The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online – A Franchise Regicide

Jun 24, 2017
Action

For those who don’t know, The King of Fighters is a very popular but also very niche Japanese fighting game series. Recently it’s grown a fair bit more in popularity, even re-releasing on PC, so it’s not surprising to see a mobile tie-in. In fact, the massive roster of iconic characters, ranging from the titular King herself to crossover characters like Terry from Streets of Rage, seem like a perfect fit.

Then you find out that this game is basically a hybrid of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes with… Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. Yeah, that went down hill very quickly, didn’t it? Well, it gets worse. The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online – which is a MOUTHFUL of a name – is possibly one of the busiest yet least interesting games I’ve reviewed thus far for this fine website.

There is so much going on, with different upgrades, heroes to collect, menus to navigate, abilities, a story mode in addition to PvP, and none of it is interesting. The game presents itself so opaquely through one of the most long-winded tutorials I’ve ever seen, never taking a breath to get you invested. The opening of the campaign mode is literally a finale of a story that, if you haven’t heard before, leaves you completely and utterly confused.

The King of Fighters ’98 Review | Appolicious

For those who don’t know, The King of Fighters is a very popular but also very niche Japanese fighting game series. Read our review: https://appolicious.com/the-king-of-fighters-98-ultimate-match-online-a-franchise-regicide

What doesn’t help matters is that it is painfully clear the developers do not have a good grasp of English translation. To be fair, mobile games and fighting games both aren’t typically known for good stories, but it doesn’t help that there’s nothing interesting in the narrative to get you on board. In fact, I mostly was just left confused as to why I was even fighting certain characters.

When you do dive into battle it’s… kind of a turn-based strategy game, but also sort of a rhythm game. Most of it is incredibly hands off, with the biggest effort coming into team composition, timing your taps, and unleashing special powers. Except, for a good stretch of the game’s opening chapters, you basically don’t need to care about any of it. Which means you just tap the screen and try to tap in sync with rings over targeted enemies so that you can chain your attacks for maximum damage.

I mostly was just left confused as to why I was even fighting certain characters.

Seriously, that’s it. That’s the base of the game. Watch tiny pixelated versions of iconic King of Fighters characters punch each other until one team falls over. There’s no strategy, no tension, and the game itself even seems disinterested. You face copy-pasted enemies that in theory have unique stats and strategies, but mostly they just use one unique attack if they need to. Boss fights are slightly more engaging, but never felt like a true test of skill while I charged through.

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To give you an idea of how disinterested this game is – there’s an energy charge system that, in theory, will limit how many missions you can go on. Except, I actually overfilled the charge meter just from playing missions regularly and breezing through. I don’t know if this changes in the late game, but if it’s that easy to earn more energy, then why bother including that as a feature?

Also, obviously, there’s cards to unlock randomly, and a currency, but the campaign kept handing me at least one new character every chapter, and to be honest, it was hard to distinguish what all they could do other than the one girl being a healer. This isn’t for lack of trying to understand to understand the mechanics either. In theory, you could spend money on lootboxes, but that’d be if the game allowed you access. You see, that’s the other thing about The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online that doesn’t match up; it likes to lock everything behind level caps.

Some are reasonable, like limiting PvP play to players level 14 and up. I can understand that, that makes sense for progression. Then there’s eyebrow raising ones that I’m really not sure why they were implemented. For instance, they lock off the storefront, yet you can spend money on some freemium elements, most notably, the energy charge system that gives you too many charges to begin with.

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I have to ask – was there a plan with The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online? Because it feels like it was designed by committee. There’s no heart to it, no central focus, no core. It’s like SNK realized they could release a mobile King of Fighters game, paid someone to put together the assets, then at the last minute remembered they had to design the game it was all built for. There’s a considerable amount of content on offer if you find yourself liking the gameplay, but I don’t see this one clicking with most gamers. There are better options out there for your time. Don’t believe me? Check out our other reviews. I wholeheartedly guarantee, you will find something better than this.

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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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