|The King of Fighters, SNK vs. Capcom character|
The King of Fighters XII artwork of Kyo Kusanagi
|First game||The King of Fighters '94 (1994)|
|Voiced by (English)||Andrew Roth (Maximum Impact series)|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Masahiro Nonaka
Ryōtarō Okiayu (CD Drama)
Tomokazu Sugita (Japanese dub of KOF Movie)
|Portrayed by||Sean Faris|
|Fighting style||Kusanagi style of ancient martial arts (草薙流古武術 Kusanagi Ryū Kobujutsu?) with personal style of kempo (我流拳法 Garyū Kenpō?)|
Kyo Kusanagi (草薙 京 Kusanagi Kyō?) is the main character in SNK Playmore's The King of Fighters video game series; he was first introduced in The King of Fighters '94 as the leader of the Japan team. He is one of the iconic characters of the series and regularly appears on publicity material and merchandise. His name and abilities were designed in order to relate him with the Yamata no Orochi legend. Because he was highly popular and his outfit changed along the series, the designers created a few clones with his old appearance.
Kyo is first introduced as a cocky delinquent high school student who is the heir to the Kusanagi clan, who can use pyrokinetic powers. In The King of Fighters universe, his clan is one of the three clans that sealed the legendary snake entity, Yamata no Orochi. Due to his clan's past, Kyo fights against the Kusanagi's enemies; his rival Iori Yagami, the last member of the Yagami clan, and the Orochi's soldiers. He enters every The King of Fighters tournament representing Japan and uses his clan's fighting style to combine fire with kenpo. Aside from the main series, Kyo also appears in several other media series such as spin-offs and crossover video games as well as comic adaptations of the series.
Video games reviewers have praised his design and fighting style as one of the best from the series. Reviewers noted him to be a necessary character to have in every video game from the series and commented of him to have the best winning pose. Within Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Kyo was voted as the staff's second favorite character. A variety of collectibles based on Kyo have been created, including key chains and figurines.
Conception and creation
When designing characters for the first King of Fighters game, developers wanted a new, "snazzy" hero who would easily fight against Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters. Through most of his development, Kyo was meant to be called Syo Kirishima (霧島 翔 Kirishima Shō?), and was dressed in martial arts clothing common with fighting games at the time. But late in production, his name was changed to Kyo Kusanagi in order to relate him with the Yamata no Orochi legend, which was used as the idea to the first arc. His fighting style was changed as a part of the series' overhaul in The King of Fighters '96. To appease all fans, they also included an older version of Kyo from KOF '94 into The King of Fighters '97 and placed The King of Fighters '95 version of Kyo in The King of Fighters '98, which made both versions of Kyo popular during location tests. Developers from the game decided to make Kyo's main skill would be fire along with the other movesets from the other members of the original Japan Team being inspired by the anime Getter Robo. In addition, the three members of the Japan Team had similar personalities to the main characters from such anime. Kyo was based on the main character who had a "fiery" persona. The elements and the personalities are also a homage to a Japanese phrase of giving birth to fire (it is roughly translated: "lighting strikes the earth which sparks the flame").
The idea of having two Kyos at once led to the concept of his clones. During the early development stages of The King of Fighters '99, SNK planned to avoid adding Kyo and Iori Yagami to the game, as the story's focus was meant to center on the new protagonist, K'. However, they retracted this decision as "they couldn't leave these popular characters in limbo". Kyo was redesigned for the game, but some designers wanted to return to his iconic school uniform. When they were nearing the end of their production schedule, staff members were indecisive upon which uniform the Kyo clone should wear. The project head decided to make two clones instead. To save time, the project head drew designs for Kyo-1 and Kyo-2 on the character roster. The same event was repeated in The King of Fighters 2002; the designers created another clone from Kyo called Kusanagi to include his school uniform design.
Although Kyo retains his third outfit in The King of Fighters XII, his moves were modified to his original ones from the first two games from the series. This was made in order to make the character to fight at short distances rather than using projectiles tactics and thus improve the balance from the roster and make fights more entertaining. His signature move, the Orochinagi (大蛇薙?), was given a mid-air variation for The King of Fighters XIII with designers keeping in mind the concept of coolnesss as well as its small difficulty in performing it. Kyo's "Neo Max" technique, the "Ura 121 Shiki: Ama-no-Murakumo (裏百弐拾壱式・天叢雲?)", was the first move of its category to be made for the game. As a result, all the other characters' Neo Max techniques were made according Kyo's one in order to keep a balance of flashy moves.
Kyo's repeated appearances in the series is due to the marketers and the main planners' insistence to add him, Iori, and other SNK regulars in every game, making it a challenge to decide the story for each title. Along with his rival, Iori, Kyo has been noted by several of the series' designers as being one of the most difficult characters to illustrate because of his popularity amongst fans. Originally, Kyo's girlfriend, Yuki, was not meant to be conceptualized, since her first mention ever in the story was in Kyo's profile as one of his most cherished possessions. Her addition to his profile was added by one of the programmers mostly as a joke since Kyo was more popular with female gamers.
Kyo is an overconfident but well-meaning person, more interested in enjoying life than partaking in responsibilities. He is quick to dismiss subjects that do not interest him and will often carry out his actions with a devil-may-care attitude. He treasures his friends and family, enjoying their presence and particularly doting on his girlfriend, Yuki. His strong sense of justice and zeal to fight stronger opponents are what he believes to drive him to carry out his destiny. Kyo enters in most of The King of Fighters tournaments representing the Japanese team, which is initially composed of Benimaru Nikaido, Goro Daimon and him. In his fights he uses clan's fighting style, the Kusanagi style of ancient martial arts (草薙流古武術 Kusanagi Ryū Kobujutsu?), in which he attacks opponents using flames along with several hits. In later tournaments from the series, he would combine fire with a personal style of kenpō.
Kyo is one of the last members of the Kusanagi clan who can create fire. 660 years ago, the Kusanagi and Yasakani clans were once allies. However, due to the latter's jealousy over the former's fame, the Yasakani made a pact with the demon Orochi for more power. Since then, the clans have waged a generation long grudge with casualties made from both sides. His rivalry with Iori is one of mutual hatred and was not spurred by their clans' history. When they join forces, it is begrudgingly and as a last resort solution to the conflict at hand. Kyo takes his clan's responsibilities on a more personal level, disregarding ancient legends and predestined events as any reason for his actions. Kyo appears in each of the games from the series, being always played by Masahiro Nonaka, a Japanese voice actor.
In video games
In the first The King of Fighters video game, Kyo stars in the famous fighting tournament as the leader of the Japan team composed of he, Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon. They become the champions and defeat the host Rugal Bernstein. In the next video game, the Japan Team faces once again Rugal as well Kyo's brainwashed father, Saisyu. While Rugal dies, Saisyu is saved from Rugal's control. Prior to the events of The King of Fighters '96, one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of the legendary creature Orochi, Goenitz, easily defeats Kyo, provoking The current host, Chizuru Kagura, wants to gather Kyo and Iori Yagami in her team to defeat Orochi in the same way as their ancestors and stop Goenitz. In The King of Fighters '97 Kyo faces Orochi's remaining followers and eventually Orochi himself possessing one of them. However, Kyo and Iori defeat him. In KOF '98, Kyo appears as a playable character in the Japan Team with Benimaru and Daimon. An alternative version from his character with movesets used in previous games is also playable.
Kyo is a secret character in most versions of The King of Fighters '99, and has no team. In the story, Kyo was kidnapped by the NESTS syndicate to use his DNA to make various clones of himself. He tries to personally gain answers from his captors entering into their base but is forced to retreat when the place around him begins to collapse. Depending on how much points the player gets when the game finishes, Kyo can be faced as a bonus fight. He continues his fight against the NESTS alone in The King of Fighters 2000 and in the next game, Kyo reunites with his old teammates and his student Shingo Yabuki to make a comeback in the Japan Team. In KOF 2002, Kyo is a playable character in the original Japan Team.
In The King of Fighters 2003, Chizuru appears to both Kyo and Iori, requesting that they form a team and investigate suspicious activities concerning the Orochi seal. During the investigation, the team is ambushed by the fighter Ash Crimson who plans to get their clans' powers and steals the ones from Chizuru. In the following video game, Kyo and Iori form a team once again with Shingo to fill Chizuru's spot to stop Ash. However, the growing presence of the Orochi causes Iori to enter into berserk state, forcing him to damage his teammates. Ash appears thereafter and steals Iori's abilities after defeating him. In King of Fighters XII, Kyo is a playable character, but like each of them, he does not have a team. Kyo is set to appear with the original members of the Japan Team in The King of Fighters XIII.
A role-playing video game was created under the name of The King of Fighters: Kyo in which Kyo travels around the world to prepare for The King of Fighters tournament until the events of KOF '97. Kyo appears in the spin-offs video games of the series Neowave and Maximum Impact series. In Maximum Impact 2, he is also playable as a his classic version from the first games as well as with a new outfit. Additionally, in each North American edition from Maximum Impact, Kyo is played by Andrew Roth, an English voice actor. During The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood, Moe Habana, the heir of one of the ten sacred treasures, finds Kyo seriously wounded after his fight against Orochi. After healing him, Moe joins Kyo along with Benimaru to participate in a tournament developed by the criminal Geese Howard, who is searching for the power from Orochi. In the game sequel, The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood, Reiji Okami, another member of the ten sacred treasured, requests Kyo to join him as his teammate in a new tournament so that they can investigate about somebody who is interfering with the Orochi seal.
Kyo has also appeared in video games outside The King of Fighters series. He is a playable character in the shooter game Sky Stage. In the crossover video games Neo Geo Battle Coliseum and SNK vs. Capcom series, Kyo appears as a playable character; in the former one he appears with his '99 costume, while in the latter he is in his school uniform. Kyo is also meant to be featured in the card battle video game Lord of Vermillion Re:2's Tie-Ups.
In other media
Aside from the main series, Kyo has also appeared in other media from The King of Fighters series. In the anime, The King of Fighters: Another Day, he is featured prominently in the fourth chapter. A number of image songs and audio dramas featuring Kyo's character have been released, including the contents of his own character image album consisting of a number of his theme songs. Kyo also appears in the manhua adaptation of The King of Fighters: Zillion that was created by Andy Seto. This manwhua tells Kyo's and Iori's events since their fight against Orochi until the one against NESTS. He stars in further manhua for the games, starting in The King of Fighters 2001 through 2003 along with the Maximum Impact series. He also has a spin-off manga story based on the events following The King of Fighters '95 entitled, The King of Fighters: Kyo created by Natsumoto Masato. In the The King of Fighters movie Kyo is played by Sean Faris, portrayed as a Japanese-American in the film.
Kyo's character has received praise and criticism from several video game publications and other media. The website IGN's writer A.E. Sparrow, has commented that Kyo is one of the most enjoyable to play in the King of Fighters series praising his dynamism of his moveset and fighting style. In another review, they considered him as one of the most useful characters from the games and one of the best ones for the "veteran players". However, they lamented the fact that Kyo has a few appearances in the volume from the manhua The King of Fighters 2003 in comparison to Ash Crimson, who the series is more focused. His recurring interactions with Iori Yagami during fights were commented to be appealing despite the fact English gamers are not able to understand them as well as to add depth to the games, even though some lack a storyline. The ending of Kyo in The King of Fighters '97 has been considered by 1UP.com as one of the strangest parts of the story. However, they considered Kyo's winning pose as the best one from the series. Damien McFerran of Virtual Console Reviews considered Kyo one of the most excellent creations from The King of Fighters series, as well as the most original one. Lucke M. Albiges Eurogamer praised Kyo along Iori to have one of the most unpredictable appearances in the series, and considered him a veteran character. In a retrospective view of the series' debut, Videogamer.com called Kyo one of the most popular video game characters from Japan. GameSpot has criticized the addition of the Kyo clones in The King of Fighters '99, commenting they do not add new things to the game since they share most of the moves that the original Kyo has.
Kyo has been well-received by gamers, with his character appearing in several popularity polls. In Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Kyo was voted as the staff's second favorite character, placed behind his rival, Iori. In a 2005 poll made by SNK-Playmore USA, he was voted as the sixth fan favorite character with a total of 176 votes. Additionally, in the January 30, 1995 issue of Gamest magazine in Japan, Kyo was featured at No. 4 in the "Top 50 Characters of 1994". In the character popularity poll on Neo Geo Freak's website, he was voted as the third favorite character with a total of 2,574 votes. For the special endings in The King of Fighters '97, three video games journals, Gamest, Famitsu and Neo Geo Freak, had to create a team composed of three characters from the game so that they would be featured in an image after passing the arcade mode. The Neo Geo Freak's team created a team composed of Kyo, Mai Shiranui and Billy Kane. The special ending only appears in Japanese versions of the game. In an ASCII Media Works poll in which fans voted selected whose video game or manga character would like to name their children after, Kyo's name was tenth in the male category. Kyo's Japanese voice actor, Masahiro Nonaka, related greatly with his character as being young and reckless until he "grew up" in his later appearances although he later expressed some difficulty accepting Kyo on the same level. Merchandising based on Kyo's appearance has also been released. Yutaka released an articulate action figure and a puzzle from Kyo of KoF '97. With the release of new video games from the series, SNK developed new action figures as well as key-chains.
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- SNK (July 30, 1996). The King of Fighters '96. Neo Geo. SNK. "Chizuru: Are you the same, Kyo?/Kyo: The battle is not between the Kusanagis and the Yagamis. It's between him and me. I know nothing of the past. If the Orochi appears before Yagami, he'll destroy it. If the Orochi appears before me, I'll destroy it, too. So long..."
- SNK (August 25, 1994). The King of Fighters '94. Neo Geo. SNK. "Rugal: I... impossible! How could I lose a battle...!!/Benimaru: We are No. 1! I knew it!/Rugal: Y... yes, indeed... but I haven't really lost yet!! A watery grave awaits you!/Benimaru: Jesus! Let's get away!"
- SNK (July 25, 1995). The King of Fighters '95. Neo Geo. SNK. "Saisyu Heh, Kyo. My power wasn't so great after all. Kill him, Kyo. Avenge me...!/Kyo: Rugal, you slime!/Rugal: Heh, heh. The defeated dog barks loudest! Taste my fury! Wooooo..."
- SNK (July 25, 1995). The King of Fighters '95. Neo Geo. SNK. "Rugal: Even with my new power, I lost. What? My body...????? No... to meet such a fate! But I'll be back... you jerks!/Benimaru: What was that shade?!/Kyo: I don't believe it!/Benimaru: What? Kyo: Ah, nothing. Just.../Benimaru: Huh? Kyo, your father!/Daimon:/Yeah, where did he go?/Kyo: I knew he wasn't dead. He'll find his way home./Benimaru: Yeah, I guess you're right./Kyo: Well, let's go back to Japan./Benimaru & Daimon: Yeah!/Saisyu: Kyo, you can't escape the Kusanagi fate. We face a greater battle, soon to begin. Strengthen yourself, Kyo. Good luck."
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- SNK (July 28, 1997). The King of Fighters '97. Neo Geo. SNK. "Iori: Aaaaah!! /Orochi: Kill Kusanagi and Yata! Break the Shingi troica! Fight, my Orochi son! Listen, Yagami! /Iori:Ahhhhhhh!!!/Orochi: Ah?!"
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