The King of Fighters
Arguably SNK’s The King of Fighters series is one of the few fighting games to rival Capcom’s Street Fighter in terms of depth and creativity.
KOF first began life in 1994 using characters from the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series as well as handful of new characters and a few old favourites including those from Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier.
The game was a huge success which led SNK to make yearly updates with each gaining more popularity than the last.
KOF ’95 saw the beginning of “The Orochi Saga”, (which in all fairness made about as much sense as a Japanese VCR instruction manual), and allowed players to choose a predetermined team of three characters based on the story arc or make up a team of their own choosing. The Orochi Saga came to an end with KOF ’97.
KOF ’98, (which featured no story but continued with the team match-ups using characters from all the previous games), took the series to a new level offering unparalleled levels of depth and ingenuity within the fighting mechanic.
Surprisingly KOF ’98 is still very much considered the series highlight.
KOF ’99 saw the introduction of a fourth character known as a ‘Striker’ who’s role was to aid players during combat, (a common theme in many of todays fighters). ’99 also saw the start of a new story, “The NESTS Chronicals” finishing in KOF 2001. Again, I’ve no idea what it was all about.
KOF 2002, like KOF ’98, featured no story and again was more a celebration of the series. It was also the first game to be developed by Eolith after SNK ran into financial difficulties.
KOF 2003 saw the start of the “Tales of Ash” story arc, concluding in the most recent entry into the series, KOF XIII.
Both KOF XII and XIII saw the game get a complete overhaul in the visuals department and while it maintains the series roots with regards to the fighting mechanic several changes to various characters have left fans divided.
A number of characters from KOF also saw themselves pitted against Capcom’s brightest and best in Capcom vs SNK which was created by both companies and SNK vs Capcom CHAOS which was produced by Playmore. Both series each featured their individual art styles.
On a side note the series foray into the realms of the 3D beat ‘em with Maximum Impact proved to be a reasonably successful venture, at least from a gameplay perspective. Although it was generally not met with the praise in the professional press and by some fans I always felt is was a far better offering than some might have you believe – certainly better than a lot of fighters on the market at the time.
There’s a whole lot more to KOF’s history, far too much to put here, but as far as fighting games go The King of Fighters is without question my favourite series of fighting games and, (even though KOF XIII is a new release), as a series stretching back to the early 90’s it deserves its rightful place in The Vault.