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Page 1:
Intro
Characters

Page 2:
The King of Fighters '94
The King of Fighters '95
The King of Fighters '96

Page 3:
The King of Fighters '97
The King of Fighters '98
The King of Fighters '99

Page 4:
The King of Fighters 2000
The King of Fighters 2001
The King of Fighters 2002

Page 5:
The King of Fighters 2003
The King of Fighters NeoWave
The King of Fighters XI

Page 6:
The King of Fighters XII
The King of Fighters XIII

Page 7:
Game Boy
Neo Geo Pocket
Game Boy Advanced
Mobile Games

Page 8:
KOF Maximum Impact
KOF Maximum Impact 2
KOF Maximum Impact Reg. A

Page 9:
Quiz King of Fighters
The King of Fighters Kyo
Battle de Paradise
King of Fighters Online
KOF Sky Stage

Page 10:
KOF Another Day (Anime)
Movie
Manga / Comics
Crossovers

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by Kurt Kalata, Sotenga and Neo Rasa - updated 2013

The King of Fighters series is undoubtedly SNK's magnum opus, the culmination of all of their expertise in 2D fighting games, combined into one massive series. There's an outstanding amount of history shown over the series' lifespan, and watching how it has grown over the years is something truly amazing. It's the dream of every SNK fighting game fan out there.

Nut its history means that it can also be extremely overwhelming, at least to beginners. Back in the early days of the Neo Geo, SNK tried different things to differentiate themselves from Capcom - Fatal Fury introduced the multi-plane system, Art of Fighting had gigantic characters, Samurai Shodown had weapons and World Heroes had wacky time traveling characters. The King of Fighters' gimmick is that there is simply a ton of characters, and each player gets to pick three characters to send them into battle one after the other. When one fighter falls, the next in line takes their place. Add in your usual array of super moves, and that's pretty much KoF. Of course, it's evolved significantly over the years - each game adds and subtracts characters, tweaks balance, and adds new subsystems, so the near ancient KoF '94 is a big stretch from the recent episodes.

On the character select screen, players are presented with a character roster of at least thirty different characters each, many taken from older SNK fighting games. The King of Fighters series inofficially began with Fatal Fury Special on the Neo Geo. SNK thought it would be a cool idea to stick in Ryo Sakazaki - the hero of their Art of Fighting series - as a hidden playable character in Fatal Fury Special. Fans loved the idea, and thus SNK gave the crossover concept its own series. The King of Fighters combined characters from Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, and stuck in some from older, non-fighting games, like Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. They also introduced a new hero, Kyo Kusanagi, who can wield the power of flames, and his rival, Iori Yagami. As the series progressed, SNK eventually added in cameos from Metal Slug, Robo Army, Kizuna Encounter and Buriki-One. It's essentially the whole Marvel vs Capcom concept years before Marvel vs Capcom. The King of Fighters demands that you're at least reasonably well versed in its history, or you'll be found staring staring at dozens of unfamiliar faces, being asked to pick three of them and made headway into battle.

But once one gets over that initial intimidating phase, there's something addicting about the huge character roster. In its almost twenty years of existence, the series has accumulated well over a hundred fighters. Each of them has a unique design (although not necessarily an unique style), most with their own deep background and history. All previous fighting games have had loose plots to justify everyone getting together to beat the crap out of each other - The King of Fighters is one of the few that tries to make any sense out of it. Granted, it doesn't do a great job - the in-game cinemas are confusing (and often poorly translated), so gamers have to rely on translated documents to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. But once you get into it, there's a whole world that easily rivals any RPG ever made.

This brand of personality shows through in the music as well. Folks like Kyo, Kim and the Ikari team usually have hard rocking heavy metal themes, while Terry and Blue Mary get jazzy tunes. The Art of Fighting team's songs tend to feature an acoustic guitar and use similar melodies. The Psycho Soldier team is practically defined by upbeat J-Pop style, some of the songs even have lyrics. Iori is almost always accompanied by a screaming saxophone. All of the King of Fighters music spans a wide variety of genres, and is undisputedl the most ambitious fighting game soundtrack out there. Although many songs are limited by the Neo Geo synth (at least until they switched over to the Atomiswave platform around 2004), nearly all of the games have had full arranged soundtracks produced for them. All of the Neo Geo CD versions and most other home ports feature arranged soundtracks.

Currently, there are three different main story arcs in the King of Fighters universe - the Orochi Saga (KoF '95-'97) focuses on a group of combatants trying to resurrect the Japanese demon Orochi; the NESTS saga (KoF 99-01) revolves around a mysterious organization that's trying to create an army of clones for evil purposes; and the Sacred Treasure saga (03 - current) deals once again with mysterious ancient powers. The first game isn't considered part of any plotline, and KoF 98, 2002, NeoWave and XII are considered "Dream Match" titles, where huge bunches of characters from older episodes are rounded up and stuck together, regardless of the plot. Yes, characters are killed in the King of Fighters universe, and once they're gone, don't count on seeing them again in the story (except for the odd appearance of Fatal Fury boss Geese Howard and some mysteriously "reborn" characters).

Up until 2003, the King of Fighters games came out on a yearly basis. Unlike sports games, which only offer small roster changes and minor updates, each new King of Fighters is distinct in some way, even if the basic gameplay usually remains the same. Some characters are dropped, others are added. Remaining characters get new moves or lose old ones. Almost every new game has completely distinct backgrounds and whole new soundtracks. There are usually minor gameplay variations or additional systems to spice things up - KoF '99-2001 feature "Strikers", which allow a backup character to quickly jump on the screen to execute a single attack, while 03 and XI feature a tag system that allows instant swap of characters. After 2003, SNK ditched the yearly updates, in order to relieve the pressure from releasing a game every year. It also reduced the confusion for the home releases, which often came out a year or two after the arcade version.

In any case, there really aren't any truly "bad" King of Fighters games, although the fanbase tends to look down on certain titles - KoF '94 has aged poorly since its successors improve on it so much, KoF 2001 has awful visuals and a terrible soundtrack, and KoF NeoWave (produced around 2004) is ultimately just redundant. For a long time, detractors used to argue that the series had stagnated, since the more recent games didn't look all that much different than the first titles from over ten years prior. It was a legitimate complaint, especially since SNK long refused to redraw most of the sprites in a higher resolution (except for the PS2 remake of KoF 94), but most 2D were unconcerned with the series' dated look. And even then, the design is so well done that it's hard to argue that any game is truly ugly. Still, its old school-ness required SNK to bundle games together in packs (2000/2001 and 2002/2003) for American release. SNK eventually caved in and brought the series to the third dimension with the Maximum Impact spinoff series, with generally pleasing results - but at the same time continued with the 2D games. The fruit of their hard work came about as The King of Fighters XII, which finally fetured completely redrawn hi-res sprites (though not in the full HD resolution), but disappointed with the smallest roster in series history. Only with the latest episode, King of Fighters XIII, the series has finally gotten back its mojo, and doesn't need to hide anymore from the likes of Super Street Fighter IV or BlazBlue.

Hopefully this article will get those unfamiliar with the series more acquainted with the many personalities found within. If you need a Ryu/Ken clone to fall back on, try out Ryo, Yuri, Takuma, K' or Kula. If you're more into Guile-type characters, there's always Ash or Robert Garcia (although he alternates between a charge and a command character in various games.) If you want slower, grappling-based characters similar to Zangief, there's always Goro, Chang and Tizoc. And of course, Terry Bogard is an all around good starting place for anyone, since he has lots of moves and good balance. The newer games from XI onwards are generally the best places to start with the series, since the faster pace and certainly the more refined grapgics are more appealing to the uninitiated, but long time folks tend to enjoy the Dream Match titles, '98 and 2002, due to their expansive roster and the focus on balancing it with down-to-earth mechanics instead of introducing any fancy elements. Regardless of the ultimate choice, there's a lot to see, and plenty of faces to suit your fighting style.

The King of Fighters '95

The King of Fighters '98

The King of Fighters 2000

The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match

The King of Fighters XIII


Characters


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Characters

Page 2:
The King of Fighters '94
The King of Fighters '95
The King of Fighters '96

Page 3:
The King of Fighters '97
The King of Fighters '98
The King of Fighters '99

Page 4:
The King of Fighters 2000
The King of Fighters 2001
The King of Fighters 2002

Page 5:
The King of Fighters 2003
The King of Fighters NeoWave
The King of Fighters XI

Page 6:
The King of Fighters XII
The King of Fighters XIII

Page 7:
Game Boy
Neo Geo Pocket
Game Boy Advanced
Mobile Games

Page 8:
KOF Maximum Impact
KOF Maximum Impact 2
KOF Maximum Impact Reg. A

Page 9:
Quiz King of Fighters
The King of Fighters Kyo
Battle de Paradise
King of Fighters Online
KOF Sky Stage

Page 10:
KOF Another Day (Anime)
Movie
Manga / Comics
Crossovers

Back to the Index