The battle for survival begins in Generic East Coast American City!
Apparently, Japan was trashed so much in the last game that you can't fight there anymore.
Our first target is the nefarious Huge Frogger (US/Europe) / Huge Keal (Japan).
At the start of this stage, we're given a warning from Famardy.
Say what you like about SNK's command of the English language- this intro is absolutely perfect.
Run that shit up a flag-pole, and I'll salute it!
And the battle is underway! And, at this point, the best music in the freakin' game starts playing- fuck the other songs, this one gets a YouTube video. This opening section seems to be a teaser of what's to come, but, well, it does it in a pretty deceptive way. It's not long enough, for starters. In any case, Huge Frogger teleports from nowhere and he's raring to go. Something to note about this little section is the odd landmarks- you can clearly see the White House, the Kennedy Space Centre and what I suspect is the Yale Bowl here. I think SNK took a few geographical liberties when they were designing this level. And by 'a few' I mean 'do they even know what America is or haven't they been taught that yet'. Anyway, all you have to do is hit Huge Frogger 2 or 3 times (more if you're playing as Cyber Woo) to advance the game- since he's got no health bar, you won't be taking him down just yet.
Once you've done that, Huge Frogger disappears and you have to chase him through downtown WashiFloriNew York for no reason.
So, these little side-scrolling sections are the main new parts of King of the Monsters 2, and initially, they're quite fun. There's absolutely nothing to them, really, it's just you making your way across the city while the humans, in their pitiful attempts to stop your rampage, try sending planes, submarines and battleships in your general direction. The first thought that springs to mind is, if you're fighting against Famardy and his goons, why are the humans still trying to kill you? The answer, of course, is that humanity is all like, "We can take on aliens just fine without the help of gigantic monsters that trashed Japan 3 years ago! Er, wait, hang on..."
Anyway, this bit introduces a few of the other new elements, mostly the items and the fact that you can grab buildings to throw at enemies. Your first priority here is to try and find as many Power-Up icons as you can- one of them is usually hidden in one of the first buildings you find, and you'll find another a little further down the road, as a plane is hoarding one (it's the one that's in the middle of its formation, so you'll know it when you see it). stage one of the planes flying overhead has one- you'll know which one it is when . Grab both of them and you're set for the rest of the game- you'll have 8 health blocks and 3 Specials at your disposal. The humans do offer a fair bit of resistance, as they'll be launching missiles and bombs in your general direction, but they're small fry compared to what we'll have to fight later.
Now the preliminaries are out of the way, Huge Frogger's back. Let's get rrrrrready to rrrrrrumble!
And at this point, the entire game falls apart.
OK, maybe not entirely (it will later, though), but a huge flaw is made glaringly apparent here. I know I usually save my game mechanics commentary for the end, but with this game, I can't hold back. Y'see, in the intro part of this stage, you might've tried grappling ol' Huge Frogger, and you probably managed to throw him. I'm sure at this point you must think I'm some kind of psychic for knowing that, but I'm about to prove it by saying that you're probably going to try and throw Huge Frogger again when you reach this part of the stage. What will happen is, you'll lose that throw nearly instantly and Huge Frogger will take two bars from your health. I am going to state this once, so just bear it in mind for the rest of the review. Consider them the Three Commandments of Grappling in this game:
You will almost always win the first grapple of every life.
After that, if your character isn't seen to be winning the grapple for more than a second, you will get thrown.
These odds don't change, regardless of how much health you or the enemy has, and no button mashing is going to help you.
So, unlike the original King of the Monsters, there's no negotiation here. If you get caught in a grapple, you're gonna get thrown and there's nothing you can do. I have, on occasion, won a grapple after the initial freebie, but there's no consistent way of doing it. This wouldn't be so bad if the computer characters didn't love grappling so much, as they even like to hover over you when you've been knocked down, which means they'll start a grapple as soon as you get up, and they'll win it. Sometimes, they even do this twice in a row! The only thing to stop this is to simply avoid getting even remotely close to the enemy. The game is essentially one big round of Keep Away, with the computer absolutely destroying you if you so much as get within hitting distance of them.
But let's focus on Huge Frogger, shall we? His speciality is teleporting, but fortunately he doesn't abuse it too much, and he never teleports right on top of you. What he does have, however, is a jumping kick that has absolutely sick range, a seldom-used laser projectile, and a vicious left hook. His weakness is that he isn't quite as smart as the later enemies, so you can usually get away with a special attack here and there, as long as he's knocked down. One of the best tactics, however, is to take advantage of the fact that you're in the United States of Fuck Yeah- there's lots of buildings all around. Grab them and throw them at the bastard! Something else to keep in mind- and this applies to nearly every boss- is that you can attack them while they're down. The best attacks for this are Atomic Guy/Cyber Woo's kick and Super Geon's punch, so feel free to take advantage of this. Lord knows you'll need every advantage you can grab on to.
One grotesque monster from beyond the stars down, five to go.
Next, we've got to bail out the French in
Paris the aptly-named French City.
Ha, the French in need of assistance! Didn't see that one coming.
Next on the list of names is Eiffelyte (US/Europe) / Horn du Out (Japan).
Sadly, the later warnings from Famardy aren't nearly as ludicrously awesome as the one from the American City, but they'll do.
There's no opening sparring session in France, so you go straight into it. This time, SNK actually seem to have done their research, as the landmarks that show up here are all located in Paris. You've got the Sacre Coeur church, the Arc du Triomph, Cleopatra's Needle/Luxor Obelisk, Notre Dame, and I think that's the Louvre behind the Sacre Coeur. It makes you wonder whether they just skipped America in their textbooks or something. Now, if all the stages in the game were like this- a tour-de-force of the major cities of the world- that would be so crazy-awesome. But remember, this is King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing, and this game's speciality is disappointment.
Back to the point, this section's quite similar to the side-scrolling bit in the American City, but at least one enemy in this section drops the dreaded Power-Down item. If you see this, don't pick it up. It's not a nice item. In fact, you have to be vigilant even before it ends up on-screen- if you find it by uprooting a building, you might find one and unwittingly pick it up. If you do that, you'll probably lose at least a life while trying to get back to full power- that's how bad it is. Just don't rush things, and you'll be fine. As for the human resistance, it's much the same, although they now throw tanks and little men with jet packs on into the mix. There's also red helicopters which can be quite annoying, as they release a toxic gas that slows you down temporarily. Just avoid it and you'll be fine.
Once you reach the Eiffel Tower, it's time to fight our next assailant.
Ahahaha, is this the mighty Eiffelyte?!
Yes, Eiffelyte is nothing more than a parasitic jellyfish thing possessing the body of a human, so he starts the fight out pretty small. What you have to do is rush in and beat the shit out of him- every few hits, he'll grow in size until he gets his own health bar. It's pretty important that you really do rush him, because although he'll block, he's helpless if you keep hammering away at him. If you let him move around, he'll probably start to attack, and you want to hang on to as much health as possible.
Once Eiffelyte is full-size and he's got his health bar, then let the beatings commence. Eiffelyte is probably one of the worst bosses in the game to fight. He's smarter than Huge Frogger so he knows, for the most part, how to avoid your specials (try to charge one up while Eiffelyte isn't on his back, and you gonna get grappled, son) and his reach is pretty insane. He has the Dhalsim-like stretchy limbs on the go, and believe me, they'll hit you all the damn time. He also jumps around a lot more than Huge Frogger, but the biggest threat is definitely his reach, so your best bet is to play it safe, use the buildings around you (and yes, you can throw the Eiffel Tower at him, as well as the Arc du Triomph) and make sure to kick him while he's down. And for God's sake, don't grapple him!
If you want to make your life slightly easier as Atomic Guy though, you can exploit a neat trick with his Atomic Lightning special (that'll be holding down the Punch button at full power) that also works on a few of the other bosses. It's tough to pull off, but if you can knock Eiffelyte down and immediately start charging Atomic Thunder, it should be ready well before he gets up. Release it just before he rises- if you're a picosecond off, he'll jump and avoid it, but if your timing is true, he'll be hurt and land on his ass again. Quickly tap left or right to get Atomic Guy to stop flexing (your character does a pose like this when they successfully hit an enemy with a special or pick up an item) then charge again, and repeat. It'll stop working eventually though- at times, the enemy monsters get up almost instantly, so you won't have time to charge it. I suppose you could do the same with any other special attacks, although you'd need to line up the projectile-based ones.
Once you drain Eiffelyte's health enough, he'll separate from his human host and start floating around.
This is almost as annoying as his first form, because if he so much as brushes against you, he'll shock you, stunning you and doing a bit of damage. Naturally, he doesn't stay still at all, and one of his 'attacks' is simply spiralling around the screen, trying to touch you. He also sometimes flies off-screen, then tries to land on your head (when that happens, you'll have to whack the joystick from side-to-side to shake free) and his eye-laser attack can turn you into stone. The strategy here is simple- jump attack, jump attack, jump attack. Abuse it constantly, because you can't hit him while he's down in this form.
Eventually, he'll split in two, but the idea's the same- abuse that jump attack like your very life depends on it!
Because hey, it does.
And that's how France was saved from total annihilation.
Except for the bits where we used their national landmarks as weapons.
Can't win 'em all, France!
And now, we have a Bonus Stage! Yay!
Unfortunately, it sucks. If you're playing on your own, you have to fight the CPU in a little Gladiators-esque grapple-fest atop a cliff. Mash the buttons to raise your power bar and you might just knock them off, in which case you'll be showered with wonderful prizes. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to win. My button-mashing skills are pretty fine-tuned at this point- I can fire faster than the default rapid fire on Metal Slug and got through the Metal Gear Solid torture sequence in my sleep (although I'm no Master Takahasi) and I've never won any of these. The computer, as is tradition in this game, wastes absolutely no time in kicking your ass. When you're playing in co-op mode, however, you play against each-other, which seems a bit counter-intuitive seeing as this is the sort of game that requires total co-operation for even a slight chance of victory. Anyway, the player who wins gets a load of goodies. Yay.
Now, for some crazy reason, we actually go back to America, this time to the Grand Canyon on the west coast.
They can't possibly mess up the geography here, right?
In this harsh climate, we'll be fighting Clawhead (US/Europe) / Yam a Mordon (Japan).
In case you haven't noticed yet, yes- all the Japanese names suck, except for one that we'll get to later.
So, the Grand Canyon is the real turning point of the game. From here on, any illusions about this being 'fair' or 'balanced' are tossed out the window entirely, mostly because the humans finally give up, and it's the aliens that you have to start fighting in the side-scrolling sections. The designs are pretty interesting, truth be told, but what kills it is the fact that unlike the human vehicles, merely being touched by these guys sends you flat on your ass. This, in itself, is a bit annoying, as you have to mash the buttons to get back up every time this happens, but worse still, if they're holding an item, they'll drop it, usually meaning you'll pick it up straight away when you finally arise. That includes Power-Downs. I'm sure you can see that this is a very, very bad thing. Hell, at the start of this level, I once uncovered a Bomb, was about to walk past it when an alien slammed into my backside, sending me flying into the bomb, which then killed me.
Yeah, this game isn't playing fair anymore.
Aside from this new annoyance, there isn't much else to this stage, except for a rather strange section where a giant chunk of the Grand Canyon gets airlifted into the sky and you have to fight off mutant plants for about a minute. Some people may question the purpose of this section, but thanks to my vast knowledge of scrolling brawlers, I totally know what this is. It's SNK's ham-fisted attempt at putting an obligatory lift sequence into the game. Just like JRPGs must have a spiky-haired protagonist and a female sidekick with breasts that could also be used as zeppelins, scrolling brawlers- no matter how tenuously linked they are to the genre- must have at least a lift sequence and a fat guy.
(The difference with this game, of course, is that the fat guy is the final boss.)
Anyway, after a few more aliens, we get to fight the boss and... Wait, what? Is... Is that Mount Rushmore?
God-damn, SNK. I fucking suck at geography, and even I know that's not right. That's pretty bad.
To be fair, though, SNK has a history of getting Mount Rushmore in the wrong place.
But getting back to the point...
Your next opponent, Clawhead, is even more aggravating to fight than Huge Frogger and Eiffelyte. It's mostly because, by this point, it finally hits home that you will never win any of the grapples in this game. Clawhead beats this principle into you viciously because even though he has no arms, he fucking loves that grappling shit. If you're anywhere near him, he'll go to grab you and he'll invariably win. What elevates this fight above the others is the fact that the small aliens will often creep in, and if they so much as blink at you, you'll be getting intimate with the floor. So, yes, 95% of your time fighting Clawhead involves you flat on your ass. Your prime directive in this fight is to exploit any cheap tactics you can (Atomic Thunder actually works pretty well on him, if you get the timing right) and stay the hell out of his way!
If you're playing as Cyber Woo, however, you're in luck for once, as Clawhead has a gigantic weakness- he can't handle Cyber Woo's Split-Up. I'm not sure why, but it confuses the hell out of him, causing him to stop moving around so erratically. What's more, every time you hit him with the spin punch, he actually gets knocked down, unlike almost all the other bosses, and while it's tricky to pull off, you can also hit him while he's down for extra damage. The best place to exploit this is by the cliffs near the bottom of the area, as it'll give you the opportunity to move freely between the lower and higher parts of the stage. Believe me, you'll want to exploit this, because fighting Clawhead the normal way is tantamount to self-abuse.
This is, technically, the half-way mark. Three battles left before the big throw-down with Famardy.
On the next page, our ass-kicking parade advances to the desert, the ocean, and...?