King of Fighters

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The King of Fighters
Missing image
Screenshot of King of Fighters

Developer: SNK, Eolith, Brezza, SNK NeoGeo, SNK Playmore
Publisher: SNK
Designer: ???
Release date: October 1, 1994
Genre: Fighting game
Game modes: Team Battle, One-On-One; Up to 2 players simultaneously
ESRB rating: T
Platform: Neo-Geo, Atomiswave (Ports available for Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, Xbox, PlayStation, PlayStation 2)
Media: Neo-Geo, Atomiswave cartridge

The King of Fighters (or KOF for short) is a fighting game series by SNK that debuted in 1994. The premise was to combine elements from two of its existing fighting game series, (Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting), as well as bringing back characters from games predating the Neo-Geo (such as Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier).

The King of Fighters introduced the 3-on-3 "team battle system" to the fighting game genre, along with various other sub-systems such as Attack Deflector (Dodging) and Emergency Escape (Rolling), which would later be adopted by many other fighting games.

A distinct feature of The King of Fighters is a yearly system of updates, continuing the storyline; in later years, several noncanonical games have also been produced. Proponents of yearly sequels claim that the stories behind the games would remain fresh, while critics claim that the short turnover between games left little time for development, forcing the constant reuse of graphics and insufficient bug testing. Another problem is that although KOF pushed the Neo-Geo's graphic capabilities to the extreme, the relative age of the hardware -- as well as its ease of emulation and rampant software piracy -- often led to poor sales. Responding to this, SNK Playmore announced in 2003 the phasing-out of the Neo-Geo in favor of Sammy's Atomiswave hardware.

In December 2004, The King of Fighters 2003 artist Falcoon revealed that SNK Playmore has ceased yearly updates to the series, in favor of a more irregular schedule. Episode 9, the first canonical chapter of the post-Neo-Geo era, may or may not be released in 2005. On the KOF 10th Anniversary website, KOF 2001-2002 illustrator Nona has confirmed that he is currently at work on this and subsequent chapters in the current story arc. The next game in the series will officially be called The King of Fighters XI. This will be the first game in the series that will not be named after a year.



The large majority of the series existed as Neo-Geo games that were later ported to the various consoles of the time. Other games with the King of Fighters name were also made for the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and the Neo-Geo Pocket.

The main King of Fighters series is divided into a rough three-part story arc and a fourth part known as a "dream match" that has no effect on the storyline, combining popular characters from the past and present of the series, into a single game. The first game in the series, KOF '94, is an oddity in that it is both a plot chapter and can be considered in some sense a dream match.

In every King of Fighters saga to date, a larger highlight is given to one of the characters. That character is usually seen as the hero in the story, and the emphasis on those "heroes" changes from saga to saga. The team which the hero joins in every game is known as "hero team" on most cases. Throughout the Orochi Saga, Kyo Kusanagi is the main hero, with no changes on his team. In the NESTS Saga, K' is the main hero, and several changes are seen in the heroes team. In the new saga (The King of Fighters 2003), Ash Crimson is the main hero.

The story of the King of Fighters Tournament for which the series is named after predates the series itself. It was first introduced in Fatal Fury and continued in Fatal Fury 2.

The Orochi Saga

Missing image
King of Fighters 98 promotional group capture.

In 2005, SNK Playmore plans to release a compilation of KOF'95-'97 for the PS2, under the title The King of Fighters Orochi.

Story Premise: The first two games are also cited as the Rugal Saga since there is no mention of the Orochi until '96. In these, an evil figure known as Rugal reorganizes the KOF tournament (originally started in the Fatal Fury series) in hopes of defeating the strongest fighters and adding them to his trophy room. After being defeated, Rugal comes back in '95 for revenge with cybernetic upgrades and a new power. He is promptly defeated and killed by this new power. Come '96, a new sponsor takes over, hoping to recurit the winners in a battle against the evil Orochi. They are then put to the test when an agent of the Orochi, Goenitz, confronts them. He disappears after being defeated, though leaves a cryptic message. In '97 the Orochi makes its presence known when the last three of its agents come out into the open and manage to resurrect it in a physical form. However, it is defeated and sent back to where it came from.

  • The King of Fighters '94 (Episode 1)
Continuing from the Fatal Fury series, the King of Fighters tournament resumes its yearly match-ups. Sponsored by Rugal Bernstein, the tournament now adopts team battles of three members each.
Remade in 2004 for the PS2 as The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout.
  • The King of Fighters '95 (Episode 2)
Teams of three from all over the world battle to fight Rugal Bernstein who tries to utilize the power of Orochi.
Ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The Saturn port is unusual in that it consists of both a data cartridge and a CD; both are required for play, making the game rather more difficult to play on a foreign system than later Saturn ports.
  • The King of Fighters '96 (Episode 3)
After the fall of Rugal, the King of Fighters teams return to battle the mysterious Goenitz.
Ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The Saturn port requires a memory expansion cartridge to run.
  • The King of Fighters '97 (Episode 4)
The tournament continues as nine teams and two single entry fighters battle to defeat the evil Orochi and his minions.
Ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The Saturn port requires a memory expansion cartridge to run.
  • The King of Fighters '98: The Slugfest (US) / The King of Fighters '98: Dream Match Never Ends (Japan)
Separate from the KOF story line, this Special Edition King of Fighters contains fighters and versions from all previous King of Fighters games.
Ported to the PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast version (renamed The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999) is refitted with an extended hand-animated introduction and link-up capability with the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

The NESTS Saga

In 2005, SNK Playmore plans to release a compilation of KOF'98-2000 for the PS2, under the title The King of Fighters NESTS.

  • The King of Fighters '99: Millennium Battle (Episode 5)
After the fall of Orochi and the disappearance of Kyo Kusanagi, the KOF tournament returns, only to be a front for a world domination scheme by the final boss Krizalid. This sequel features a newly introduced fighting system, aptly called the "striker system".
  • The King of Fighters 2000 (Episode 6)
The tournament is back, this time used as a means to power the infamous Zero Cannon.
  • The King of Fighters 2001 (Episode 7)
New fighters make their entrance while old battlers come back with a vengeance. This time, they face the true leader of NESTS, Igniz, whith the battle taking place in outer space. This was the first KOF game to be developed by the "Eolith" company.
  • The King of Fighters 2002 - Challenge to the Ultimate Battle
This update to the game features a return to the classic 3-on-3 battle system, and features teams from past versions. The end-of-game boss is also a familiar face, Rugal Bernstein, albeit with a few powerful modifications.

The continuing saga

  • The King of Fighters 2003 (Episode 8)
Features a new storyline and the return of some old characters. Unlike previous games, this game employs a tag-team battle system.
  • The King of Fighters XI
The next game in the series. The characters confirmed for it so far are Kyo, K', and Ash Crimson.

Other (non-canonical) games

  • The King of Fighters '95 / Nettou The King of Fighters '95
An adaptation of The King of Fighters '95 for the Game Boy, along with a hidden boss character, Nakoruru from the Samurai Shodown series.
  • Nettou The King of Fighters '96
An adaptation of The King of Fighters '96 for the Game Boy, which featured the Orochi awakened versions of Leona and Iori Yagami, as well as a hidden boss: Mr. Karate from Art Of Fighting.
  • The King of Fighters R-1
An adaptation of The King of Fighters '97 for the Neo-Geo Pocket.
  • The King of Fighters R-2
An adaptation of The King of Fighters '98 for the Neo-Geo Pocket.
  • The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise
A KOF-themed board game released for the Neo-Geo Pocket.
  • The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood
An adaptation of The King Of Fighters '99 for the Game Boy Advance system, with a new character named Moe Habana, and Geese Howard as the final boss. Purports to be set in 1998, between the Orochi and NESTS sagas.
  • The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood
An adaptation of The King Of Fighters '2000 for the Game Boy Advance, which included four new playable characters and an all new boss. The timeframe is less certain, although one might assume it also is meant to occur before KOF'99.
  • The King of Fighters Kyo
An RPG of sorts for the PlayStation, released only in Japan. Follows Kyo shortly before the events of the '97 edition, as he gathers members for his team.
A preliminary title, designed to introduce KOF to the Atomiswave arcade system. As with the Gameboy Advance games, it is essentially a port of The King of Fighters 2002, with a few altered features.
  • The King of Fighters : Extreme
A port of The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood for the Nokia N-Gage

Related games

These games are not part of the King of Fighters series, but do feature KOF characters or other direct references:

A spinoff game, produced by former SNK subsidiary Noise Factory, named after the tournament introduced in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. One of SNK's first console-only games since the NES, and their first attempt at a 3D fighter since the Hyper NeoGeo 64. Although the title suggests a link to The King of Fighters, the game has a closer resemblance to Fatal Fury in mood and story. It has no plot connection to The King of Fighters series or tournament; despite the presence of several familiar characters, it is clear that Maximum Impact is an attempt at a new standalone series, much as The King of Fighters was to Fatal Fury. Sequel pending in 2005.

KOF and continuity

A puzzling detail about SNK's fighting games is that, while most of them overall take place in the same universe, often the details vary between series. The details might be as slight as Ryo Sakazaki's birthdate in Buriki-One being off by a couple of years, or they might be as great as the entirety of the Art of Fighting cast being transplanted fourteen years into the future, so as to fight alongside Terry Bogard in the modern KOF tournament.

The 2004 release, KOF: Maximum Impact, completely revises swaths of established backstory, for characters and settings alike.

For years, fans have tried to cope with the irregularities between series. One solution has been to accept the most recent changes in any given series (usually KOF, given the frequency of releases) as a retcon, superseding all earlier details.

More recently, a second movement has gained strength, whereby each series is taken as its own continuity within the larger SNK universe. Events within one continuity will often reflect upon the others, in some form. For instance, the tournament in Mark of the Wolves will probably occur in the King of Fighters timeline -- yet if it does, it will do so two years later than in the Fatal Fury timeline. Sometimes, however, they fail to make any impact. Although recent Fatal Fury games depend on Geese Howard having been dead for years, he is alive and well in the most recent KOF installments. The Yuri Sakazaki Incident, chronicled in the original Art of Fighting game, occurred 14 years later in the King of Fighters than in the Art of Fighting timeline.

SNK, for its part, has remained silent on the issue. Therefore, any sense to be made remains speculation on the part of the fans.

See also

External links

  • The King of Fighters 10th Anniversary Official Website (
  • Official King of Fighters websites (in Japanese): 2000 (, 2001 (, 2002 (, 2003 (,

NeoWave (, Maximum Impact (

  • GameFAQs: King of Fighters 94 (, 95 (, 96 (, 97 (, 98 (, 99 (, 2000 (, 2001 (, 2002 (, 2003 (
  • Galactica Phantom: The King of Fighters Resource Center ( King of Fighters

fr:The King of Fighters ja:ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ zh:拳皇


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