The King of Fighters is a series that's long been a staple of the Neo Geo platform. But with a few new twists and added bells and whistles, the developers have kicked things up a notch. While not as revered as its predecessor, considered by many to be the pinnacle of the series, King of Fighters '99 still adds enough new stuff to make it worth a spin. And now you can take it for a spin on Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console; it's actually not too shabby, even over 14 years since its original release.
The button layout is fairly standard. You have a weak punch, a weak kick, a strong punch, and a strong kick. You'll want to keep an eye on your ever-filling power gauge in order to unleash your Ultra Death Blow attack. Using different combinations of buttons, you can increase your offensive and defensive power, which can be quite effective at given times. As usual there are a wealth of characters to choose from, this time allowing you to choose four characters for your fighting group.
As in most King of Fighters games, combos play a key role in your success. You'll find that each character has their own unique set of moves that can be strung together in various ways. It can take some time to come to grips with a few of the fighters, but it's worth the time and effort to learn the entire move set to be truly effective. The ability to boost offense and defense adds a nice layer of strategy to the mix, and diehard fighting game fans will love the Ultra Death Blows that are both effective and visually flashy.
All of the intuitive fighting gameplay is still intact in King of Fighters 99, just with a slight mix of new twists to try to add to the overall fighting experience. The gameplay still feels very similar, but purists might find the new additions a bit much, considering how fluid and streamlined King of Fighters 98 was; it's not so much that these tweaks are a bad thing, just maybe too significant a switch for fans who preferred its predecessor.
The visuals are among some of the best the series has ever even seen. There's plenty of detail and vivid colours in the backdrops, and the character animations are top notch. It's clear that SNK didn't want to change to much from the previous title, but you can still spot a lot of nice upgrades, from a graphical standpoint.
There are plenty of rocking tunes throughout, meanwhile, and the character voices haven't changed much, as usual. The voice announcer is solid, with a nice deep voice to call the action. Perhaps not quite as impressive as the audio package in King of Fighters 98, it still sounds amazing and packs all the musical punch the series is well known for.
King of Fighters '99 may always garner the reputation as the series disappointment, simply because it came along after the amazing '98 edition. The four character system is a nice twist and all of the famous graphical and gameplay touches are fully intact. It is worth noting that there are enough improvements and balancing of characters to warrant at least a look; unless you are just a diehard KOF '98 fan that can't see beyond it, this is still a game worth checking out.