The King of Fighters '99: Millennium Battle is a 2D tag-team fighting game developed and released by SNK for arcades (running Neo Geo MVS hardware) on July 22, 1999. It was subsequently released for the Neo Geo AES and Neo Geo CD later that year, and is the last game released for the Neo Geo CD.
The sixth installment of the King of Fighters series (and the sequel to The King of Fighters '98: The Slugfest), King of Fighters '99 brings a darker sci-fi aesthetic to the series while introducing the "Striker" system: a gameplay mechanic where players choose an additional teammate for use in dedicated assist attacks. The "Command Mode" system was also removed (with the game being based on Advanced Mode), and the "MAX Mode" system was revamped into two separate power-up states: the offensive "Counter Mode" and the defensive "Armor Mode".
The story takes place two years after the events of the 1997 King of Fighters tournament and the defeat of the evil being Orochi (with the two responsible, Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami, missing-in-action). A new King of Fighters tournament is announced under mysterious circumstances, with two of Kyo's allies (Benimaru Nikaido and Shingo Yabuki) being paired up with a new duo of protagonists (a mysterious pyrokinetic known as "K'" and his partner, the cyborg Maxima). It is later revealed that the tournament is hosted by a secret syndicate known as NESTS, who collects the battle data of the entrants to make an army of unstoppable fighters (based on their efforts to clone Kyo himself, with the host of the tournament and K' himself revealed to be results of these experiments). This game is the first in the series' three-part "NESTS Saga" arc.
The game also received ports for the Sony PlayStation (in Japan on March 23, 2000 and in North America on April 22, 2001) and Sega Dreamcast (in Japan on March 30, 2000 and in North America on October 25, 2001). The Dreamcast version, titled The King of Fighters '99 Evolution in Japan and The King of Fighters Evolution in North America, adds 3D backgrounds, online multiplayer, and additional characters (the "Extra Strikers", only available to use as Strikers).
The King of Fighters '99 plays like a traditional 2D fighting game, using four buttons (Light Punch, Light Kick, Strong Punch, and Strong Kick). Most of the gameplay remains the same as its predecessor, with some new additions and changes (including updated movelists for all characters).
With the addition of the "Striker" system, the game now includes two team-based modes (which can be switched by the arcade operator or in the home version):
- Team Mode - Players choose four characters for their team. Prior to each match, each player chooses three characters to fight (in the order chosen). The remaining character is the player's Striker for that match. Fights are played in single-elimination rounds, with the winner of each round receiving some of their vitality back. The match ends when all three fighters of one team are eliminated.
- Solo Mode - Players choose two characters for their team. Prior to each match, each player chooses the character they wish to fight with. The other character is the player's Striker for that match. Fights are played in traditional rounds (one-round, best-of-three, and best-of-five).
Main Changes from King of Fighters '98
- Players can no longer choose from two Command Modes, with the game using a variation of Advanced Mode (with some things, namely MAX Super Special Moves, from Extra Mode).
- "MAX Mode" is revamped into two power-up states: "Counter Mode" and "Armor Mode".
- New Striker system. The "assist attacks" of previous games (as well as the Teammate Affinity system) is removed.
- Dodging is changed, with the backwards dodge changed (so that the fighter performs a backwards, then forwards, dodge).
Each player has their own Power Gauge, now displayed at the top of the screen under the lifebar. The gauge is charged mainly by performing special moves, but is also charged at a slower pace by both giving and receiving damage. When a player fills the gauge up, it is stored and, if the player has less than three gauges stored, a new gauge replaces it. When a fighter is defeated, all stored gauges (as well as the progress of the current gauge), is lost.
Each stored gauge can be used to activate one of three things: a Super Special Move, a Guard Cancel Dodge, or a Guard Cancel Attack. If the player has three stored gauges (replacing the "POW" on the gauge with "MAX"), they can perform one of two timed power-up states:
- Counter Mode, an offensive-oriented power-up (with the player flashing red). Performed by pressing both Light buttons and Strong Punch (or A+B+C) simultaneously, fighters in Counter Mode deal additional damage and have unlimited access to Super Special Moves. The gauges are disabled and they cannot perform Guard Cancel Dodges and Guard Cancel Attacks in this state. Lasts for 24 seconds.
- Armor Mode, a defensive-oriented power-up (with the player flashing gold). Performed by pressing both Strong buttons and Light Kick (or B+C+D) simultaneously, fighters in Armor Mode have additional damage resistance and cannot be stunned or knocked down by enemy damage. The gauges are disabled and they cannot perform Super Special Moves, Guard Cancel Dodges and Guard Cancel Attacks in this state. Lasts for 10 seconds.
When either of these power-up states are finished (or if the player wins the round in the state), the player's Power Gauge resets (with all stored gauges lost). If the power-up state is finished mid-round, then the Power Gauge also disappears for 12 seconds (where it cannot be filled up).
When the player's vitality is low (as shown by a blinking life bar), performing a Super Special Move changes it to a flashier, more powerful "MAX" version of it. This does not apply to Super Special Moves activated during Counter Mode.
New to the series is the "Striker" system, where each player has access to a unique limited-use assist character (or "Striker") that jumps into the fray and performs a unique assist attack (done by pressing both Light Kick and Strong Punch, or B+C, simultaneously).
Players can only call-in their Striker by using up a limited amount of "Strike Bombs" given. At the beginning of the match, each player has three Strike Bombs. When a fighter on their team is defeated, they are given an additional Strike Bomb (giving them a maximum total of five).
Each character has their own unique assist attack (usually based on one of their special moves or Super Special Moves). Some characters are unique in that their attacks change based on whether or not the enemy is in the air and whether or not the enemy is in-range of their attack (for example, Yuri Sakazaki normally performs one of her Super Special Moves, but can taunt for Power Gauge build-up instead if the enemy is not close enough).
In the Dreamcast version of the game, players can unlock and choose "Extra Strikers", which are characters that can only be used as Strikers.
- Holding forward or backwards on the joystick wile pressing a Strong button at a close distance can make the fighter perform an unblockable throw. Strong Punch performs a forwards throw, while Strong Kick performs a backwards throw.
- Double-tapping the joystick backwards can make the fighter perform a hopping backwards dash, allowing players to widen the gap between both fighters. Double-tapping (and then holding) the joystick forwards can make the fighter perform a forwards run, allowing players to close the gap between both fighters at a more controllable pace.
- Pressing Down on the joystick quickly before jumping (or jumping during a forwards run) performs a more effective jump (as shown with the fighter leaving an "afterimage" trail). Tapping Up on the joystick (rather than holding Up) performs a shorter hop for quicker recovery.
- Pressing both Light buttons simultaneously (A+B) can make a forwards dodge used for avoiding attacks (including projectiles). Players can dodge to the other side of the enemy (for cross-up opportunities) and can attack out of it for a unique attack. Doing the same maneuver while holding Backwards on the joystick performs a backwards dodge (followed by a forwards dodge) for quick attack evasion. The backwards version can be performed at the right time while being knocked down for an instant recovery.
- Pressing both Strong buttons simultaneously (C+D) can make the fighter perform a knockdown attack that pushes away opponents (knocking them down in the process). While stronger than normal Strong attacks, it has a lengthy animation that leaves the fighter vulnerable to attacks.
With the addition of the Striker system, the game's roster is revamped with four-man teams (instead of three-man). The game includes 32 playable fighters (28 of which are split into 7 teams).
The roster includes 8 new additions, including new protagonist duo K' and Maxima. One of these fighters return from a previous game in the series (Kasumi Todoh), one of them are brought from a previous SNK game (Li Xiangfei), and two of them are "clones" of the series' main protagonist (Kyo-1 and Kyo-2). Many characters from the King of Fighters '98 do not return (including Goro Daimon, Chizuru Kagura, Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie, Chris, Ryuji Yamazaki, Billy Kane, Mature, Vice, Heidern, Saisyu Kusanagai, Heavy D!, Lucky Glauber, Brian Battler, and Rugal Bernstein), although Daimon, Chizuru, Billy, and Yamazaki appear in the Dreamcast version as Strikers.
Fatal Fury Team
Art of Fighting Team
Ikari Warriors Team
Psycho Soldier Team
Women Fighters Team
Exclusive to the Dreamcast version. The concept for Striker-only characters later appeared in The King of Fighters 2000.