THE KING OF FIGHTER 98 :
The King of Fighters '98 (commonly abbreviated as KOF '98) is a 1998 fighting game released by SNK released for the Neo Geo arcade and home console. It is the fifth game in The King of Fighters series. This installment was advertised by SNK as a "special edition" of the series, as it featured most of the characters who appeared in the previous games (from KOF '94 to '97), regardless of whether the character was killed off in the series' ongoing storyline (which would be resumed in the following game in the series with a new story arc).
Ports of KOF '98 were released for the Neo-Geo CD and the PlayStation. A Dreamcast version also released titled The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999, which featured much of the stages remade in 3D. The game was also remade for the PlayStation 2 under the name of The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match, which expanded the number of playable characters.
As KOF '98 did not feature a storyline, the SNK staff took this opportunity to add Rugal (who died in KOF '95) as well as various alternate versions from various characters to the game. KOF '98 has been commonly praised by several video game publications as the best KOF from the series due to its graphics and gameplay. Ultimate Match, however, was criticized for how similar it is to KOF '98.
The gameplay does not differ much from the previous game, KOF '97. Like in KOF '97, the player has a choice between two playing styles: Advance and Extra, with a few slight modifications to Advance mode (unlike in KOF '97, the character will resume to normal if the player performs a Super Special Move in MAX state). This time when one character loses a round, the losing team is given a handicap in its favor. In Advance mode, this means that the player's stock capacity for Power Gauges is increased by one. In Extra mode, the time it takes to charge one's power gauge to maximum level is shortened.
Main article: List of The King of Fighters characters
All the regular characters from the previous game return, along with several characters from preceding installments such as Vice and Mature (Iori's teammates from KOF '96), the American Sports Team (Heavy D!, Lucky Glauber, and Brian Battler) from KOF '94, and the Old Men Team composed of Heidern, Takuma Sakazaki, and Saisyu Kusanagi, all characters whose last appearances were in KOF '95. Rugal Bernstein from KOF '94 also returns as a Team Edit character, with his alter-ego Omega Rugal (the cyborg version of Rugal from KOF '95) serving as the game's final boss in the Single Player Mode. Shingo Yabuki (who originally appeared in KOF '97) continues as a Team Edit character, but also appears as a mid-boss character during the Arcade Mode. Additionally, the characters of Kyo Kusanagi, Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi, Ryo Sakazaki, Yuri Sakazaki and Robert Garcia are playable with movesets from previous titles of KOF, while the alternate ones of Mai Shiranui and Billy Kane are based on their moveset from Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers.
Ultimate Match :
KOF '98 was later remade under the title of The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match in 2008, ten years after the original game's release. It was released in Japan as an arcade game for the Taito Type X hardware on March 2008, with the PlayStation 2 port released on June 26 of the same year. It was also published on the "NeoGeo Online Collection The Best" on June 18, 2008. The game was released in North America by Ignition Entertainment on March 3, 2009. In the European Union it was released on June 10, 2009.
Ultimate Match includes additional characters not featured in the original version of the game, such as Eiji Kisaragi from KOF '95, along with Kasumi Todoh and the Boss Team (composed of Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser, and Mr. Big) from KOF '96, as well as the boss characters Goenitz and Orochi, essentially including all the characters featured in the KOF series prior to KOF '98. New moves were added to the USA Sports Team to improve their playability, and EX versions of certain characters not featured in the original version were added, including King with her Art of Fighting 2 moveset, Ryuji Yamazaki and Blue Mary with their Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers moveset. The Orochi versions of Leona and Iori Yagami are also playable, and both also appear as mid-bosses in the Arcade Mode. New stages were added to the game such as China and Hong Kong to show appreciation for KOF's high popularity in such regions; it is also the only fighting game to feature an accurate representation of Saudi Arabia in one stage, as the country was a major market for the NEO GEO line in the early 1990s.
A third fighting style is also introduced in addition to Advance and Extra, dubbed "Ultimate" mode. Ultimate mode is a customizable style that allows the player to choose between features from Advance or Extra mode, such as which kind of Power Gauge to use. It also includes a 'Neo Geo' mode, which is a direct port of the original Neo Geo console version.
GameRankings gave the game a 76.50% based on a total of twelve reviews. With ten reviews, Metacritic gave it a 72. Various publications for video games and other media have commented on Ultimate Match with IGN writer Ryan Clements giving it a 7.8, saying that probably this game should only be recommended to fans of The King of Fighters due to how old its graphics are as well as the little balance it has with 60 characters being playable. James Mielke from 1UP.com complained on how the game is very similar to KOF '98, but found the controls to be comfortable and intuitive for any fans of 2D fighting games. However, Heath Hooker from GameZone found that the gameplay and sound from the game make up for the graphics even though there is not much difference between KOF '98 and KOF '98: Ultimate Match.