Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fighting Game Camps: The King of Fighters: Part 2


No other fighting game franchise I will ever cover in these camps has music that comes close to what The King of Fighters has.  Through the fusion of a wide variety of music styles and powerful, fast-paced rhythms, The King of Fighters games have churned out masterpiece after masterpiece of musical glory.  Each one delivers epic riffs that last at least a minute and a half and always remain dynamic, perfect for the high-octane fights that take place no matter what style or instruments are used.  I would pay good money to see a live performance of any of these instrumental songs.

Let me put it this way: Street Fighter music you tap your foot to.  Guilty Gear music you bang your head to.  Tekken music you freestyle to.  The King of Fighters music you flashily fight to.

When I think of a fighting game named Street Fighter, I don’t think of music like Street Fighter 4's overpass music.  I think of Street Dancer.

In this case, the Street Fighter music gives a nice, non-distracting ambience, but The King of Fighters’ is much more energizing.

There is, however, one exception to KOF’s outstanding record: King of Fighters 2001.  While it has a couple of catchy tracks, its repetitive electronic music has had the KOF camp pretty much unanimously agree it’s a low point in the franchise’s music.  Not horrible per se (depending on who you ask), but certainly not as good as the others.

As if SNK Playmore or Atlus knew what they had was gold, a 4-disc King of Fighters anniversary soundtrack containing a collection of the best tracks from each game was released as a pre-order bonus for King of Fighters 13.  I myself got it separately on Amazon much later, and trust me, it’s worth it.

Don’t worry Street Fighter.  You still have the best character select music.


It’s a good thing King of Fighter’s music is so energizing, because when you’re actually playing, you need to be as energized and hyperactive as you can to win.

In terms of basic controls, KOF plays very much like Street Fighter, right down to the circular movements for special and super special attacks.  The biggest difference is that King of Fighters only has two buttons each for punches and kicks instead of Street Fighter’s three.  Because of the similarities, Street Fighter fans can fairly easily adjust to The King of Fighters' controls and vice-versa, with some practice.
The game's design, however, is that of an entirely different fighting game.  Let me list the ways:

  1. In addition to its elimination matches, King of Fighter’s team system has led to such gimmicks as tagging out and the striker system, in which the fourth member of a team can leap into the fight to quickly perform an action.
  2. King of Fighters is much faster than Street Fighter, both in character moves and the game speed itself.
  3. To grab in The King of Fighters, players tilt the control stick in their opponent’s direction at point blank range and press the strong kick or punch button.  Street Fighter 2 and the Alpha games did it that way too, but King of Fighters has done so consistently through every game, while Street Fighter later assigned grabbing to pressing both weak attack buttons.
  4. In Street Fighter, double-tapping the control stick forward makes your character hop forward.  In The King of Fighters, they run.
  5. In KOF, by pressing both strong attack buttons at the same time, characters use their knockdown move, which take a split second to use, but can knock an opponent off their feet.
  6. Attacks in The King of Fighters have significantly more damage feedback.  Characters can be pummeled into the wall while they’re guarding, get knocked backwards when they aren’t, and go flying with any high impact special attack they’re hit with.  Unlike Street Fighter, where a powerful attack usually only sends you a few inches backwards, King of Fighters has their combatants take up the whole ring.  That combined with the bone-crunching and explosive sound effects, and immolating and flashing impact effects, makes KOF characters really look like they’re getting horribly wrecked.
  7. By pressing both weak attack buttons at the same time, characters in KOF use their dodge roll, in which they quickly roll to avoid an attack and adjust their distance to their opponent.  The first two games had a sidestepping dodge move instead.

8. The majority of King of Fighters characters have special attacks ideal for closing the distance between them and their opponent, often being a charging strike or teleport.  Some Street Fighter moves have a similar effect, like the Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku, but most of the ones in King of Fighters are faster and used more like a way to charge at their opponent.

  1. Special attacks are used more often in The King of Fighters.  The super special attack gauges of the Street Fighters games have variances that don't guarantee there are going to be a lot of super attacks thrown (longer gauges for some moves in SF3 and the 3-level system for the Alpha games).  The King of Fighters games (mostly) consistently use a super stock system that fills with each hit and special attack thrown.
  2. King of Fighter’s equivalent to Street Fighter 4’s ultra combos are leader moves in KOF 2003 and 11, and neo max moves in KOF 13.  Leader moves can only be used by the designated team leader and take up two super meters, while neo maxes use up three super meters and the hyperdrive gauge added in KOF 13.  Both have spectacular results, but don’t focus on themselves long enough to break the flow.

You pissed off Ralf, didn’t you?!

All of these traits combine to make a faster, more action-packed, finger-twitching action game SNK arcade titles are known for having.  I have seen several King of Fighters matches in which players spend the match constantly charging each other with special attacks while the characters onscreen scream each attack’s name like Hak Foo.

You’d better not get an itch when you’re playing The King of Fighters because putting your hands off the buttons for one second means you lose!

Cross counters are pretty common in competitive KOF matches.

Personal Fighters of choice

I can play well with just about any KOF character except for May Lee and her stance system, but when I play seriously, my team consists of Iori, Ralf, and Ash.

Iori is much like me in that he isn’t a quitter.  He knows who is enemies are and will beat them no matter what it takes!  Such vengeful determination is greatly reminiscent of my own life.  When someone wrongs me, I never forget.

He and I also have trouble making friends.

As a fighter, Iori is flexible at most distances, and his punch and kick attacks have decent range, whether he has his flames or not.  With his flames, he has a projectile attack, a 3-hit combo special attack, and a strong uppercut for a well-rounded fighter.  Even without them in KOF 13 though, he’s great at close range with his grabbing and slashing special attacks that all make for some easy combos.  Iori without his flames is also a little simpler to use, since he has fewer attacks.

Ralf I use because he’s the biggest badass in any franchise ever made and he works out by grabbing ICBMs out of the sky and breaking them in half on his head!

"This hand of mine glows with an awesome power!"

Ash works well with me as a character and fighter because of him being the trickster archetype.  As a character, it means he messes with everyone, haves fun, taunts, acts nonchalantly about everything, always looks like he’s sure of himself, and is difficult to read, just like me when I play as him.  Also like me, Ash likes to make fights both fun and flashy with his dramatic swiping movements and bright green flames.


In battle, he’s a trickster in that he’s hard to predict.  Ash is great at keeping a safe distance, and his attacks strike fast.  Most of his special attacks require him to walk backwards or duck for a few seconds before moving the control stick in the opposite direction and pressing a button, much like Guile in Street Fighter.  The movements are hardly telegraphing though, because Ash’s opponent can’t know for sure just what he will do next.
For example, Ash could be ducking to deliver a leg sweep or his upper flame kick, or may be just tricking his opponent into thinking he’ll do either of those.  He could be walking backwards to use a small or large flame shot or his screen-sweeping lunge, for KOF 13.  Also in King of Fighters 13, Ash has a special move that creates an explosive ball of flame in any four areas in front of him, a perfect trap for opponents on the offensive, as they’re difficult to jump over and stay in the air for a good few seconds.  That means he has a long range, short range, and free range special attack at his disposal.  He controls the field.

When playing the games Ash isn’t available in because they’re before his introduction, my third member is instead Ryo, for his well-balanced statistics.

The Best of the Bunch

You can't really go wrong with any of the King of Fighters games, really.  Aside from KOF '94, '95, and 12, I recommend playing them all.  If I had to choose though, my favorite is a tough tie between King of Fighters 11 and 13.
On one hand, KOF 11 has more characters, several of which have yet to appear in another KOF.  KOF 13 changed character movesets and designs quite a bit, so 11 serves as a nice alternative, with many moves 13 doesn't have, like Maxima's Bunker Buster and many leader super moves.  It also has the fun tag team system 13 didn't implement.
On the other hand, KOF 13 has more features, richer graphics, even better music, and an even more solid story thanks to pre-battle dialogue and a full story mode (although it will only make sense to people familiar with KOF's plot, including that of KOF 11).  I say get them both.  KOF 11 on the PS2 can be found for extremely cheap prices, and KOF 13 is still easy enough to find.  You can even get 13 on Steam now, if your computer is really powerful.

Other Media

Like Street Fighter, King of Fighters has had tons of spin-off media, including drama CDs, figures, T-shirts, pachinko machines, and even a series of visual novel dating sim games you can get on the original Nintendo DS called Days of Memories.  Almost none of these nifty items were ever released in America though.

Screenshots from Days of Memories 2 on the DS.  I did not make this up.  Images are from The Spriter's Resource.
Naturally, there have been different comics based on The King of Fighters as well, almost none of which were released in America either.  The most prominent of the comics come from Wing Yan and King Tung, a couple of Hong Kong artists who have done promotional artwork for the franchise in the past.  The only one of theirs released in America (of the main series) was the comic for The King of Fighters 2003, which readers may remember I have copies of.

Similarly to the Street Fighter comic, the King of Fighters comics (technically a “manhua”) follow the games closely, recreating backstories and fights, but taking liberties here and there that improve the narrative, including adding scenes and character traits.
For example, the King of Fighters 2003 comic adds a scene in which villainess Botan uses a wooden Kyo Kusanagi puppet to fight Ash on the streets; in the game, she never engages in combat except maybe for one time.  The KOF 2003 comic also has Fatal Fury businessman Cheng Shinzan acting as the 2003 tournament's director, which is a nice addition that gives an often-ignored character some attention.  What's more, there was a comic based on King of Fighters 2002 and is in continuity with the others, whereas in the game, King of Fighters 2002 has no bearing on the plot.

The comic’s art style is an interesting one, using KOF’s anime-like designs, but being drawn very similarly to an American comic, except with coloring having something of a paintbrush-like smoothness to their textures.
I’ll admit though, SNK’s Hong Kong duo isn’t quite as good as UDON.  Wing and King sometimes have trouble drawing distinctive faces, and occasionally the artwork looks little better than jagged, colored-in sketches, which just comes off as lazy.  That said, when it looks good, it looks extremely good, and when I show the comic to friends (even non-KOF fans), they always praise the artwork right off the bat, so maybe I’m just picky.

Part of its charm comes from how it ratchets up the action of The King of Fighters games to Dragon Ball Z levels of destruction and property damage.  It's awesome, but sometimes so overblown it can be unintentionally funny.

And Yamazaki won the bonus stage in the span of a second.
It’s definitely worth reading for fans if you can forgive a handful of grammar mistakes and awkward dialogue.  2003’s comic can be found on Amazon, but I found 2 of my volumes at a used book store.  You can find some fan translations of some of the other comics online, but not all of them, sadly.  I do, however, know someone who has all the comics in Chinese, and he’s already sent me the entirety of the King of Fighters ’99 comic, so if there’s anyone reading this and you can read Chinese, be sure to tell me.

King of Fighters also has a series of OVAs based on the Maximum Impact 3D console spin-offs.  Each of the four episodes are short and condensed to less than 10 minutes, making them akin to animation shorts shown before a movie.  They’re decently animated, all have mandatory exciting fight scenes, and even have English voice acting, like the Maximum Impact games.
DVDs of Another Day are nigh impossible to find though.  Apparently they were originally supposed to be pre-order bonuses for Maximum Impact 2, but came late and were sold separately in limited numbers.  Thank god for Youtube.

There was also a live action direct-to-DVD King of Fighters movie.  Instead of having me go into a curse-laden rant of unbridled hate, let's just say it's even less accurate to the source material than Dragonball Evolution.  Even if you haven't played the games, part one of this article alone will tell you how much the movie has nothing to do with them in any way.

With their high points, low points, heavy merchandise, long-running stories, and dedicated camps, The King of Fighters and Street Fighter honestly have quite a lot in common despite being very different beasts.  Both Capcom and SNK have expressed respect toward each other’s franchises, sometimes poking fun at them in their own games (“I hate the art of fighting, but I want to be the king of fighters!”-Dan Hibiki).  Knowing that, is it really justified to say that one is better than the other when they both have the same level of love behind them?

Yes.  King of Fighters is better, obviously.


  1. I can not select the hero in this game, I'm going to fight. Which should you choose hero. Which do you think the most powerful heroes. Thank you.

  2. Which game? What do you mean select the hero? The writers select who the hero is.

  3. Pffftt,boring KOF soundtracks?
    Try the original KOF 2002,that game had sleep-inducing soundtracks :/