King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match (Playstation 4 Review)
On its 20th birthday, it’s interesting to look back on King of Fighters ’98. Initially it failed to capture the limelight, coming up against the likes of Tekken 3 and a litany of Capcom fighters. Nonetheless, ’98 has gained favour with the FGC and is now considered an important milestone in the King of Fighters series and one of the most popular entries within the competitive scene.
Were it not for King of Fighters ’98’s legacy, we would have never of seen the likes of KoF XIII and XIV or the 2008 rebalance, Ultimate Match, on PS2. Ultimate Match would prove to be a diamond in the rough, of sorts, and require some real digging to find a copy – or that was the case prior to this PS4 release.
’98 was the first of the “Dream Match” KOF games; being non-canon which itself allowed for a large portion of the deceased characters from the Orochi Saga to feature (eg. Vice, Mature and Rugal). Ultimate Match added the remaining characters of the Orochi Saga: Kasumi, Eiji, the ’96 Boss Team, and both Goenitz and Orochi as extra bosses. With all these extra characters, the total of playable fighters would reach a dizzying 45 and that’s before you dived into the alternate versions of the cast with differing move sets. It’s an impressive cast despite the re-use of assets from previous KoF titles.
The main gameplay enhancement of ’98 was the advantage system. When the previous character is knocked out you gain an advantage with the following character depending on the play mode chosen. In Advanced, you get one more power stock, and in Extra the gauge size decreases. Ultimate Match added a third play mode aptly named “Ultimate” where the players’ could customise and mix-in features from Advanced or Extra mode, such as movement or evasion abilities. All of this allows for a lot of creative decision making along with the large selection of characters on offer, part of the reason why ’98 is a fan favourite.
As far as single player content is concerned, Ultimate Match has the typical Arcade Mode, Endless Mode and Practice Mode. There is also a challenge mode which helps new players get better accustomed to the universal system mechanics that KoF is known for. Most notable is the Neo Geo mode. Neo Geo mode allows you to switch between the original console version of King of Fighter’s 98 and Ultimate Match. There is also a Gallery mode to few some of the artwork made for ’98, as one would expect.
As a generally under-appreciated fighting game, it may not have had the visual flair of its competition but it certainly had the rosters and overall solid mechanics to be worthy of a new addition ten years later. If you want a slice of classic SNK fighting game fun, King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match should be just the ticket.