(Neo Geo)

Game Review

The King of Fighters '98 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

The best there ever was

For many 2D fighting game fans, The King of Fighters '98 represents the zenith of the series; the crowning glory of the only rival lineage to truly bloody the nose of Capcom’s genre-defining Street Fighter.

It’s not hard to see why this is the case; the game looks stunning, has a massive roster of characters and boasts one of the most balanced fighting engines in any game of this type. It also controls like a dream and features an excellent soundtrack.

For those of you that haven’t already sampled any of the other entries currently available on the Virtual Console, allow us to educate. Unlike Street Fighter 2 — which pitches one fighter against another in a "best-of-three rounds" battle — SNK’s King of Fighters series puts you in control of a trio of different pugilists. As each one falls in competition, the next steps up to the plate. This process continues until one of the opposing teams is out of combatants. Unlike Capcom’s popular “Verses” series, there’s no way of tagging a fresh fighter into the bout, but you can change the pecking order before each match.

The King of Fighters '98 is unique in the franchise as it doesn’t try to tie in with any overriding story. The subtitle “Dream Match” is something of a give-away; the game is basically a celebration of the series up to that point, with (almost) every character from every previous game available for selection. Even Rugal — the final boss of The King of Fighters ‘95, who perished at the conclusion of that outing — is playable.

The exceptions are Geese, Wolfgang and Mr. Big, who formed the “boss” team in The King of Fighters ‘96, Leopold Goenitz and Orochi (boss characters from The King of Fighters ‘96 and ‘97 respectively) and The King of Fighters ‘95’s mystical ninja, Eiji Kisaragi. It’s a shame that the line-up isn’t totally complete (SNK Playmore would rectify this oversight with the PlayStation 2 remake The King of Fighters ‘98: Ultimate Match, released in 2008), but if you’re deadly serious about mastering each fighter there are enough choices here to keep you busy for many, many weeks.

The “Advanced” and “Extra” power-up modes which made their debut in The King of Fighters ‘97 make a return. Advanced allows you to stockpile up to three super moves at any one time, while Extra mimics the system seen in early instalments and grants one power gauge which can be charged manually. Most people will pick Advanced given the choice, but it’s nice to see fans of the older titles being catered for in some small measure.

Built around SNK’s familiar four-button control layout, The King of Fighters ‘98 is a brawler which rewards perseverance and technical skill. As could be said of the entire series, the focus is more on deep combat mechanics than dazzling the player with special moves and over-the-top visuals — something many SNK fans will argue was the case with Capcom’s output from the same period. Few fighting games boast a single player experience so enthralling it has the power to suck you in for days on end, but this offering does exactly that. If you have people nearby who are willing to play multiplayer on a regular basis and have the discipline to learn the moves, then the game’s appeal becomes even more enticing.

Visually, The King of Fighters ‘98 manages to remain impressive despite the low resolution of the graphics. Although previous instalments had their moments of beauty, this entry was when SNK’s artists really nailed the aesthetic. All of the characters and backgrounds look and move wonderfully, and are accompanied by some classic tunes to make the experience even more pleasing.


Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the entire series, The King of Fighters ‘98 is a must-have purchase if you’re a dedicated fan of the genre. The only conceivable reason we can think of for not picking it up — besides having an aversion to this style of game — is because you already own The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga. For everyone else, there’s little excuse not to at least give this a spin, especially at such a reasonable price. This is one of the Neo Geo’s crowning glories and arguably one of the best one-on-one fighters ever created.

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User Comments (28)



Expa0 said:

Not a fan of old school fighters. I stick with KOFXIII for my KOF needs.



Shiryu said:

My favourite of the series, the best roster of all the entries even if it is lacking a bit on the "story" department. A super solid and worthy purchase.



CanisWolfred said:

This was the game that made me fall in love with fighting games, and I still love it to this day. I'd pick it up, but I got it for the PS2.



Squashie said:

I have played some King of Fighters in the past and I actually quite enjoyed it. However, I doubt I will pick this one up.



gojiguy said:

@expa0 This is objectively superior to KoF XIII.

I don't know what justifies the term "old-school"- unless "old school" is just a euphemism for "good."



CrimsonMoonMist said:

I see Wii's VC have Finally gotten to the meat of the franchise!
What can be said that haven't been said, it's both the game where KOF completely nailed its style and also its peak.



Haywired said:

As a big fan of fighting games I can't believe I've never actually played a KoF game. I must check it out!



misswliu81 said:

D4 enterprise need to release KOF 99 - 12 on the wii U virtual console. but this is arguably the pinnacle in the series and good thing it is out.



sinalefa said:

This one and 95 are my favorites. A really meaty roster, and i love how the random select picks a different character before each match



Expa0 said:

"objectively superior" right. I suppose your favorite game of all time is objectively the best game of all time as well then?.



CanisWolfred said:

@expa0 His point is that you're purposely overlooking a great game for completely bull**** reasons. This game is far from "old school". We're not talking about the original street fighter here, we're talking about the game KOFXIII is delibrately trying (and failing) to copy. You're not even giving it a chance, and I'm ashamed to call you a fighting fan.



Expa0 said:

I have played KoF 98 in the orochi saga collection (only a little though).

I am hardly a pro level fighting game player or anything like that, I just occasionally like to play with my friends for a moment. These older fighting games tend to be a little less accessible for noobies than the newer ones, my main gripe being the somewhat hard to pull of special moves and lack of tutorials. KoF XIII still has that problem though somewhat. I like games like Blazblue and the New Mortal Kombat more due to the special move motions not needing to be nearly as precise. Of course, I'm not saying KoF 98 and the like couldn't be enjoyed by the noobies or anything like that, the newer fighting game offerings just tend to be more to my liking.

Anyway to each their own, if you don't agree with me that's fine, but there's hardly need to get agressive about that.



DarkEdi said:

I like this game a lot, i have it in the remake of PS2 and the Wii collection Orochi Saga. I´m glad we soon will see KOF 99 and later and i will begin to download them (i always waited for a second pack in Wii)



Omega said:

The "Wii Virtual Console" should be renamed to "Neo Geo Fighting-Game Channel". But seriously, can we have some other games, please. At some point?



Bass_X0 said:

Only D4 Enterprise cares about the Virtual Console right now. And fighting games do make up a large number of the NeoGeo's catalogue. But they are giving us NeoGeo games that aren't fighting games such as Metal Slug.

D4 enterprise need to release KOF 99 - 12 on the wii U virtual console.

The series only goes up to 2003 on NeoGeo.



Omega said:

^ True. As far as I found out, 156 NeoGeo MVS games were made and 32% of them are fighting games.

Action (34) --- Driving (4) --- Fighting (50) --- Misc (7) --- Puzzle (20) --- RPG (1) --- Shooter (15) --- Sport (25) --- 156 total

But if we count Action and Shooter together, there are almost as many as there are fighting games. And now, dear D4, can we have some Action and/or Shooter please? Just for a change?



Bass_X0 said:

The way I see it, the more fighting games they release the quicker they run out and have to release other genre of games. But I would like Waku Waku 7 released. Personally, I am thankful that they are concentrating on fighting games that I am interested in and not sports games which I have no interest in.



Omega said:

I wonder if they'll release the complete NeoGeo library on the VC. I would like to have "Pulstar" and "Last Resort". I could buy Last Resort on the SNK Classics Collection but for some reason or another I prefer the Virtual Console.



Shotgunryugan said:

This was the game that introduced me to one of my favorite fighting games, if not my favorite.

Though technically i played the Ultimate version, i had the game on X-box 360 before it died on me :/

I'm going to miss playing as Orochi, but just being able to pick the Orochi versions of the other characters without inputting some annoying codes is worth it enough for me.

Orochi Leona, Orochi Shermie here i come again after buying '97 last time



brooks83 said:

D4, I love what you are doing with the VC, but can we get something other than a 2D fighter next? Pulstar, Blazing Star, Last Resort, Windjammers, etc.



CanisWolfred said:

@HawkeyeWii It's far more complex than Street Fighter. There's more combos to pull off, the rounds are different (3-person teams in survival-like matches), there's more defensive options such as escape rolls, as well as more offensive options. If you get this game and wanna get really good at it, I suggest looking up a wiki for it, since there's tons of things to learn. Though, I found that to be what made it so fun. I loved discovering new things and getting better bit by bit.



retro_player_22 said:

If they could released the more better Neo Geo classics like Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Power Instinct Matrimelee, Samurai Shodown V Special, Kabuki Klash, Kizuna Encounter, and SvC: SNK vs. Capcom Chaos then it would definitely be a great haven for Neo Geo player.

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