||King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999
Keep Dreamin' - Review By Fragmaster
Five years ago, SNK's King of Fighters strolled into the arcades. The result of a merger between SNK's Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting franchises, KoF invented the concept of team battle. Players selected a team of three fighters and advanced in customary Street Fighter style to the scary final Boss.
KoF's gameplay hasn't really changed much over the years, the basic gameplay formula and graphics remaining essentially the same. The only thing that's really changed is the cast of characters, which has grown to include about forty combatants. That's a lot of sweaty 2D sprites, but does size really matter? Let's find out, shall we?
Probably the main selling point behind King of Fighters is the amount of, well, fighters. With 38 fighters and a bunch of different fighting styles, there's a lot to choose from. It'll take you awhile to even SEE all of the characters in the game, let alone master them. In team pay mode, you pick three characters and then arrange them to fight in the order you want. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom, you can't switch characters during a fight (fighters must be defeated to be eliminated), but you can pull off "back-up attacks" and temporarily get some help from your teammates. The only catch is that your teammates have to be "compatible" with your character, or they won't help you.
Buckets and buckets of fighters!
KoF's gameplay is straightforward and immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played a 2D fighting game. About the only significant difference is the power gauge system. There are two variations of the gauge system, advanced and extra modes. In extra mode, you fill your power gauge by doing special moves. In advanced mode, you must hold down the X, Y, and A buttons to charge the power gauge. Once your gauges are filled, you can pull off super special moves.
There are six basic modes of play, team play, team VS, single play, single VS, survivor, and practice. Nothing unusual.
The control scheme is actually a little simpler than most fighters these days, as there are only four buttons (the triggers are used for "teases"). Instead of the standard "weak, medium strong," you only have to deal with weak and strong moves. This means that special moves require more joystick wrangling, something that is somewhat difficult with the standard controller and a lot easier to do with the arcade stick.
The intro movie is kinda cool.
If you happen to own a Neo Geo Pocket, KoF Dream Match '99 is compatible with KoF R-2. Skills, character points, and other stuff can be exchanged between the two with the aid of a Dreamcast communication connector cable.
KoF has a fair amount of configurable options, such as difficulty, play time, language, stage select, battle configuration, and button configuration. Battle configuration lets you adjust fighter's defense level, power gauge conditions, advantages, and winning conditions.
There's a pretty nifty anime styled intro animation. It's totally useless as far as gameplay or character development is concerned, but nice to watch.
Audio wise, KoF is nothing special. The music and sound are totally unmemorable and generic, but it does the job.
While the vast cast of characters could be considered a strength, it's also a weakness. The amount of characters is overwhelming, and they all kind of blur together. Some of the fighters are imbalanced, and since there are no storylines or character backgrounds you don't care about any of the characters or even know why the hell they're fighting in the first place. With the exception of Mai Shiranui and her bouncing assets, you probably won't remember the names of any of the characters unless you really get into the game. They're all so generic; many of them are such blatant Street Fighter rip-offs that even the moves are duplicated.
While the graphics aren't ugly, they do look pretty dated. The new 3D backgrounds are decent and the animation isn't bad, but KoF '99 looks very much like something you'd find on the SNES. Since KoF is a Neo-Geo game, that really isn't a surprise.
KoF '99 gameplay isn't very deep, but compared to other 2D fighters it's about average. Still, that won't prevent you from getting bored of the title pretty quickly. The power gauge and combo systems are kinda lame and backup attacks aren't as cool as stuff you'll see in Marvel versus Capcom. It's all very blah.
The interface is positively horrible. The main menu looks like it was ripped from a crappy NES game, and there's no in-game interface at all. All the start button does is pause the game, there's no way to exit or restart a match in progress short of a reset. Not only is the interface clunky and lacking in features, but it looks like crap. Not good.
In the end, KoF '99 doesn't really differentiate itself from any of the other 2D fighters out there. It's by no means terrible; it's just incredibly mediocre and passť. And with far superior fighters like Soul Calibur and Power Stone on the shelves, not to mention second-stringers VF3tb, Ready 2 Rumble, and Marvel versus Capcom, KoF '99 doesn't really have much to entice you with. Other than Mai's breasts, that is.
The Final Word
King of Fighters: Dream Match '99 is probably the most mediocre title for the Dreamcast yet. It doesn't do anything particularly bad, it just isn't very good. 2D fighter and SNK fans may get a kick out of it, but for the rest of us, it's probably not even worth renting.
Highs: Lots of characters, it's King of Fighters.
Lows: Lots of characters, dated graphics and gameplay, lots of better games worth your time, it's King of Fighters.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU Compatible, Arcade Stick Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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