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October 25 2014

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  The King of the Fighters '96 - ©SNK 1996





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Game Stats
Other:
Players:
1 or 2 player

Type:
One On One Fighting

Size:
362 Megs
Japanese Name:

The King of Fighters '96

Released On:

Home/MVS/CD


Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:
- The King Of Fighters: Maximum Impact (PS2)
- Art Of Fighting (Neo Geo)
- King of Fighters 2002 (Neo Geo)
- Metal Slug 5 (Neo Geo)
- Ninja Masters (Neo Geo)
- Matrimelee (Neo Geo)
- Neo Geo Fighter Stick For PS2 (Hardware)


Other Opinions - More Reviews On NG4L:
Review 2 - by Boombada


Introduction:

Much like Samurai Shodown 3 represented a change in style from the first two SS games, The King of Fighters '96 represents a departure from the first two KOF games. While the improved graphics and sound are the first things you will notice, KOF '96 was also the point where the gameplay became more modern, and less "old-school" than the previous games.

While the later games in the series may have refined and improved the gameplay even further, this is definitely a VERY worthy cart to have in your collection! Read on...


Character Roster:

There have been a fair amount of changes to the character line-up, with nine new fighters added to the character roster. Some characters from KOF '95 have been ditched to make way for these newcomers though, making a total of 29 characters (27 normal and 2 bosses). Rugal/Omega Rugal is now replaced by a new boss called Goenitz (see below).

Here is the full line-up:

Hero Team

There is no change with this team as far as the line-up goes, so the Hero team still consists of Kyo, Goro and Benimaru. The team have had some important changes/additions made to their moves list though - for instance, Kyo no longer does any fireballs, instead he charges across the screen and hits you with a flame punch. Kyo also looks FAR better in KOF '96 than in the previous KOF games, and has a little more animation than before.




This stage is set in Japan and is quite cool. You can see a building with "SNK" written on it in the background, along with moving traffic in the street below. It also features some excellent music - the tune used is "Esaka", which is probably one of the best pieces of music in any KOF game, if not in ANY Neo Geo game. I'd definitely rank it as one of my all time favourites!



New Heroine Team

With Yuri Sakazaki deciding to jump over to her brothers Art of Fighting team, the newcomer Kasumi Todoh (also from Art of Fighting) takes her place. She is probably not one of the most popular characters, although I kind of like her for some reason. She fights alongside King and everyone's favourite ninja Mai Shiranui, who are both just as cool as ever... and just as bouncy, in the case of Mai :-). One minor difference is that Kings top no longer rips open when she is finished off with a special move; the same also applies to Yuri Sakazaki (who is now in the AOF team).

The Heroine teams stage is in a restaurant on the top floor of a skyscraper - the room appears to be rotating too. I like the intro for this stage, which is a pre-rendered sequence where the camera rotates around and then zooms into the building... it looks a little rough, but it's still cool. When Kasumi fights on this stage, her father Ryuhaku Todoh appears in the background and cheers her on (you should remember him as the first opponent in the original AOF game). The music here is pretty decent too; it isn't one of the best tracks, but it works well with this stage, and I definitely prefer it to the music this team had in the previous KOF games.



Yagami Team

Unfortunately it seems that Billy Kane and Eiji Kisaragi have gone MIA again, but Iori Yagami (who's still as much of a badass as he was before) has two new female fighters on his team: Vice and Mature. If you remember back to the cut scenes from KOF '94 and KOF '95, you may recognise them as Rugals secretaries (Vice was in KOF '95, Mature was in KOF '94). Although I didn't like either of them at first, I have to say that I actually really like both of these characters now. Mature seems to have a few moves that are similar to Eiji's, so if you are a fan of his then you won't be totally disappointed.

Team Yagami's stage is one of my favourites on this game. It is set at the docks and you are fighting on a boat, with quite a lot of people watching the fight in the background. I think this stage looks cool, and it also has a GREAT piece of music. It is a little bit similar to Iori's music from the last game and it is another guitar/saxophone piece... it's a great tune, and one that I love fighting to!



Fatal Fury Team

Nothing has changed with the Fatal Fury Team, aside from the obvious changes to certain moves, and the addition of a few new ones. Like a lot of the other characters, Terry, Andy and Joe all have ranged projectiles now that don't travel the whole way across the screen. Another big change is that Terry's Rising Tackle is no longer performed with a charging movement, but a Dragon Punch style motion instead (f, d, df + A or C). This may not sound like much, but it certainly makes it easier to chain it into a combo... maybe a little too easy in fact ;-)

The Fatal Fury teams stage is out in the desert. It's a nice looking stage with quite a few cameos from other SNK characters too - Blue Mary is in the background cheering the team on, along with Jubei Yamada who is sitting in a chair. If you look hard enough you'll also see Sokaku and Tung Fu Ru too. I enjoyed the music here - it's a really laid back tune, which almost sounds like something you would hear being played in a supermarket. Nevertheless, it is a perfectly fitting piece of music for this stage.



Ryuuko no Ken Team

It looks like Takuma has decided to take a break from this years KOF tournament, but his daughter Yuri has now defected from the women's team and taken his place, fighting alongside Robert and Ryo. Much like the Fatal Fury team, all the AOF team members now have ranged projectiles that do not travel the full length of the screen. There are also a couple of changes to the joystick movements for some of their moves too - for instance, Ryo's "HienShippuuKyaku" is now performed with HCB + kick instead of a charging motion, like in KOF 94/'95. Robert and Ryo also have new stances, and Robert also has a new outfit.

This is another great stage, although it is basically the same as the Fatal Fury teams. The main difference is that there are no people watching in the background (apart from one guy sitting down on the right of the screen), and Robert's car is parked in the corner instead of a large truck. The time of day changes after every round too; it starts out in the early evening and gradually gets darker as the fight progresses. This helps in part to give the stage a darker atmosphere than the Fatal Fury version, along with the cool dramatic music that accompanies it.



Psycho Soldier Team

There is no change to the line-up of the Psycho Soldier Team of Athena, Kensou and Chin, but as you would expect, each team member has been altered slightly. For example, Chins Drunken Monkey rolling attack now does a LOT more hits than it used to. Athena also has a new outfit as well as a different voice actress who sounds a lot better than the one from KOF '95.

The Psycho Soldier stage is the same as the Hero Teams stage, except that it is set in the daytime, whereas the Hero Teams is set in the evening. There are also some "Athena World Tour '96" posters here and there, as well as school-kids in the background cheering the fight on. It's a decent enough stage, but one thing that I am not too fond of is the music. It is a remixed version of the Psycho Soldier theme tune from KOF '94 (which I loved), but the remix just doesn't sound all that good to me, although I know many people like it. It's my least favourite part of this games soundtrack, but thankfully it is still bearable.



New Ikari Team

Ralf and Clark are still on the Ikari Warriors team, but they are joined by the lovely newcomer Leona. Leona was trained by Heidern, and takes his place on the team. She also happens to be one of my favourite new characters in the game and I find myself playing as her quite a bit.

The Ikari stage is quite cool to fight on, mostly due to the great music featured on it. The music is a really great guitar track... it's one of those tracks that always pops into my mind when I think about the KOF games. Top stuff!



Kim Team

The Korean team is back and has the same line-up as before... apart from some changes and tweaks to the characters moves. As with all the KOF games, I am not a big fan of Chang and Choi, but Kim Kaphwan still kicks some serious ass! I don't usually pick this team (apart from when I want to see their ending), but I do use Kim quite often in my edited teams :-)

Kim's team fights inside a nice looking stage. There are a lot of spectators in the background and also a stream trickling down through the middle. You can see the reflection of the fighters in the stream too, which is a nice touch.



Boss Team

After KOF '94 and '95, I was always wondering when Geese Howard was going to make an appearance in the series... and here he is, but this time he has brought some friends! Geese has teamed up with fellow Fatal Fury boss Wolfgang Krauser and also Mr. Big (from AOF). As you would expect, these bosses have been toned down a little bit compared to the original games they featured in... but they are still tough! In my opinion, this is one of the coolest teams in any KOF game!

Words can't describe how much I love fighting on the boss teams stage. For starters, it looks cool; you fight on a boat, and while it is stationary on the first round (with loads of people in the background watching the fight), it starts moving down a tunnel after that.

Apart from looking cool, the stage has THREE separate pieces of music - one for each boss. Mr. Big's music is cool, Geese has his classic theme tune (which I absolutely love), and Krauser has some classical music, just like he did in Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury Special (it's Mozart's Requiem "Dies Irae" for those wondering). All in all, this stage is an awesome place to fight!



Sub Boss - Chizuru Kagura

Chizuru Kagara is the sub boss of this game, and also the organiser of the 1996 tournament (I'll let you find out her motives). She can be quite tricky to beat although she is definitely not as tough as the final boss (see below). As far as I know, this character is only playable by using a code on the Neo Geo CD version of the game, unless you have some way of changing the dipswitch settings on your console/MVS (a debug bios will be required).

Kagura's stage is inside a stadium with thousands of spectators in the background, as this is officially the final of the tournament. There are a few cameo appearances from non-playable characters here too (including Saisyu Kusanagi), as well as a few people wearing "super deformed" costumes of characters like Athena. The music on this stage is very good too - it's another guitar fuelled track, and one that I usually turn the volume up on when I get to this part of the game :-)



Main Boss - Goenitz

Goenitz is the final boss of KOF '96, and is probably the toughest boss from any KOF game yet. You would expect no less from a man that managed to take out one of Rugal's eyes right? ;) Practice makes perfect and he can be beaten when you know how... but newcomers may start to rip their hair out in frustration when they first get to him! Like Chizuru Kagura, Goenitz is only playble by messing with the debug dipswitch settings, unless you are playing the Neo Geo CD version.

Goenitz stage is a wrecked version of Chizuru Kagura's stage. The stadium has been demolished and you can see the heads from the costumes that people were wearing in the last stage flying around, along with a few other things. The main thing that stands out about this stage is the very haunting music though - it is very good and it couldn't be any better for this boss encounter.


Gameplay:

To the untrained eye, it doesn't look like all that much has really changed compared to the last King of Fighters game. The gameplay has been given a big overhaul in '96 however, and if you played the previous games you will notice some big changes pretty quickly. It is now faster than before, and there is a lot more scope for combos. In addition, most projectile attacks are now ranged, and do not travel the whole way across the screen. This was done to stop fights degenerating into fireball throwing competitions; while this may seem a bit weird at first, it is for the best in my opinion. Also, the side-step move has been taken out of KOF'96 and replaced with a forwards or backwards roll, which you'll need to learn how to use.

The power gauge is still more or less the same as it was before. It charges when you block/get hit, and can be charged manually by holding the A, B and C buttons together. However, things have changed slightly, with regards to the super moves. Desperation moves are now present in the game, in a similar fashion to the Real Bout series. When your life bar reaches the red, you can perform unlimited super moves without your power gauge being full. If you have your energy bar in the red and your power gauge full though, you can perform more powerful super moves that do a lot more damage. For instance, Terry's Power Geyser will hit three times in instead of once, while Andy's ChoReppadan will do 20 hits as opposed to 11 hits.


I don't know if it is just me, but I do find KOF '96 a little less challenging than KOF '94 and '95. For instance, when some of my friends that don't own Neo Geo's come over, they have a hard time beating those two games even on the lower difficulty settings... but with KOF '96 they managed to get all the way to Goenitz without too much trouble on level 3 or so. Of course, Goenitz destroyed them so I had to step in and beat him for them... but you get the idea ;-). Although it can still be a very tough challenge if you turn the difficulty up to the higher levels (especially for a complete lamer like me), it doesn't seem to be quite as hard as the first two KOF's.


Graphics:

As I mentioned at the start of the review, the graphics have been given a major overhaul. The characters are slightly bigger than they were before and have more detail and a few more frames of animation. Some characters have been given a new and better look, such as Robert with his new costume, or Ryo with his new stance. Some of the new backgrounds look really good as well... the ones from previous KOF games were good (especially for the time those games were released), but some of these new ones are extremely well done indeed. The presentation has been given a big boost as well. The intro sequence that kicks off the game is very good and you'll notice that the artwork looks a lot better than before. The character selection screen portraits in particular are much improved. The post match screen is also very well done; you see the loser lying on the floor, while the winner goes into their victory pose, and then a close up picture of that character appears (see the screenshot above).


Sound Effects & Music:

When I originally played this game, I must admit that for some strange reason I was not a big fan of the music, and I preferred the soundtrack from KOF '95. Since I went back to play the game again though (and also since I acquired the MVS cart for my own collection) I have changed my mind COMPLETELY. As far as I am concerned, this is probably one of the standout soundtracks from any Neo Geo game out there. From the Hero Teams awesome "Esaka", to Team Yagami's "Arashi no Saxaphone", to the fantastic boss team tunes, KOF '96 kicks ass in the audio department! As I mentioned above, the only track that I wasn't too fond of was the Psycho Soldier remix, but even that isn't too bad.

SNK didn't drop the ball with the rest of the audio either. The sound effects are great and have been altered slightly - for starters the hit sounds have been changed and don't sound as powerful, but I do think that they are better than before. They also did a great job with the voice acting too. The characters sound just as good as they did before (if not better), and the voice talent for the newcomers is great. I especially enjoyed Krauser's 'You can get up by yourself' taunt when he wins!


Overall:

I've heard a lot of mixed opinions of this game. A few gamers I know still prefer the old-school loveliness that is KOF '95, while others prefer the more modern approach that this game takes. To tell the truth, I get just as much fun out of both of them. When I go back and play my KOF '94 and KOF '95 MVS carts it really takes me back to the old days when I could actually find these games in local arcades, and I used to spend all my cash on them, not to mention that they are still great games anyway.

With KOF '96 though, I can just enjoy it for the great game that it is. In hindsight, you could say that the newer KOF games like '97 and '98 took the series one step further and improved it, but for some reason I still LOVE playing this game. This is due in part to the general atmosphere of the game, with its cool music and nice backgrounds, but the game itself just plays great anyway. I guess that is one of the awesome things about this series really; no matter how many they release or how good the newer games get, us King of Fighters fanboy's still get a lot of enjoyment out of the older games in the series! :)

If you are new to these games, then I would definitely suggest trying this game out to give you a taste of what KOF is all about. This might be a good starting point if you really don't like the more old-school fighters, but even if you don't I'd still suggest giving KOF '94/'95 a try. If you have already played the newer KOF games, then I'd still say try out all the older games, especially this one - you don't know what you're missing!


Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Game play: 8/10
Replay Value: 8/10

Overall Rating: 8/10



Outside Links:
Related Reviews:

Reviews @ Neo-Geo.com:


Review by LWK

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  Comments
#1 | Michael Max on October 08 2009 19:31
Good review. 96 is my favorite KOF, other than 12. To me it just has the best stages and characters. And you can play as Wolfgang Krauser, which is awesome.

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