| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Fighting; loc=JPN] |
|Download added: disc.jpg (17594 bytes)|
Not to be confused with the DC's KOF "Dream Match 1999" (see entry 1283), "'99 Evolution" is an actual port of KOF '99. As with DM1999, a port of '98, they converted the original 2D backgrounds to 3D, and these look nice too, but they didn't do the sort of dithered low-color effect that made those in DM1999 match the character sprites so well: in '99, the backgrounds are smoother, and so more distinct from the characters; I prefer the DM1999 method, but '99 Evo's are still nice conversions. However, a couple of the '99 stages are sewers or weird tech labs or whatever, and they just plain stink: dark, dingy, and boring.
This is too bad because you'll see them a lot in the port's wide variety of extra modes; in addition to the usual team or solo "play through a short succession of opponents up to the real real pain in the rear boss and enjoy a short cutscene at the end" story mode, and Practice mode (no AI-vs-AI "Watch" option there, alas), there's also a Survival Time Attack mode--where you try to KO a certain number of opponents in the shortest possible time, as in DM1999's Survival mode--an Endless Survival mode--one of the better implementations in KOF, since the ranking screens keep track of top KO number per roster character, with player initials; only down side is that it starts off way too easy, with the AI not even trying to fight back for the most part until well over a dozen fights in--and a mode where you get to fight every cast member once in non-cumulative-damage single-round battles. Good effort on the modes.
Ah, plus a link mode with the Neo Geo Pocket Color game "King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise" (see entry 144) where you can transfer accomplishments between the games, using transferred points mostly to unlock strikers in '99 Evo. KOF:BDP is not one of my favorite NGPC games, so...this won't get much use, ever.
Battle systems changed quite a bit from '98 to '99. Gone are the old "Extra" and "Advance" super-charge systems; now you've got eh Armor and something...anyone one lets you dish out more damage and one sort of takes more hits or something, all for a limited time; apparently one is unbalanced, I dunno since I don't really use them anyway, just having a hankering for using my super meter charges on super moves instead.
'99 also sees the introduction of Strikers to KOF: non-playable characters who can be summoned a fixed number of times per round, usually three, to fly into the arena, play a pre-recorded attack, and fly off. I've never really gotten into Strikers in a big way, but coming back to the game now, I had some cool battles with them, and it's easy to see how they add a real strategic dimension to the game, since their attack ranges and patterns vary; some attack at close range, some only jump in at long range, some cover mid-range, some have different types of effects, etc. A few extra hits from surprise Striker attacks can really change the outcome of a match; they're probably unbalanced, but anyway they're still kind of neat, and make the matches feel more dynamic. For instance, I was just playing with Terry as my striker; Terry strikes first at short range, then follows up with a hopping combo, particularly on downed opponents, so he was really effective if I could lure the opponent into following me back across the screen: trigger Terry just as the opponent thinks they've got me on the run, and he pops in, pops them up in the air, and hammers them on the way down.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, because while your striker is attacking, you can attack too, so you can actually combo your attacks with them, and some are definitely made for that specifically, like eh whoever it is who grabs the opponent and holds them captive for a moment, so you can run up and get free hitsies. But it isn't necessarily easy, because your opponent can block the striker, or even hit them, dispelling them; they can also call their own striker, and then you may have up to four characters on-screen at once, all doing attacks; I had one match-ending exchange that went something like me triggering my striker, the opponent blocking and calling their striker as a counter, but I was leaping in to follow up my striker, and managed to leap over the counter-attacking striker and land a winning jump-kick on the opponent. That was a fun one.
Any playable character--there are eh thirty something in '99 Evo, but two or so are just Kyo clones, bah--can be used as a striker, so "Teams" in this KOF are four-person, instead of three: three people who you will control in succession, plus a fourth who'll be your striker for that match. Additionally, in the port there are "Extra Strikers" you can unlock after playing to earn accomplishment "points"; these are mostly unused KOF characters, or semi-obscure SNK characters from other games, and it's a neat way to see them. Two are available from the start, and these are characters who go on to become fully playable in 2000: the dressed-for-business Seth and (swoon) Vanessa.
Aside from these mostly positive changes and additions, the game plays pretty much like KOF '98, and most of the characters are carried over from earlier KOFs. It's with the new characters, though, that things start to go wrong for the game and--in my paranoid view--for the series as a whole.
Later interviews and comments from KOF designers (http://kofaniv.snkplaymore.co.jp/english/character/index.php) seem to indicate that the character K' (pronounced "kay prime," I think), supposed to be someone to rival old KOF cover boys/nemeses Kyo and Iori in popularity, turned out to be too bland, and didn't really catch on like they had hoped. K' is eh a clone or something...anyway he has no particular personality, dresses in a fairly unadorned dark gray leather jumpsuit, wears dark glasses which he likes to push up with one finger, trying to look cool, has spiky white hair, and a weird red metal/rocky/glowing glove thing on one hand; he has fire attacks rather similar to Kyo's in appearance, although with some odd gameplay-mechanics twists that I've never really managed to get my head around, and...that's about all there is to say about him.
Unfortunately though K' was accompanied a host of other bland or annoying characters: his hulking right-hand man, Maxima, the shrieking tentacle monster Whip, the doofy kid Pao, too-chirpy Li Xiangfei from Real Bout (see entry 1160), Jhun Hoon, an extremely boring kick-boxer, the two afore-mentioned utterly derivative Kyo "clones," and the horrible boss guy Krizalid, particularly horrible because, while if you die and have to continue, you can opt for a "continue service" including knocking his health down to 1/3rd, he has two forms, the second of which is the horribly cheap one, but the continue service is only valid against the first---darrr. I hate hate hate getting to the boss in this game.
The problem with these characters, aside from Li, maybe, is that they just don't feel like they fit in with the exuberant street punks who, up to this point, had constituted the vast majority of KOF's cast and appeal. Li, Pao, and Whip are energetic, certainly, but their voices and antics are far more annoying than appealing, and you just wish they would go away as quickly as possible. It was K', however, who embodied the disease that would eat away at KOF's happy heart for years: K' is the first of what became a large crowd of brooder/hipster/emo/assassin/alien/wtf characters who simply didn't feel like they came from the same world as the quirky but down-to-earth crew who'd preceded them in the series; this new breed of KOF character would be too sullen to care about, and too bizarre to identify with; while you could see yourself in Terry's hick torn jeans and long hair, Shingo's choking on rice balls, Athena's obsession with costume changes, there are no such hints of personality in these newcomers that tell us they are from...Earth. It isn't at too bad a state yet in '99, but this is definitely where the series took a turn for the "darker" side that it ultimately couldn't pull off in an interesting way; a developer would say that they were going for an "older" audience with this move, but I can't imagine that it worked, because most of these characters just have no soul.
So I sort of detest this game for that reason, which isn't really fair since it's looking ahead to anticipate the outcome of this strategy, which only became really obnoxious several years later. '99 doesn't have the youthful enthusiasm and brightness of '98 and the preceding years, and this is a definite loss of spirit in the characters, the backgrounds, and the music. The vast majority of it is still pretty good, though, and the gameplay and mode additions are quite good. The interface, music, and other touches have a slicker feeling than earlier games, which in a way is nice, but is again a reflection, in hindsight anyway, of the series' loss of innocence and fall from grace. '99 is a good game, but damn its poisoned heart.
|If you do a super move when your character is low on health, you'll get a superified version of it, usually doing more hits for more damage.|
99 Evo does not support the Dreamcast's VGA output, a problem that it shares with DM1999. Evo does, however, have pause-screen move lists, a feature sorely lacking in DM1999.
The Japanese version of the game has an English language option that puts the main menus, story screens, and win quotes in English. A few sub-option screens remain in Japanese.
The Japanese version also has a really cool disc cover surface not kept for the North American release: the disc has an image of K' and Maxima, drawn by illustrator extraordinaire Shinkiro, with a list of the names of the characters in the game, in English, between the two figures. The whole disc surface--except for the usual DC disc info tab--is black, and the image and lettering are defined, not by contrasts in color or value, but by background and foreground having different levels of shine and texture--tiny ridged lines--so that the image becomes more or less visible as you move the disc under a light source. One of the coolest disc covers I've ever seen.
|This Japanese release of the game has a "Network" mode, which supposedly was for internet play, but I've yet to find anyone who actually used it.|| ||