Intense action and deep strategy in a solid 2D arcade fighting experience!
As the corruption of Orochi was defeated in The King Of Fighters Tournament ’97, everyone thought that the tournament was going to end once and for all. But as Rugal returns to arrange another tournament, suspicions start to arise among the fighters who have seen Rugal’s deeds in the past. Thus, fighters from all around the world gather once again gather to partake in the biggest fighting tournament in the world – but what is Rugal’s hidden agenda this time?
The King of Fighters series is renowned as one of the best fighting game franchises in the world, especially when it comes to 2D fighting games. The game follows a solid concept of three-man team-based fighting, in which you pick three characters out of the 38 (plus 12 hidden characters!) to form a team of fighters. Your team will then have to fight other teams for the ultimate goal – to win the tournament. Note that the game does not allow tag-team tactics to be used – you fight until you are knocked out, and then the next fighter may step into the ring. The game features special moves that are unique to each character and this makes selecting a character a matter of preference, strategy and experience.
Thanks to the fact that all the 50 playable characters have unique moves and skills, the game basically offers unlimited replayability and an incredible depth as far as combos and strategies go. In order to master your characters you need to learn its moves and abilities by heart.
If you like trying out different characters, then this game will offer you plenty of entertainment on that matter. Among the playable characters, you’ll find Thai-boxers, assassins, ninjutsu-masters, street brawlers, army men, mixed martial artists, hit men, knife wielding maniacs and body guards among others.
Training your moves is strongly recommended, because if you don’t know them you won’t be standing for long.
Other than the standard fireballs, uppercuts and throws the game features so-called Desperation Moves. These are insane special attacks that has the potential to deliver massive damage to your opponent. There’s also Super Desperation Moves that are extra powerful versions of your standard Desperation Moves. These powerful moves can, and will determine the outcome of each fight.
Once you pop in a coin in this machine, you are prompted with a quick guide on how to perform the basic moves in the game – the game adheres to the SNK standard four-button layout. This means that the game has four buttons – two for punches and two for kicks.
The game also features two different play styles called “Extra” and “Advanced”, and you are free to select one of the two before selecting your characters. In “Extra” you can charge your power gauge needed to execute your Desperation Moves. When you are low on health, your character will be able to pull off unlimited amounts of Desperation Moves and when charging the power gauge, you’ll do Super Desperation Moves instead of the standard ones. This play style requires you to time your charging because while you are charging your power gauge you are very vulnerable.
In “Advanced” style however, your power gauge is built up when you block attacks or execute normal special moves. Your power gauge max out and supports up to five stocks. Each Desperation Move costs one stock. If you want to execute Super Desperation Moves, you must activate a special state for your character pressing the A, B and C buttons simultaneously which first costs one stock.
Choosing a play style may seem complicated, but it’s basically a matter of taste. Try them both and see what suits you best. They are well-balanced off of each other, but they do remain an important factor no matter how much time you spend with the game.
The character selection screen will show you the playable characters of the game. You will notice that they are grouped together in trios – these are the official teams that are partaking in the tournament. You are free to select any characters though, but if you choose characters that don’t go well together (there is a rather hidden game mechanic for this), you will suffer a power stock penalty. You can check how compatible your team is by holding the Start button at the screen where you select what order your fighters should fight in.
In the single-player mode, you will face six AI controlled teams of fighters (that’s 18 fighters in all), before you will find out what Rugal is up to. The boss fight is very hard because he will use unfair special moves and has the uncanny ability to foresee your moves. But beating it is very much worth it! If you play with an official team, you will be treated with a special ending where you will see the story of that team, and what happens to them after the tournament. If you are playing with random characters, you are given a meager ending – but there are hidden endings to many unofficial teams that are full with humor and reveal strange connections between some of the characters.
The fights in this game take place in many different countries across the world – some of the places you will be fighting in include; an exclusive marble palace, the streets, a Japanese temple, a boat and in a back alley among other interesting locations.
For each credit you use in the single-player mode to continue your failed attempt, you are given a chance to gain a special advantage over your foe. The game does get harder for each team you beat, but this advantage will help you back if you lose a fight and need to insert another credit. This works basically as a roulette wheel with various advantages and you will receive one at random. This function works as a motivation for the player to try again, and it will also help up the difficulty if the player needs it. If you are hardcore, you can choose not to gain any advantage at all.
Another player can join the game any time – that player will then get to select a team of characters and your teams will then step up for a fight. Make no mistake about it; The King of Fighters ’98: The Slugfest totally excels in the two player mode. The game is open for many play styles and preferences and makes for a perfect arcade fighting game. Thanks to the special evasive roll move that can be done, there is a lot of room for trickery and feints. Other special moves can be done such as calling in team mates to help you if you are held in a submission hold and taunting your opponent.
Sure enough the game has a few bugs as pointed out by the fans on various forums around the Internet. But these bugs aren’t anything major, and if you are an average player you won’t even notice them. On a side note there are a lot of hard but possible super-damaging combos, and even so-called “infinity combos” in the game. These are basically insane combos that will continue until you are knocked out. To perform them, you need to study the game extensively and perfect your timing in the game on a frame-by-frame basis. These do spoil some of the fun and potential of the game as official and professional matches are basically broken because of them. However, if you are an average player this will probably not be a problem as you are unlikely to encounter such unearthly combos.
As far as game play goes this game has it pretty much nailed down. The fights are flashy, fast and intensive. The three vs. three set up makes for some interesting choices – and effectively gives the player the chances to turn the tables of a fight.
The balance across the characters is also very satisfying. There are some characters, like Chris and Mature that feel somewhat inferior when compared to the big-shots like Terry Bogard and Athena Asamiya, so the balance in the game is certainly not perfect but it’s very good.
The King of Fighters games have always had brilliant graphics, and ’98 is no exception. The animations are smooth and the characters are full with life and energy. The character design is great as there are many interesting lifestyles portrayed in this game – each character is unique to say the least. As far as characters go, this game has everything you need in a fighting game – big bad-ass bosses, cute chicks and cool guys. The backgrounds of the stages are also a sheer joy to see – for each round something new happens in the background that tends to change the atmosphere of the entire setting. For example, night turns to dawn and people come and go. Details like these really make an awesome impression and it’s all extremely well done!
The visuals in the whole game has a complete feel to it – it’s solid, crisp and very colorful. Simply put; it won’t be easy to create a better looking 2D fighting game with the Neo Geo hardware!
The audio in this game is also brilliant. The music is catchy and has a unique style to it. There are electronic influences here and there but the music mainly resembles anime style j-rock. The soundtrack is solid – there is not a single bad song on there and it does enhance the total experience by a whole lot!
The voice acting is also solid and there is a lot of it. Hearing each character’s taunts, special attacks, winning quotes and pre-battle quotes is a blast, and it never gets old! Thankfully the game has not been dubbed, so the original Japanese voices are intact in the EU release.
If you are into 2D fighting games, you can’t go wrong with The King of Fighters ’98: The Slugfest. The graphics are solid, the sound is totally awesome and the game plays like a dream. The issues in the game are like needles in a haystack – they are hard, if not close to impossible to encounter, but they sure are there and they pierce some small holes in the overall quality of the game. Because of this and the fact that there has been numerous sequels to the series, this game may not be well suited for tournament play – but as a deep, strategic and intense fighting game with an uttermost impressive and massive character roster, it’s still kicking, and it’s kicking hard!