Let’s Talk About The King of Fighters ’95

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So if you weren’t aware, possibly because I haven’t told you, I’m a teacher. And perhaps in a moment of madness, I let my class know that “hey, yeah, kids, I have a YouTube channel, that makes me cool!”

Except of course it doesn’t because to them, I’m still their teacher. I am the person they’re not really meant to like; the one they’re not supposed to mention to their friends that they think they’re actually anything other than ‘lame’ or ‘weird’ or ‘a horrible, horrible monster who does nothing but yell at everyone.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m all three of those at once. AND WORSE.

But of course, with the idea that I have a YouTube channel comes the inevitable “WHAT’S YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL NAME?” and “WHAT DO YOU TALK ABOUT ON YOUTUBE?” comments that usually get a resounding answer of ‘PFFFFFFFT! Get out of my classroom.’

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And given that the majority of my reviews are a little bit sweary (for ‘little bit’, read ‘quite a lot’), I’m not telling them my YouTube channel name (or this blog site either). But in the event that one of them eventually finds it and actually CAN answer the question of “what did I talk about in the review you saw?” without it being “stuff” or “something”, they will at least get the opportunity to get this one RIGHT. Indeed, I am going to make sure that there is at least one review they can read or watch and as such, I’m going to find a game that I cannot swear about and a game that will basically make them realise that I am in fact at least a 1.2 out of 10 on the coolness scale. As such, let’s have a good old chat about THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95.

What? Did you guys think that I was going to talk about Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto? Ha ha ha ha! YOU’RE TEN.

Now pay attention, year 5, because there will a test at the end of this.

You think I’m kidding.

I am not.

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Let’s introduce you to the game in question then: The King of Fighters ’95. Created by SNK, this is the second game in the series – no… no, children, not the 95th game – whereby characters from a range of different games by the same company collide in an almighty battle royale to see who’s the best and also to vaguely save the world or something because y’know, gaming logic or something.

Well, actually, there’s a guy by the name of Rugal Bernstein who is essentially a bit of a nasty piece of work in that he was killed in the last game but magically survives to appear in this new game. Because MAGIC! Actually, it’s probably more through not actually dying and for plot convenience because what would a fighting game series be without a decent enough boss character and WHOA is he a good boss character: menacing, evil, brooding, ridiculous facial expression and special moves with names like KAISER WAVE and GENOCIDE CUTTER to name but a few. But he’s basically trying to kill you.

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Establishing the evil villain is one thing, but desperately trying to establish the game’s main character is another. In this case, the irritating and mostly dislikeable ‘HERO’ Kyo Kusanagi has the dubious honour of grumping/moping/grumbling/seething around the place like he’s a six-year-old who hasn’t got his own way. Which is basically what his problem is. What makes him so special is that he has FLAMES in his hands, for some genetic reason, and Rugal is looking for someone like him to be able to summon the evil Orochi, a snake-like demon who takes on the form of a small Swedish boy in the later games called – ARE YOU LISTENING AT THE BACK BECAUSE I SAID THERE’S GOING TO BE A TEST AT THE END, PAY ATTENTION.

Look, bobbins story aside, you’re getting to pick three characters and then use all three of them to punch, kick and fireball your way through all of the other teams of three. It’s a fighting game so what more did you expect? Teddy bears floating through the sky? A dragon? Characters popping out of cakes randomly?

Someone make that game, it’d be hilarious.

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The good thing about KOF 95 is that you don’t just have to pick a team of three made of people from the same teams. You can edit your teams to your heart’s content, therefore putting together the clearly winning combination of 90s jeans man with hat, lady who throws fans and giant man with giant ball and chain. But of course, as with most fighting games, there are a few rules to abide by in order to be a decent fighting game.

RULE NUMBER ONE: make sure the combat system actually works. Does it?

Surprisingly… yes.

I say ‘surprisingly’ but 2D fighting games tended to have a decent enough combat system that could be refined much more easily than 3D ones. And given that this was the second game – NOT THE 95TH – they had a chance to edit and improve upon what they had already done before *COUGH COUGH CHILDREN TAKE NOTE COUGH COUGH* – as such, we are treated a much tighter and more intuitive combat system than we had in the previous game.

Before you ask, intuitive means easy to use or understand. Got it? Good. Go away.

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Combos are fun to pull off and are not simply made by button mashing. There’s a button for light punch, hard punch, light kick and hard kick – a staple four-button system for SNK’s usual brand of fighting games, most of which came out on the Neo Geo, a console that originally cost $650 (that’s about £500, children… and this was back in 1991 so it’d cost you 14 billion quid these days.

You think I’m joking.

I’m probably not.

Also, taking a leaf out of the Street Fighter book of pulling off special moves, doing the ‘fireball motion’ lets your characters perform such brilliant sounding special attacks such as Haoh Soh Koh Ken and Ka Cho Sen and Rising Tackle. Although some of the moves do sound more interesting in the original Japanese, the English translations will forever have a place in my heart. Extreme Limit-Style Chain Dancing Fist, anyone? How about Super Arabian Burglary Back Breaker?

No?

Moving on.

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RULE NUMBER TWO: Make sure you cast of characters is varied and interesting. Are they?

Surprisingly… yes.

SNK had this surprising knack for creating a range of interesting characters because a fair few of these were actually taken from other existing games in their back catalogue. Over time, the series has developed a wider range of better and more interesting designs but for the most part, you do get a sense of the character’s personalities from the way they are presented and you don’t ever feel as though any of the characters are a bit on the rubbish side. Although let’s be honest, Ryo, Robert and Takuma from the Art of Fighting team are pretty much the “WE’VE RAN OUT OF IDEAS SO COPY STREET FIGHTER” characters in this game. All three of them handle in almost exactly the same way so think of the colourful ninjas from the original Mortal Kombat games and these would be the orange, white and slightly less orange ones that never existed.

Possibly.

Who knows? They had a billion of those ninjas.

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Favourites on a personal include the awesome kickboxer King who rampages across the screen with her Tornado Kick attack, can throw two fireballs in quick succession USING HER LEGS, and Kensou; a Chinese Kenpo master with psychic powers who throws fireballs with his mind, swan dives at opponents and has a serious crush on fellow teammate Athena, who is also psychic, as well as immensely annoying with her screechy, high-pitched voice screaming PSYCHO SWORDO every five seconds. Seriously, computer STOP PSYCHO-SWORDING ME, YOU RUBBISH BAG OF BROKEN BISCUITS.

On the more unusual side of character design, we have old-man Chin Gentsai who occasionally breathes fire and fights using Drunken Kung Fu (THAT’S A REAL THING, CHILDREN, LOOK IT UP!) and Iori Yagami, the game’s anti-hero in that he hates Kyo (as do we all) and fights using PURPLE FLAMES.

Because… why not?

Actually, Iori is mildly psychotic in his mannerisms in that he comes across as possibly possessed and like to slash at his opponents with his hands like he’s Wolverine, only he’s not Wolverine, he’s a red-haired creep who wears a belt tied between both of his legs. Because of course you do. Of course. How did we not think of this before?

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RULE NUMBER THREE: make sure the game looks nice enough. Does it?

Surprisingly… no.

Yeah, you thought I was going to say ‘yes’ didn’t you?

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the King of Fighters 95. I mean, given that it’s a 21-year-old game, it has aged incredibly badly and the pixellated, slightly murky-looking character sprites look very off-putting. The level of animation on display are the graphical highlight here and some of the effects, although, again, old and pixellated, aren’t too bad either. But even in 1995, these graphics didn’t really impress me anywhere near as much as they ought to. Even worse is that over the course of the next three years, the sequels reused these sprites so by the time we got to the King of Fighters 98 – NOT THE 98TH IN THE SERIES – we were still looking at some of the same sprites as we were three years previously. And for want of a better term, that’s a bit pap.

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A few of the characters, over the course of the game’s sequels, did get some graphical upgrades and were given cleaner animation but this took place over about nine games and even by that point, in 2003, the graphics were seriously starting to wear a little bit thin. The gameplay was tightened up significantly and they threw in several new game mechanics but… well… that’s for another review. One you probably won’t get to watch.

Oh boo yourself.

The King of Fighters 95 is a game that divided opinions during its heyday, whenever that was because I’m not entirely sure I know of anyone who owned a Neo Geo console. I don’t know of anyone who wanted to shell out over 500 quid on a console that only played games by SNK and were mostly £70 versions of this game anyway. Once that console died a death, the games were ported to other systems and by the time the Playstation got the King of Fighters 95, it was 1997.

Yup.

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Two years after the original game came out, this was plonked onto a 3D gaming console and looked like an absolute mess. It didn’t fare too well, selling only a handful of copies in the UK, and as such, the remaining King of Fighters games didn’t even reach home consoles until KOF 2000 and 2001 were sold together on the Playstation 2 as a double-game bundle.

But children, don’t let the graphics fool you. If you want a fighting game that’s hilariously brilliant and yet dreadful at the same time, you couldn’t really go any wrong…er. Wait, let me try that one again. If you want a fighting game that’s hilarious brilliant and yet dreadful at the same time, you couldn’t really get any worse…er… with… wait…

THIS GAME IS HILARIOUSLY BRILLIANT AND DREADFUL.

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Right then, guys. I hope you were paying attention. I’m going to pass around the test now.

Seriously? You thought I was kidding?

You know me better than that by now…

You’re welcome.

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