List of The King of Fighters characters
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The King of Fighters fighting game series, produced by SNK Playmore, includes a wide cast of characters, some of which are taken from other SNK games. The story takes place in a fictional universe in which an annual series of 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 fighting tournaments are held.
The first game in the series introduces the initial main character of the series, Kyo Kusanagi, a young Japanese fighter who is the heir to a powerful group of martial artists having pyrokinetic abilities. Kyo fights against the Kusanagi clan's enemies, his rival Iori Yagami, and the god Orochi and its human followers, among others. The first four games in the series revolve about these fights, while The King of Fighters '99 introduces a new story arc, revolving around K′, a young man who seeks to destroy the mysterious NESTS organization because they kidnapped him at an early age and stripped him of his past memories, so that they could force him to be a fighter under their control. In The King of Fighters 2003, a new character named Ash Crimson enters the tournament, to steal the powers of the clans who sealed the Orochi in the past for an unknown reason. A new group of antagonists, known as Those From the Past, also appears in the series; they want to obtain Orochi's power for the purpose of giving it to their unknown master.
The plot and the characters came from the Yamata no Orochi legend. There are also several characters in the games that are parodies or homages to several popular anime, manga, and films. Merchandise based on the characters has also been released, including action figures and keychains. The characters have garnered praise from several video game publications for the quality of their designs and movesets. Comments focused on the lack of improvements in some of the characters, but added that the roster is greatly diverse.
- 1 Cast creation and influences
- 2 Recurring teams
- 3 Other characters
- 4 Boss characters
- 5 Reception
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Cast creation and influences
The developers of the series claim that their prototype version for King of Fighters was going to be a side-scrolling beat 'em up titled Survivor. It would have used only core characters from the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury series, specifically allowing players to play Robert Garcia and Terry Bogard for location testing. However, the idea was quickly abandoned. Since the developers were attached to the idea of the two series cross-over, they eventually agreed to make their idea into a fighting game. Characters from the Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier games were also added in the spirit of other gaming genres considered for their final product. The concept of a three-man team was one of the ideas kept from the side-scrolling version. Flagship director Toyohisa Tanabe asserts that the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury fighters were added specifically for adults. The newer King of Fighters characters were aimed to appeal to younger and newer audiences. He adds that every original character for the series was added based on the developers' strong desire to make one. For example, he agreed to include characters such as Benimaru Nikaido and Chang Koehan to add an off-beat variety to the cast, which he had previously deemed to be too serious. Later in the series, their approach to creating their characters altered slightly, to also serve as a type of fan service, which he refers to as a collaborative effort between fans and the staff.
Several characters that appear in the series are parodies or homages to either anime, manga, actors, films or television shows that held the creators' interest. Noticeable examples are K9999 and Zero. Characters are sometimes added at the voice actors' convenience, or to fill in gaps that occur for each installment's story; this happens with Duck King in The King of Fighters XI and Ryuji Yamazaki in The King of Fighters '97. Several characters were added to the roster by Eolith's desire when this company sponsored SNK, to attract fans from Eolith's region.
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. 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 inspiration for the first arc. To continue with the idea of the Orochi plot, the designers gave several other characters, such as Kyo's rival Iori Yagami, similar characteristics to Kyo. In The King of Fighters '99, to contrast the previous protagonist of the series, K' was made to be the "dark hero". K's introduction to the series was meant to remove popular characters Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami from the roster, though this idea was scrapped in the game's release. Due to the large additions of teenager characters in the series, SNK decided to add several middle-age ones to balance them.
The Japan Team appears during the first game of the series. Its leader is Kyo Kusanagi, a high school student who is the heir to the Kusanagi clan, who can use pyrokinetic powers. Once Kyo leaves the Japan Team, it is renamed Benimaru Team by Benimaru Nikaido (二階堂 紅丸 Nikaidō Benimaru?). Benimaru has the ability to create electricity, which—due to an exaggerated case of static electricity—causes his straight hair to stand up during fights. He is loosely based on the character Polnareff from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, right down to his outfit in The King of Fighters '94 and The King of Fighters '95. His vocal performance was initially deemed by his original designer to have nothing to do with the character's original image. Due to the particular pitch in his voice and appearance, some fans have questioned Benimaru's sexual identity with the developers; they responded, "he is not what you think."
Goro Daimon (大門 五郎 Daimon Gorō?), a former gold medalist of Judo, is a mentor to his own dojo. After the climax of The King of Fighters '97, Goro retires from being a fighter and returns to the Judo circuit representing Japan. He returns as a fighter in King of Fighters 2001 and 2003 due to his teammates' requests. His character was created to add a practitioner of Judo to the cast, and many elements from his original designs, such as his geta and his victory cries, remained for his final look.
Shingo Yabuki (矢吹 真吾 Yabuki Shingo?) first appears in 97 as an edit entry, but in later games he joins the K' Team, the Benimaru Team, and the Japan Team. He dreams of being able to wield flames like his idol Kyo, which is stressed to the point of comic relief throughout the series. To follow his character's persona, he was also meant to be marketed on a lesser scale of importance for his introduction to the series. Benimaru and Daimon make their appearance in The King of Fighters XII and its sequel, with them joining Kyo to reform the original team in the latter.
Fatal Fury Team
The Fatal Fury Team is composed by characters from the video game series with the same name. The team is initially composed of Terry Bogard, an American fighter who sought to defeat an evil crime lord named Geese Howard in order to avenge the death of his father; Andy Bogard, the younger brother of Terry who uses Shiranui Ninjutsu to fight; and Joe Higashi, a Muay Thai fighter and friend to both Terry and Andy. During the NESTS tournaments, Mai Shiranui, a Shiranui kunoichi, and Blue Mary, a female agent, also enter the team, to fulfill the team's the need for a fourth member at that time. In the 2003 tournament, Andy leaves them to take care of a Shiranui disciple named Hokutomaru, who fell sick, and Tizoc, a famous Mexican pro wrestler, enters the team to replace him. In The King of Fighters XI, Tizoc and Joe leave the team for their own reasons, enabling Duck King and Kim Kaphwan to replace them in order to help Terry out.
The Garou Team appears only in KOF XI, containing characters that appear in the video game Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The team includes Tizoc, a famous pro wrestler, Gato, a powerful martial artist and a female pirate named B. Jenet. Though the members become good friends, Gato decides to leave them after the end of the tournament.
Art of Fighting Team
The Art of Fighting Team is composed of characters from the video game of the same name, and most of its members are practitioners of the Kyokugen Karate style. The team initially consists of the teacher Takuma Sakazaki, his son Ryo, and the heir of the dojo and his student Robert Garcia. Takuma's daughter, Yuri, only appears with the team in some of the tournaments, since she wants train with the Women Fighters Team (which is exclusively composed of women); her appearances sometimes end in asking King to take her place on the team. Takuma, however, likes this idea, and also asks King to stay in the team, wanting her to force the consummation of Ryo and King's still tentative relationship.
Women Fighters Team
The Women Fighters Team is a group composed exclusively of women, christened "The Princesses of Punch." The team originally comprises the ninja Mai Shiranui, the Muay Thai fighter King and a karate prodigy named Yuri Sakazaki. Throughout the later games of the series, there are several changes in the members of the team, as Yuri is replaced by the heir of the ancient Yata clan Chizuru Kagura and Kasumi Todoh—a young female martial artist who seeks to defeat those who practice Kyokugen karate. In later games, new characters appear, due to the new rule of using four members; these include the agent Blue Mary, the Chinese-American female martial artist Li Xiangfei and the sumo fighter Hinako Shijou (四条 雛子 Shijō Hinako?). In 2003, the Women Fighters Team has a subdivision with high school girls as the members, hence the reason it is named the High School Girls Team. This team is led by Athena Asamiya, and the two other members are Hinako and Malin. In XI, the team is dissolved, since the members go to other teams or they have other things to do[clarification needed]. The Women Fighters Team is reformed for The King of Fighters XIII, featuring the three original members from the 1994 tournament.
Psycho Soldier Team
The Psycho Soldier Team specializes in using psychic powers—dubbed "Psycho Powers" by SNK. The powers, and some members of the team, originally belonged to the SNK video game Psycho Soldier. The team includes Chin Gentsai (鎮元斎?), an elderly mentor and master of Psycho Power. He participates with his students throughout the tournaments since 1994, but leaves the competition in 2003 to observe the matter thoroughly, asking K′ and Maxima to investigate the tournament in his place for activity, meaning both Kensou and Chin are replaced with Hinako and Malin.
The others members of the team are his students Athena Asamiya, a famous Japanese pop singer; a Chinese teenager named Sie Kensou (椎 拳崇 Shii Kensū?); and a little Chinese boy named Bao (Chinese: 包; Pinyin: Bāo; Japanese: 包 Pao). As Bao trains with them during the time between King of Fighters '97 and King of Fighters '99, Kensou gradually loses his powers, until they become obsolete. However, his powers are recovered in King of Fighters XI, causing Ron and Misty to take an interest in it, revealing a probable importance of the Dragon Spirit.
A young girl who trained with Kensou and Athena, Momoko (桃子?), also debuts in the team in The King of Fighters XI. She was added into the cast to fit the image of the younger Psycho Soldier team, though the developers have expressed discomfort with adding so young a character amongst a large group of adults. In addition, Momoko's discipline is capoeira, rather than Chinese Martial Arts like her teammates. Chin and Kensou make their latest appearances in The King of Fighters XII; in The King of Fighters XIII, the Psycho Soldier team is re-formed and represented by the original members.
The Ikari Team is a group of mercenaries that enters in each tournament in the series in order to find well-known criminals and capture them. The leader Heidern (ハイデルン Haiderun?) established the team in order find the criminal Rugal Bernstein, in order that Heidern could get his revenge against Rugal (who killed Heidern's wife Sandra and their daughter Clara). The other two recurring members of the team are the soldiers Clark Still and Ralf Jones, who were originally the player characters in Ikari Warriors and its sequels.
Leona (レオナ Reona?), Heidern's adopted daughter introduced in The King of Fighters '96, replaces him. Although she tends to be very quiet, Leona was conceived to be an Orochi descendant at the time of her debut, and her designers took special care to let their interests at the time reflect in her actions. Although she recovers from her childhood trauma at the end of King of Fighters '97, she leaves the team after attacking her friends in the Riot of the Blood state at the conclusion of King of Fighters 2003 and tries to regain her focus from within her personal time.
Whip (ウィップ Wippu?) appears in The King of Fighters '99 as the new member to the Ikari Team. She is a clone of K′s sister and once worked for NESTS as an assassin. She is eventually assigned to Heidern's mercenary unit for The King of Fighters tournament to investigate NESTS and the mysterious fighter known only as K'. Once she realizes who K' is, she reveals their relation to him and joins him in his objective to destroy the NESTS cartel. After NESTS' downfall, she returns to her duties under Heidern's command. One of her moves depicts her shooting her opponents with a Desert Eagle-like handgun. The firearm is edited from the American release of the games in arcades, but is uncensored in the home release versions. Whip makes her last appearance in The King of Fighters XI.
Leona, Ralf, and Clark compose the Ikari Team for The King of Fighters XIII, reflecting the team's roster from the 1996 tournament. Despite her difficulties in controlling herself during the XI tournament, Leona commits herself to entering the XIII tournament, deciding to accept, and deal with, her Orochi blood.
The Korea Team is composed of taekwondo practitioners. The group is led by Kim Kaphwan, a national hero from his country who forced two criminals to enter his team as part of his "Rehabilitation Project". The criminals are Chang Koehan (Korean: 장거한 Chang Keo-Han, Japanese: チャン・コーハン Chan Kōhan), a giant man who uses an iron ball, and Choi Bounge (Korean: 최번개 Choi Beon-Gae, Japanese: チョイ・ボンゲ Choi Bonge), a little person who uses Freddy Krueger-esque claws. During their time with Kim, Chang and Choi befriend each other and scheme many ways of escape, but they eventually mellow out and work with Kim from within his methods of fighting and justice.
In the '99 tournament, a new member called Jhun Hoon (Korean: 전훈 Jeon Hoon, Japanese: ジョン・フーン Jon Fūn) enters the team as the fourth member of the group. He has known Kim since childhood and often considers him to be a true rival. After seeing Kim's ethics and methods of training, Jhun Hoon decided that he would show him a more "efficient" way of management. In 2001, Jhun breaks his right arm in a car accident while chasing an image of his beloved idol star Athena Asamiya and is replaced by a young girl called May Lee (Korean name: Lee Jinju, 이진주) who admires the group. May Lee's character design stems from sponsor Eolith's desire for a "Korean Athena" that was an "idol-like visual fighter." In The King of Fighters XI, the team takes a break, due to Kim entering the tournament as a member of the Fatal Fury Team. Kim would eventually make a new team, known as the Kim Team, for The King of Fighters XIII, believing that he was successful in rehabilitating Chang and Choi. He sets his sight upon Raiden and Hwa Jai, whom he believes that the two of them are still working for Geese Howard, and that he attempts to help rehabilitate them so that they can give up their supposed evil ways. Although Raiden and Hwa Jai haven't associated themselves with Geese for quite some time, the two decide to trick Kim into thinking that they've still working for Geese so that they can use Kim as a way to enter into the tournament and help boost their own reputations as fighters.
Geese Howard's teams
The villain known as Geese Howard creates several teams in the series. In King of Fighters '95, he sends his right-hand man Billy Kane to kill his enemies, the Bogard brothers. Billy allies with Iori Yagami and Eiji Kisaragi to form a Rival Team in the tournament, but once they fail to obtain the victory, Iori brutally attacks them and nearly kills Billy and Eiji in the process.
In The King of Fighters '96, Geese creates the Boss Team, including Wolfgang Krauser, Mr. Big and Geese himself. Geese uses both Krauser and Big as pawns in the tournament, hoping to get the power from the Orochi being, while the others only want to prove their strength.
As the group disbanded at the end of King of Fighters '96, Geese sponsors a new group known as the Outlaw Team in the '97 and 2003 tournaments for the same purpose. The team for the '97 tournament is made up of Billy Kane, Blue Mary and Ryuji Yamazaki, though Blue Mary is replaced by Gato in the 2003 tournament.
American Sports Team
The American Sports Team is a group that only appears in The King of Fighters '94 and '98. The team is composed of a former heavyweight boxer named Heavy D!, a cheerful basketball player/martial artist named Lucky Glauber, and an aggressive football player named Brian Battler. The team's only canonical appearance in the series is in King of Fighters '94. They have not been heard from in the later years, though a running gag in the series insists that the members have always received invitations to the later tournaments, only to get beaten up and have them stolen by other fighters. They did made a comeback in King of Fighters '98, as a part of the reunion of the previous teams of King of Fighters '94.
The NESTS Team is a group that appears in The King of Fighters 2001, entering in the tournament to eliminate anybody who would try to destroy their organization. The team is composed of Angel, a ditzy yet deadly Mexican female fighter, and K9999 (pronounced K Four-Nine), a clone from Kyo entirely based on Tetsuo Shima from Akira, able to transform his arm into a long tentacle like Tetsuo's. Due to copyright issues, for the King of Fighters 2002 remake he was replaced with a similar character. The character is called "Nameless", a clone from both Kyo and K' (whose hair, reflecting this, is half brown like that of Kyo, and half white like that of K') who uses two types of flames to fight. Kula Diamond, aptly named the "Anti-K" due to her ability of creating ice, and Kula's guardian, Foxy (フォクシー Fokushī?) are also part of the team.
When their boss Zero dies from his battle upon the blimp that takes the winning team to the headquarters of NESTS, Kula and Foxy decide to leave NESTS in order to begin a new life, but the two are attacked upon sight by their teammates, who consider them traitors. K9999 and Angel mortally injure Foxy in the fight, and waste no time in attacking Kula, but when they are about to defeat her, she is rescued by K′, whose abilities make the attackers flee in an instant. Both K9999 and Angel haven't been heard from since. After the destruction of NESTS, Kula, Foxy, and Diana decide to work together with K′, Maxima, and Whip, leading to Kula joining forces with K' and Maxima in King of Fighters XI after Whip returns to the Ikari Warriors team.
Ash Crimson (アッシュ・クリムゾン Asshu Kurimuzon?) is the new anti-hero for The King of Fighters 2003, in which he makes his first appearance in the series as the leader of the New Hero Team. Ash is designed with the intent of creating an "attractive evil character", with few changes made to him since conception. His motive for entering is to take the powers of the descendants of the clans who sealed Orochi away 1,800 years ago—Kyo Kusanagi, Iori Yagami, and Chizuru Kagura—for unknown purposes. He has been successful thus far, leaving Kyo as the last power he needs to steal. Ash is cunning and manipulative, often condescending to friend or foe at his whim, and has ambiguous morals in his actions. He often gains his teammates through promises that he can fulfill, though he rarely specifies the means of granting them. Despite seeming frail by appearance, Ash is powerful, as he is able to defeat Iori in his Riot of the Blood state seemingly with ease. He also has the unique ability of creating green fire, and after defeating Iori he obtains his purple flames. He is voiced by Sōnosuke Nagashiro in Japanese.
Chizuru Kagura (神楽 ちづる Kagura Chizuru?) is a member of the Yata clan who holds one of the three sacred artifacts that originally sealed the serpent monster Orochi 1,800 years ago. As the heiress of the Yata, she is raised as a priestess and maintains the duty of keeping the diligent seal on Orochi intact. One night, an Orochi servant, Goenitz, visited her home and destroyed the seal after killing Chizuru's sister, Maki. Ten years afterwards, Chizuru is a very successful and prestigious businesswoman. She secretly hosts the tournament in 1996 in hopes of entreating Kyo and Iori to help her replace the broken seal. The three of them succeed in their task at the climax of The King of Fighters '97.
She hosts another King of Fighters tournament in 2003 with intentions similar to her previous attempt. During the tournament, she is under mind-control by a member of Those From the Past. She creates an illusion of her sister Maki as one of the game's sub-bosses, and also creates a clone from Kyo named Kusanagi to test the strength for the tournament's contestants. Eventually, she breaks free from control and tries to restore the seal of Orochi, but Ash steals her powers. She survives the attack, but can no longer participate in fights, asking Kyo's disciple Shingo Yabuki to fill her spot in The King of Fighters XI. She is initially voiced by Akiko Saito, but in 2003 she was replaced by Yukiko Sugawa.
Duo Lon (Chinese: 堕瓏; Pinyin: Duòlóng; Japanese: デュオロン Dyuoron) makes his first appearance in The King of Fighters 2003 as a member of the game's Hero Team. His overall look was based on anime title character Vampire Hunter D. He is a member of the assassin group, the Flying Brigands—or Hizoku (飛賊 Hizoku?)—and the half-brother of Xiao Lon. He is an acquaintance of Ash Crimson and Shen Woo. Hoping to hunt down the clan's traitor, Ron, he agrees to enter the tournament with them. However, after discovering Ash's true objectives, he teams up with Elisabeth Blanctorche and Benimaru Nikaido. Information on Duo Lon's design graph revealed he is one of the nine children of Ron, an assassin who chased after his own father. He is voiced by Tsunehito Maruo.
Elisabeth Blanctorche (エリザベート・ブラントルシュ Erizabēto Burantorushu?) (spelled "Elisabeth Branctorche" in The King of Fighters XII) is one of three original characters debuting in The King of Fighters XI. Her initial character concept was to be the rival to Ash, though developers decided to change her into a "leading lady" character. The developers also describe her fighting style as "orthodox with subtle tricks [to it]" despite her minimal moveset.
She initially invites Benimaru Nikaido and Duo Lon to France to form the Rival Team. She eventually reveals her acquaintance with Ash Crimson, whom she scolds for seeming to forsake their mission. Elisabeth did not appear in the arcade version of The King of Fighters XII, but was added as one of two characters exclusive to the home release of the game. Like the rest of the cast, she does not have a team for The King of Fighters XII (though the two other members of her team from King of Fighters XI are present in the game). For The King of Fighters XIII, she now appears on a team with Ash's former team members from the 2003 tournament (Shen Woo and Duo Lon), effectively forming what seems to be the new Hero Team. She is voiced by Kayoko Ooshima.
Iori Yagami (八神 庵 Yagami Iori?) is the heir of the Yagami clan, one of the three clans who sealed the Orochi. However, a dark pact with Orochi has left the Yagami clan with a tainted history, causing all of the clan's heirs to die young —but granting them the use of purple flames—. Iori has an intense hatred for Kyo Kusanagi, the heir to the Kusanagi clan, disregarding their clans' pasts and seeing him as more than just a rival, but as the man whose life he must end. Circumstance has sometimes forced the two together as unfriendly allies in the King of Fighters tournaments, so that they may fight each other in the aftermath. He is voiced by Kunihiko Yasui, while in some English adaptations he is voiced by Eric Summerer.
K′ (ケイ・ダッシュ Kei Dasshu?, pronounced K Dash) is the second protagonist of the games since The King of Fighters '99. He is a young person who lost all his memories when the NESTS syndicate captured him and injected Kyo Kusanagi's DNA into his body, so that he could copy his fire abilities. K′, wanting to prove himself in his own identity, betrays the syndicate and decides to destroy them for using his body and deleting all of his memories. Although he hates fighting tournaments, K′ uses The King of Fighters competition as a way to find those who are associated with NESTS, so that he can defeat them. In his search, he meets a person named Maxima who has the same purpose, and become partners with him. Yuuki Matsuda voices him in Japanese, while Andrew Scott is his English voice actor.
Kula Diamond (クーラ・ダイアモンド Kūra Daiamondo?) first appears as the sub-boss and playable character in The King of Fighters 2000; she enters as a normal participant in her other appearances. Her original hair color is strawberry blonde, but it changes to a light blue when she activates her ice powers. She was designed to be the antagonistic foil to K′, in an attempt to better develop characteristics of the NESTS cartel. She was specially made with attempts to depict a "14-year-old girl" with "appropriately girlish" gestures with help from newly hired female staff.
She is a being created by NESTS to exterminate the cartel's traitor, K'. Despite the fact that their subject was a mindless puppet with no sign of emotions, the NESTS cartel created an android called Candy Diamond to monitor Kula's behavior and to ensure that she would accomplish her missions. When Kula destroys the main Zero Cannon, Candy shields her descent from space, sacrificing her body as it is badly burned from Earth's atmosphere.
Kula is often ordered to exterminate other traitors to NESTS but has been known to disobey her orders for the sake of others. After NESTS' destruction, she allies on friendly terms with her target, K' and his companions. She participates in The King of Fighters XI and XIII with K' and Maxima. She is voiced by Yumi Kakazu in the Japanese version, and by Kat Cassteneda in English-language adaptations. She has her own moves with the exception of Flight and Push moves, which are same as K'.
Lin (Chinese: 麟; Pinyin: Lín; Japanese: 麟 Rin) is one of the new characters introduced in The King of Fighters 2000 as a member of the Benimaru Team. He, along with the Flying Brigands subplot, was created without the entire staff's knowledge, leading to some developers being surprised by his team's ending.
Though he is no longer an active member in King of Fighters, his story and character have not been abandoned. He is a member of the assassination group, The Flying Brigands—or Hizoku (飛賊 Hizoku?) Clan in Japanese—which is apparently on the brink of ruin. The agent Seth entices him to enter the King of Fighters tournament in order to find their clan's missing leader, Ron. After learning that Ron had defected to NESTS for his personal greed, Lin tracks the activities of NESTS' renegades, K′ and his teammates, in hopes of finding his traitorous leader. He joins up with K', Maxima, and Whip in the 2001 tournament. He continues to search for Ron even after NESTS' destruction. For an unexplained reason, he appears next to Ron in the Psycho Soldier Team's ending in The King of Fighters XI. He is a master of the Poison Hand technique, which enables the user to turn their own blood into venom. He is voiced by Takaya Kuroda.
Malin (まりん Marin?) is a character who debuts in The King of Fighters 2003 as a member of the High School Girls Team (alongside Athena Asamiya and Hinako Shijou). Her addition to the series was due to Choi's absence in the game where she debuted. The game producers state that her name should be spelled "Malin" and not "Marin", adding that "this is the humble preference of the supervising designer and a mystery to us all". She becomes a member of the Anti-Kyokugenryu Team in The King of Fighters XI due to her animosity towards one of the style's practitioners, Yuri Sakazaki. She is voiced by Kazuyo Inosako.
Vice & Mature
Vice (バイス Baisu?) and Mature (マチュア Machua?) appear as members of Iori's Team in The King of Fighters '96. The designers at the time created both Vice and Mature with the image of a "cruel woman" and a "ruthless woman", respectively. Their origin story is mostly based on the notion of Rugal employing secretaries prior to The King of Fighters '96. Both women were unavailable during location testing and were likely finished near the end of the game's production schedule. Aside from serving Rugal, both women were also spies and wielders of Orochi. They are ordered by their superior Goenitz to keep an eye on Iori, but both of them are killed by Iori.
Since then, both have appeared in the "dream match" games The King of Fighters '98 and The King of Fighters 2002 (games in the King of Fighters series with no canonical connection). Vice has also appeared in Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 and the sequel. Mature is a playable character in The King of Fighters XII, exclusive to the home console version of game.
With Vice's return in The King of Fighters XIII, Iori's 1996 team is reunited for the first time since The King of Fighters 2002. In The King of Fighters XIII, both women are spirits, reflecting their fates at the end of the 1996 tournament. With the rise of a new Orochi crisis brought on by Ash Crimson's meddling, they convince Iori to enter the new tournament to settle matters and stop whatever it is Ash has in mind.
Maxima (マキシマ Makishima?) debuts as a member of the Hero Team in The King of Fighters '99. He was added to the cast with the desire to add a "somber and reliable middle-aged character" to counteract the introduction of multiple teenage characters.
Maxima was a Canadian soldier who led a normal life until he found out that his comrade-in-arms Rocky was killed in an incident involving NESTS. To avenge Rocky's death, he abandons his ordinary life. In order to infiltrate the NESTS cartel without being recognized, Maxima was transformed into a cyborg, with his strength and reaction time increased to superhuman levels, built-in weapons, and the ability to conduct instant data analysis. He also has some degree of cyberpathy. He infiltrates NESTS and is assigned to be the partner of K′. They both defect from the cartel after K' encounters his clone, Krizalid, and grows sickened by the organization. Since then, he has become K's steadfast companion and he is often the one who enters both of them into the following tournaments. He is voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi, while his English voice actor is Mike Jarmus.
Oswald (オズワルド Ozuwarudo?) appears in The King of Fighters XI as a member of the game's Hero Team, along with Ash Crimson and Shen Woo. He was created as an older gentleman, and is enigma to even the creators. Developers consider his moves to be comical compared to the seriousness of his image, especially when the move "Joker" is blocked or misses. They chose to leave the result of his fight with Shen ambiguous, implying that fans would have been disappointed with the outcome. He was originally intended to be the "good-looking glasses" character for the series.
It is revealed at the end of the tournament that Oswald joins Ash and Shen Woo to obtain money and drugs named Dragon Pills. Ash agrees to give information regarding the drug to Oswald, explaining that it can only be given to him if he defeats the provider's enemy, Shen Woo. While Oswald is mentioned in character interactions between Shen and Ash in KOF XII, KOF XI remains his only appearance. He is voiced by Toshihiro Shigetsuka.
Ramon (ラモン?) makes his first appearance in The King of Fighters 2000 as a member of the game's Hero Team. Ramon is the only character to speak Spanish in the game, and was created to appeal to the Latin American fanbase. He has a fighting style primarily based on lucha libre.
Ramon is a famous luchador known as "El Diablo Amarillo" (The Yellow Devil), who is loved by his fans in the wrestling circle. He is approached by an agent named Vanessa, who requests in his cooperation in forming a team for The King of Fighters 2000 tournament. Since then, he has had a one-sided infatuation with Vanessa. After King of Fighters 2000, he continues to team with Vanessa at her request, often along with Seth. He is voiced by Eiji Takemoto.
Saisyu Kusanagi (草薙 柴舟 Kusanagi Saishū?) debuted in The King of Fighters '94 as a victim in Rugal's gallery of defeated fighters. He appears as a mid-boss in The King of Fighters '95, and becomes playable for the first time on the screen in The King of Fighters '98, although he was selectable in the console versions of The King of Fighters '95 as a secret character. He was originally meant to have died in The King of Fighters '94, but was added in at the last minute of development for The King of Fighters '95.
Saisyu Kusanagi is the previous head of the Kusanagi clan, who left his family to face worthy opponents across the globe. After his defeat by Rugal, he is brainwashed by his secretary Vice to fight his son, Kyo. Upon his defeat, he regains his senses and escapes from Rugal's missile silo base. In The King of Fighters 2001, he appears before Shingo Yabuki and spends a year properly teaching him the Kusanagi fighting style. The game incarnation is voiced by Keiichirou Sakaki. In the 2010 live-action film adaptation of The King of Fighters, Saisyu is played by Japanese actor Hiro Kanagawa.
Seth (セス Sesu?) makes his first appearance in the series as a "Striker" in The King of Fighters '99 Evolution. He debuts as a playable character in The King of Fighters 2000 as a member of the Benimaru Team. He was created along with Vanessa, though Seth became the visual model for her. Developers wished to have a character with "the powerful image of a big, dark, middle-aged man with a Mohawk haircut".
Seth was ordered by his superior Ling to enter the King of Fighters tournament in order to capture the Flying Brigands leader, Ron. To do this, he arranges to work with the Benimaru Team. During the tournament, he learns that Ling is really Zero in disguise, and that Ron had joined with NESTS. He continues to investigate Ron's activities as the series progresses. He is voiced by Hidetoshi Nakamura, while in some English adaptations, his voice actor is Glenn Haig. Seth also appears in the KOF: Maximum Impact game series.
Shen Woo (シェン・ウー Shen Ū?, Chinese: 神・武; pinyin: Shén Wǔ, lit. "Divine Warrior") is one of the members of the Hero Team in The King of Fighters 2003, along with Ash Crimson and Duo Lon. He was first conceptualized to be a "wild and sexy man". Due to his fighting style revolving around punches, designers for his fighting style had to make his attacks distinctive enough to avoid confusion with Ralf and Yashiro.
Shen Woo was raised in the Chinese city of Shanghai and given that nickname for developing his own, devastating street-fighting boxing style best described as "violent". He soon came to be very feared, and grew to enjoy the thrill of the fight. Eventually, he came to know the enigmatic fighter Ash, who entered Shen Woo, himself, and Duo Lon as the "Hero Team" into the King of Fighters 2003 tournament. At the end of The King of Fighters XI, Ash decides to pit his two teammates against each other by convincing Oswald to defeat Shen Woo for the mention of the "Dragon Pills" made by an unnamed pharmacist in Shanghai, telling Oswald that they will only give the Dragon Pills to someone who could defeat their mortal enemy, Shen Woo. He is voiced by Kouji Suitsu.
Vanessa (ヴァネッサ Vanessa?) (voiced by Kaori Minami) first debuts as a Striker in The King of Fighters '99 Evolution, and becomes playable in The King of Fighters 2000. Like Maxima, she was created as a middle-aged female to contrast the multiple teenage characters in the roster. Vanessa is a normal housewife who discreetly serves as a mercenary agent. Working under the orders of Commander Ling, Vanessa and fellow agent Seth are commissioned with the job of joining Ling's King of Fighters tournament to follow the footsteps of the NESTS cartel. The two agents part from one another, with Vanessa recruiting prime suspects K′, Maxima, and Ramon to complete their team. Her objective from then on is to observe the activities of the NESTS defectors, based on Ling's orders. In The King of Fighters XI, Vanessa enters the tournament together with Blue Mary and Ramon under orders to receive information concerning the broken Orochi seal and the mysterious members of Those From the Past.
Rugal Bernstein (ルガール・バーンシュタイン?) is a recurring boss in the series. As the host of the tournaments from The King of Fighters '94 and '95, Rugal plans to turn all the competitors from the tournament into stone statues as part of his collection. Despite his death in '95, Rugal is still featured in following The King of Fighters titles that do not contain a storyline (nicknamed "Dream Matches"). Toshimitsu Arai reprises his role as the character's voice actor in each appearance, with the exception of the original King of Fighters 2002 and Neowave, in which the character is voiced by Norio Wakamoto.
Adelheid and Rose
Adelheid (アーデルハイド Āderuhaido?) (Adel for short), along with his younger sister, Rose (ローズ?), are the only known children of Rugal Bernstein. They reside in an airship called "Sky Noah". Adel is a boss character from The King of Fighters 2003, as well as a secret and mid-boss for The King of Fighters XI. They were added to the series to create an alternate story to the main plot.
Despite sharing several physical and fighting traits with Rugal, Adelheid is an honorable fighter who exhibits good sportsmanship, even having a friendly conversation with Heidern, Rugal's mortal enemy. Rose, however, was developed to be extremely prideful and selfish, possessing her father's negative traits. In the end of The King of Fighters XI, Rose is manipulated by a member from the mysterious organization Those From the Past to use her in their plans, leading to the events of The King of Fighters XIII.
The Orochi clan
Orochi (オロチ Orochi?) is the final boss of The King of Fighters '97, but is not a villain. Its character origin is another interpretation of the mythical eight-headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi. In The King of Fighters series, it is a chthonic supernatural being that is the will of Gaia. It has no distinct gender. It does not regard humanity as trustworthy with regard to coexisting with the planet without ravaging it, and so seeks to extinguish humanity. It was sealed 1,800 years ago by the three sacred treasures of Japan. The three clans' descendants are charged with protecting the seal. In The King of Fighters '97, it incarnates in Chris (a herald of Orochi) to save the Gaia.
It is sealed again at the end of the '97 tournament by the three descendants of the users of the three sacred treasures (Kyo, Chizuru and Iori), but the seal is broken (though not to the point of actually releasing it) in later games by the demon Mukai. A clone of Orochi appears as a boss in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum named Mizuchi.
The Hakkesshu (Orochi Hakketsushū (オロチ八傑集?) in the Japanese version) are a group formed by the eight most powerful followers of the god Orochi. The four top members are referred to as "Kings". Gaidel, the biological father of Leona, was also a member of the group, but when he refused Goenitz's offer to continue the Orochi's will, Goenitz manipulated Leona into killing Gaidel and the rest of her fellow villagers. The criminal Ryuji Yamazaki is part of the group, but does not want to get involved with them.
New Faces Team
The New Faces Team is a group from The King of Fighters '97. They are three of the Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi. The group is composed of a young Swedish boy named Chris (クリス Kurisu?), a beautiful but shady Frenchwoman named Shermie (シェルミー Sherumī?) and a Japanese guitar player named Yashiro Nanakase (七枷 社 Nanakase Yashiro?). They initially enter due to Yashiro's grudge against Iori and his own band (which had overshadowed a performance of their before the tournament), but as the tournament progresses, the Orochi blood inside their bodies soon awakens, causing them to remember their status as three of the Four Heavenly Kings. As loyal members of Orochi, they continue to gather power for the awakening until they are forced to kill themselves in order to resurrect Orochi through Chris' body, a concept that began early in the game's production. Using the Orochi power, they are stated as the Japan Team's counterparts, since they have their same abilities: Chris is able create flames like Kyo Kusanagi, Shermie creates lightning like Benimaru Nikaido, and Yashiro has an enormous strength like Goro Daimon.
Goenitz (ゲーニッツ Gēnittsu?) is one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi, with the power to command gas substances. Goenitz has a very polite personality which is reflected in his winning poses and his elegant, somewhat flowery speech. Even though influenced by Orochi, he sports the same messianistic attitude that aspires to bring about "salvation" expected from people of religious occupations.
During the 1996 tournament, Goenitz discovers that Chizuru Kagura plans to gather warriors to seal the Orochi and heads there to stop her. Also, Goenitz is the one who took Rugal's eye which in turn Rugal took Heidern's eye. Depending on the playable characters, Goenitz can be killed by Iori Yagami and Kyo Kusanagi, sealed by Chizuru, or commits suicide in the end of '96. He is voiced by Yoshinori Shima.
The NESTS cartel
NESTS is a mysterious and dangerous cartel that is involved in the events behind the King of Fighters tournaments held between 1999 and 2001. They are responsible for the creation of the Kyo Kusanagi clones and K′. The group is composed of several agents who have different aims, but they all want to become more powerful. The cartel is destroyed with the death of their leader Igniz.
Krizalid (クリザリッド Kurizariddo?) acts as the mid and final boss of The King of Fighters '99. He was designed to be a stylish and earnestly strong boss, though the supervising designer at the time admits, "I think I overdid it a little."
He is made to be the ultimate Kyo clone, outfitted with a special suit to feed the data of fighters into his body during battle. He also happens to be a clone of K′. As a side effect, he gained some of K's memories and believed that Whip was his sister. He is ordered to activate the thousands of Kyo clones around the world so that they can attack in a simultaneous strike. After his defeat against K', his superior, Zero, neutralizes the Kyo clones and kills Krizalid by throwing a boulder to crush him. He is revived later by the original Zero and fights alongside him in the 2001 tournament. He is voiced by Yoshiyuki Iwamoto and Eiji Yano, depending on the game appearance.
Zero (ゼロ?) is one of the higher-ranked agents of NESTS. The designer, C.A.C. Yamasaki, admits basing Zero off a certain character from the manga Fist of the North Star. Zero begins to secretly build his own weapon from NESTS' technology called the "Zero Cannon". He sets his plans into motion in The King of Fighters 2000. There, he impersonates a military commander named Ling and uses his persona as a decoy to stop the military resistance against him. Depending on whether or not the player defeats Kula, his plans are foiled by either Heidern or Kula, who is sent to execute him for his treacherous acts.
However, the Zero in The King of Fighters 2000 is revealed to be a clone from the Original Zero (ゼロ(オリジナル) Zero (Orijinaru)?), who appears as a sub-boss in The King of Fighters 2001. He was created because the supervising designer of his character claimed to be dissatisfied with Zero's design in 2000. Unlike his clone, Zero is extremely loyal to the NESTS syndicate, and was disgusted to learn of his clone's attempted coup d'état. Willing to clear the reputation of his clone's actions, Zero is commanded to destroy the winners of The King of Fighters tournament. He traps the winning team in a space ship that was disguised as a blimp. When he is defeated, he urges the team to escape the collapsing ship and dies on board the vessel.
The original Zero is voiced by Toshimitsu Arai, who also did Rugal and Heidern, while the clone is voiced by Kinta Futogane.
Igniz became the leader of NESTS after he killed his father years ago. After the events of the '99 and 2000 tournaments, Igniz decides to host the King of Fighters 2001 tournament in hopes of becoming a new god, deciding to test his newly acquired power against the finalists. His hopes are short-lived, however, as he is defeated by the K' Team. Cursing his failure and declaring himself a demon instead, Igniz attempts to destroy the planet by plummeting NESTS' main headquarters out of orbit; his attempt fails, and Igniz dies in the process. He is voiced by Norio Wakamoto.
Ron (Chinese: 龍; Pinyin: Lóng; Japanese: 龍(ロン) Ron) is first introduced as a sub-plot character in The King of Fighters 2000. He later appears as a Striker for Zero in The King of Fighters 2001. Though he is not playable in the series, he serves as an important side-story character.
According to his official profile, his main objective is to gain the ability to manipulate the dead. He is the former leader to an elite assassination group known as the Flying Brigands—Hizoku (飛賊 Hizoku?) Clan in Japanese—and the father to a number of their members, including Duo Lon and Xiao Lon. He betrayed the Flying Brigands by joining NESTS for personal gain, labeling himself as a traitor by many of the group's members, including Lin, his former pupil. After NESTS' destruction, he reveals his great interest in a mysterious power shared by Sie Kensou and Bao known as the Dragon Spirit. He is voiced by Takaya Kuroda, who also voices Lin.
Those From The Past
Those From the Past (遙けし彼の地より出る者たち Harukeshi Ka no Chi yori Izuru Monotachi?) are a new group of antagonists that appear in the 2003 tournament. They are mysterious, and supposedly inhuman, warriors who want to get the power of the Orochi so that they can give it to their shrouded master. It is implied that they are the European counterparts of the Orochi Clan. The organization is destroyed after Saiki's death in The King of Fighters XIII.
Mukai (ムカイ?, also written as 無界) is the hidden final boss in The King of Fighters 2003. His appearance was designed with the concept of petrification in mind. Mukai's primary power is his control over many things related to stone. He can form stone, either in crude rocks to throw at foes, or as elaborate pillars to crush them. He speaks in very pious, grandiose declarations, but appears to have a cautious attitude toward the potential of humans.
He makes a prompt appearance in the The King of Fighters 2003 tournament seeking strong opponents and to test his strength. Mukai reveals that his group had organized the 2003 King of Fighters tournament so that they could break the Orochi seal and give its power to the group's unknown leader. Mukai wanted to battle against the winning team of the tournament, seeing if they had what it takes to survive in "the new age". Mukai is defeated but manages to escape. However, in The King of Fighters XIII he is killed by Saiki after he disobeys an order of his boss. He is voiced by Toshihiro Shigetsuka.
Shion (紫苑 Shion?) makes his first appearance in The King of Fighters XI as the sub-boss. The character was conceptually designed to be one of Ron's daughters, though developers decided to change his gender to startle and appeal to fans with his androgynous appearance. Shion is an enigmatic character whose past is unknown. He works as an underling for the demon Magaki, and seems knowledgeable about the workings of Orochi. After being defeated at the ruins of the tournament finals, he is dragged through an extradimensional gate. However, after Magaki is defeated at the end of the tournament, Shion kills him and his whereabouts remain unknown. In King of Fighters XIII, as the last cutscene, the head of Shion's spear appears. The cutscene is named The Crimson Spear. He is voiced by Jidai Ogawa.
Magaki (禍忌?) is the new boss of The King of Fighters XI. Nothing is known about the fighter Magaki, except that he hosts The King of Fighters tournament. Like his partner Mukai, Magaki wants to awake Orochi and give Orochi's powers to his own master. He also shows even less respect for humans in general, believing them to have little-to-no potential, and being weak overall. He also seems to have very little tolerance for not getting what he wants from others. Like Mukai before him, after he was defeated he stood up, apparently unscathed, and made his exit into another realm after commenting that perhaps it was more than spirit that was needed to awaken Orochi. However, as he finally realizes the error in his plan, he is killed by Shion's spear, hurled from the dimensional rift he was escaping from. He is voiced by Spicy Yagi.
Saiki (斎祀?) is the sub-boss as well as the main antagonist of The King of Fighters XIII. He is able to control the flow of time due to a gate that can halt the timeline so long as it is open. During cutscenes in the game, he takes the appearance of a human, very similar to Ash Crimson. Before the battle with Saiki in KOF XIII, Saiki drains fellow Those From the Past member Mukai of his power and transforms into a red demonic being. After the battle with Saiki, Ash Crimson takes his power, seemingly killing him. This plan backfires as Ash ends up being possessed by Saiki and turns into a shadowed version of himself called Evil Ash (known by fans as Dark Ash) to act as the game's final boss. During the ending, Saiki is defeated, but tries to use the time barrier to rewind time again and try his plot once more; Ash stands in his way and prevents his passage. When the gate closes, Saiki is finally defeated, but it is learned that he is Ash's ancestor. By denying Saiki passage into the past, Ash forces his own existence to cease. He is voiced by Sōnosuke Nagashiro, who also voices Ash.
The characters from The King of Fighters series were said to be a varied cast by Eurogamer magazine, since the cast includes characters from other SNK games. IGN agreed, commenting that every character has their own unique moves and praising their visuals, even though the magazine mentioned that the characters have old two-dimensional designs. IGN criticized that learning the characters' special moves was difficult. In reviews for the first game, IGN praised the main character Kyo Kusanagi as one of the most enjoyable characters to play, remarking on his dynamism and movesets. GameSpot also praised the characters designs, saying they "shine through, resulting in a cast of characters that's diverse and not plentiful". In other reviews, they complained about the lack of improvements in the character's movesets in some games, and also mentioned that some techniques were simply removed. They noted that, while new characters introduced in some games are interesting, they do not have the same impact as other ones.
1UP.com labelled the characters from the series as one of SNK's best creations, claiming that their appearances and quotations are all "cool"—although they commented some of the storylines are "nonsense". The boss characters were criticized by multiple reviewers for being too difficult to defeat, with Krizalid from The King of Fighters '99 being singled out as too powerful.
The character designs in Maximum Impact were praised by IGN, which noted that the conversion to three-dimensional modeling had "extremely vibrant" characters with "a decent amount of detail." However, they disliked the lack of blood, especially during violent attacks, saying the super moves and combos were "just not as spectactular here" as they were in previous installments. IGN sharply criticized the "terribly bad voice acting", calling it "truly piss-poor American dub work." Gamezone added that some characters still remain their unique fighting style, but complained about the lack of individualized endings, and commented that some of the attacks have less style in 3D. GameSpot also added that the English voices weren't distinctive, but commented that their new outfits were "pretty wild". The characters, however, were "just not done with the same pixel-perfect flair" as the 2D versions, they said, noting that "you'll recognize [the characters] because of their clothes and special moves, not because of their faces."
Action figures, puzzles, keychains, and pins have been produced based on the characters in the King of Fighters series. Many characters are also featured on posters, wallpapers, and trading cards.
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- SNK Playmore (2007-11-13). The King of Fighters XI. PlayStation 2. SNK Playmore. "Ash: You're as scary as ever, aren't you? But don't think that you can bully me. You want to know why? Because... I'm not the person I used to be./Elisabeth: !! That color! Iori Yagami's flames? No, it can't be... Orochi?!"
- SNK Playmore (2007-11-13). The King of Fighters XI. PlayStation 2. SNK Playmore. Scene: Hero Team ending. "Ash: You see, the drug known as 'Dragon Pills' is only made by a pharmacist in Shanghai. They won't sell it, but they will give it to anyone who defeats their mortal enemy, Shen Woo."
- SNK Playmore (2007-11-13). The King of Fighters XI. PlayStation 2. SNK Playmore. "Iori: Grrrr.... I'll kill you... Kyo.../Shingo: Damm it... My body is... But I have to help. Kyo... is in danger...!/Ash: Well now. What are you doing here without an umbrella?/Shingo:A-Ash... Iori's just gone crazy.../Ash: Oh dear... you are all dirty, aren't you?/Shingo: Watch out. He's different than usual./Iori: Kill.../Ash: Those eyes... I see... If it's this advanced, then that means... Hehhheee. So much pressure!/Iori: Ugghhhghgh..."
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- SNK (1995-07-25). The King of Fighters '95. Neo Geo. SNK. "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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