Retro Review – King of Fighters ’96
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Ahh, 1996: the year of Bill Clinton, sheep cloning, Beast Wars, and the sad, sad death of Tiny Tim. What wasn’t awesome about ’96? Nothing – especially gaming! Hot off the success of King of Fighters ’95, SNK released King of Fighters ’96 in the arcades and on home consoles. King of Fighters had always been that franchise that pushed the graphical limit of a given platform while still keeping a great and fluid gameplay experience. Having KoF ’96 re-released in today’s market that idea is no longer relevant, but you’d be surprised how well the game holds up even now.
In terms of graphics, the game is a beauty. Even on a large HD screen the game looks phenomenal in a retro cool kind of way. Obviously everything is super pixelated in the game, but it oozes so much style that the pixels work really well. Everything is visually clear and well conveyed, and there are no giant blockss of pixels moving across the screen. Also, the animations are amazing. Every move is drawn in great detail with smooth and consistent frame rates, which just makes the combat all that more enjoyable. The small visual bonuses in the background are much appreciated as well. If you’re playing team battle, you can see your teammates off to the side cheering you on or passed out if they were beaten the previous round. That much attention to detail is surprising to see considering how old the game is. Visually, KoF ’96 has a retro charm that is very much in style today. Mix that in with the smooth jazz midi songs within the game, and it becomes clear that KoF ‘96 is a retro lover’s dream.
Visuals would be nothing if the gameplay was terrible – good thing that isn’t the case with KoF ’96. The controls are incredibly responsive and fast, even by modern standards. The ability to rush in and perform multiple hit combos is great and keeps the game running quickly and smoothly. The inability to quickly tag between team members during the round is a letdown, but considering the time of the original release it’s to be expected – the power of the Neogeo was just not capable of doing something like that. Besides that, the combat is a perfect combination of complex combos and easy-to-pull-off special moves.
The greatest aspect of this re-release of King of Fighters ’96 is the inclusion of online play. This was a brilliant addition on SNK’s part, as it takes what could have been a relic of the past and turns it into a modern fighting game. The online mode works wonderfully without any hiccups that I noticed. I didn’t have a game dropped, and the frame rate stayed consistent, even though my win ratio didn’t. This mode alone makes the game worth getting even if you own it already. Network play is a must in any modern day multiplayer game, and I’m so glad SNK included it in their re-release of King of Fighters.
Overall, King of Fighters ’96 is a solid game even by today’s standards. The controls are tight and responsive and the audio and visuals have a retro flair that is so popular today. The network play addition to the game modernizes it just enough to entice gamers who were on the fence about a retro game, and the fact that it works really well (without any noticeable issues) really drives it home. With the impending release of King of Fighters XIII, KoF ’96 is a great and cheap way to get your King of Fighters fix until XIII is released. You can pick it up on the Playstation Network right now for 8.99.
King of Fighters ’96 comes out on top with a score of 4.5/5.0
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