. . .READY, FIGHT!!.. .
The fight is on. . . King of Fighters '95. Well, a year ago, (ironically, '95) I would have punching holes in the walls of buildings myself trying to get a piece of the sleeper arcade hit. This, along with Marvel Super Heroes were two of my all time favorites at the arcades, and I had long awaited seeing this for a 32-bit system. Man, if you're talking about arcade entertainment, at home,with this, SF Alpha,and MK3, who needed a life?
But, a lot has changed in a year. Virtua Fighter 2 and Toshinden rule the the fight lanes, with Tekken 2 sitting high on it's throne as (again, ironically) the king of fighters. The 3-D has taken over with vengenace: starting with the aforementioned titles, along with newcomers like Tobal No. 1, and Star Gladiators, and culminating (so far) in the awe-inspiring Virtua Fighter 3, which looks to not only be the next level, but levels beyond. With 2-D games dropping faster than flies on skunk manure, only Capcom seems to be keeping pace and still producing top-rate 2-Ders. But SF Alpha 2, and Marvel Super Heroes are two predestined hits, and two basically reliable sources for outstanding play if you're in the store and don't know what to get. King of Fighters '95 is close, but no cigar.
This is still a good fighting game, but is lacking a few things that keep this in the middle of the pack as far as fighters are concerned. More originality would've really been appreciated, because the SNK fighting engine is still basically the same as Fatal Fury, and Art of Fighting, but with more fighters. It does have a wealth of options, starting with 26 characters(24 already selectable) a flurry of special moves for each (perhaps too many, at times) including a special 'Last Resort' move for each. I also like the batttle modes which not only give you a 1-on-1, or 3-on-3 option, but the option for a Battle Royale or Tag-Team match as well.
There are some other pretty good options added to this fairly accurate translation. However, at times, they make the game too easy. For example, there is an option to program all your special moves to the top buttons, but it also gets confusing, becuse the functions the top buttons serve are no longer there. The graphics are a little bland, compared to the arcade version. Although backgrounds are very reminiscient of a 16-bit engine, they are smoothly animated, and the players are pretty well detailed. The sound is average at best, and not very clear, and Andy Bogard's "Hisho Ken" fireball scream still can't compare to Ryu's "Hadooooken!", and the background music is decent, but not original.
The gameplay design showed some originality with the charge and taunt buttons, but things like interactive backgrounds, multiple level stages, and improvements building on the background/foreground concept would've been a great addition to this game. The Tag-Team and Battle Royale concepts were good, however for a 2-D game to really compete on the same level as a 3-D one, there has to be something extra special to make up for what it may not be able to do on a 3-D environment.
The combo system is weak keeps you guessing alot, and strong button punches take away way too much energy. SNK fighting always seem to have a different sense of timing from other fighting games (it's not just me, is it?). This may not necessarily be bad, but it is annoying, because it adds to the learning curve which is already exaggerated by the difficulty of real combos, and the overabundance of special moves for each character. The movements are a little stiff (not as stiff as Terry Bogard's starched jeans though-MAN!), making avoiding projectiles slightly difficult (although there is a button to dodge projectiles- a convenient innovation, although this game does have an awful lot of button assignments.)
I hated the loading times on this game-- they were so long they actually discouraged me from putting the CD in the PlayStation. Between every fighter combination per round (this can be up to six) there is a loading time, and that's for one match; and there's 9 total teams and bosses to play! Even the options screen has a long loading time! This doesn't do much for the replay value at all.
Amidst its shortcomings King of Fighters '95 is still a pretty good game, and very fun, especially with 2 players. For Neo-Geo fightings fanatics, this is the game to get. The only question is - How many of them are left?