KING OF THE MONSTERS 2
written and some screenshots by Bobak!
King of the Monsters 2: The Next Thing
The Next Review by Bobak!
The original King of the Monsters was one of the first big hits on the Neo Geo. Placing decent knock-offs of famous movie monsters in city-flattening wrestling game satisfied the destruction-filled fantasies of video game fans everywhere. From this success, SNK moved quickly to bring out a sequel. Not satisfied with a simple rehash, they worked on it two-fold: adding elements they had wanted in the original and making some major changes to the game's format. Alas, the reworking succeeded first area but failed in the second. The next year, KOM fans had their sequel, but KOM 2 is a different animal than its predecessor -its legacy is a bitter/sweet experience.
The original KOM took place in 1996. According to KOM2, after battling for three years (in what the insert claims is historically called "the King of the Monsters Massacre"), only three of the original six monsters survived. Those that remain were given enhanced powers:
Geon, the Godzilla clone, became the much more powerful (and sinister looking) Super Geon. It has the power advantage.
Astro Guy, the Ultra Man clone, became the more muscular Atomic Guy. He has the speed advantage.
Woo, the King Kong clone, had the most radical change: Going from regular overgrown ape (no Rush Limbaugh jokes, please) to robot-warrior Cyber Woo. It is the all-around character.
Sadly, my two favorite monsters from the original: Beetle Mania and Rocky, did not make the cut. I guess they were sacrificed for meg-space and a more dramatic story. Nuts...
Now it is 1999. Just when humanity thought it was going to be dominated by these mega-monsters, along comes a major alien invasion (well ain't that a bitch?). Far from being friends-of-the-earth, these aliens are a greater menace than the monsters. Seeing a challenge to their authority over earth, the 3 Amigos (err, monsters) saddle up and take on the invaders. After all, this is their planetary buffet!
Now the monsters must team up and fight through delightfully ambiguous locations ("American City," "Desert," "French City," the g-spot... you get the drift), taking on minor aliens and pesky humans on your way to a show down with the big, bad, and cheap level-bosses. Ah yes, the humans. They're still here, infesting the earth and being a general nuisance to your every day working-fellow behemoth monster. As the instructions note: "The humans can no longer rule the world," but that doesn't mean they aren't going to try. They've improved their weaponry since you devastated the Land of the Rising Sun, and they're much more militant (no civilians getting caught in the melee this time around). Fortunately, their danger is no greater than any of the minor monsters -just more overpriced hors d'oeuvres for you to munch on along the way.
As the insert declares, the ensuing alien/monster showdown is coined by witnesses as "the King of the Monsters 2 Colossal Confrontation." The programmers seemed to settle on the less spectacular and much more vague "The Next Thing." But enough story... How does it fare?
What a difference a year makes! The graphics in KOM2 are a great improvement over the original. The monsters are much larger, much more detailed, and full of life. The aliens, humans, and bosses are also very colorful and detailed. Screens full of chaos, movement, and colors with no slowdown! The lack of slowdown is a nice feature for such an early Neo cart (then again, the original was also very good in this area). Seeing the especially large final boss throw himself effortlessly across the screen (as smooth as a figure-skater) will undoubtedly impress.
The levels are also better than before. Scrapping the more realistic look of the original, KOM2's level come off as more cartoony and colorful. Not to break with tradition, SNK's sense of geography is very, umm, creative in creating the caricatured levels. Among others, the White House has a Space Shuttle launch pad behind it, there are two Sphinxes, and yes Terry Bogard fans, Mt. Rushmore is still located near the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.
Great clarity, excellent volume, more dynamic scoring. However, while the music and sound effects superior in the technical aspects, the tunes just aren't as catchy as the first. The original King of the Monsters had six incredible themes that really gave each monster a personality. The music in KOM2 is varied and pleasant; and a few of the songs (the Grand Canyon stage and a few boss tunes) are notable, but it just doesn't have the same overall effect.
Here's where the game both improves and comes apart. Here are the changes, grouped into good, neutral, and bad/terrible.
One of the neat features in the original was the ability to pick up downed human vehicles (tanks, jets, trains) and throw them at your opponent. At the same time, I remember first playing KOM and thinking, "I wish I could pick up the buildings and throw them." Apparently, the programmers thought the same thing. Thus, the neatest improvement in KOM2 is the ability to uproot the larger building and throw them at your opponent.
Improved Level-up System: instead of collecting numerous power-ups from performing moves on opponents, Power-ups are found as items, and it only takes one power up to go up a level (maximum of two level-ups). Level-ups also increase your life-gauge.
More Special Moves: Your repertoire of special moves has been expanded with your power-ups, now there are 3 different charging moves. Some of them are quite creative.
More Items: from positive items (points, life-ups and power-ups) to bad items (Bombs), to downright cruel items (power-downs, which bring you back to Level One -reducing your life-gauge and reducing your repertoire of super-moves). While the latter really stinks, it does add a nice level of challenge.
Creative Bosses. You will constantly be surprised by surprises of each progressive boss. The final boss, which will be explained below, is in a class by himself.
Better Timer. The timer isn't as merciless as the original. There are no intense fights suddenly stopped due to a time-out.
Nice variety of levels: From cities to desert to ocean floor, KOM2 breaks from the simple 'monster-levels-a-city' routine.
Bonus Rounds. There may only be two, but that's two more than the original.
New side-scrolling sections: This is fun, and some of the middle levels (the desert and the ocean), are quite ingenious. Still, the heart of the game is in wrestling bosses, and by removing the ring the game isn't any better off..
No Pins: Now you must totally destroy/beat-to-death your opponents. While I prefer the old wrestling touches, you won't really notice they're gone.
No Ropes: Again, while I really miss the ability to throw your opponent against the high-voltage ropes like in wrestling, the harm to the overall game is negligible.
Absolutely Ridiculous Difficulty. This game is way harder than it should be. And this isn't the type of difficulty that skill and practice will help -it's the type that comes from very flawed and cheap-minded/quarter-munching programming (good luck finishing it on home cart, even with a memory card). I'll elaborate on the many flawed areas below:
Totally Random Grappling System: I've owned this game for over eight years and I still don't know how the player is supposed to win the grapples which determine which combatant gets to pull of a special move. Arcade wrestling games are usually notorious for this difficulty, and the original KOM isn't much better. However, KOM2 redefines how bad it can get. You will only win a maximum of 33% of the grapples. Period. Press the button as many times as you wish, but if you don't see yourself winning a grapple in the first two seconds, you're a goner. I guarantee you'll find yourself yelling at the bosses on numerous occasions.
Cheap Hits: This is a game that encourages you to be as cheap as possible to your opponent before he is as cheap as possible to you. Cheap hits are an inevitability in this game.
Major Power Imbalances: Although the level-ups extend your life gauge, it always takes only three special boss moves to take you down. Conversely, you take very little life away from your opponents, and your own attack power does not go up with the level up.
Inability to Block: This wouldn't as big of a sticking point if it weren't that your opponents can! -and, trust me, they know how to... The ability to block would have balanced the gameplay a lot. In fact, battling the sea monster boss takes much longer than it should because it's inherently flawed design blocks far too much.
Human Weapons Don't Hurt Enemies: You'd assume that the humans would be just as intent on ridding the earth of the malicious aliens as you are, but they lend absolutely no support. Their shots don't even faze the aliens. This is annoying. In the original, the human weapons would at least slow your enemies. This seems to be something they forgot in programming.
Boring Vs. Mode: Because of all the tweaks that removed many of the wrestling elements, the versus mode is very boring.
Fewer Playable Characters: I think the programmers just got lazy in this department. Especially when it comes to versus mode: The least they could have done was made a few of the alien bosses playable in versus mode (which worked well in the original Art of Fighting).
The Last Level: Its one of those levels where you face every boss one more time before taking on a final boss that redefines cheap final bosses. Thank heavens we don't see these anymore.
The Final Boss. Very difficult and/or very cheap bosses have been a hallmark of many of SNK's best games; and KOM2 is a game that has its fair share of unfair bosses. However, nothing in the game will prepare you for final boss, King Famardy, who redefines cheap: A boss which takes up nearly a quarter of the screen, can damage you by simply touching you, and can move faster than any other character in the game (so no grappling or charging moves, you can only inflict light-hits and run). This boss is so absurdly difficult its actually quite funny... Unless you're playing with a finite number of continues (sorry home cart owners), in which case the King can bring you to tears. There is no chance of beating Famardy on one credit (let alone getting to him on one credit). I figure it will take a seasoned gamer at least five or six just to beat him. He will sometimes just roll over you (and keep rolling over you while you're on the ground) until you die -without having inflicted one point of damage on his very long life bar (which, given your inability to grapple and use power-moves, leaves you only your weakest attacks to chip away).
Holy Bejesus! And he moves faster than you do!
If you have a home cart version, a few episodes of playing your best -only to get spanked by the King will burn you out. If you have the opportunity to play MVS or CD, you'll still burn out pretty quick after finally sending the bad boy to hell -Besides, there are only three characters to beat it with.
What more can I say? KOM2 is mixture of pain and pleasure. There's enough of the original to keep you interested and playing, and some of the new stuff is fun and interesting (There's a nice buzz that comes from throwing the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, or Space Shuttle at your opponents). Then again, the serious gameplay problems really intrude on fully enjoying the game. You'll find yourself interested enough play though some fine early levels, only to get totally bogged down and demoralized in the final boss ridden stage -only to be topped by the ludicrous King Famardy. There is no experience quite like it, for better or for worse.
Making the major changes that SNK did was quite a gutsy risk on the part of the programmers. Sometimes such risks really pay off, other times they can seriously crash and burn a potential franchise. Unfortunately SNK's brave attempt at bringing the KOM series to a new level ended it. Solemnly, I wave goodbye to lost hopes and lost potential. SNK could have at least taken KOM into the fighting game genre, but it didn't. And a much more inferior game, Primal Rage, stepped in to take its place.
-SNK discovered another "King of" franchise...
REPLAY VALUE: 40%
DIFFICULTY: HARD, damn hard!
Bobak!: made his fortune playing the horses, then lost it all playing god. It's a long story...
More Reviews of This Game:
by Kazuya_UK - Courtesy of Kazuya's
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