King of Fighters '96 Review (PSN)
No matter what any critic says, there are going to be those people who defend the King of Fighters games with a vengeance – and for good reason. SNK has created an unparalleled fighting series with these games over the years, with their team-based tactics, their memorable characters (SHINGOOOO!), their great 2-D art style, and their impressive multiplayer bouts. Granted, we’re playing more popular stuff these days, but the fan base remains. That seems to be who King of Fighters ’96 was built for.
The game, now available on PlayStation Network, doesn’t deviate far from the KOF formula. You’ve got your choice of over 20+ fighters, split into teams of three, and you form your own dream team and go into the tournament. Your job is to keep your team in it, whether you whoop all three opponents’ asses with the first guy, or go down to the final and barely make it by the skin of your teeth. Though the game lacks the character switch-out action of the Marvel vs. Capcom games, you’ve still got plenty of fighting tactics to deal with here, including crucial counters and amazing supers.
Each character has their own specialized move set, and if 2D fighting games are your bread and butter, you’ll be more than pleased with what’s offered here. The controls of the classic Neo-Geo fighter are kept intact, so you’ll be throwing fireballs, jumping kicks and other monumental moves without breaking a sweat. Obviously you’ll do better with a dedicated fighting stick or pad, but if you’re a fan of the genre, chances are you already knew that.
Along with a decent story mode, King of Fighters ’96 also comes with network support, so you can play against others online. Although the lag is clearly noticeable at times, it’s nice to have, though the lobby isn’t always chock full of players. Honestly, your best bet is to get a local fighting horde together at the house and just go to town in local multiplayer.
Visually, you can tell how ancient King of Fighters ’96 is. The sprites remain untouched, so no high-definition goodness here. On the other hand, the animations still impress, even for 1995 standards, and the backdrops look impressive, whether you’re fighting in the heart of the city or by a train crossing in the middle of nowhere. As for audio, it’s okay, mostly consisting of a chintzy rock soundtrack and sound samples coming from each of the fighters. Some are better than others…though we’d still listen to Mai any day. (What can we say? She has us hooked!)
Obviously, there are better fighting games out there than King of Fighters ’96, and considering its $9 price point, you’re bound to find a better value for a few bucks more. Still, if you’re a fan, or just need something to remind you how simple fighting games used to be, you could certainly do a lot worse – like World Heroes.