Having already given us the ‘98, ’94, ‘99 and 2000 editions (in that order), HAMSTER now jumps back in time to give us The King of Fighters ‘95. As only the second entry in the series it lacks some of the features of later games, but the aim remains the same: pick a team and defeat a bunch of others on your way to a showdown with a final boss. With a good range of fighters to pick from there’s plenty of entertaining team battles to be had here, but inevitably this review will end with a recommendation to download The King of Fighters ‘98 instead.
It’s not a completely pointless re-release however. Anyone with a nostalgic interest in this particular instalment will be pleased with HAMSTER’s desire to re-release whatever it can, and for those interested in story this begins the Orochi Saga. There are a few brief and standard scenes during a playthrough, but each team also has their own ending which adds some replayability to the game if you’d like to see them all.
The character lineup is very similar to the first game, with seven of the eight ‘94 teams carried over. These include the Fatal Fury team and the Art of Fighting team whilst others feature the likes of Kyo Kusanagi, Yuri Sakazaki and huge ball-and-chain swinging Chang. Rugal (or rather “Omega Rugal”) is again the final boss, with Saisyu Kusanagi serving as a new Sub-boss. The USA team hasn’t made the cut, but their spot has been filled by the new Rivals team which includes popular Kyo rival Iori Yagami.
Unlike in the first game, you are not limited to the set teams and can put together a fighting force comprised of whoever you wish. This gives you a lot of options to experiment with as you try to find your perfect group of fighters; via some extra button holding it’s even possible to include Saisyu and Rugal in your trio.
Combat is smooth and the controls responsive as you perform various special moves and jump or sidestep out of the way of your opponent’s attacks. Sidestepping requires a two-button combination, but by default this is mapped to ZR on Switch controllers. Similarly ZL performs a taunt and holding both Z buttons is the easiest way to charge your power gauge. As always with these ACA releases button settings can be changed in the options menu should you wish to do so.
There are some great looking stages in the game, including an outdoor one where the action takes place in a thunderstorm; a tree split by lightning at the battle’s start is burning in the background. Also good is the stage that begins on a lift; the fight initially confined to the smaller space until it has settled into position.
The game can get quite tough at times (particularly in the final fight), but becomes easier once you’ve settled on a team and got used to how best to use them. The difficulty can also be adjusted with eight settings available, and as is standard with these releases extra credits are just a button press away.
If you’d like a more traditional one-on-one, best-of-three rounds fighting experience this can be enabled in the options menu, although the cutscenes and endings still play out as if you have a full team. Further ways to play are provided by the usual one credit Hi Score and five minute Caravan modes, and if you are fed up of fighting CPU opposition a second player can of course buy in to the normal arcade mode and challenge you at any time.
The King of Fighters '95 is a decent fighting game with a good selection of characters to pick from. Figuring out your best team and then battling through either the arcade mode or against a friend leads to some very enjoyable times. Subsequent instalments would improve on the formula, however, and that makes this game a less than essential purchase. What storyline is in the game will be of interest to some, but whilst it can certainly entertain The King of Fighters '95 doesn't offer as full an experience as The King of Fighters '98; if you are only looking for one KoF game to stick on your Switch, that is the one to go for.