"It'd be easy to declare Ultimate Match a success based on the slick control, absurdly huge roster, energetic visuals, and sweet dual soundtracks. But the thing that truly makes Ultimate Match stand out is SNK Playmore's understanding of fighting game players."
My first King of Fighters experience was the Dreamcast's Dream Match 1999, which was actually a remake of The King of Fighters '98. For 1998, SNK re-assembled their greatest modern warriors for one grand battle before moving on to a new storyline and new roster. Dream Match was intended to infuse this ultimate battle with 3D backgrounds and CD-quality audio that the Neo•Geo couldn't produce.
I was shocked by the super-smooth gameplay. It was slick. Slicker than any fighter I'd played to that point. Unfortunately, the 3D backgrounds were distractingly poor, and the music reset after each round instead of playing through an entire match. I couldn't get past the misguided audiovisuals, so I shelved Dream Match.
The tale above -- and my preference for other, later KOF titles such as Evolution -- brought about many scornful internet glares. Diehard fans insisted that 1998, in all its iterations, was the best episode. This had been determined by Absolute Cosmic Law. Or perhaps by featuring an enormous cast that was ridiculously well balanced, so that practically any character could believably defeat any other. Either way, I couldn't get into it.
Ten years later, The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match fell into my lap. In a curious reversal of Dreamcast fans' "THE PS2 HAS JAGGIES" mantra, this version's 3D backdrops are much cleaner. The arranged music -- there's even more of it now -- plays through an entire battle. Extra characters have been added while still retaining the super slick gameplay. And the introduction's kinetic style, with burning fists and catchy nerd rap, kicks butt in that nostalgic '90's arcade way.
Staff review by Zigfried (April 12, 2009)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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