The King of Fighters ’96 Review

The King of Fighters ’96 (Available on PlayStation 3 & PSP)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK
Release Date: October 11th, 2011

Parent Talk: King of Fighters ’95 is rated T for teen because of alcohol, blood, suggestive themes and violence.  Teenagers should have no problems playing this game, but make sure the younger kids aren’t allowed to play.

Plays Like: Any 2D fighter.

Review Basis: Played through the online mode on the PS3, and finished the arcade mode on the PS3 and the PSP.

Details: PS3 version is $8.99 and PSP version is $6.99.

What’s This About: The third game in the series is part of Orochi saga.  This time around Chizuru Kagura forms the new King of Fighters tournament.  She is the heiress to the Yata Clan and wishes to recruit Kyo and Iori so that together they might seal away the Orochi demon.

What It’s Remembered For:

  • Roll in & out.  KoF ’96 remains an extremely popular entry in the series because it helped define the rolling start.  Players can roll away from incoming attacks or roll towards an opponent and unleash a flurry of attacks.  This foundation remains intact all the way up to and including King of Fighters XIII.

  • Even more power before death.  In ’95 players gained a Super Special move right before they died, but in this one if players are about to die and they also have their power gauge maxed out they can perform what I like to call an Omega Super Special move.  It’s a great way to level the playing field.
  • New characters aplenty.  Kasumi Todoh, Leona, Mature, Vice, Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser, and Mr. Big join the tournament in ’96.
  • Survivor mode.  SNK faithful will know all about this mode.  Select your fighter and prepare for an endless battle.  Good times await.
  • A little more balance…but also a little less.  Some of the new characters aren’t as fleshed out as the old roster, making for some unbalanced matches.  The opposite is true for the difficulty.  This time around the AI isn’t as relentless.
  • 1996 never looked this good.  The backdrops and character animations may look a little rough today, but they’re filled with nostalgia and great art design.  Honestly, have an open mind and enjoy some beautiful 2D animation.

Any Improvements?

  • Like all the other King of Fighters released on the Neo Geo Station, players can purchase a version for the PSP and take the tournament on the go.
  • If you enjoyed the network code from ’95 you’re going to love ’96.  I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come.  Maybe SNK Playmore is using these older releases as a giant beta test for the upcoming King of Fighters XIII, which would be more than ideal.  It should also be noted that with each new release of KoF players appear to abandon the previous one, so make sure you get in while the getting’s good.
  • Hidden characters remain unlocked by default bringing the total roster to 29 playable characters.
  • Region selecting.  As always you can play through the Japanese version of the game with English dialogue.  This time around both the blood and the bounciness are back with a vengeance, the way it should be.
  • Move lists.  As always, press select to bring up the list of moves.
  • Save states.  As before, you can save your progress.
  • Improved visuals.  I’m wondering why the Neo Geo classic mode is the default when the smoothing works so well for HD displays.  Perhaps SNK Playmore wants people to see the game as it was originally meant?

Bottom Line: Who Should Download This?

The AES version of The King of Fighters ’96 sells for around $80 on eBay, and that doesn’t include the $800 for the modified Neo Geo AES.  The $9 asking price for a great the hardcore SNK fans or fighting fans in general.  As always this is a great game for those interested in the retro scene, but may be a little too old-school for the casual crowd.  That said, I’d recommend The King of Fighters ’96 over ’94 and ’95 in a heartbeat because of how closely it matches the more recent entries in the series.

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