The King of Fighters - From Fatal Fury to Orochi (The Long Road)
Fatal Fury - Opening Number
A long time ago, a team produced a game called Street Fighter, it was about a set of mixed martial artists who went up against one another to test their strength and skill. It was ahead of its time in character design, difficulty, and music. It gained rave reviews when it hit arcades, and some demanded a sequel just to see where Ryu and Ken's pathways would lead them next.
Sadly that game was not on their side, as Capcom tweaked the development team with fresh faces. So the crew that conceived one of the highly notarized games at the time proceeded with a new idea. Based around a trio of characters -
Terry Bogard (the Lone Wolf)
Andy Bogard (Shiranui Ninja in training)
Joe Higashi (the man with with plan)
These three would go up against an array of opponents in various locales. What made this game unique were its characters designs and music. For the first time in game design, the bgm tracks would actually play out in real time, changing with each fight (like a live DJ mix!) Plus every level was multi-tiered with a moving background, and the characters were capable of moving within a 3D like space.
Boss Spotlight - Geese Howard: This businessman does not hide his identity, but is proud of what his henchmen accomplishment in the tourney. But once you face him, is it not a cakewalk, but a mastery of offense and defense versus his dynamic powerful blows. Plus his desperation move takes out your entire health bar. *oh and he has a dramatic last scene as he falls from a skyscraper (this becomes his novel ending from the start and throughout this series)
**Oh and the climactic end scene boss death was inspired by Die Hard.
**Fatal Fury then after became Street Fighter's longtime rival. Including its numerous sequels that always tried to outdo the game entry before it with design, sound, and controls.
**FF also set a game staple with the option to selected how to continue if you get a game over screen. From a getting a health bar, lower opponent's energy, or get a super energy boost.
Art of Fighting - The battle of the fist
Two friends join a quest together to save a lost soul kidnapped by a band of baddies. Seeking their virtuous quest, Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia travel the world to save Yuri Sakazaki (Ryo's sister / Rob's girlfriend). Like Fatal Fury, AOF takes this duo of globetrotters all around the world. With breadcrumbs given to them after each match, until they save Yuri!
**It turns out AOF takes place right around the same time as FF. So everyone's paths cross one another, including later sequels to both games.
Ikari Warriors -
A mission - stop the bad guys, save the world. Ralf and Clark, and their team leader Heidern band together to fight the good battle! An over the top #shmup, which pushers players to their limits. With bullet hell taking over the screen, as two lone soldiers blaze across the screen. Crossing different game formats: arcade, MSX, NES, Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and many more.
Plus it was also well regarded as one of the best action games of its time. In difficulty and gameplay style, fast and frantic action all around. Rarely did you ever encounter a situation there was no way to escape. Every level was constantly changing, from flat lands, jungles, and mountain ranges. With numerous sequels, IW gained a cult fan following unlike Metal Slug (turns out they were on the same team! how awesome is that?!)
KOF 94' Rugal's Dreamboat
After a few sequels, Terry and friends join SNK's famous cast in all all out tourney. Sporting a 3 tiered team up, each array of fighters displayed their unique MMA skills. Just like FF, everyone has a super moves, but ateam leader can only use a HDSM that unleashes an insane amount of energy.
Boss Spotlight - Rugal Bernstein: With flash kicks, and some mean grapple moves, this guy is not to take lightly. Like Geese, he is a powerhouse yet can be defeated by memorization. Just don't get caught in up his super andadvanced grapple otherwise kiss your butt goodbye.
**Rugal was in fact designed after Vincent Price's character from Jules Verne's "Master of the World" film (based on the novel). Same goes for the air ship, which was the lead character's vehicle of choice. Reigning his message of free will choice by force.
**Another neat feature is the use of a storyline, like FF every character on your team is involved. How you win or lose, shapes the outcome of your team's ending. It also revolved around the boss's own tale, and even depicted the outcome of the fight's winner. Even more dynamic than Geese escape.
Orochi - Battle for the Crown 95-97
After the bar was set by KOF94, the next set of tourneys revolved around several factors.
1)Yagami vs Kusanagi - Kyo gains a rival in the fierce yet dark character Iori Yagami. A man plagued by his dark flame, and maniacal watch dogs Mature and Vice. Their fates are sealed by their families warring history, over the protection of a mirror that sealed away a monster named Orochi. Within this new dynamic, we are introduced to Chizuru Kagura, the 3rd guardian of the mirror.
2) Leona Heidern - Adopted daughter by the General Heidern, (leader of Team Ikari) Her dark secret is that she is also part of the Orochi clan. That fact aside, she is a powerhouse of offense and defense. *Plus her HDSM slices an opponent's health quite a bit, and she can also tap into her "true" Orochi form and go berserk ripping the screen and half + her opponent is instantly defeated.
Character Spotlight -
Vice & Mature: Iori's designated bodyguards, former servants to Rugal taking an additional gig watching over the lost Yagami. But they also have a hidden talent, just watch your back or you might not have a head.
Being a part of the Orochi clan is not an easy gig. But they make it good and sexy.
Boss Spotlight - Goenitz Yagami - A distant relative to Iori, a bringer of winds, and a fierce opponent. With the said power of wind, he can create a barrier so there is no way to tackle him with distant attacks. But with a close quarter attack, it can dish out some serious damage. But be advised he can block short moves, so save up for those supers. Goenitz's critical super will take out any played character, if the screen flashes dodge by rolling away and interrupt his moves with your own.
Boss Spotlight pt 2 - Chris, Shermie, and Yashiro: These three are a unique trio, part of a gothic rock band, yet harboring a secret power. Each of these members harness a piece of Orochi's powers. First you fight them in their normal human form, but later in their summoned version with their powers unleashed. One of lightning, flames, and the other of brute strength. **In their boss and regular forms, they had their own unique theme song.
Boss Spotlight pt 3 = True Orochi: With each of the Orochi's defeated their true form is evolved into a unique super human, god like entity. In the form of a human (not a dragon this time around) but just as fierce. Orochi has an array of attacks that would make SF's Akuma and Vega blush with envy.
Dream Match 98/99' - KOF 98 on the Neo-Geo was represented as a DM, or Dream Match. Herein everyone's favorite teams could come back in one more go round. A "Best of the Best" if you will lineup of bosses and teams all mashed together. It was by far the biggest roster that the system could handle. In addition there were numerous editions of the game. On the PSX and Dreamcast, KOF 98 arrived as a re-release for the home console, with an all new animated intro sequence done by various masters in animation exclusively as a partnership with distributing the game.
Another neat feature was the ability to connect the Neo-Geo Pocket system with the Dreamcast. By obtaining VS points, players could unlock extra features that were hidden the handheld game. Including bonus artwork, character stats, and more fun goodies. Sadly the NGP didn't fare well against Nintendo's Game Boy so it was a very limited release. Making the game a rare find for collectors.
Capcom VS SNK - The journey:
By far the long awaited Versus match fans demanded since Fatal Fury began. A big collaboration between the SF and KOF development teams. Crossing over with a ratio system (+1, +2, +3) This system would align your chosen character or team with an opponent of the same calibur. Plus the setup would determine which patch you would take as a Cap or SNK groove (this was your super energy bar). Depending on the groove chosen, your team could face either Geese or Bison in the end. With Akuma being the final boss in the long run.
SNK VS Capcom (SVC Chaos) - The other side
With one versus game down, the team decided to do a mash up on the Neo-Geo system. However this game is clunky, and insanely difficult. Although it carries a fun roster, the game itself is not fun or as robust as its competitor, but its some time played through.
*There are some weird easter eggs in this game: For one, Dimitri's gender changing bite will turn males to female, and females to male characters for a short time. Plus it uses the in-game engine from KOF 2003, so it retains a bit of quality throughout the entire game.
99' to 2001 - the NESTS / Clone saga
Within the manga series, it explains that Kyo went on a quest to find his true self. But only getting caught up in a web of mystery as a corporation wants to use his powers to create an armada of warriors. Thus the entire team across the world band together to find their lost friend in the chaos. Iori most of all wants to wrap up their blood feud only to wind being a brother. Until a new type of clone takes the mantle, and makes up for the madness.
K' - One of the first type clones with an altered persona, fierce, reckless and a bad attitude. Plus his best buddy Maxima has some history with NESTS. Vanessa and Seth were bodyguards for some specific character who didn't want to be spotlighted.
Boss - Krizalid: Bizarre name, but a mad mad baddie. Fusing Kyo and Iori's flames to give himself a superhuman boost and power beyond what a normal human can handle.
*Striker system - A tag-in option, where you break a match up with a bonus character that throws your opponent off. Or sometimes uses an SM to knock them out.
2K - Zero
Heidern loses his gig as a commander of the team that watches over the world. So in order to set things right, he's going to have to take on his boss (who turns out to be more than bargained for). NESTS has had its claws in everything for many years, like a parasite searching for a host.
Several new faces join in, a ninja, a female wrestler, Vanessa and Seth join in, Kula (ice queen), Diana (her guardian), and many more join in the most bizarre chapter in KOF history.
Zero / Original Zero - So it turns out the guy is a fraud, but he is a NESTS agent / boss. Things get messy, hurt feelings, but in all pans out in the end. This boss is pretty much a brawler, but his damage count is a bit overkill. The guy takes hits like a tank, undazed, literally a lot like a certain superhero but wearing a deadly kilt.
2001 - The Lovable Igniz
Mixing things up, things get more bizarre with a new set of faces (ex-Nests members) join in the party. Its all about ending things once and for all. (well almost) With more trouble brewing, and K+ Kula caught in the middle. **2k1 was also rare for not having an arranged OST for home release. So synth-love all around.
Boss - Igniz
Pretty boy? Alucard's cousin? Who knows, this boss is beyond words! The last guy within the overlord-ship of NESTS. But his intentions? Um a deity, kinda scary huh?So to prove his strength like every boss, and push everyone's buttons. Oh god this guy is tough to beat, just do what you can and knock him down!
K'9999 - An overpowered with the inability to control his temper (inspired by the cyberpunk anime Akira).
Angel - A unique female wrestler who acts as a overseer to anyone who gets in her team's way.
Capcom vs SNK 2 - One more quarter!
From one game to the next, the biggest crossover returns with an even bigger roster! Still keeping the point system, its now regulated to a designated team captain but doesn't outrank a characters strengths. With a cast of 56+ (it even rivals Marvel VS Capcom 2 or 3!)Still retaining a 3 on 3 matchup like classic KOF, sadly its one on one ( no tagging) But the game itself is fast and furious, with each character retaining their own abilities through either groove set. Plus a diverse OST (that actually outdoes the first game!)
Final bosses - (Depending on Groove Set)
Shin Akuma/ God Rugal - Both were fearsome in their normal forms, but now given their untapped powers they are ruthless as ever. Orochi power? No one knows, but a battle with either one is to the finish!
In later re-releases of the game, additional tracks are playable as bgm tunes. With revamped editions of the game with online play (even more crazy fun to be had once again!) (**jeez I'm beginning to sound a fight narrator)
KOF 2002 / UM -
So another dream match, and just a bunch of characters brought together. But the weird part is that lines are crossed and Rugal comes back (cloned?!) And there's two versions of 2k2, Ultimate Match is a directors cut re-release without K'9999 (due to copyright monkeys, and the voice actors were unable to return) So there was a switcheroo with some characters, and the music was replaced with trance!? (okay I love EDM as much as anyone, but this was an odd choice.. 2k2's original soundtrack was alright, but it did need a push) But wowzers does the re-release kick the original's butt sound wise.
2k2 is as much fun as any other KOF game before it, but it also moves a lot faster. Maybe its the team's decision to speed up gameplay, but it has a flow that it rarely counters any issues. And like 98's background stage designs, they are always changing along with the matches.
2003 to XIII - Orochi Rebirth
Enter the Crimson -
With a new shift in gears, KOF gains a few new faces and new foes. Joining the roster are 3 mysterious beings:
Ash Crimson - A bizarre young man with the ability to harness green flames. Unlike any other challenger, his intentions are unclear, but has assembled his own team with motives.
Shen Woo - A brawler filled with angst and zest for life. What is his job? Bodyguard, but he's not a fan of Ash at all (more like a rivalry)
Duo Lon - Returning from the Nests 2k1 matches, he now serves as a watcher alongside Ash & Shen Woo. With his true intentions being to find Chizuru to seek an answer.
Chizuru returns after being a watcher of the Orochinagi & Yagami clan. However, her job is proving more difficult with the Orochi Mirror winding up in the hands of an unknown entity. Kusanagi a creature of darkness, takes Kyo's form and flames rising up against all that is good in the world. Maki, is Chizuru's elder sister (?) from the mirror? They host this new tourney that will push everyone to their limits.
With a much faster, and quicker game engine, 2k3 is fast and furious. Now featuring a "tag-in / tag-out" switch mode, giving the option of "3 on 3" smoother flow. In the past, the series was always "steady come, steady go" now in real time the gameplay is more in motion than ever. (it even rivals Street Fighter 3's gameplay framework).
Boss - Mukai(Those from the Past)
A giant, guardian, a being from another time protects the Orochi tomb. Mukai's existence is that of being locked away within the mirror, now left out of his own devices on a mission to allow his fellow descendants to also join him on a conquest to take over the present day.
Boss - Adelheld Bernstein (and Rose)
Adel is in fact Rugal (94's) son, with his sister Rose aboard the Sky Noah (another one!?) Donning a similar fighting style his dad, but a bit more humble. Don't take him lightly, with his HDSM it can crush one's health bar.
**Wrap up, turns out Ash is a reincarnation of a certain dragon! (and sucks away Kyo, Iori and Chizuru's life force away from them taking their power!)
** Characters from the future set Fatal Fury - Garou Mark of the Wolves are beginning to emerge into KOF territory. With Tizoc (the grappler), Gato (an mma master), just to mention a few.
KOF XI - *Sadly I missed out playing this one fully, just a small summary included here!
With Mukai's fall from grace, more characters from this mysterious clan take their place. Using the same engine as 2003, this series is far from over turning in its credits.
*Character key notes:
Garou team - B. Jenet (the pirate queen!), Gato , and Tizoc (both returning to KOF, along with B this time around!)
Boss - Shion - Another member of TFTP, like Billy, a mean Wu Shu master (um but this pretty face is actually a guy). With unknown powers, able to cause great pain to anyone who gets in his way.
Elizabeth & Oswald - From two fronts these characters are on a quest to find a way to protect what was lost. Coming from another timeline, they are sent to stop Ash from causing chaos in this world.
Boss - Magaki - Like Mukai, this character is able to manipulate his environment as well as being a shapeshifter. But one tough cookie, one false move could be your last.
**This would also be the first game to carry roman numerals. With 2k3 being the last to carry a year a title!
KOF XII - Wait its not a game with the timeline?! Oh c'mon!
As a dream match or test game its hard to define. Although it is a full on game release, with various characters put together (um and some familiars missing) It was KOF's first foray into the HD realm. Boasting a vast amount of colors, new game engine, new character sprites! And an array of tunes for you to choose from, even some bgm playlists that were available only online via DLC.
KOF XIII - Crimson
With the end game delivered, Ash's plan finally comes to fruition. The leader of "TFTP" has decided to unveil himself (and turns out to be Ash's great grandfather). All go for launch, every team stands at the ready to face Saiki, a being with powers familiar to Orochi (absorbing Mukai's power!) With one more sneaky move made, Ash takes his grandfather's energy, absorbs it and becomes an entity of time and space. But leave it to chance, like a classic British science fiction tale named "Doctor Who" once said "if time and space collide, there is no telling what trouble it could cause".
XIII wraps up an engaging mini series that could very well sum up what KOF is all about. Drama, action, comedy, suspense, and horror. For so many years, this series has rivaled other fighting games with its way of storytelling. In the beginning it was rough around the edges, but managed to rebound back into the gaming community.
What is next for KOF? We can only wait and see, SNKP or Capcom could dish out some project.
Or who knows..