The King of Fighters '99
|The King of Fighters '99: Millennium Battle|
|Series||The King of Fighters|
|Mode(s)||Team Battle; Up to 2 players simultaneously|
|Arcade system||Neo Geo|
The King of Fighters '99: Millennium Battle is a 1999 head-to-head fighting game by SNK released for the Neo Geo arcade and home platform. It is the sixth installment in the company's The King of Fighters series. The game was ported to the Neo-Geo CD and the PlayStation as the final KOF game released for both platforms. A Dreamcast and Windows version was also released under the title The King of Fighters '99 Evolution in which the stages look exactly the same as compared with the arcade counterpart only to be exclusively remodeled into 3D. That version was released both in Japan and North America. Both the Neo Geo and Dreamcast versions are included in The Kings of Fighters NESTS Hen compilation released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan. The game introduces several changes to the established KOF format, as well as a new story arc that would later be dubbed the "NESTS Chronicles".
Instead of the three character teams from previous KOF games, each team now has four members. Before a match, the player chooses three of the characters to use in the actual fights, while the fourth member becomes the designated "Striker", a character the player summons during battle to help their character out by performing one of their Special Moves against the opponent. A striker can only be summoned a limited number of times during a single match, which is determined by the number of "Strike Bombs" at the bottom of the screen.
The selectable fighting styles, Advanced and Extra, from KOF '98 are gone. Instead, the game has a single playing style modeled after the Advanced mode from the previous game, where the player fills their power gauge by attacking the opponent or performing special moves. This time, there are two powered up states the player can choose during battle depending on the button combination used. Counter Mode increases the player's offensive strength and allows the player to use their character's Super Special Move infinitely, as well as combo that transitions from a Special Move into a Super Special Move by using a "Super Cancellation Attack" or a "Moving Attack". The other powered up mode is Armor Mode, which increases the character's defensive strength, allowing the character to take more damage from the opponent; however, the player cannot use Super Special Moves during Armor Mode.
Plot and characters
Two years have passed since the last King of Fighters tournament and nobody has seen Kyo Kusanagi or Iori Yagami since they defeated Orochi at the climax of the 1997 tournament, but out of the blue, new invitations are sent out to many characters, inviting them to a brand new tournament, though this competition is more of a secretive affair than the ones in '96 and '97. Unlike in previous games of the series, there are four characters per team instead of three, with the fourth serving as a "Striker", a fighter whose function is only to enter a match, attack the opponent and leave without replacing their teammates. In total, there are seven teams, each containing four characters, four Team Edit characters and a boss.
The increased number of characters per team, as well as the story element of the missing Kyo and Iori, lead to the reshuffling to the character roster. K′ is introduced as the new protagonist of the game along with his partner Maxima, who joins forces with Kyo's former teammates, Benimaru Nikaido and Shingo Yabuki, to form the new Hero Team. Takuma Sakazaki rejoins the Art of Fighting Team as its fourth member, while Mai Shiranui finally becomes an official member of the Fatal Fury Team for the first time in the series. King joins forces with Blue Mary (formerly with the "'97 Special Team") to form the new Woman Fighters Team along with Kasumi Todoh (last seen in KOF '96) and Li Xiangfei (from Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers). The other three returning teams each gained a new member as well: Whip for the Ikari Team, Bao for the Psycho Soldier Team, and Jhun Hoon for the Korean Team. The game also introduces two clones of Kyo Kusanagi, Kyo-1 and Kyo-2, as Team Edit characters based on previous playable incarnations of the character, while the real Kyo, along with his rival Iori, also returns, but only as secret playable characters. The antagonist of the game is Krizalid, a clone of K' employed by NESTS to carry out one of their nefarious schemes. He is faced in two states: first he appears with a coat that analyzes an opponent's data, then once he is beaten, he takes off his coat and increases his strength while having stronger moves.
KOF '99 was originally released for the Neo Geo arcade on July 22, 1999. A port for the Neo Geo and Neo-Geo CD consoles were released on September 23, 1999 and December 2, 1999, respectively. The PlayStation port was published on March 23, 2000 in Japan and on April 22, 2001 in North America. In Japan it was later republished for the "PlayStation SNK Best Collection" on March 29, 2001 and once again on July 25, 2002.
It was remade for the Dreamcast as The King of Fighters '99: Evolution. This version had different stages and a few new selectable striker characters. The new strikers are Kyo Kusanagi, Athena Asamiya (in her school outfit), Goro Daimon, Billy Kane, Ryuji Yamazaki, Chizuru Kagura, Syo Kirishima, Alfred Airhawk, Vanessa, Seth, Fiolina Germi, and Gai Tendo. Additionally, the game can be connected to the Neo Geo Pocket Color game The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise. Points won in Battle de Paradise can be transferred to The King of Fighters '99: Evolution to speed up the leveling process for the Extra Strikers. It was published in Japan on March 30, 2000, and it was reprinted on October 25, 2001 with the logo of "SNK Best." In North America, it was published on May 10, 2001. Both, the Neo Geo and Dreamcast versions are included in The Kings of Fighters NESTS Hen compilation released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan.
The King of Fighters '99 initially meant to remove Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami from the series due to the introduction of the new lead character, K'. However, due to negative fan response in location tests, they decided to readd them as unlockable characters. Kyo was also redesigned for this game, but the developers still liked Kyo's school uniform outfit. As such, based on the concept of adding EX versions from various characters in previous games, the staff created the Kyo clones, which would feature Kyo with classic movesets (Kyo-1 using the first two games' movesets, while Kyo-2 uses the '96 and '97 movesets). The staff wanted to create a Robo Army Team. However, this idea was abandoned but they later made it a tribute in The King of Fighters 2000 by introducing Rocky, a character from Robo Army as a striker for Maxima. The character Whip was originally meant to appear in The King of Fighters '96, but due to Leona's introduction in that game, the staff decided to wait until KOF '99. Developers also found troubles with the large number of young characters appearing in the game; as such the staff also designed older character such as Maxima and Vanessa (who appeared only in the Dreamcast version as a Striker, and would not officially debut until next year's version) to balance the game. In contrast to this, Bao was added to the game in order to reduce the average age from the Psycho Soldiers Teams (which changed from 42 to 34 with Bao's introduction). The boss character, Krizalid, was designed "with a straight, stylish appearance and earnest strength." However, the designer in charge mentioned he "overdid it." Due to the large number of unused graphics accumulated on the Neo Geo version, some of Krizalid's graphics were removed. With the release from the Dreamcast port, the staff could add Krizalid's graphics due to the capacities from such console. Vanessa was also meant to be playable in the game, but due to time constraints, she was only a striker character in the Dreamcast port.
In GameSpot's "The History of SNK" article, KOF '99: Evolution was regarded as one of the best fighting game from Dreamcast along with Garou: Mark of the Wolves. However, due to the fact it was released during the PlayStation 2's launch and the Dreamcast's ending, it did not have very good sales. The Dreamcast port from the game received a 67 by Metacritic based on four reviews. Nevertheless, the Dreamcast port sold 67,833 units in Japan. Game Rankings gave it a 73.50% and a 75.33% to the PlayStation version, with both ports' percents being based on six reviews.
Various video game publications have commented on the game with GamePro giving it three stars and a half over five. The game was criticized by GamePro because the new gameplay of strikers "simply doesn't fit in the King of Fighters series, though, and is more of a novelty than a game mode." Although they complained on the quality from the PlayStation port, they liked that the loading times became shorter. However, Andrew Seyoon Park of GameSpot found the PlayStation port to be very good considering the limitations from the console. He gave it a 6.6, complaining on the animation and the voices. Additionally, he found disappointing how the number of characters from KOF '98 was reduced, noting also that the boss Krizalid is very hard to beat. The Dreamcast port also received a 6.6 by Park, who found it much better than the PlayStation version, but still found the game disappointing. He noted the striker system to be "clearly derived from the tag system from Capcom's Marvel fighting games" and complained on how there are popular characters who only appears as strikers in the game when he wanted them to be playable. IGN's Anthony Chau gave it an 8.5, commenting that although "people are probably tired of 2D fighting games, saying that they all play the same", he found KOF '99: Evolution to be very distinct. He found the new gameplay to be very entertaining despite knowing some "KOF purists hate the Striker system".
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