The King of Fighters ’98 ($2.99) is widely considered one of the best entries in the KOF series, and the iOS version that’s been around for a few years is quite a bit of fun. But as long as that port has been available folks in the Eastern parts of the world have been playing a weird free to play mobile game based on it called King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online, or KOF’98 UM OL for short. After enjoying quite a bit of popularity in Asian markets, KOF’98 UM OL (Free) has finally released out West.
This is certainly not a traditional fighter, but the mechanics are strangely enjoyable despite being so simplistic. You’ll play through a number of fights in each chapter of the main campaign which sees your team squaring off against a group of baddies that leads up to a boss fight. You’ll tap an enemy to attack, and then mash a quick-time event to begin and continue a combo with the rest of your team member’s attacks. It’s a bit like the battling in the Mario and Luigi RPGs or the Active Time Battle from some Final Fantasy games. It rewards you for perfect timing but also doesn’t require much complexity other than tapping, and somehow it’s a lot of fun.
The overall game itself is a dizzying collection of free to play stuff. Seriously, it’s quite overwhelming, and the tutorial (which apparently is still going on well into chapter 2) is the type that simply highlights the part of the game they want you to tap and guides you through that way, which doesn’t do a great job at actually teaching you what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. However, I’m starting to come to grips with everything, and if you’re pretty well versed in other free to play social RPG type games I have a feeling KOF’98 UM OL will end up being just fine for you after that initial curve.
All that said, there is a tremendous amount of stuff to do in this game. Multiple difficulties of the main campaign, ultimate trials, combo challenge, many modes of PvP, and so much more. There’s a very handy breakdown of all the game’s modes and features at this wiki page which a member very helpfully linked in our forums. There is a ton of stuff to learn and understand, and an unbelievably cluttered UI, but if you typically enjoy these types of games and you’re a King of Fighters fan then this is a surprisingly neat little game.
While I’m still working my way through the early portions of the game, I’m actually really digging KOF’98 UM OL as a longtime King of Fighters fan. It looks as though the entire KOF’98 roster is here in chibi form, and it uses all the same sound effects and special moves used in the normal fighting game. It’s also quite tongue in cheek with its dialogue, poking fun at certain characters and even the series itself. If you liked the look of the above trailer and are looking for a new free to play time sink with lots of King of Fighters fan service, give KOF’98 UM OL a download for free and check it out.