King of Fighters is quite a long running series with 14 games out at the time of writing and the latest release being almost exactly a year ago in 2016. It’s always been held in well regard although some entries are thought of more fondly that others with ‘98 being the most famous. Here we have the direct sequel to that oh so famous entry, a very difficult and almost impossible act to follow. Now, I have played King of Fighters ‘98 a fair bit in my local arcades but I’ve never had my reviewer hat on while playing, so in this regard, King of Fighters ‘99: The Millennium Battle is going to get a fair trial without being compared too much to its older, more famous brother.
As standard with the King of Fighter series, you pick three fighters for your team. You Battle it out one by one against a team of three opponents until one team is wiped out. This means each fight can last up to five rounds if the match is pretty even, or finish at three if it’s one sided. King of Fighters ‘99 is actually the sixth entry to the series and goes against the norm by adding a fourth choosable character. This fourth fighter isn’t used in a 1 v 1, however, instead they are deemed to be the Strike character, which is basically turns them into a support move. On the Switch controller they can easily be called in to action with the ZL button. Each character has their own support move and, while I didn’t try all of them, some appeared to be more useful than others. Terry Bogard was my particular choice. Good old Terry.
Also part of this fighting system is the power gauge which in this iteration has two choosable uses. When your power gauge is filled up by attacking or taking damage you can access either Counter Mode or Armour Mode. While there is some nuance to them, you can basically differentiate them with one being an attack power up and the other being a defensive power up respectively. Personally, probably down to my own noobiness, I didn’t really take advantage of them, although saying that, neither did the enemy very much.
It seems that compared to the previous entry, ‘98 (who’d have guessed), the roster has actually shrank which no matter how you put it, never seems to be a well received move no matter the intentions. Saying that, there are still plenty of fighters to choose from, more than average for the genre, and you will quickly find your favourites. Mai is a given, but I also took a liking to Kyo and then generally chose another random character to try. I’d say my main criticism of the roster is just how little many of the male characters stand out. Indeed, I find it difficult recalling more than a couple of them and I’m sure quite a few look almost exactly the same.
Just like most arcade fighting games it’s stupidly difficult at the standard level, especially after the third stage where the computer can instantly react and is just about perfect. It’s not newbie friendly in the slightest and only those who have mastered a character’s or two will make it through to the end.Thankfully there are aides similar to Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Failing against your opponents and using a continue will grant you three options of benefit for the rematch. The first and, for me certainly, the most useful is lowering your opponents to a third of their health. Sure, it’s completely cheesing it, but when the enemy is borderline invincible, it doesn’t feel so bad. Just a little. Even with that though, the final boss will just destroy you as it doesn’t count to his final form. I managed it on the lower difficulty, but only just scrapping a victory after an incredibly tense battle.
Something that bothered me was the lack of stages. There’s really not a lot of them and they aren’t specific to characters. With only a handful that you’ll be fighting on over and over, it’s really quite disappointing. To give them credit though they do what I love, whereby between bouts the stage changes in some way, either time of day or weather conditions. It’s genuinely a way for fighting games to get to my heart. The way they develop is fantastic. I just wish there were at least double the amount.
Graphically I think it’s a pretty good looking game. It’s not quite Garou levels of gorgeousness but it still has generous frames of animation for the fighters and the backgrounds have lots of personality. The music, from what I noticed, seemed a little hit and miss though. I don’t know what it was but sometimes their were tracks that just didn’t suit a fighting game.
If you’re a regularly viewer, then I apologise for repeating myself, but like all of HAMSTER’s Arcade Archives series, you have all the customisation available to you. There’s the Hi Score Mode, Caravan Mode as well as Japanese or International versions of the game to play. Sadly there’s no online play which will turn some people off, but playing against a friend locally is better anyways.
Overall, King of Fighters ‘99 is a good fighting game no doubt. Of the Neo Geo fighters I’ve dabbled in so far, it easily slots in to the third position in terms of favourites behind Garou and Samurai Shodown. That shouldn’t be taken as a whole hearted recommendation or anything since I’ve barely touched the surface of what’s available on the system. It’s a solid option for sure but seems to lack in certain areas such as characters and stages. There’s a short but tensely difficult single player experience and of course it’s better and more enjoyable if played with friends. The lack of variety though makes this not the most enduring of fighting games available. It has Mai though, so there’s that.
Game provided by HAMSTER Corp.