King of Fighters '96

Neo Geo

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9


After two years, the King of Fighters series would change. Casual players won't know the difference, die-hards will find it be completely new. The gameplay hasn't been reinvented, just toyed with, and that creates wonderful results.

kingoffighters961.png (28272 bytes)Notable, and major, roster changes are abound here. The brutal, overpowering, and easily abused Art of Fighting team has finally been toned down. They even lost a character (Takuma), giving the game acceptable balance. The single player difficulty has been decreased to tolerable levels, except of course for the boss fights.

Actual fighting has been reworked, swapping out the dodge mechanic with a roll. This allows for easier positioning, and it doesn't take as long to come out of it. Its implementation is flawless. Certain special moves have had their button maps switched, such as Terry's Rising Upper, which is now performed with a dragon punch motion instead of a charge.

Continuing the need for change, the special meters used for those all powerful desperation moves now rely entirely on charging. This is the only truly aggravating change, as it stops matches dead while players desperately try to fill it. This works better as something that builds behind the fight.

kingoffighters962.png (32023 bytes)Backgrounds here are both immaculate and repetitive. Some are recycled, just with different spectators or color schemes. There are a few that give the game a broadcast type feel, making this a rare fighting game that actually acknowledges people care about the tournament (an aspect that would be fully explored in '97). Some of the intros before the fights have really been thought out, including a brief full motion video clip before zooming into the action inside a gorgeous rotating diner.

The animation has also increased, and this has an impact on the game. Certain moves have had their timing changed, and players need to adjust. It's a subtle way to keep players thinking, while trying to give them the fresh experience they want. This, along with a remixed (and added to) soundtrack, makes this a rare full upgrade for the series.

While it's certainly debatable which entry would be the best from a 10-year run, '96 has a lot going for it. This is a brilliant update for those who have played every piece of this series. It's also a great fighting game, easily matching the best the console has to offer. On the Geo, that means something.


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Last updated: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 01:30 PM