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

The gameplay options include Arcade, Single Play, Endless, and Practice. The Arcade mode is based on the traditional 3-vs-3 KoF formula, which you can play either against CPU characters or a friend. In Single Play, you choose only one fighter, and whoever wins two rounds first wins the match. We were a bit confused by the Endless mode, as losing causes the game to come to an abrupt end, but it’s basically a quick-play option of 1-vs-1 matches against the A.I. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to allow you to back out of free-play matches, so anytime you want to return to the main menu, you’ll be forced to hit the reset button on the PS2.

The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match screenshot

There are a few extras as well, including artwork and movies. The package also comes with a bonus disc, which offers wallpapers and promo videos. The art is definitely a nice addition that fans of the series will likely savor, but the bonus disc – seemingly intended solely for PC usage – offers no auto-run feature or menu, so you’ll have to dig around inside the disc folders to find what you’re looking for.

On the production front, KoF98 still looks pretty good. The backgrounds are very detailed and attractive, though the character models haven’t aged all that gracefully. Fighters animate with too few frames to truly hold their own among today’s other fighting contenders, but the visuals have no adverse effect on gameplay. This is coming strictly from someone who appreciates the notion of “out with the old, in with the new,” so fans of old-school fighters, in general, will still likely enjoy pressing the virtual-rewind button when sitting down to play this game. There’s even an option to set the menu screen to the original Neo Geo presentation, and if you’re looking for a true arcade experience, it’s offered here in all its glory.

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The real retro star of Ultimate Match, however, is the aural presentation. There are a ton of great themes and sound effects that will surely tap into a fan’s sense of nostalgia. Each character offers their own set of voice murmurs and gravelly grunts, and the announcer speaks in her original Engrish from the Japanese-arcade version… which is undeniably charming.

King of Fighters 㥪: Ultimate Match is a solid fighter for hardcore fans looking to either complete their collection or relive a bit of the past. But we have to ask – even at $20 – is it worth it? There’s no online gameplay, and it’s a product that likely could have been easily offered as a downloadable game for $10 on any of the three current-gen consoles. The bonus disc doesn’t add much to the pot, though the overall presentation of the package is still quite nice (fully colored manual, tons of art and movies, etc.) If PS2 is your only console option and you’re looking for another decent fighter, Ultimate Match is a respectable contender worthy of consideration. Just keep in mind this is a retro affair aimed at a fairly specific audience.

By Tony Capri
CCC Freelance Writer

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
3.5
Graphics
The backgrounds look really great, but character animations are a bit archaic. There’s a surprising amount of variety offered here visually, though, and overall, Ultimate Fighters is still a good-looking game.
4.2
Control
The fighting mechanics work really well with the DualShock, though it’s likely not the preferred controller for hardcore fans of this type of 2D fighter.
4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are a great blast from the arcade past, and there’s a nice variety of themes to boot.
3.3
Play Value
It’s a generous presentation with lots to do… locally. Some of the extras are a worthy addition to the package, while others feel slapped together.
3.5
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • 64 total characters including 10 not seen in KOF '98
  • Includes the original NEOGEO version of KOF 98
  • New battle stages and "Special Features" for Geese, Mary, Yamazaki, & King.


  • Screenshots / Images
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