The King of Fighters
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|The King of Fighters|
Cover artwork of the Neo Geo CD version of The King of Fighters '94, the first game in the series.
The King of Fighters (ザ·キング·オブ·ファイターズ Za Kingu obu Faitāzu ), officially abbreviated KOF, is a series of fighting games by SNK Playmore (formerly SNK), which began with The King of Fighters '94 in 1994.
The series was originally developed for SNK's Neo Geo MVS arcade hardware, which served as the main platform for the series until 2004, when SNK retired the MVS in favor of the Atomiswave arcade board. Only two King of Fighters games were made on the Atomiswave platform (The King of Fighters Neowave and The King of Fighters XI) before SNK decided to discontinue using the platform for the series. The current arcade hardware for the series is the Taito Type X2, with its first usage coming with the release of The King of Fighters XII. Ports of the arcade games and original The King of Fighters games have been released for several video games consoles.
Main series 
The first game in the series, The King of Fighters '94, was released by SNK on August 25, 1994. The game featured characters from SNK's previous fighting game series Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, as well as original characters (including characters from older games such as Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier, adapted for a versus fighting game). The success of the game led SNK to release yearly installments of the series and numbered the games for the year they were released. The King of Fighters '95 was released on July 25, 1995, with several ports being released the next year. In addition to adding new characters, this game also began the first story arc of the series titled "The Orochi Saga". KOF '95 was also the first game in the series that allowed the players to create their own team of three members, out of any character in the game. The King of Fighters '96, released on July 30, 1996, establishes the second part of "The Orochi Saga" and replaced the character sprites from the previous two years with newly drawn ones, improving the gameplay of the series as well. Depending on the playable characters in a team, an exclusive ending will be played. The King of Fighters '97, released on July 28, 1997, concluded "The Orochi Saga" story arc. The King of Fighters '98 was released on July 23, 1998, and unlike the previous games of the series, it did not feature a story. Instead, the game was promoted as a "Dream Match" game that allowed players to choose most of the characters available from the previous titles, including ones that were supposedly dead. SNK refitted the Dreamcast version and renamed it The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999 with an extended cel animated introduction and 3D backgrounds.
On July 22, 1999, The King of Fighters '99 was released, which introduced a new story arc known as "The NESTS Chronicles". The game introduces several new characters into the series, as well as the rule of a fourth member being added to each team and that a new tactic is introduced in this game as well. The tactic would be that a specific person from a team would be an assistant called a "Striker" and that this person would be able to aid the team for a few seconds in combat. The Dreamcast version was titled The King of Fighters: Evolution, with several improvements in the game such as new strikers and better animation. The King of Fighters 2000 was released on July 26, 2000, and is the second part of "The NESTS Saga" as well as the last KOF game to be made by SNK before the bankruptcy. It adds a few new playable characters and a couple of Strikers (most of them being from previous KOF titles and other SNK titles as well such as Metal Slug and Kizuna Encounter). The King of Fighters 2001 was released on November 15, 2001, and ends the second story arc. Due to economic problems that SNK had at the time, the Korean company Eolith helped in the development of the game after SNK was bankrupted. The King of Fighters 2002, released on October 10, 2002, was created to reunite old characters from previous KOF games and featured no story, similar to KOF '98. It was also developed by Eolith.
A new KOF story arc called the "Tales of Ash" starts in The King of Fighters 2003, released on December 12, 2003 and this was the last game to be released for the Neo Geo system. It allowed the players to change characters while playing, but the number of team members was reduced back to three. SNK, now SNK-Playmore, returned to the franchise development in this entry. By 2004, SNK abandoned yearly releases of the series and numbered future games in a more traditional manner; the first main series game released as such was The King of Fighters XI, released on October 26, 2005. The King of Fighters XII was released in July 2009. KOF XII uses newly-drawn 2D sprites on detailed 2D backgrounds. Producers informed that the game is one hundred percent hand drawn. It is to be a storyless gathering of fighters, similar to KOFs '98 and 2002 before it. The latest story arc ends with The King of Fighters XIII, which features the entire roster from The King of Fighters XII as well as additional characters and was released during the summer of 2010.
Other games 
The King of Fighters '94 was remade and released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 as The King of Fighters '94 Re-Bout in Japan. This version has several new features like hi-res graphics, online play, team edit, a playable Rugal Bernstein, and the addition of Saisyu Kusanagi. A remake for KoF '98 titled The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match was released in Japanese arcades on March 18, 2008 and later on some video game consoles expanding the character roster and improving the graphics. A remake for KoF 2002, titled The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match has recently been released for the PlayStation 2, on February 26, 2009 in Japan.
In 2004, SNK produced the first 3D installment of the series, KOF: Maximum Impact. The game and its sequel KOF: Maximum Impact 2 and it's 2 upgraded versions, revises much of the backstory for characters and settings from previous games. The producer of the Maximum Impact series, Falcoon, stated that the Maximum Impact games are in a different continuity from the original series of games. Another spin-off video game, The King of Fighters Neowave, was released for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Arcade during 2005 and 2006. Like KOF '98 and KOF 2002, Neowave has no storyline and is considered a "dream match" game. The game is a gathering of numerous characters from previous installments, including characters like Mature and Vice from KOF '96 and the New Face Team from KOF '97. The character artwork was done by Tomokazu Nakano. Two video games were released for the Game Boy Advance titled The King of Fighters EX: Neo-Blood and The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood respectively, featuring characters and backgrounds from KOF '99 and 2000, respectively. A role-playing game was also created exclusively for the PlayStation under the name of The King of Fighters: Kyo, adaptating a manga with the same name. An N-Gage version of the first Game Boy Advance game was released in 2005 titled The King of Fighters Extreme, which added Bluetooth multi-player.
Three pachinko slot games were developed for the series. The first, The King of Fighters, is based on the Orochi storyline and the second, The King of Fighters 2, is based on the fight of K' against the NESTS cartel. The newest one, Maximum Impact, was released on January 19, 2009 and focuses on the series' 3D titles. None of these was released outside of Japan. Six games for Japanese mobile phones have also been developed. While a few of them are fighting games, others are mini-games like volleyball and quizzes.
Several characters from the series also appear in crossover video games. Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is a 2 on 2 tag team fighting game for the Atomiswave arcade board, and SNK Gals' Fighters is a fighting game for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Along with the KOF, characters from other SNK series also star in both of these games. Capcom also produced a series of similar crossover fighting games with SNK. The SNK-produced fighting games of this crossover include the Dimps-developed portable fighting game SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium for the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1999 and SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos for the Neo Geo in 2003. The games produced by Capcom are Capcom vs. SNK in 2000 (followed by a minor upgrade, Capcom vs. SNK Pro, in 2001) and a sequel titled Capcom vs. SNK 2, released in 2001. All three games were produced for the NAOMI hardware and later ported to various consoles.
In addition to the remakes of individual games such as Re-bout, Ultimate Match, and Unlimited Match, SNK Playmore has released compilations of their KOF games. Two KOF compilations were released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as part of the Neo Geo Online Collection. The first compilation, The King of Fighters Orochi Hen (ザ·キング·オブ·ファイターズ -オロチ編-, "The Orochi Compilation") features KOF '95, KOF '96, and KOF '97, the three games comprising the Orochi story arc. The compilation features a Color Edit mode that allows the player to create a custom color palette for every character in each game, the choice to play each game with original and arranged soundtracks, and an online versus mode which supports the MMBB service. The second compilation, The King of Fighters NESTS Hen (ザ·キング·オブ·ファイターズ -ネスツ編- , "The NESTS Compilation"), features the original Neo Geo versions of KOF '99, KOF 2000, and KOF 2001, as well as the corresponding Dreamcast versions of each game. It has the same features as the previous compilation, but with online support available only for the Dreamcast games in the compilation.
A separately produced compilation titled The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga was released for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Wii in North America, the PAL region, and Southeast Asia. This compilation has the same lineup of games as the Japanese Orochi Hen, along with KOF '94 and KOF '98, although the extra features are different, with an added Challenge Mode where the player must win certain matches against the CPU in KOF '98 under specific conditions and a media gallery featuring listenable tracks from each game and a collection of official illustrations.
Plot and characters 
The titular King of Fighters tournament originated from SNK's previous fighting game franchises, Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. The first game in the series, KOF '94, centers around a black market arms dealer named Rugal Bernstein, who hosts the well-known fighting tournament to lure worthy adversaries into his trap so that he can kill them and turn them into stone statues, adding them to his collection of defeated martial artists. In addition to previous established fighting game stars Terry Bogard and Ryo Sakazaki, the game introduces a new hero: a young Japanese martial artist named Kyo Kusanagi, who serves as the lead character in the early KOF games. In KOF '95, Rugal, having survived the previous tournament, host a new one with the intentions of seeking revenge against his adversaries. KOF '95 introduced Kyo's rival Iori Yagami to the series and was the first game to mention the presence of the Orochi clan, which would serve as the central plot element in the following two games in the series. The tournament in KOF '96 and KOF '97 are hosted by a woman named Chizuru Kagura, who seeks to recruit allies (particularly Kyo and Iori, who are descended from the Three Divine Vessels along with Kagura herself) to fight against the Orochi clan. The Orochi storyline concludes in KOF '97, while the following game in the series, KOF '98, is a "Special Edition" with no plot development.
KOF '99 introduces a new story arc involving a mysterious corporation known as NESTS, which seeks to create an army of genetically altered fighters. The game would introduce a new lead character named K′: a fugitive from NESTS who was genetically enhanced with Kyo's DNA. The two following games in the series, KOF 2000 and KOF 2001, continue the NESTS storyline, with each game further unraveling the mystery of the organization. KOF 2002, like KOF '98 before it, is a "Special Edition" of the series with no particular plot.
KOF 2003 begins a new storyline focusing on another new lead character named Ash Crimson, a young man who seeks to possess the powers of the Three Divine Vessels for his own unknown agenda. The tournaments from KOF 2003 and KOF XI were hosted by "Those From the Past", an organization of inhuman warriors who try to break the Orochi seal to take its powers so that they can give it to their shrouded master. While KOF XII does not have a story, KOF XIII follows another tournament hosted by Those From the Past with Ash eventually confronting their superior despite him being Ash's ancestor.
In an interview with veteran developers of the series they claim that their prototype version for KOF was going to be a side-scrolling beat 'em up titled, Survivor. In this version, it would only use 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 after the debut of Capcom's game with similar gameplay, Final Fight. Since they were attached to the idea of the two series cross-over, they eventually agreed to make their idea into a fighting game. Characters from Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier games were also added in 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.
Related media 
Manga adaptation 
During 1995 Tatsuya Shingyoji authored a manga adaptation of The King of Fighters '94. It was serialized in Shōnen Ace from Kadokawa Shoten and was collected into four tankōbon volumes. They were released from February 10, 1995 to December 1996. There is also a spin-off manga story based on the adventures of the characters from The King of Fighters '96 entitled The King of Fighters: Kyo. It was authored by Masato Natsumoto and published by Kodansha in two tankōbon volumes during 1997. Ryo Takamisaki also developed another adaptation from KOF '96; Shinseisha published the series in three tankōbon compilations from June 1996 to February 1998.
A manhua adaptation of KOF titled The King of Fighters: Zillion was created by Andy Seto. Hong Kong artists Wing Yang and King Tung produced further manhua for the games, starting in The King of Fighters 2001 through 2003 along with the Maximum Impact series. Both authors also made a sequel, The King of Fighters 03: Xenon Zero (拳皇 XENON ZERO), to conclude the 2003 tournament. Another manhua series is King of Fighters RX Project '00 (拳皇RX) is a three-volume manhua series that was officially sponsored by SNK-Playmore Hong Kong. The NESTS saga version was illustrated by Ricky, covering the fight against NESTS primarily focused in the 2000 tournament.
Film and animation 
A short series based upon KOF entitled The King of Fighters: Another Day was announced in August 2005 and debuted at the Tokyo Game Show about a month later. Production I.G produced the title as an original net animation. There are a total of four episodes, each about 10 minutes in length. It has since been released as a bonus DVD, packaged with KOF: Maximum Impact 2 (The King of Fighters 2006 in the United States).
SNK has released a series of CD soundtracks titled SNK Character Sounds Collection or SNK Sound Character Collection (SNKサウンドキャラクターズコレクション). As of 2008, there are 11 volumes altogether and each one focuses on a single character. The CDs have different versions of the characters themes, as well as quotes. Most of the albums' covers are illustrated by Masato Natsumoto. The Band of Fighters, shortened as BOF, is a character image band that is formed with Kyo Kusanagi, Iori Yagami, Terry Bogard, Nakoruru and Athena Asamiya.
Dengeki Bunko and Pony Canyon have released several drama CDs from the series. Some of them are direct adaptations of several video games from KOF '94 to KOF '00. Another CD is Iori Yagami Original Drama The Setting Sun and Moon ~ Prologue (八神庵オリジナルドラマ 夕陽と月〜プロローグ〜), which is centered around Iori Yagami. The drama originally aired on Game Dra Night and Neo Chupi and then released by Pony Canyon CD on July 7, 1999. The guidebook The King of Fighters Perfect Reader includes the bonus CD drama KOF: Mid Summer Struggle. There are two stories on it, one which is serious and one that is a parody focused on KOF '03. The scenarios were developed by Akihiko Ureshino and BoHyou. SNK also gave away a four-CD soundtrack featuring songs from past KOF games with the pre-order of KOF XIII on any GameStop in the United States.
Other merchandise 
In December 2006, Sabertooth Games released a King of Fighters 2006 collectable card game set along with Samurai Shodown V for its Universal Fighting System (UFS) game. Other games like Street Fighter and Soulcalibur III are also included into the series. Character starter packs were released for Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui. Other merchandise includes numerous figures and statues, mostly of Mai.
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