SNK's fighter offers variety but little excitement
King of Fighters '96 is yet another NeoGeo-to-Saturn port to make its way to the Japanese audience. It's familiar territory when it comes to SNK fighters: nice artwork and animation, tried and true gameplay. Unfortunately, the action is pretty bland.
King of Fighters '96 is to SNK as Fighters Megamix is to Sega -- in other words, you'll find a whole lot of fighters from other SNK games, including the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury series. Which also means the Fatal Fury's Street Fighter-style fighting meets the up-close combat of Art of Fighting. Even the bosses from the two series are immediately selectable. We could be mistaken, but it looks like there's a couple of new characters in here as well. You can choose to scale the tournament ladder solo, or pick two other characters for a three-on-three match. There's also a survival mode to see how far you can last with one character.
Despite the many different character combinations and fighting areas, there's really no charm to King of Fighters '96. The animation and artwork is top-notch, but the action is flat and the computer AI is totally unbalanced. And boy, do we wish that SNK used other elements , like the zooming camera from Art of Fighting or the multiple fighting planes in Fatal Fury, could have made it into the game. Heck, there's not even extraneous items, like a wine barrel or lamp post to shatter. These would have added the certain flair King of Fighters really needs.
It's really hard to recommend this title over other, more polished and exciting games like Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Fighters Megamix. It's not a bad fighter, it's just not that great.