Please, people…buy more King of Fighters games. They’re good! Ignore that score up there, though. Just look at that gameplay rating. Eight out of ten! That’s only two points away from ten out of ten! Seriously! They’re great! Simple, yet complex. A great middle ground between the entertaining Street Fighter 2 and the elaborate excellence of Guilty Gear XX. And King of Fighters: Orochi Saga? It’s another pretty damn great compilation from SNK-Playmore. And it even hit me by surprise. Here I was thinking that the only games on this compilation were going to be the KOF titles from ’95 through ’97. But KOF ’94 through KOF ‘98 are in there! The first five King of Fighters games! And it’s cheap!
As with most King of Fighters titles, everything in Orochi Saga uses the simple five-button setup; two punch buttons, two kicks, and a special button dedicated to whatever the game’s unique featiure is. The character cast, obviously, differs between games. King of Fighters 98 is definitely the best game in this compilation (and many would argue, the best game in the series), which is likely what you will spend the majority of your time on. With over forty characters and the best balance of all the titles included, this is where you are likely to spend most of your time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this game would be worth buying on its own (which is good, as the upcoming enhanced port, King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match is coming out on the PS2 in 2009) while the rest of them combined would not be. Seriously. King of Fighters 98 is a really, really good game. The rest of them are “pretty good”, and there are a whole lot of great fighting games out there.
What makes King of Fighters 98 so great, though? Well, as stated above, it’s an excellent middle-ground between your Street Fighter 2 and your Guilty Gear. The massive character lineup is complemented by a deep moveset and worthwhile diversity between each member of the cast. The three-on-three battling throws some of the harsher matchup issues out the window, which is made even more slim by the nice level of balance in the game. The battling is quite fast-paced, and there are a few special shared moves, particularly rolling and stocks, which make the fighting complex…but not over-the-top. There’s plenty of fun to be had, and there is just a whole lot to do in the game.
The thing is, …the graphics…they’re awful! I know, I know. I’ve loved KOF long enough such that I don’t really mind the graphic issues that are present in any Neo-Geo-based games. But I can’t dance around the fact that these games were largely made before SNK really had the sort of mastery they had on the hardware when they made games like King of Fighters 2003 and Garou: Mark of the Wolves. So while I’ve been generous scoring most SNK titles in the graphics, I feel myself losing this urge. Especially now with Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: HD Remix looking beautiful, it’d be nice to see an SNK game that has been remade (but we can all look forward to King of Fighters XII). Sound is in a similar boat, but worse off. While old 2d sprites have some charm because of the novelty and memories, grainy voice acting and MIDIs don’t really hold the same appeal.
Orochi Saga is in the same conundrum as all the other SNK games I’ve reviewed. Fun to play. Bad graphics. Low price. Lots of nostalgia value. Yup, SNK fans are probably all over this (or maybe have already imported the Japanese version). Everyone else should BUY THIS GAME! Do it! Seriously! KOF 98 is one of the best fighting games ever! It’s really good!