The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Review
The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match box art
System: PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: SNK Playmore 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Ignition Entertainment 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Feb. 27, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Glory Days
by Tony Capri

Retro seems to be all the rage these days, especially when it comes to fighting games. With King of Fighters (KoF), SNK Playmore has been churning out competition for the Street Fighter series since 1994. Now, together with Ignition Entertainment, King of Fighters 㤆 makes a return as Ultimate Match. We run the game through its paces to see just how well this aging fighter holds up to today’s standards.

The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match screenshot

One thing readers need to bear in mind is that Ultimate Match is not really a remake. The PS2 version is a port of a port. The original game released for Neo Geo systems back in 1998 (hence the name) and was brought back to arcades last year as Ultimate Match, which was essentially the same game with a few extras thrown in. The PS2 version, therefore, is aimed strictly at the hardcore KoF fan, as this is a very niche title that’s likely to be greatly overlooked by the rest of the thinning PS2 audience.

Ultimate Match is a 2D, anime-style fighter that borrows heavily from the Street Fighter series. However, it offers a slightly more straightforward control set-up that makes for a nicely balanced middle ground suited well to folks who like a good challenge but don’t necessarily want to spend years learning the ropes.

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KoF offers a four-button-combat set-up, with light and heavy kicks and punches, as well as variations of button presses to execute throws, Specials, etc. The analog stick gives you 8-way control of your character, allowing you to jump, block, and perform a wide variety of attacks and counters. The core mechanics are solid and hold up well using the PS2’s DualShock controller.

The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match screenshot

With 64 characters to choose from (including 10 characters new to this iteration), newcomers will have their hands full getting acquainted with the fighting system in Ultimate Match. That said, you can pause the game at any time during a fight to view a character’s move set. Basic moves and two-button Specials are enough to get you into the fray and having a good time with the game.

Ultimate Match brings together a slew of fighters from past SNK favorites like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, as well as pretty much every character from each of the previous KoF games. Surprisingly, each character has a fairly unique fighting style, and there’s definitely something for everyone here.

The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match screenshot

What perhaps set KoF apart from its contemporaries back in the day was its match system, which continues today. Rather than doing several rounds with one set character chosen before each match, KoF lets you choose three characters beforehand, and when one gets knocked out, the next fighter in line comes in to carry on the challenge. It was a system that forced players to master reaction over memorization of a particular character’s set of moves.

Ultimate Match also allows players to mix and match the two primary fighting modes of the original game. In Advance mode, players build up their Power Gauge when they connect with their opponent with a Special Move. In Extra mode, players build up their Power Gauge by using defensive maneuvers, such as guarding. With the new Ultimate mode, players can choose from various options found in both Advance and Extra, and it’s a neat twist that rewards players based on their own preferred fighting style. Once your character’s Power Gauge is full, you can either perform a Deadly Super, which usually consists of a bit of twisting of the analog stick while performing a Special Move, or your character can enter Max mode, boosting either their attack power or defenses.

Screenshots / Images
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