The King of Fighters series is one of SNK's most popular and iconic franchises. The games see characters from SNK’s different fighting titles meeting up to have an almighty three on three scrap. The formula works so well that Capcom decided to use it when they developed their Marvel output. This collection contains the first five games in the franchise.
The collection is dubbed the 'Orochi Saga' as it follows the story of several crime lords as they host the King of Fighters tournament and gradually come to learn of the awesome power of the evil Orochi. Geese Howard, of Fatal Fury fame, then decides he wants to raise the Orochi from his slumber to harness his power. This, of course, causes all hell breaks lose. Beat'em ups are never too hot on plot but any excuse for a fight is fine by us.
We at Retro 101 are very glad to see the first five titles here as it means you not only get the history and development of the series but the best games as well. King of Fighters 96 and 98 are, generally speaking, the ones that fans tend to pick as their favourites and it is easy to see why. These two certainly have the best feeling of impact and chaos and most concepts introduced throughout the series are balanced perfectly here.
That is not to say that King of Fighters 94, 95 and 97 are bad by any means. KOF 94, being the first in the series suffers from being rough around the edges and 95, while improving on certain things, introduces a few ideas that don't quite work how they should. When you reach KOF 96 all the rough edges have been removed and the various dodges and counters have all been balanced out which, while only being little changes, makes a massive difference.
KOF 97 takes a few backwards steps as SNK try something a little different. What is most disappointing though is that the music and sound effects are very poor. This removes almost all the tension and atmosphere from the game and often left us feeling bored. Of course, everything is fixed and polished to perfection with KOF 98. Otherwise known as 'the slug fest' this is one of the most highly revered and sought after fighting games of all time. It allows players to pick from over thirty nine characters and we are delighted that it has made it onto this compilation. All of the characters are unique which means if you want to master everyone you are going to be here for a very long time.
Aside from the main games SNK has also added other options into the mix. For fans you can check out a whole host of related media such as art work and sound effects for the games. There is also the excellent addition of the challenge mode. This gives you various conditions to overcome in preset matches, such as only using the kick button or being outnumbered. Overcoming a challenge unlocks new characters, art work, music and various other things.
SNK has released a number of collections now but this is by far the best of them. The King of Fighters series is one of the greatest 2D beat'em up franchises out there and on this disc are two of the best fighting games you are ever likely to find. Anyone who has thought twice about picking up the other collections should not hesitate here. KOF 98 would be worth the money on its own, but adding it into a mix that contains KOF 96 and all the extras makes this an unbeatable package. If you have never played a SNK fighting game before then this is the place to start.