The King of Fighters '98/Gameplay Overview

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Gameplay Overview

KOF98 has two meter systems to choose from, Advanced and Extra. I would recommend Advanced mode to any player. Extra mode is only effective with a handful of characters (especially Kyo, who becomes very very powerful, but also Mai and Brian thanks to their dash infinites) and it is much harder to use effectively. If you are a beginner, use Advanced mode.

Advanced Mode

Block - Hold back - While blocking, you take no damage from normals and a single pixel-per-hit when blocking special/desperation moves. You can also block in the air while jumping up or back. Ground normals cannot be air guarded.

Backdash - Tap back twice quickly. During a backdash, you can perform air command normals and air special moves. Using a command normal will cause the trajectory of the backdash to change.

Run - Tap forward twice quickly. Hold the second tap to keep running. In KOF98, when you simply tap f,f to run, you will run a certain distance before you stop. This can be canceled by jumping, crouching, or attacking, but not by blocking. You can use this period to buffer moves such as command throws. For example with Ralf or Clark, you can tap f,f, then do the hcf motion for their command grab while you are moving forward, without having to keep holding forward over that first couple character spaces.

Also, there is a small recovery when you release f to stop a run. When running in to attack, keep holding forward if you're going to do a standing attack, or move to d/f for a crouching attack. This makes attacking from a run seamless. You can also hold d/f to keep charge a charge-down special move while running.

Roll forward - Press A and B simultaneously. Rolls are invulnerable from the very start, and vulnerable at the end. You can be thrown out of rolls as well. Since they are invincible at startup, you can use rolls as a wakeup 'reversal'. But unlike in later KOF games, you cannot mash the input. In KOF98, if you are not fully recovered from something and try to input A B, you will get a standing A attack. Using that as a reversal will get out hit on counter, so be accurate with your roll timing.

Roll backward - Press back and A and B simultaneously.

Recovery roll (tech roll) - Press A and B simultaneously as you are touching the ground from getting knocked down. Some moves/knockdowns are not rollable. You can mix this up with staying on the ground to mess with your opponents setups on wakeup.

Throw break - Press back/forward any button immediately after you are thrown. Some normal throws are not breakable, and instead you can mash all the buttons and directions to lessen the damage and get out faster.

Guard Cancel Roll (emergency roll) - Press A and B simultaneously or while guarding a move (hold back to roll backwards). This uses one power stock.

Guard Cancel Strike (CD counter) - Press C and D simultaneously while guarding a move. This uses one power stock.

MAX mode activation - Press A, B, and C simultaneously. This will use one power stock and give you a meter that shows you how much time you have left in MAX mode. While in MAX mode you get a large damage bonus (25% increase), more pushback on hit for all attacks, and any Desperation Moves (supers) performed during this time will become Super Desperation Moves, and will take one power stock in addition to the one you used to go into MAX mode. These SDMs are enhanced versions of the normal supers and will do more damage/hits, etc.

Extra Mode

Block - hold 4 (air)

  • While blocking, you take no damage from normals and reduced damage from specials and Desperation Moves.

Backstep - 4,4

Dash - 6,6 (quick hop)

Short Hop (sh) - Tap 7 / 8 / 9

Hyper Hop (hh) - Tap 1/2/3~7 / 1/2/3~8 / 1/2/3~9 / Dash, 9

Jump (j) - Press 7 / 8 / 9

Super Jump (sj) - Press 2, 7 / Tap 2, 9 / Dash, 9

Evade - A B

  • With this move you dodge while standing in place and are temporarily invincible during the dodge. You can, however, be thrown out of this by command grabs (not standard 4 / 6 P / K throws).

Counter Attack - A B, P / K

  • This is done while using the Attack Evade

Down Evade - A B as you land

  • With this you can recover as soon as you hit the ground after being knocked down.

Throw Escape - You cannot escape any throws in EX mode.

Guard Cancel Evade - Block, A B

Guard Cancel Strike - Block, C D

Strike Attack - C D (air)

Charge Power Gauge - A B C (until Power Gauge is at maximum capacity).

Taunt - Press Start

Power Guage

In Extra Mode, you have a power gauge that fills over the course of a fight. It is filled by :

1. Taking damage.

2. Charging.


Once the gauge fills, it says "MAXIMUM" and begins to slowly empty. During this time your body glows/flashes and a multitude of things happen :

1. All of your attacks do 50% more damage.

2. You may perform a Desperation Move.

3. You may perform a Guard Cancel Evade / Strike.

  • Doing either of the latter 2 will drain your gauge and return you to normal.


When you are at 20% or less health, your Life Gauge begins to flash red. During this time, a multitude of things happen :

1. You may perform DMs freely.

2. You may perform Guard Cancel Evades / Strikes freely.

3. If your Power Gauge reaches maximum, you may perform Super Desperation Moves. These are the same commands as your standard DMs, but they often have different attack animations and do larger amounts of damage to the opponent.

  • If your life should increase back above 20% for any reason, you lose all of the benefits of a low Life Gauge.

Team attitudes and meter management

Your team has an effect on the way that the game is played. While selecting your team order, you can hold down the Start button and see three types of faces next to your characters. The three types determine how much meter you get after that character loses, and how likely they are to help you during dizzies and mashable throws.

Red Face (Angry) - After they lose, you will lose 1 power stock. They will never jump on to help you.

White Face (Neutral) - After they lose, you will have the same number of stocks that they lost with. They will jump in to help you sometimes.

Yellow Face (Happy) : This means that the fighter has been put in a team that he enjoys. They will add 1 power stock to your meter when they lose, and they will jump in to hit your opponent when you are dizzy or are in a mashable grab every time, as long as you give them enough time.

When you are selecting the order of your team, take note of the faces. Generally you'll want yellow/happy faces fist or second, and red/angry faces last. Don't let this completely decide what order you use, though. Think about who actually needs meter, the matchups you will be playing, etc. Note that power stocks only apply to Advanced mode, so that aspect shouldn't affect your order decision when using Extra mode.

When a character is defeated, the winning character regains a small amount of health. In addition, losing a team member gives the losing player an advantage.

In Advanced mode, you can have an extra stock slot after each fighter is lost. The first fighter has a maximum of 4, the second fighter has a maximum of 4, and the last fighter has a maximum of 5.

In Extra mode, your Power Gauge is shortened after each fighter is lost. The first fighter has a full length Power Gauge, the second fighter has one that is 25% shorter than normal, and the third fighter has one that is 50% shorter than normal.

Mechanics/Notes

Some additional things you should know about KOF98.

Reversals - Reversals in KOF98 work mostly the same as in other games. There isn't a reversal message, but the window is very large (about 5 frames). The main difference between this game and others is that most 'invincible' moves aren't completely invincible. A lot of the time they are only invincible up to the hit, in which case they will trade with meaties. You will have to refer to the character-specific sections concerning which moves do what. Universally speaking, rolls, instant command throws, and super instant command throws can be used as reversals.

Alternate guard - This is a technique to avoid being thrown while blocking. First, you must block an attack or be put in blockstun by an attack (ie by it being whiffed close to you). Then you must alternate between back and down-back very quickly. This will keep you in perpetual blockstun and unable to be thrown by any throws, including proximity unblockables. To beat alternate guard, you must be able to hit the opponent by using fast lows/overhead mixups etc. to break their defense. Tactics like repeated/delayed cr.Bs can be hard to alternate guard without thinking.

Another side effect of KOF98's blocking system that you need to be aware of is whiffing jumping attacks into a throw. When you are performing an empty jump, then landing and throwing, you should not perform any attack during the jump. If you do, it will put the opponent into blockstun and your throw will whiff. It is possible for this to work though, if your opponent tries to attack or roll after they are put into blockstun but before the throw, or if they do not attempt to block at all.

Proximity unblockables - This is a special type of throw that is exclusive to KOF. Some examples of proximity unblockables are Robert's hcf+K throw, Kensou's dp+P throw or qcf,qcf+P super, or O.Chris's hcf+K throw. Unlike command throws, they can only be performed when close to an opponent who is in a throw-able state (ie in hitstun or not in blockstun). Because of this, it is usually impossible to whiff a proximity unblockable, making them safer in some situations than command throws. You will simply get a normal move if the opponent is not in a throw-able state, or a different command normal/special if you tried to combo into one. On the other hand, they do have startup, and it is possible to trade hits instead of simply throwing. It is also possible to whiff a proximity unblockable if you combo into one in such a way that it pushes the opponent out of range after the proximity unblockable has started. As for rolls, in most cases they will be stopped by a proximity unblockable as if you were a wall.

Counter-hits - Whenever you interrupt a jumping attack, special move, or super move, you score a counter-hit. This causes a screen flash and a "counter-hit" message to appear. The hit gets a 25% (usually) damage bonus, pushes back further (ala MAX mode hits), and allows you to juggle with another hit if the attack knocks down. For example, if you score a jump CD counter-hit, you can hit the opponent while they are in the air. Other examples are Chang's Ball Swing or A Belly Flop hitting twice on counter.

Corner cross-ups - You might have seen in a video or something, someone crossing up another player in the corner after a knockdown. This true corner cross-up ability is only available on the 2P side (ie only available to the player who's life/super bars are on the 2P side).

Although this may seem like an unfair advantage, the 1P side also has it's own corner cross-up ability. Whenever the opponent is knocked down in a back turned state (ie face up, head toward or face down, feet toward), you can perform a pseudo cross-up. Simply jump toward (superjump preferred) their head and time/position a move that has some cross-up ability the same way you would normally perform a cross-up. This must be blocked in the direction away from the corner. In some ways this is more difficult to block than the 2P side bug, because you remain on the same side no matter which direction the move has to be blocked.

Unblockable projectiles Certain moves, most of them command throws, will undo the opponent's blocking status, rendering the projectile unblockable. This is generally used to give the opponent a hard time on wakeup. Use the slow version of the fireball (makes it meatier), then render it unblockable when they do their wakeup. The following is a listing of the known unblockable projectile setups, though not all of them are useful or even usable in every situation that an unblockable would help.

  • EX Yuri (fireball > running slap grab)
  • Athena (Psycho Ball > Psychic Teleport / Super Psychic Throw)
  • Kensou (fireball > bun super)
  • Iori (Yami Barai > Kuzu Kaze)
  • Takuma (fireball > running knee bash)
  • Heidern (Crosscutter > Killing Bringer / Stormbringer)