The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match Final Edition improves an already fantastic game. If there is one game that deserves to be continuously brought back, that game is The King of Fighters ’98. Later entries in the franchise have struggled to match the popularity of Tekken or Street Fighter. But, SNK’s 1998 fighter has more than earned its spot as a quintessential entry in its genre.
Released on Steam in 2014, The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match Final Edition brings the legendary title to PC. It comes with a couple of noteworthy updates to the original and Ultimate Match versions.
Serving as a greatest hits collection more than a traditional entry, The King of Fighters ’98 completely forgoes a story. Instead, the game amasses as many fighters as possible, including those who met their doom in earlier sequels. Ultimate Match and, by extension, Final Edition add 10 new characters, bringing the total roster to an impressive 64. Even though alternative versions of pre-existing characters take up 13 spots, the game includes a dream roster for fans of the license.
Ultimate Match contains more than 50 stages. However, the Final Edition has the traditional 2D environments rather than the 3D versions used in the PlayStation 2 port. In some ways, 2014’s entry is slightly uglier than the one released in 2008.
At the end of the day, one must remember this game originally came out in the late ’90s. It is unfair to ask the graphics or character sprites to measure up to modern titles. There are a couple of options that alter the visual presentation, including the ability to increase the size or sharpness of the fighters. Permitting one does not have unrealistic expectations, The King of Fighters ’98 is a vibrant and charming time capsule from a bygone era of gaming. The stage’s backgrounds are detailed enough for this type of game, while the special effects for the roster’s more bombastic attacks are generally fantastic.
SNK Playmore made this re-release for fans of the franchise or the studio’s other licenses, primarily Fatal Fury. Is this the best place to start for newcomers unfamiliar with The King of Fighters?
While slightly stiff and less accessible than some later games, ’98’s combat is still highly rewarding. And, the Final Edition tweaks the gameplay to offer a smoother experience. Those familiar with only the original arcade version will find themselves pleasantly surprised by the changes made to the overall package. Of particular note is the well-balanced roster. Obviously, such a massive cast dictates that some fighters are better than others, but most characters are a viable option.
The King of Fighters ’98’s standout gameplay addition is the possibility to select between two combat modes: Extra and Advanced. Each mode impacts the character’s movement, dodging ability, and the benefits gained when consuming a power gauge. If the former is selected, the character gains a sidestep and a low jump for moving forward. Conversely, the latter sets the fighter to automatically run and unlocks a roll maneuver.
There are further benefits, so both modes are worth testing. Ultimate Match and Final Edition introduce a third option in Ultimate mode, which allows players to mix and match the previous two’s benefits. Ultimate greatly enhances the customization options, allowing players to adjust the combat to suit their style.
While there is no story, The King of Fighters ’98 comes with Arcade, Single Play, Endless, and Challenge Modes. Arcade consists of a string of 3 v 3 battles, culminating with a truly backbreaking boss fight against one of three of the franchise’s villains. Single Play is basically the same thing but with 1 v 1 fights. Endless is a fun endurance test, while Challenge Mode’s 30 missions serve as a solid way to learn the base mechanics.
Online matches are divided into Rank or Player bouts, with the latter essentially serving as an exhibition. While the multiplayer works fine, there are seldom more than a handful of people playing at any given moment. Thankfully, the single-player component offers more than enough content to stand on its own.
The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match Final Edition highlights SNK Playmore’s talent for crafting addictive gameplay that keeps fans coming back for more. Obviously, Final Edition cannot compare to more recent fighters. But, its greatest asset is the fact it retains the original version’s essence while fine-tuning the overall experience.