ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters '98 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 03.04.2017 4

Review for ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters

Whilst there are plenty of King of Fighters entries for Hamster to choose from for its ACA NeoGeo line, overlooking The King of Fighters '98 was never going to be an option. Fighting fans can see where it all began for SNK's venerable series with KOF '94, but it is the 1998 edition that is perhaps most fondly looked back upon - and with good reason.

Dream Match Never Ends is the Japanese version's subtitle, and a dream match KOF '98 most certainly was, and still is, for this tournament brings practically every fighter from previous instalments together into one ultimate showdown for glory. Foregoing the previous title's plot, SNK allowed itself to pull anybody from its huge pool of characters established between KOF '94 and '97, including anyone killed off in the storyline, delivering a 38-combatant strong slugfest.

One commendable feat by the development team is how well balanced the cast is. The more characters any fighting game has, the greater chance of things going pear-shaped, and that's been seen to be the case even in later versions of KOF '98, where plenty more characters were added, skewing the balance-o-meter drastically. This here original arcade edition is very fair, and has helped to keep its popularity intact. The best fighting games are the ones where any character can win a match, and KOF '98 fits that bill.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters '98 on Nintendo Switch

The best fighting games also retain their quality - even decades later. This is definitely the case with The King of Fighters '98, which again allows players to pick and choose their 3-fighter team, with the substitutes jumping in when one character falls. Two play styles in the form of Advance and Extra allow for a degree of personalisation and preference in how players use their characters, whereby Advance focuses on building up a power gauge through delivering special moves that can then output ultimates, whilst Extra requires manual charging to then reach a time-limited max power that requires going on the offensive before it drains out. Advance also favours an evade command, whilst Extra prefers a counterattack option, adding more variations to each character and requiring further thought in the type of fighting style players wish to employ.

The action is fast and doesn't go over the top with endless combos and cheap tricks. It still looks fantastic in its pixelated splendour, with stage backgrounds that change as more rounds are completed, and wonderfully animated characters that come to life with their pre-fight taunts, mid-fight special moves, and post-fight victory scenes. Well, some of the victory artwork perhaps doesn't quite do some of the fighters justice, but the distinct character is there for each of them, adding to KOF '98's charm. This is topped off with a great soundtrack and cracking sound effects that enhance the one-on-one fighting experience.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters '98 on Nintendo Switch

Sounds great, right? It most definitely is, but as a port of the arcade version, it is sorely lacking in the sorts of modes expected of a console fighting game. The meat of KOF '98 is the arcade mode, featuring fights against the AI teams that you are thrust into after getting past the start screen. Whilst it's also possible to choose from a sort of high score mode, where you keep fighting till defeated, and the Caravan Mode, which is a strange five-minute test to see how many AI teams you can bust through and rack up a high score in the process, this is the bulk of what this version has to offer.

Although it is possible for two players to battle each other through the second controller hitting Start to take the place of the AI, there is strictly no proper versus mode to speak of, and no stage selection as a result. Not even a practice mode to allow players to get to grips with a character and learn and try out moves exists. It should go without saying that online multiplayer doesn't even enter the picture.

This is highly disappointing given that other versions of the game feature all of this kind of content, including the Neo Geo home console release. However, this is the Arcade Archives line, and so it is that the arcade version of KOF '98, lack of modes and all, is the version used here. It's no fault of the original game itself that it doesn't have what is expected of a console fighting game today, but it is an unfortunate circumstance that may make some people think twice about picking the ACA NeoGeo edition up.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters '98 on Nintendo Switch

Perhaps swaying the pendulum towards the 'purchase' button is the added incentive of the portability of the Switch version. Although no proper d-pad exists on the Joy-Con, the direction buttons are actually functional, even for diagonal inputs. It takes some getting used to, but it works. The dead zone of the control stick on both Joy-Con and Pro Controller is non-existent, though, and this means inputs can be extremely sensitive, especially when picking characters and their order of play for the match. The ideal preference is the d-pad of the Pro Controller.

Like all other ACA NeoGeo entries, there are countless option settings for gameplay, be it CPU difficulty and single or team matches, and even actual settings for the screen display. This is where things get a little dicey, as there doesn't seem to be a pixel perfect option when playing either on the TV or in handheld mode, leaving it up to players to mess with the ratios to get what seems to look best to them. There are little bugs with regards to display and other areas - nothing that impacts on the gameplay at all in the slightest, but is worth mentioning, and can hopefully be patched with an update.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: The King of Fighters '98 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The King of Fighters '98 looks, sounds and plays as great as ever, but there is no denying that its lack of modes that come as standard in just about every other fighter, including later versions of KOF '98, is a detriment to its broader appeal. That said, this is a faithful arcade port of one of the most prestigious fighting games and adds quality to the Switch's early selection of titles.

Developer

SNK Playmore

Publisher

Hamster

Genre

Fighting

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

Gimme KoF 2000 instead, it's all I want Smilie. Why? It's mostly the exact same game but with an even larger roster and the best soundtrack the series has seen imho. 2001 that came after had a pretty sucky soundtrack by comparison.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

The thing with these arcade ports is it only makes you pine for the superior versions. KOF 98 Ultimate Match also has the original Neo Geo console version in it, so of course it would have been nicer to have that game instead. But clearly it's cheaper to port and sell these arcade versions, so that's the trade-off. Pay less for a no frills arcade port, or more for a better version with extra modes.

Whilst it's great to test the waters with cheaper versions that are more enticing for Switch owners, it'd be nice if it opened the doors to other entries in the series - even perhaps the latest game, KOF 14.

Our member of the week

That's why I'm holding off, at least for now. At the rate at which they're releasing those games, the better ones will come, eventually. Also, they're not releasing them exclusively for Switch, they come out on the other systems as well, and I can't imagine that they're all that expensive to port over, so the Switch should continue to receive support down the line just like the other systems.

Some Neo Geo games however that are great standalone titles, I'd more than happily get if they did come out. Last Resort is one such example. It's been reissued on compilation over the years and even on the Wii VC, so it's safe to assume that in the coming weeks or months, this one will show itself on the Switch eShop as well.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Good review, shame the visuals don't stack up though.

My main issue with the VC games and these NeoGeo games in general is that they are too expensive for what they are. 

I'd rather put my money into supporting newer projectslike Blastermaster Zero at that price instead. 

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