EDITOR'S NOTE:
My colleague and I wanted to take this opportunity to spell something out to you people. For too long, sites like Wikipedia have been spreading misinformation regarding the development of King of the Monsters. I am going to say this as clearly as I can, so listen up, you stupid, cretinous morons: ADK had nothing to do with the development of King of the Monsters. Neither did Takara, as they only published the home ports. Evidence, you say? Take a look at ADK's rap sheet on MobyGames, and their page at the Game Developer Research Institute. Let me tell you, son, the GDRI knows their shit. Admittedly, that page is a work in progress, but even some half-arsed research (looking up the names in the credits) reveals that most of the staff members have a history with SNK rather than ADK- Hamachi Papa (Director) worked on Beast Busters, and most of the other staff members worked on Savage Reign. Most damning, of course, is the fact that ADK aren't credited on the title screen, but every other game they released in the period was, and even games that came after had their logo. King of the Monsters doesn't. Just remember- our objective with this site is the truth. Have a nice day.

Logic dictates that complicated games are fun. The more techniques and tricks to exploit in a game, the more enjoyment you can bleed out of it, most of the time. This is particularly true for fighting games. Just a cursory glance confirms that- compare the original Street Fighter (which is a bit like shoving your fingers into a wood chipper and couldn't be more basic if it tried) to Street Fighter II (which embraces the seldom-used special moves from the first game and redefined the genre) and then again to Street Fighter III: Third Strike (which mostly adds the parry, which has divided fightman game experts for centuries) and you'll see what I mean. Now, obviously, simple and basic games are also immensely fun- just ask anyone who's played Robotron 2084 for any length of time- but I think, when it comes to fighting games, the rule is certain: the more options you have, the better. There couldn't possibly be a fighting game that's horribly basic and yet just as entertaining to play as Third Strike, could there?

Ah, yes there is, and its name is King of the God-damn Monsters, son!



Released in 1991, King of the Monsters was one of the earlier Neo-Geo titles, and by far one of the most eye-catching- there's a reason that, on the creaky video game show Nick Arcade, this game was one of the most popular choices for the Video Challenge. It takes a theme that everyone's familiar with- those wonderfully absurd 'kaiju'/'giant monster' flicks like Godzilla and King Kong- and turns it into an equally over-the-top fighting game. The basic plot, in typical SNK Engrish, is revealed on the arcade flyer; In 1996, our ozone layer is getting destroyed. Ultraviolet and cosmic rays are pouring into earth. Something has been going wrong without anyone knowing. Awful monsters suddenly appeared everywhere! They can never face each other without fighting. They stamp tanks, grab and throw jet planes. Cities are being ruined. Now listen up! The ground is rumbling, here they come!!

And what awful monsters they are! Six monsters, almost all ripped from classic monster films, are available to use:

Geon

Ripoff of Godzilla

Abnormal weather awakened him from his long sleep at the bottom of the Russian Sea. He attacks with his tusk and tail or flame bullets.

Woo

Ripoff of King Kong

He's been living quietly in deep China. The destruction of the woods made him fiercely upset. He has speed and power and shoots blitz bullet.

Poison Ghost

Ripoff of Hedorah

He was created from the mud at the bottom of the sea. His punch is powerful enough to create a lot of damage.

Rocky

Ripoff of... No-one!

Mysterious being from the Sphynx in Egypt. He has super power and shoots frocks from inside his body.

Beetle Mania

Ripoff of Megalon (?)

Once regarded as insects from the Amazon, recent studies show they are from another planet. Watch out for the horns launching like missiles!

Astro Guy

Ripoff of Ultraman

A mad scientist created him during the study of radioactivity. He makes high frequency resonance inside of his body and launches it from both hands.



In case you can't tell, it's a fighting game, but it's very different from the fighting games that SNK are known for. These gigantic monsters have turned six cities of Japan- Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Okayama and Hiroshima- into their personal wrestling rings! Each city is surrounded by an electrical fence that act as the ropes- try to go past them and you'll be thwarted. Within the ropes, though, everything else is fair game- the Tokyo Tower, sports stadiums, skyscrapers, houses, trains, tanks, fighter jets... If it's there, you can destroy it. Hell, if your opponent wasn't there, you could happily waste some time just trampling over everything in the city (and this is encouraged- you get a score bonus at the end based on your trail of 'destraction' as the game calls it). However, your chosen monster is fighting to be crowned King of the Monsters... And, as such, mankind's greatest enemy. So, there's no time for such a mindless rampage. In the single-player mode, you do this over twelve stages, fighting each monster once, then again in different versions of the six cities, but in Vs. Mode, there's just the one match.



So how do you claim your rightful place as the king? You've got three buttons- Punch, Kick, Run- and a couple of extra moves, like jumping (press Kick and Punch at the same time) and a slow-charging projectile attack (hold Punch and Kick down until your creature starts flashing). You can also grab your opponent, and when that happens, it's a back-and-forth button smashing contest (while holding Up or Down to pull off a different throw) to throw the enemy. A lot of people bitch about the controls, mainly because they think the grappling is totally random- it isn't quite. At the start of a Vs. match, for instance, the grapples seem to go half in your favour, half in favour of your opponent. As near as I can figure it though, the weaker you are, the less likely you are to get a grapple to go your way. That's when it's time to start playing defensively and use the projectiles and running attacks to your advantage. Fortunately, while throws are powerful, your other attacks are just as useful at draining your enemy's health bar and knocking them down. Besides, compared to thee sequel, the grappling is very merciful here. However grappling works, pulling off a specific throw for each character sends a Power Ball into the playfield, and picking up 10 of them gives your character a new lick of paint and an increase in strength (which you can do twice). To beat your opponent, you need to wear their health down, knock them to the ground, and then press the Punch button on top of them to pin 'em. If they can't get up before the 3rd count, they're outta here.

As far as the mechanics go, the controls are pretty tight, although the Run button only works when you've got a fair bit of space. The only major problem is that the computer players cheat quite a bit. Not only are they sometimes a lot faster than you are, they almost always have the advantage when it comes to grapples. This doesn't mean that trying to grapple the CPU is completely hopeless- you can often win the grapple if you're fast enough with your fingers, but by the sixth match, you'll definitely start to notice they win a lot more. This isn't nearly as big a problem as some sites make it out, though, and it's far, far more lenient than King of the Monsters 2 as you can, on occasion, break free from a later enemy's grasp. Additionally, you'll always survive at least 2 pins every credit- the CPU only gets 1 freebie!



Now, the strange thing about King of the Monsters is that there's literally nothing to it. What I've just described is all you need to know to play this game. If you compared it to modern fighting games like BlazBlue or even old-school fighters like Street Fighter II, then King of the Monsters is paper-thin. You won't find any 'mind games'. You won't find any 'cross-ups'. There aren't even any differences between the characters aside from the appearance of their moves- every character has the same reach and speed, so they're all on equal footing. All there is to this game is two monsters (or four if you're playing the insane co-op mode) beating the shit out of each other. Most of the time you and your opponent will be mashing the living hell out of the buttons to either get up or win a grapple, or you'll be avoiding direct contact and using the projectiles and running attacks, so it's essentially brain-dead. By all rights, this game should've been completely forgotten, nothing more than an exercise in excessive button-mashing and completely mindless destruction. Or, as they say in SNK Engrish, 'destraction'.

However, that's not the case. Because absolutely anyone, no matter what degree they've got in Vidcon Asskicking, can play this game, it's totally accessible. If you presented a newbie player with the choice of The King of Fighters '94 and this game, I guarantee you that they'll get to grips with this game much, much faster. The King of Fighters '94, and, well, every other fighting game under the sun is deeper and more complex. What these games lack is immediacy. You can't just waltz up to a KOF game and expect to take on all comers within a single credit. It takes practice, like all complex games should. Sometimes, though, that's not what you want- I saw a recent survey about arcade gaming habits, and someone submitted this gem: "Whenever my friends and I go to the game center we basically stand around for a while and leave because there isn't anything a beginner can just start playing." This is what King of the Monsters excels at- it is that pick-up-and-play game that's missing these days. I'm not saying that ultra-complex fighting games are rubbish, but I am saying that sometimes, something that takes all of 5 minutes to master is better than a super-complex fighter with move lists that look like spreadsheets.



The other appealing thing about King of the Monsters is that it is the fist of the nineties punching you in the face forever. It is, in every way, an embodiment of the over-the-top spirit shown in games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Gunstar Heroes that, in my mind, defines the video games of the era. It's got visual excess, including tiny little jumbotrons, teeny-tiny trains waiting to be derailed and used as a weapon, and the smoldering wreckage left behind when you totally trash a building. It's got audio excess, like the overly-British radio announcer who speaks before each fight, spouting off such nonsense as, "Reporting live from the skies of Tokyo, the catastrophe hasn't ended yet- it's too late to escape!" and, if you're playing with headphones, you can hear things like the tanks rolling up and even the bells of the trams! Also, the soundtrack, although usually drowned out by the explosions and war-cries of the monsters, is suitably awesome, helped greatly by the excellent sound capabilities of the Neo-Geo- Astro Guy's theme in particular is great. This was what it was about back then- total overkill. Of course, with this game you can see that such excess lead to a dumbing-down of the gameplay, but for what it is, and despite its shortcomings, King of the Monsters is entertaining.

I'm going to say this again, with emphasis: King of the Monsters is an entertaining video game.

See, I played this game quite a lot before I penned this review- more so than usual, in fact. When I'm creating articles for this site, what tends to happen is that, when a game's selected, I'll play it solely to get screenshots or gather information. I never play for fun. Obviously, I have fun while I do it, but it's never the objective- I play these games with a critical mindset firmly in place, dissecting every little part. With King of the Monsters, though, I found myself playing solely to have fun while I was writing this review. During this time, I had to stop myself from pumping my fist in the air and yelling, "Hell yes! This is what video gaming is all about!" That's the kind of game this is- if you were to put it under a gigantic microscope and scrutinise it, as I did about 3 paragraphs ago, you'd think that it wasn't worth bothering with. In theory, it is a bad game. In practice, however, it is a riot. It takes all of a few tries to get to grips with the controls, it's got a satisfying kinetic energy abounding with every on-screen action (mostly because of the excellent visual/audio touches- when Astro Guy hits the sidewalk, everyone in the city feels it) and it revels in its absurdity and excess. I'm not saying it's the best game in the world, but it is fun to play.

Really now, isn't that why we're doing this video gaming lark in the first place?

For being total proof that sometimes it's OK to be stupid, King of the Monsters is awarded...

In a sentence, King of the Monsters is...
A bit like wrestling from the 90s, you know it's dumb, but by God it's entertaining.



And now, it's that time, folks!
EXTENDED PLAY!





King of the Monsters was popular enough to get not one, but two home ports other than on the Neo-Geo AES, on both the Super Nintendo (developed by Genki, who aren't so good at this whole 'arcade conversion' thing) and the Mega Drive (developed by SPS, better known for their Sharp X68000 work). While both of them aren't great, the SNES takes the crown of being the worst. The first strike against both ports is that Woo and Poison Ghost have been ripped out. There's also huge sacrifices in the graphics department- the cities aren't nearly as animated, the monsters themselves lose a lot of frames (although it's far worse in the SNES version)- and the sound quality has decreased so dramatically that it makes you realise how good the Neo-Geo was at pumping out music. As far as the game itself goes, it's definitely better on the Mega Drive. The SNES version is a jerky mess with a much slower framerate but has the benefit of a dedicated button for jumping, whereas the Mega Drive version runs at a speed much closer to the Neo-Geo original and has the same controls. It's still not perfect by any means, of course, but you have no idea how bad the SNES one is. It's an abomination, is what it is!

For a more direct comparison between the two, observe the two images below with your optical receivers- SNES is on the left, Mega Drive on the right:



Hopefully, you've got the message now.

However, all is not lost for you King of the Monster fans who don't want to fork out the cash for a real Neo-Geo, as the game was included in the hit-and-miss SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 compilation for the PS2, PSP and Wii. As well as being a perfect port of the original, there are 4 different difficulties to select (Easy, Normal, Hard and Insane), 'checkpoints' (which are actually an emulation of the Neo-Geo memory card, amazingly enough) and there are various 'achievements' for the game. Playing in other games in the collection also unlocks moves lists for the game and some bitchin' King of the Monsters art. If, however, you're a more discerning King of the Monsters fan, and will not sully yourself by buying a collection that has such foul entities as Burning Fight and Art of Fighting in it, then it's also available on the Wii Virtual Console for 900 Wii Points. This one is based on the AES home release, which makes starting 1P Vs. 2P/co-op matches a bit easier (the VC version has a menu that appears when any player presses Start. The collection version doesn't have this, and Player 2 has to press Start first, otherwise you'll go into co-op mode) so it's up to you. I'd go for the collection myself- it has Shock Troopers and Magician Lord as well, which is totally boss.



King of the Monsters Sound Pack

Now, unlike most of the soundtracks I actually want to listen to, King of the Monsters has already been ripped by a rather useful gentlemen by the name of Simon B. (no relation to the Belmonts, I take it) on the Final Fantasy Shrine forums. You can find the download here, and while I can't remember if you need to register to be able to download it, it'll be worth your time, as pretty much any soundtrack can be found here. Including The Outfoxies, which I found out 5 minutes after I lost 2 days of my life ripping the damn thing. Anyway, that's not what I'm offering today. Instead, here's all the lines from the Tokyo Radio Station in-game. Before some of the fights, you hear this hilariously British radio announcer talk about what's happening, and he also appears in the ending where he... Well, I wouldn't want to spoil it. In any case, they're quite amusing in how hammy and over-acted they are, so here's the lot of them, just for you. I mean, shit, this guy is more British than I am. That's a hell of an accomplishment.



In the end, after all the mess...



The humans surrendered to the monsters. Everyone believed they would rule the Earth, but...

We can't save the city! Go back to the index for evacuation details...