attack. The gameplay is much more solid than either KOF '94, or KOF '95, so expect a treat in this department. The super moves are still a tad bit difficult to pull off, but everything else has been tuned up for perfection. There is nothing lacking in the gameplay department, as KOF has always been known for great gameplay, KOF '96 really started the trend.

(story - 10)
The story is fairly in-depth with it carrying on the Orochi saga, gone is the former boss, Rugal Bernstein, and in his place is Goenitz, Chizuru Kagura also appears as a mini-boss in this game. Once again invititations have been sent out to the best fighters in the world to compete in the latest and greatest King of Fighters Tournament. Once again evil is lurking in the distance, with evil schemes being plotted throughout the tournament. Once more the victorious team must be counted on to bring an end to the maniacal plans of the end boss, KOF '96 really mops the floor with other fighting games of the era as far as story depth goes.

(graphics - 10, sound - 10)
The graphics in KOF '96 are excellent all the way around. The backgrounds are so nice that its hard not to let your eyes wander around the stage instead of watching the ensuing battle. There are reflective water pools, homages to Art of Fighting with an AOF stage, and all kinds of little details to be gazed upon filling each and every stage. From boisterous crowds filling the streets and lining the walls, to a dusty old shack and motel set out in the desert, the stages are very well done. My favorite is in the restaurant with the large plant in the center and diners and waiters bustling about in the back on the sides, this stage is very cool indeed. The characters are large and well-animated, with tons of details in their clothing, bodies, and faces. They move about the screen in a very fluid motion, and their win poses and pre-fight taunts are priceless. The game just feels so complete and polished, definitely setting the bar for what SNK fans can expect from KOF fighters in the future. KOF '96 is a visual treat, but that's not the best part. The music is. The soundtrack is pumping with great tracks on every single stage. From heavy guitar-laden themes to melodic, soothing tunes, as well as classical-symphonic tracks, KOF '96 really kicks out the jams. The sound effects are well-done also, with each attack accounted for with a high-quality sampling. The announcer has one of the most relaxing and calming voices I've ever heard on a fighting game, and this really enhances the games appeal. The soundtrack cannot be done justice here in this text-based description, rather you have to hear it for yourself to truly appreciate just how incredible it is. From the graphics to the music, KOF '96 feels like one of the most well thought-out games I've ever played. Simply incredible.

(replayability - 10)
Playing this game a treat for any gamer and they should treat themselves to this game as often as they possibly can. With an amazing twenty-seven characters to choose from, the possiblities for teaming up three butt-kicking fighters seem to have no boundaries. The gameplay is so fine-tuned and enhanced that anybody can play this game, and the graphics, well they are pure Neo goodness at its finest. The soundtrack, oh the soundtrack, well that must be heard to be believed. There is nothing lacking in this game whatsoever, everything seems so well done and so perfect that coming back for more shouldn't be a concern, or rather perhaps it should concern you if you like this game as much as I do, because putting it down is very hard to do. The difficulty is on-target, giving you just enough resistance to make you push yourself a little harder, to make you want it just that much more. The cool storyline is just an added bonus, yet another little enhancement that SNK has used to pull the gamer out of their world and into Orochi...

The King of Fighters '96 is a must-buy for all Neo-Geo gamers, it is the last 'classical' KOF before '97 came and added some new features, and KOF '96 is the best example of what classic KOF is all about. The fights are intense, the music is astounding, and the graphics are flawless. True to form, SNK has provided the gamer with a very playable game that is smooth as silk and addictive as even the most potent of drugs... Smooth control, awesome gameplay, beefed up graphics, unbelievable soundtrack, KOF '96 is a major player in the SNK lineup, and is definitely an improvement upon its predecessors in every way imaginable. If you happen to come across this game in an arcade somwhere, please put in some money and give it a shot, I know arcades are few and far between these days, and The King of Fighters 2003 is hard enough to find, KOF '96 is virtually non-existant in public arcades. So do me a favor and if you see this game in an arcade somewhere buy the whole freaking machine and take it home so you can enjoy one of the most well-crafted fighting games in history. Or just buy a Neo-Geo AES, or Neo CD, and buy this game as your first title. It is only 362 megs, which is pretty incredible considering all the fine detail and awesome animations this game packages, and the Neo CD version is very good and very playable, probably the best KOF out there for the Neo CD system, as many of the newer ones have too much animation cut and unbearable load times which makes it hard to enjoy the game properly. If you own any Neo-Geo system, from AES, MVS, to CD, pick up your own copy of The King of Fighters '96 and prepare to spend all of your free time with the Neo, because this is the definitive KOF 'classic', the breaking point where SNK took KOF from great to excellence, from incredible to unbelievable... KOF '96 will stand the test of time and should be heralded as the beginning of excellence for the KOF franchise.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/06/04

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