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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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The King of Fighters '94 - Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, PlayStation 2, PSP, PSN (PS3), Wii (1994)

Japanese Neo Geo Cover

European Arcade Flyer

The King of Fighters '94 has a lot of innovative ideas, but it's been completely surpassed in every aspect by its successors. Most annoyingly, the game forces the player into choosing set teams of three fighters instead of being able to choose any combination of the game's twenty-four playable characters. This restriction was fortunately abandoned in all future games in the series, as the large variety of characters quickly became one of the draws of the game compared to its contemporaries. There's also very little in the way of plot and cutscenes in King of Fighters '94 compared to many other SNK fighting games, making the lack of customizable teams even more puzzling. Although most of the cast comes from the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series, the protagonist, Kyo Kusanagi and his team were made specifically for this game. Other original characters include recurring villain Rugal Bernstein and the USA Sports Team. The latter was dropped for several years as they seemed a better fit for goofier fighting games like World Heroes.

The combat here is made interesting by having the damage your moves do depend upon a gauge that fills up as you block attacks or take damage. You can also charge this gauge at any time by holding down both punch and weak kick buttons. When the meter is full your damage is increased for a time, or you can immediately expend the gauge to perform a very powerful attack (called Desperation Moves in the KoF series or DMs). You can also perform these DMs at any time when your life is low, indicated by when your life gauge starts flashing red.

This setup is pretty typical in fighting games today, but at the time were all new, an amalgamation of concepts SNK originated in earlier titles like Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury 2, and Samurai Shodown. Players can also side step any attack by tapping weak punch and weak kick at the same time. This renders your character invincible for a brief period, but if timed incorrectly will leave you exposed. Pressing strong punch and strong kick at the same time will make your character perform a powerful single hit that will knock opponent to the other end of the screen. This has become a mainstay of the series and if timed right is used to control your opponents positioning and kill their momentum if they get too aggressive. You can also tap forward twice to hop closer to an enemy. Most interestingly, characters taken from the Fatal Fury series retain their ability to crawl along the ground instead of just walking, though this has very limited use in King of Fighters '94.

One final, obscure addition here is the team assist. The two characters you aren't using are visible in the background while you fight, and even have little animations of reactions to every hit and knockout throughout the match. However, if your character gets caught in certain grappling attacks you can hit a button combination to have one of your partners actually jump into the battle to knock your opponent away, both giving you the upper hand and letting you avoid some of the game's most damaging attacks. You can also use this to knock an enemy away if your character is dazed. It's a great way to extract something relevant to the game from what would be just a cosmetic detail in a title from a lesser developer.

In addition to the port found on the Re-Bout release (see below), The King of Fighters '94 was also included in SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 for the PlayStation 2, PSP and Wii. Unfortunately, the emulation on the PS2 and PSP is terrible, with an extremly jerky frame rate that completely ruins the game. A port can also be found on the US release of the Orochi Saga, also for the PlayStation 2, PSP and Wii. Here, the PS2 port is significantly improved, but the Wii version is still probably the way to go. The King of Fighters '94 is also on the PlayStation Network's Neo Geo Station, as well as the Wii Virtual Console, though the Neo Geo Station version also has online play.

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  • Takashi Nishiyama

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  • Masanori Kuwasashi

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The King of Fighters '94

The King of Fighters '94

The King of Fighters '94



The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout - PlayStation 2 (2004)

Japanese Cover

For its tenth anniversary, SNK remade their first KoF game under the name King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout. This rerelease generated some excitement for the franchise due to the character sprites being touched up and optimized for high resolution. In execution, though, they appear simply upscaled and smoothed out with techniques used by many emulators. The actual animation remains the same as before. It's not as good as the actual high resolution sprites seen in its contemporaries like the Guilty Gear series or Hokuto no Ken, but they at least look smoother than any game from the Neo Geo series itself. SNK also added a whole slew of nice new 3D backgrounds, many of which include cameos by characters from later games. There's also a cool three minute long intro showing the various characters brawling, and while it's not as good as the King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999 intro on Dreamcast, it's a nice extra.

The game plays the same as KoF '94, except for the addition of a Team Edit mode. The character select screen features new artwork done by artist Hiroaki (Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition, King of Fighters XI), but the rest of the portraits are taken from the original version. Since this is technically commemorating the tenth anniversary of the series, there are also two videos that explain the Orochi and NESTS storylines. This is a nice package for fans (and includes a great emulation of the original), but it also feels like a major step backwards. It's hard to go back to when much better King of Fighters games were being released on various systems regularly in 2004. However, it does include online play. Re-bout was only released in Japan. It was originally scheduled to be ported to the Xbox for American release as well, but due to constant delays and several bugs, the game was scrapped shortly after review copies and press kits were sent out to game retailers and media.

The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout

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The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout

The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout

The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout



The King of Fighters '95 - Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PSP, PSN, Wii (1995)

European Arcade Flyer

Japanese Neo Geo CD Cover

Japanese PlayStation Cover

The King of Fighters '95 is a nice improvement over its predecessor, mostly because it let players choose their own team and also begins an episodic story arc revolving around the Orochi powers. The USA Sports team has been removed from the game, but in their place SNK has added a new team that includes Eiji Kisaragi from Art of Fighting 2 and Billy Kane from Fatal Fury. The third member is an original character named Iori Yagami, a fan favorite who has remained Kyo's main rival in every King of Fighters game since. The final enemy is once again Rugal, but Kyo's brainwashed father Saisyu also appears as a midboss. The speed of the fights has been increased since the first game, and health bars are emptied in no time. There are, however, some unfortunate quirks that unbalance things. The game plays mostly the same as it did in '94, but now due to how block damage is handled, some super moves actually do more damage to you if you successfully block them than if you let them hit you! Fortunately, the returning roster has several altered and new moves as well as slightly improved animations. Another addition to the game is that every character can do a quick attack immediately after dodging. This makes dodging in general more useful as your opponent has to quickly weigh the risk of getting hit by this attack or continuing their own. Finally, some characters can jump much farther by tapping down immediately before jumping forward.

With questionable damage levels and only minor animation improvements, the big standouts of the game remain its roster size and variety along with its backgrounds. These are extremely colorful and well animated for a 1995 fighting game, and can be an eye opener for gamers used to the mostly static backdrops seen in some more recent 2D fighting games like Arcana Heart 3 (2011) or BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger (2009). One of them even has a person playing an instrument in time with a "solo" in the background's song! SNK's fighting game backgrounds tend to be impressive in general due to their attention to detail with shadows and consistent lighting. This way even if an area doesn't have a large number of cheering people in it it still stands out.

The King of Fighters '95 was ported to both the PlayStation and Saturn. The PlayStation version was released in the US, and although it played well, was saddled with cut animation and lots of loading time between matches. The Saturn version was sold with a ROM cartridge required for the game to work. Unlike the RAM expansion carts used in other SNK and Capcom games for the Saturn, this ROM cart contains most of the character animation data, reducing the amount of information needed from the CD-ROM and resulting in faster load times. Unfortunately, this addition makes it very hard to play in the US, as it was only released in Japan and Europe and will not function at all without an original ROM cartridge.

Besides a 2010 Virtual Console release, King of Fighters '95 is was also available in The King of Fighters Orochi Collection (2006). The Japanese PlayStation 2 version of this release includes perfect ports of King of Fighters '95, '96, and '97. SNK also added online play and arranged soundtracks options to each game. This collection was released in the US two years later on the PS2, Wii and PSP. While the US releases lack both the rearranged music and online play, to make up for this SNK Playmore US added KoF '94 along with the excellent King of Fighters '98 to the collection. It was also released for at a budget price of $29.99 in the US.

The King of Fighters '95

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The King of Fighters '95



The King of Fighters '96 - Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PSP, PSN, Wii (1996)

Japanese Neo Geo Cover

Neo Geo Collection Cover

Japanese PlayStation Cover

When The King of Fighters '96 was released, it made a pretty big impact. Besides some major changes to how the game plays, almost all of the characters have been completely redrawn and reanimated from the ground up. Several new playable characters have been added to the roster as well compared to the three in KoF'95. The most notable addition is Heidern's replacement, Leona, although she's brutally overpowered here and had to be toned down for later games. Another fan favorite is the Boss Team, consisting of Geese Howard (Fatal Fury), Wolfgang Krauser (Fatal Fury 2) and Mr. Big (Art of Fighting). Kasumi Todoh from Art of Fighting 3 makes an appearance here as well. Four more original characters debut in this game: The two bosses, Goenitz and Chizuru Kagura, as well as Iori's new teammates, Vice and Mature. The first two are typical of SNK fighting game bosses, being extremely frustrating to fight against. The latter two, Vice and Mature, became very popular. Vice, despite her slim frame and formal dress, is a berserk grappler. Mature, on the other hand, is much faster and has a variety of "blade" like attacks similar to Leona and Goenitz as well as a super move stolen from Rugal Bernstein (fitting as Vice and Mature appeared in previous King of Fighters games under the guise of being Rugal's assistants). Oddly, Vice and Mature's design seems to have been inspired by The Human League.

This is also the first game to replace the sidestep found in King of Fighters '94 and '95 with an evasive roll, another technique that would become a series mainstay. It drastically changes the way the game is played, as you can use this to roll through an oncoming projectile or to quickly get behind an enemy while they're recovering from a move. You can also tap forward twice to quickly run across the screen instead of hopping a set distance.

The biggest game changer, however, is how jumping works. Now, every character in the game has a unique jumping speed, height and distance depending on if you tap or press the joystick to jump, as well as if your character was walking or running before jumping. This and the new evasive roll are the things that have come to define KoF games and really give them a completely unique feel. It really can't be oversated how much more aggressive and relentless this game feels to play compared to most other fighting games from 1996.

Besides being redrawn, most of the returning cast has had some drastic changes to how their special moves work. The big change here is how many characters who were almost clones of each other in '94 and '95 now finally have enough unique moves and abilities to stand out. An impressive feat for a game that has twenty-seven playable characters with completely new artwork and animations for almost everyone (compared to contemporaries like X-Men vs. Street Fighter or Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3). While this was accomplished with subtle changes to damage levels and characters receiving more unique normal attacks, the change that really stands out is how projectiles work. In the past two King of Fighters games, projectiles were fairly standard, you perform a motion on the controller and the character shoots a ball of energy out of their hands that flies across the screen (or along the ground). Here, however, things are completely different. Some projectiles are gigantic but take a long time to execute, some do significant damage but have a shorter recovery time, some have a hit box that grows slightly the farther the projectile travels, there's a great variety both visually as well as mechanically. More characters have special attacks they can perform while jumping as well, though you can now actually block these aerial attacks as well as other projectiles while jumping yourself.

Another concept typical of fighting games is that if you attack a character as they're starting a special move of their own, your attack "counters" theirs and you get rewarded by doing a little more damage than normal. A cool addition here is that if you counter your opponent with a special move instead of a normal attack, you can then continue to juggle the enemy in the air for even more damage. The timing for this is made less stringent when your gauge is full as well, giving an incentive to not immediately expend it all to perform one super move. A few more techniques have been added to the game to let you play with getting a good counter in as well. The most important is that some moves can be canceled by hitting all four buttons. This lets you fake out an opponent. You can also, while blocking an attack, quickly cancel the blocking animation and roll out of the attack at the expense of your power gauge.

Similar to the past two installments, you can call one of your teammates out to help you evade certain attacks or protect you while you're dazed. However, here, the series' storyline is taken into account as there's a chance characters will not, or will never help you if they are canonically rivals or otherwise ambivalent to each other. It's an interesting decision as while it makes little sense to have the game's story effect how the actual fights control, this feature is so rarely used that it's barely noticeable. It's a nice contrast from previous SNK games where the roster and mechanics would often feel unessecarily held back due to the game's plot like in Art of Fighting (1992) or Samurai Shodown III (1995). The game also has several specific introductory animations for various characters, which is great for revealing bits of character development without slowing down the game's fast pace or interfering with the fighting itself. In general, with King of Fighters '96 SNK successfully finds that sweet spot of bringing a lot of personality to the table without it being at the expense of the game's mechanics.

The story itself is actually fairly simple, with each team having some unique dialogue before the final fights against Chizuru and Goenitz along with an epilogue unique to each team. The main development is that we find out that Goenitz is the person that turned the previous games' villain, Rugal, into a super powered maniac. We also learn that Vice, Mature, Goenitz, and Leona are all distant relatives. This is handled in a cool way because some of their moves are cosmetically similar, even if they play nothing alike each other. Interestingly, when the game was released for the original Game Boy in 1997 by Takara they also included some characters from King of Fighters '97 in it as well. Several new endings and final boss fights were added depending on your team. This is true even if you don't use one of the pre selected teams of three. This was a nice bonus to make up for the Game Boy's graphics and sound. While this port did get a very limited release in Europe (under the name King of Fighters: The Heat of Battle ) in 1998, it was an extremely limited release, and a US version never materialized despite Takara producing several successful Game Boy fighting games that did find their way here.

King of Fighters '96 also has one of the more highly regarded soundtracks in the series among fans. Several iconic "KoF" songs like Kyo and Iori's themes made their first appearance here. Several songs from this game return as optional themes even in much newer installments like The King of Fighters XIII. This was also the year SNK began really capitalizing on their musical prowess, re-releasing several of their previous games soundtracks as well as "drama CDs" for many of their games, where the game's voice actors would reenact important moments in the series storyline.

This sudden burst of interest in SNK's characters and the background information of the games was a good thing for them, as while The King of Fighters '96 has a tremendous presentation for its time and is extremely ambitious, it's also very unbalanced to actually play. Some characters have a massive advantage over others due to having very little recovery time after performing their moves, while others simply deal way too much damage compared to the rest. Every fighting game has a few questionable balance situations that make it to the final release, but with The King of Fighters '96 you can tell that most of these issues slipped out because the team was busy implementing so many new features without paying as much attention to the fundamentals of the game. This allows for the player to do things like have Iori Yagami perfom a single infinite combo on an opponent once they're in a corner without too much trouble, or for new characters like Leona to be almost untouchable because of how fast their attacks come out.

Despite that, The King of Fighters '96 is worth checking out even today. It has the great backgrounds and fast action SNK fighters have become known for. The presentation and character variety also stands the test of time. It's also a nice time capsule of all the changes SNK made to the series to make it stand out not just among their own games but among fighting games in general.

While it was ported to both the PlayStation and Saturn, the former was once again saddled with cut animation and load times, while the latter used the 1 MB RAM cart. While both ports still plenty of loading, it's much shorter and very little animation is sacrificed. Unfortunately the game's great sound doesn't fair as well, with very scratchy and low quality sound effect and voice samples on both ports compared to the clarity on the Neo Geo. While the PSX and Saturn could have supported better sound, these particular ports were made from the Neo CD version of the game rather than what we got on the original Neo Geo cartridge. It's very common for Neo CD games around this time to have reduced or cut sound effects to help with that system's much longer loading times, a drawback that unfortunately was not fixed when bringing the game to the Saturn and PSX. The ports do, however, also have the arranged soudntracks from the Neo CD, so it's almost a wash. The game also appears on the King of Fighters Orochi Collection. For the Neo Geo CD there was a bonus disc available, called The King of Fighters '96 Neo Geo Collection, which contains an extensive database of the characters and other supplemental material.

Quick Info:

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Producer:

  • Takashi Nishiyama

Director:

  • Masanori Kuwasashi

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The King of Fighters '96

The King of Fighters '96

The King of Fighters '96

The King of Fighters '96

The King of Fighters '96



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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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