Genre: Fighting Developer: SNK Publisher: Takara Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
For those not in the know, the King of the Monsters series is a bunch of Godzilla-era movie monsters fighting to see who’s best. The first game was released in 1991 in the arcades and Neo Geo and a year later for the Genesis. It was basically a wrestling game where you also destroy whatever city you are in. If you’ve ever played War of the Monsters on PS2 or Godzilla: Destroy all Monsters for the Xbox then you get the general idea.
King of the Monsters 2 was released in 1992 and ported to the Genesis in 1994. The game is set three years after the original. Only three monsters survived, and they must fight invading aliens to retain control of the planet. The original coin op took a much different turn in terms of gameplay. Instead of a straight wrestler, it played more like a side-scroller where the end of each level featured an alien you were fighting for that location.
The Genesis got a much different version of the game. Takara took the all the characters except the final boss and made a wrestling based 3D fighter, and a pretty decent one at that. It turned out to be a smart decision and one that took full advantage of what the gaming community was playing at the time, fighting games versus sub-standard beat-’em-ups.
The character graphics are by far superior to the first game. Monsters are better defined and in greater detail. The backgrounds though, are not quite up to the same standard. They are still quite good and have appropriate buildings (space shuttle in “American City” and Eiffel Tower in “French “City”), but I felt that there just wasn’t the same variety in sprites and other structures, especially in the non-city stages.
The sound is a mixed bag. The music is good, fast, synth-techno that gets you pumped up and ready to fight. The sound effects are something less than spectacular. The hits sound like dull thuds and the explosions sound like they came out of an SMS. (But just the fact that there is a need for different kinds of explosions in a fighting game should tell you that it’s worth playing!)
The gameplay is a little slower compared to other fighting or wrestling ones for that matter. The many, many special moves added to this version more than makes up for that by keeping things moving. Every character has at least one special move (to do in the grapple), one projectile move, two other special moves which require power ups, and one “secret” move. They don’t tend to do a lot of damage unless you execute combos. The control is always quick and responsive and usually pretty forgiving as far as doing your moves. (On a quick side note, I looked everywhere for a moves list to this game online with no luck. The good news is that they are all printed in the game’s instructions. I will post them in the forum. Enjoy!)
As I said before, there is a lot to interact with in most of the levels. Every location has one set of sprites, either human (i.e. fighter planes, tanks, submarines, etc) or alien which you can destroy to reveal items such as health or power ups so you can do more powerful moves. Besides this you can destroy buildings for more items or rip the taller buildings off the ground and lob them at your opponent! Unfortunately you will not get a chance to do any of these things if you are playing against the computer. King of the Monsters has always had an infamously high difficulty level and the sequel is no different in this respect.
Two things make KOM2 so difficult. First off, the second the round starts, the CPU opponent is on you like white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm! They are fast . And they can pull off pretty much any move in the blink of an eye! While you have to collect two power icons to pull off all of your special moves (and your most powerful ones at that), the CPU can do all moves at soon as the level begins. You tend to have a pretty hard time destroying buildings or quick little aliens when you are constantly defending yourself from the endless onslaught of your computer opponent. You have to have some good defense if you are going to make it very far.
The second challenge is the grappling system. You have to punch to start a grapple and then I think the way it is suppose to work is when your character appears to be winning the grapple, you enter your special move and execute it. However the way it actually works, when you or the CPU start a grapple, you immediately lose and get pummeled. I tried every kind of timing and button mashing I could think of. This seems to be where most people agree on this game, the grapples are nearly impossible to consistently win (unless you cheat and use that turbo button!).
There are things you can do to alleviate the extreme difficulty. In the options menu you can lower the difficulty, increase the number of continues to “free play,” or turn off the items so instead of having to collect power icons, you can do all moves as soon as you start fighting. This unfortunately turns off the health drops as well, but they weren’t missed too much in my opinion.
There are nine selectable characters, three of which are returning from the first game. Astro Guy, Geon, and Woo all make return appearances in enhanced forms. The other six fighters are aliens from different planets who have united to kick Earth’s butt apparently. The two player mode is a versus fighter (instead of the original co-op) and is the most fun you can have with this game in my opinion.
So there you have it, if you are looking for something new, if you are tired of playing Rampage for your retro monster fix or are looking for a different kind of fighting and/or wrestling game, look no further! How many other games let you control mecha-King Kong and stomp a tank flat right before you tear the Eiffel Tower off its foundation and launch it at your buddy? Not enough if you ask me! So grab a copy and let’s wrassle!
SCORE: 7 out of 10