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Monday, October 1, 2012

The King of Fighters 98 (NEO4ALL) Review

Original Release:

Game Details:
1-2 Players
Standard controller
VGA box

"The following game was not officially released for Sega Dreamcast. It is emulated using NEO4ALL RC-4 developed by chui. This is an evaluation of the emulation of the game as well as the game itself.

Using Team RDC's release you can play this game as though it is a commercial game with only a brief loading screen."
-Comrade Snarky

NOTE: This is my first ever review for a RDC (NEO4ALL) release. I'm glad its on a game I've enjoyed in my gaming palette.

The King of Fighters 1998: The Slugfest (also released to the consumer market as Dream Match Never Ends or the Dreamcasts case, Dream Match 1999)  takes the foundation that was laid out from the previous installment (KoF 97) and further refines it to create one the tightest, most polished gameplay experiences the series has ever saw before its release. It removes the series signature story presentation (as the Orochi Saga story arc came to an end in previous year) and opts for a story-less dream match like setting where nearly every character (either living or dead by accounts of the games official canon) introduced up to that point were all assembled for the first time while the role of the game’s final boss is fittingly given to the staple series boss (and quite dead) Rugal Bernstein. The games 4 button layout remains the same since the series inception back in 94. The game borrows the innovative formula of KoF 97, where the user is given the choice to choose from 2 distinct game mechanics. Extra Mode emulates the old KoF engine and play style established in 94 and throughout 95 (Manual meter building gauge, Side Stepping Dodge maneuver, Dash), while Advance Mode provides a more diverse engine that borrows some elements introduced in KoF 96 with the newly designed meter stock gauge introduced in 97 (Meter gauge that builds and stocks up as damage is inflicted or sustained, Evasive Roll maneuver, Running). Additionally the game also provides users with multiple versions of some the veteran cast members, in which their fighting styles resemble older styles of play, thus effectively increasing the character selection. New to this installment is the handicap that is given after a member of a team has been defeated. For example, In Extra mode, for every team member that you lose, your gauge gets shorter and shorter for faster chances of building super meter, while in Advance mode, an addition power stock limit is given for every member that is lost in your team (you start off with 3 stocks with the possibility of building a maximum of 5 stocks). Such a handicap makes for some interesting comebacks and a chance at rising from the ashes of certain defeat.    

It all began in 94, kept on rolling in 95, this is how plays in 96, it came in 97, and now comes and here we go, KOF is here again, nothing’s gonna stop us 98!!!

KOF 98 set a benchmark for the series on the aging Neo Geo MVS hardware back in its day. Characters sprites remain as large in size as they had been introduced in KoF 97 but many sprites where further refined to much fan praise (most notoriously the “New faces Team” which really animated terribly in KoF 97). Backgrounds (while less ostentatious then the ones that fans were treated to in the previous game) still look quite impressive. Character art got a massive overhaul, displaying some of the most impressive artwork stills the series has ever received up to that point in the franchise.
It’s important to note that the original Dreamcast release of this game (KoF DM 99) was a visually updated port which included new character artwork for the EX characters, and new fully animated intro sequence and most noticeably 3D polygon based backgrounds seen during gameplay. Alas, even with all these additional visual updates, the release disappoints by not being VGA compatible whatsoever. With this RDC release, this is about the closest that dreamcast and fans can hope to get to play this game in a VGA signal on their Dreamcast consoles.

I've always had this thing about my dislike for the game announcer in the KoF series when it’s portrayed by a female so it’s natural for me to say that I find the announcer in this game rather annoying. Audio effects are spot on and the soundtrack is like a nostalgic trip down memory lane as each team and characters receive some of their most memorable tunes in this game.

KoF 98 has to this day remained one of the most legendary points in the long running franchise, (One that took SNK and Eolith about 4 years worth to produce a sequel that surpasses it or one that stands firmly proud besides this respected installment). Here’s hoping RDC releases KoF 2002 in the not too distant future considering they've been on a roll with King of Fighters on the Dreamcast platform.