Leona (レオナ), also known under her extended codename Leona Heidern (レオナ・ハイデルン), is a character introduced in The King of Fighters '96 as the new member to the Ikari Warriors Team. Her official nickname is The Silent Soldier (サイレントソルジャー).
Before production for her debut game began, developers wanted to create a suitable replacement for Heidern as a part of the game's overhaul. Developers admit that they wanted to introduce the plot element of Heidern's adopted daughter before the production of KOF '96. Leona was conceived to be an Orochi descendant by the time of her debut and her designers took special care to let their interests at the time reflect in her actions. Her most recent design was done by Eisuke Ogura, Nobuyuki Kuroki comments on Leona's chest ending up being more robust compared to her previous incarnations.
Leona is a reticent individual who has trouble expressing herself outside of combat or a mission. Due to her past, she often keeps her emotions in check as she is afraid of losing control and hurting her friends because of her Orochi blood.
Aside from Ralf, Whip, Clark and Commander Heidern, Leona does not talk to anyone. She often feels lonely, but is comforted with the new family she has found with the Ikari mercenaries. Ever since the attempted suicide, Leona resolves to take control of her own Orochi blood, using it only when the situation calls for it, something that she tells her opponents in her own pre-fight dialogues. As she understands and gain more control of her own power, even as a Hakkesshu, she has become more vigilant against her own kind and made a personal vendetta to stop whatever the Hakkesshu are planning, similar to what the Three Sacred Treasures do.
- Cutting/Piercing Hands - Leona can cut or pierce with her hands.
- Cutting Aura - Leona can create a cutting aura around her hands and feet.
- Cutting Ball - Leona can create a ball of energy surrounded by several energy blades.
- Riot of the Blood - Due to her Orochi heritage, Leona goes into this state whenever Orochi's presence is strong.
- Orochi Power - Leona can exert some control of this state so long as Orochi's power remains weak. While using it, her hair temporarily turns red or shows a tint of red, just like her full-blown Orochi form.
- Explosive Techniques - Leona can create explosions, through her gloves and earrings.
She shares several moves with her adoptive father, Heidern, and she also seems to emulate Ralf's moves. For example; her CD/Blowback attack is almost akin to Ralf's. Also as the games progress, her moves seem to become more explosive much like Ralf's and her style of running changing from being like Heidern's to like Ralf's, but at the same time still maintaining her more agile techniques taught by Heidern; unlike Heidern however, she has more apparent differences in her techniques via extra variations that focus more on speed and acrobatics.
Being the daughter of Gaidel, she utilizes some slashing claw-like moves later refined by her adoptive father's fighting style. However, she does not possess power over water like her father does, possibly due to her prior trauma stunting her abilities for a time.
- Rumbling on the City - The King of Fighters '96, '98, R-1, R-2, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
- W.W.III - The King of Fighters '99
- The Trooper - The King of Fighters 2000, EX, EX2
- My Whip - The King of Fighters 2001
- Jungle Bouncer - The King of Fighters 2002
- Inside Skinny - The King of Fighters 2003
- Irregular Mission - The King of Fighters XIII
- Smell of Gunpowder - The King of Fighters XIII (when the music is set to "Type B", console version only, shared with Ralf Jones and Clark Still)
- Survivors Under The Sky - The King of Fighters XIV
- Great Grit - The King of Fighters XV
- DESERT REQUIEM ~Operation '02UM~ - The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match
- Ray - Days of Memories (Boku to Kanojo to Koto no Koi)
- Rumbling on the City ~SNK Heroines Edit~ - SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy
- Masae Yumi - The King of Fighters '96~XIII, Metal Slug Defense (recycled audio), Metal Slug Attack (recycled audio)
- Seiko Yoshida - The King of Fighters XIV~present
- Lisa Leonard - Maximum Impact series (English voice)
- In The King of Fighters '98, Leona mysteriously salutes Chang Koehan and belittles Ralf. This was originally thought to be a bug, but developers add that it was her showing respect for "real power". The exact meaning of this statement remains unclear though it became a popular subject in fan doujinshi for a time. They salute one another again in KOF XIV.
- Leona is the third woman to win a KOF tournament, succeeding Vanessa and Whip, and preceeding Elisabeth Blanctorche.
- In Neo-Geo Freak 1998, the characters in KOF '98 have their own interviews. Here are Leona's response to the questions.
- What is your aspiration in this competition? - "Aspiration...?"
- Who would you like to fight the most? - "Instructor."
- Who would you like to team up with? / Who would you not like to team up with? - "Not selected."
- What is "KOF" for you? - "Mission."
- Finally, please give a word to your fans. - "...Goodbye."
- The name "Leona" means "lioness" in Spanish. This reinforces the hypothesis that she was born in a Spanish-speaking country, but it is still unknown what country this is.
- Technically, Leona is a Hakkesshu, being the daughter of Gaidel, but has fought against her own lineage due to conflicting views, as seen in KOF '97.
- In an interview with one of the series designers, Shinkiro, he replies that Leona is his favorite original character in the series. Logo and character designer Nao Q also has Leona as his favourite character, he comments on his soft spot for ice maidens. Garou: Mark of the Wolves planner and The King of Fighters XIV producer Yasuyuki Oda states that Leona and Kyo are his favourite characters in The King of Fighters series.
- Many of Leona's attacks pay homage to several different media:
- The V-shaped slashmarks that appear at the end of her V-Slasher DM and SDM are an homage to Choudenji Machine Voltes V—the titular giant robot had an attack in which it made a V-shaped slash through the enemy, leaving a glowing V for a few dramatic moments before it is destroyed.
- Her Rebel Spark Desperation Move and Super Desperation Move where she plants an explosive on her opponent then moving away from the opponent while making a pose, is actually a homage to Kamen Rider Black RX—a Japanese tokusatsu show where the hero impaled his enemy with his sword, Revolcane, and proceed to do the same pose as sparks came out from his opponent's belly and eventually exploded.
- Her jumping CD/Blowback attack resembles Kamen Rider Black's version of the Rider Kick, owing to the sudden, unexplained glow of reddish energy around her foot, and being performed while in the air. Another Sentai homage includes her exploding earrings (Himitsu Sentai Goranger).
- The air throw she shares with Heidern (Heidern/Leona Inferno) takes its name and appearance from Kinnikuman Zebra 's "Muscle Inferno" attack in Kinnikuman.
- Two of her moves are references to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
- Her "Earring Bomb 2: Heart Attack" is a nod towards Yoshikage Kira's Stand Killer Queen and its "Bomb #2 - Sheer Heart Attack" ability, as seen in Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable. She first attaches a bomb to her opponent. Afterwards, she may either wait until it explodes on its own or detonate it with a secondary command, saying 負けて終わり ("Makete owari." ~ "You've lost in the end."), referencing Killer Queen's Bites The Dust ability (transcribed in Japanese as 負けて死ね, "Makete shine." = "You've lost in death").
- Her Grateful Dead (Super) Desperation Move, during which she drains the opponent of his/her life force while surrounded by wisps of steam or smoke, references Prosciutto's Stand The Grateful Dead from Part 5: Vento Aureo, which causes rapid aging in its victim and can differentiate between targets through the body heat they give off.
- Her other moves take their namesakes from Grendizer.
- In the Neo Geo Freak's 1997 Volume 8 character poll, she was voted as the fourth favourite character with a total of 1,458 votes (187 votes from male fans and 1,271 from the female fans), In Neo Geo Freak's August 1998 issue, she was ranked as the 2nd best character.
- Starting from The King of Fighters XIV, SNK uses her extended codename officially.
- Official site for The King of Fighters XII
- Official character profile from KOF Maximum Impact Regulation "A"
- KOF Official Website Successive Characters: Leona
- THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIV Premium Art Book, p.043
- Neo Geo Freak 1998-08 archive The King of Fighters '98 character interviews.
- KOF 10th anniversary website Shinkiro's interview.
- KOF 10th anniversary website Nao Q's interview.
- ArcadeAttack Interview Yasuyuki Oda (SNK) – Interview (30th November 2018)
- Neo Geo Freak 1997-08 archive Neo Geo Freak character popularity poll results.
- Neo Geo Freak 1997-08 archive Number of votes from both genders, from Neo Geo Freak character popularity poll.
- Neo Geo Freak 1998-08 archive Neo Geo Freak 10 best character set original image collection.