So, if you fuck things up, this happens:
Apparently, by not killing the itty-bitty Famardy clones, you doom the entire Earth and it essentially collapses in on itself.
That's... Kind of haunting, really. So SNK's point is that the Earth won't be peaceful until we're all dead?
If there's one thing that both King of the Monsters games have in spades, it's a downright macabre sense of humour.
However! If you're successful in your mission, you get blasted out of the volcano as it erupts...
... Then you get a chance to have a freeze-frame pose in the sky as you're declared the King of the Monsters.
And you get a pointless 100000 bonus points which does nothing except irritate anyone who wants to try and beat your high score.
Finally, you get a bit of guff about how you beat the aliens, you're totally the strongest, and that in 800 years, 'a few survivors will have power'.
Hey, SNK, stop leaving these painfully obvious sequel hooks around, will ya?
We then have the credits, of course, complete with amusing little pictures for all the staff members.
SNK nuts will note the appearance of Hamachi Papa as planner and director- he was producer/director for King of the Monsters and Beast Busters too.
And now, to end with something we haven't seen for a while on Gaming Hell... It's HIGH SCORE TABLE TIME!!!
And so, for better or worse, we've beaten King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing.
Or rather, King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing has beaten us.
This game is like a case-study in things to not do when balancing the difficulty of your video game. For one, don't rely on giving the computer opponents every possible advantage (they win nearly every grapple, they have more health than you, they don't need to charge their projectiles) and force the player to eat shit and die (Power-Downs, inability to consistently win grapples, fucking Power-Downs) to make the game 'harder'. Second, don't encourage- or, rather, force- the player to find the cheapest, most repetitive strategies possible (such as spamming Super Geon's Earthquake) not merely to beat the game quickly, but to have any hope of beating it at all. Most of all, don't make your game a test of patience rather than skill!
That's the problem at the heart of King of the Monsters 2, you see. It doesn't reward skill at all.
On the first page, I said that there was a Rocky-esque training montage for this game. I played the emulated home version repeatedly, with only 4 credits on the default difficulty setting, to see how far I could get. It didn't make a damn bit of difference. One day I could beat Huge Frogger without being hit, the next he cost me an entire credit's worth of lives. Some days I could reach Clawhead on one credit, and some days that wouldn't even get me to the Grand Canyon. The only way you get 'better' at the game is by developing the cheapest, most mind-numbingly boring strategies (Earthquake! Earthquake! EarthquFUCK YOU SUPER GEON) that basically rip any kind of enjoyment out of the game. These tactics are the only way you'll beat the home version, and even then you'll have to use Player 2's credits, otherwise you won't stand a chance in hell. You might think that the guide on GameFAQs tells you different- it doesn't! It encourages spamming Earthquake and exploiting minor weaknesses in the AI just as much as I do! This isn't even a case of 'play smarter, not harder', it's more like 'play more repetitively, not harder'. It requires no skill. It merely requires a pocket full of quarters and an unending desire to get to the end.
To prove my point, there was, in the long-distant past, a 1-credit Hard Mode runthrough of the game on YouTube (link's dead now, but keeping it here for posterity). The tactics exhibited in the video were basically jump-attack-then-kick as Atomic Guy with the occasional Atomic Thunder, and it was very boring to watch. In the video information, the person who uploaded this play-through called the game 'kusoge' (which is literally 'shit game', a title shared by games such as Action 52 and Urban Yeti, and also used by people to make themslves sound cool), called the difficulty 'excessive' and the description for one of the videos (the match with Clawhead- not surprising) was simply, "So boring I could die! Who made this shit?" Not even the people who are 1-crediting this game like it!
Now, I can hear you fuckers screaming at me already for saying this, because the original King of the Monsters didn't reward skill either. There's several important differences, though. The first difference is that, while the original doesn't really reward skill, at least it gives you a fighting chance. Because you're not dead until you're pinned, and you get at least 2 free pins per credit, you can always snatch victory from the jaws of defeat if you try hard enough. This is in comparison to the second game which kills you instantly when your health bar's depleted, and has absolutely no qualms about draining it as fast and as cheaply as possible. Because of this, even though you don't need to be skilled, the single-player mode of the first King of the Monsters is much, much more fun to play than its sequel.
The second difference is that the first game knows that it doesn't reward skill, which is why it's got a focus on two players. It's a game designed around the concept of two giant monsters beating the shit out of each other, with both players just mashing buttons and having fun, essentially on an equal footing whether they're a total video game noob or a veteran. You can even see this in the single-player mode- it feels exactly like the multiplayer game, but with the CPU. This is what the sequel forgets, because the Vs. mode is absolute shit. You've only got 3 characters, it's boring (no wrestling manoeuvres, fewer moves in general) and broken (whoever picks up the Power-Up icon first basically wins) meaning that no-one would want to play it. King of the Monsters 2 focuses too much on the horrible single-player mode, and so the real meat of the game suffers.
In the end, the game is a missed opportunity. As I said, King of the Monsters isn't a fighting game where you get satisfaction from mastering every fighting mechanic therein to decimate your foes- it's just silly, no-brainer fun. If they'd just taken the original, added more playable monsters and fixed the few issues that were there (which they actually did do- they added buildings as weapons and made jump a separate button) King of the Monsters 2 could've been a fantastic sequel. It's halfway there- the graphics are vibrant with the alien designs rivalling those of Alien Syndrome, the music is fan-fucking-tastic (it's the kind of soundtrack you'd pump your fist in the air to) and it's still satisfying to destroy everything in your path. If only they hadn't dicked around so much with the basics! Even by SNK standards, the game has a reputation for being obscenely difficult, and maybe it's this big problem that prevented the franchise from taking off. Ah, what could've been...
And now, it's that time, folks!
As well as the obligatory Neo-Geo AES version (which, as per tradition, only gives you 4 credits per player to beat the game- good fucking luck with that one!), King of the Monsters 2 received ports for the SNES and Mega Drive- or, rather, the Genesis, as only the US received this version- but unlike the first one, the ports introduce more differences than just reducing the roster. The SNES version (at least partly developed by Now Production) is almost a straight port of the game, but with several differences. Although the music and sound effects in particular take a gigantic hit, the graphics aren't that bad- lots of missing animation frames, obviously, but at least it looks right. There are lots of changes to the game, though. First, you now charge your special attacks by holding the L button, which fills up a bar below your health. It takes longer to charge than in the Neo-Geo version, but it means you can store a charged attack and release it whenever you want. The R button also lets you block (finally) so you can adequately defend yourself. There's also some rebalancing in some of the battles- Aqua Slug (called Sack Eyes in both the US and Japanese version) is no longer invincible on the ground, you don't have to fight 2 Beetle Masters at once, little aliens no longer knock you over, etc.
But wait, it gets better! Because they fixed the biggest problem- the grappling. Rather than mash the buttons and pray to several deities that you manage to win and throw your enemy, in this version you get a little prompt above your head telling you to alternate between left and right rapidly until time's up- the 'winner' of this little competition gets to hurl their enemy. Not only does this mean that winning grapples in the SNES version is actually possible, but it's also very, very easy. It's only as you get further into the game that you start losing them. The controls are a little strange in places, yes- you can't turn around to uproot buildings, you jump much lower and there's slightly stiffer movement- but these little bugbears aren't completely ruinous, and you adjust to it after a while. The fact that I beat this game on my first try using only 2 continues is testament to the fact that this game is a lot fairer than the arcade. You might as well call it King of the Monsters 2 - Champion Edition. The only real problem? The 2-player mode still kind-of sucks. However, because of the fixes to the single-player mode, it's now possible to do a co-op game without your friend wanting to strangle you.
Now here's the kicker- the Genesis game was farmed out to a little company called Betop (click to see their rap sheet on the Game Developer Research Institute) who decided to really fix the Neo-Geo game, and come up with something that actually plays totally differently- they turned it into Street Fighter. Obviously the graphics and sound have taken a huge hit, and the co-op mode is gone, but so are the side-scrolling sections; battles now take place over 3 rounds, and the enemy aliens are finally playable, complete with their own set of moves that you use with Street Fighter-style commands. Unlike the previous game's port, all of the battlefields are included without any silly name changes, and Atomic Guy, Super Geon and Cyber Woo also get their own battlefields, which are the Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka stages from the first game. There's far too many changes to list here, but some of the key ones include the ability to block, run and dash backwards, the choice to turn items on or off (turning them off starts each character with their 3 special moves from the off, keeping them on means you need to grab the Power-Up icons just like the arcade game) and you can win the grapples- the first person to input their throw command wins. These changes make the game far less frustrating, and make the 2-player mode fun again..
There's only two glaring problems with the Genesis game. The first is that Famardy has disappeared entirely, and the final battle is just you against your clone, which makes no sense since you have to fight your clone while making your way through the other monsters- not even blast processing could get Famardy's fat-ass into the game. The second is that on higher difficulty settings, the computer has a tendency to spam their projectiles a bit too much, but since you can actually win the grapples with them now (and spam your projectiles right back if you so wish) this is just a minor nitpick. The Genesis port is less a watered-down conversion, and more like a game in its own right, so if you're a big fan of monsters attacking each other with wanton abandon, feel free to ignore the Neo-Geo game and go straight for this one.
Really, both ports of the game improve in the gameplay department and they're both good in their own way, so it's up to you- if you want a version of this game that actually lets you win, pick up the SNES game, and if you want to play as the aliens in something that's got more in common with Street Fighter, then find the Genesis version. Just don't bother with the Neo-Geo CD version- it's the same as the Neo-Geo, just with selectable difficulty settings. It doesn't even have a remixed soundtrack!
Curiously for an SNK franchise, King of the Monsters was almost completely forgotten after the sequel. SNK are usually quite reliable for keeping even their oldest franchises in the public eye with constant cameos (see also: Athena, Ikari Warriors) but in 2005, they released NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, which was a celebration of (almost) all things SNK. It's their answer to Capcom's own crossover fighting game, Capcom Fighting Jam, which is notorious for being a cash-in. In a rare display of SNK actually getting one over Capcom, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is the superior game, with actual 'new' characters and more interesting character choices (fuckin' Tung Fu Fue!). Bringing in 40 characters from 10 different franchises ranging from Mr. Karate to Mudman, I'd like to write more about it some day, but we all know that me writing about fighting games is a thing that should happen very rarely. Suffice it to say that the game is a nice tribute to SNK's history, but what has it got to do with King of the Monsters? Ah, don't be so impatient.
In an attempt to appeal to the hardcore crowd, SNK threw some pretty obscure and bizarre characters into this game, including our friend Cyber Woo, marking the first reference to the King of the Monsters series in over 10 years. It's not the real Cyber Woo, of course, because he'd be far too tall- according to the official website, it's an 'all-purpose bipedal robot fashioned in the shape of an anthropod' developed by Makishima Heavy Industries and piloted by Yuzu, an annoying little girl who floats alongside Cyber Woo in battle. Naturally, many of his moves are taken directly from King of the Monsters 2- he has both his throws, his Blitz Cannon, his Hand Missile, and even his Split-Up attack (which now lets you attack with the legs) as well as several new attacks just for this game. He's not the best character in the game- he's almost painfully slow- but he packs a hell of a punch (his blast-up-and-drop-'em throw in particular is deadly if you can get it to work- ha, just like in King of the Monsters 2!) and there is nothing, I tell you, nothing quite as amusing as beating the shit out of Kisarah Westfield from Aggressors of Dark Kombat while playing as Cyber Woo. It's so wrong, yet feels so right.
But that's not all! Certain characters have special Double Assault attacks that can only be performed when you choose two particular characters, and the two 'original' characters in the game, Ai and Yuki, have two different ones depending on who's leader. When Yuki's in the lead, performing his Memory Card Slash three times (once each with Light Punch, Light Kick and Taunt) then quarter-circle forward, half-circle back and Light Punch + Partner Button causes Ai to jump on-screen. As they link arms, hearts appear all around, and... Holy shit, it's Atomic Guy! He's referred to in-game as Atomic Guy Neo, so maybe he's evolved again? Sadly, you don't get very long with him, and he has only four moves (a punch that could knock out God's teeth, his kick attack from KOTM2 with added sliding, an air attack and his Atomic Thunder which greatly reduces your transformation time) but they're all unblockable, which is nice. It's a shame he wasn't included as a proper playable character, but the fact that he's in here at all amazes me.
There's two smaller references as well, both tied to Ai and Yuki.
#1 - One of the items Yuki launches from the Joy Joy Balloon (Light + Strong Punch + Light Kick, then Strong Punch) is the Bomb item.
(Sadly, we couldn't get a decent screenshot because we're shit, so we used a piece from the game's gallery that shows it.)
#2 - During Yuki's Fire Suplex (Memory Card Slash Taunt, half-circle back, forward and any Punch), the KOTM2 'MASH THE BUTTONS' prompt appears.
(Then again, that same prompt was also used in Samurai Shodown, but I'll take what I can get.)
The last bit from NGBC is this background featuring Super Geon (as a skeleton) and the real Cyber Woo (as a rusty piece of shit).
Now all we need is Beetle Mania and Poison Ghost added to the roster for NeoGeo Battle Coliseum 2, and I'm happy.
As a final footnote, the guys from King of the Monsters 2 appeared as character cards in Card Fighters Clash DS.
They called Super Geon 'Super Zion' and called Atomic Guy 'Atomic Gai' but whatever.
Their card descriptions are where their back-stories come from, by the way!
King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing - Unofficial Soundtrack (Part 1)
King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing - Unofficial Soundtrack (Part 2)
Finally, for your listening pleasure, here's a ZIP file with all of the songs from the Neo-Geo CD version of King of the Monsters 2 - The Next Thing. It's identical to the arcade version as far as I'm concerned (there are some absolutely minor differences, but trust me, you won't hear them) and this is, by far, the best soundtrack I've ripped for this site. It's oozing 90s appeal from every orifice- the heavy-as-fuck bass, the catchy tunes, the over-the-top feeling that it gives the game. It's wonderful. If you're not convinced, download this thing and play the music from the American city- does it not make you want to stand up and shout "You're damn fuckin' right King of the Monsters is in the house!"? If it doesn't, then I suggest you phone God- he forgot to give you a soul.
Looks like Earth is doomed once again. Ho-hum. Let us never speak of this game again.
If we're going to get out of this article alive, we've got to get back to the index!