The King of Fighters '94 (or just KOF '94) was the first game of the The King of Fighters series, and was released in August, 25, 1994 for the SNK Neo Geo systems (AES, MVS and CD). This game featured characters from earlier SNK games, such as Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. It also included new characters such as the Japan Team (or Hero Team) and the USA Team. The major innovation in KOF 94, comparing to the fighting games at that time, was the 3-on-3 team battle system, where each player uses 3-characters team instead of the 1-on-1 from the other fighting games. So the game roster was divided in teams of 3, each team representing one country.
In 2004, SNK Playmore released a remake of KOF '94, called The King of Fighters '94: Rebout on the Playstation 2, but the game wasn't released outside of Japan. In 2008, The game was included as part of SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1. The game was released for PlayStation 4 as part of the line "ACA Neo Geo" developed by Hamster Corporation.
The official story given by SNK is as follows:
"The year, 1994. Once again the invitations to the King of Fighters find their ways to the world's most wicked warriors. But the patron of this little party remains unknown. It cannot be Geese, nor can it be Krauser. So who could they be from...? Among all the hopes and doubts, the legendary superstars of the fighting world begin to form their mighty teams. What type of battle with these magnificent fighters sure to go down in history show us? The voltage of the fan's excitement reaches a fevered pitch as the tournament finally approaches its beginning."
Rugal Bernstein, an influential black market weapons and drugs dealer bored of the lack of competition, sent out 24 invitations to certain individuals around the world. Eight teams had entered, each representing a different country.
At the tournament's conclusion, Mature, Rugal's personal secretary, invited the Japan team to fight their final match within Black Noah. It is there when Rugal revealed the true purpose of his tournament: defeat the winning team and add them to his grisly collection of previous challengers. Kyo sees his defeated father there and decides to avenge him. As Rugal is finally beaten, he triggers the self-destruct mechanism on his ship. The team escapes and reflects on their victory.
In an interview with veteran developers of the series -which included C.A.C Yamasaki and Mitsuo Kodama- 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 characters like Robert Garcia and Terry Bogard for location testing. However, the idea was eventually abandoned. 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.
Flagship director, Toyohisa Tanabe, asserts that the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury fighters were added specifically for adults. The newer KOF characters were aimed to appeal to younger and newer audiences. He adds that every original character for the series is added based on the developers' strong desire to make one. For example, he agreed to include characters such as Benimaru and Chang to add an off-beat variety to the cast, which he previously deemed to be too serious before.
Although Kyo was developed to be the main protagonist of the franchise, the game's primary focus was to create a dream match between Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting (respectively basing KOF '94 on Fatal Fury Special and Art of Fighting 2). These contradictory ideals eventually lead to the concept that the player decided who the "true" protagonist was for this year. Kyo's role in the series was emphasized in the following year.
Since this game is some kind of crossover, the gameplay shares some similarities with SNK's fighting games. Instead of one-on-one fights, the system includes battles between teams of three people in a tag-team fashion. If one of the members is defeated by one of the other team's members, the next member will come in to fight the winner, and will go on until all three members of one team is defeated.
The gameplay utilizes elements from Fatal Fury such as the infinite special moves and Desperate Moves (DM) when your lifebar is in the low, and the dash. From Art of Fighting it borrows the abilities to charge your special meter, and unleash a DM when your special meter is full. KOF 94 also features a sidestep system. By pressing A+B the player will dodge. When your lifebar is flashing red, and your special meter is at max, the player can unleash a super move.
- Terry Bogard - From Fatal Fury series
- Andy Bogard - From Fatal Fury series
- Joe Higashi - From Fatal Fury series
- Mai Shiranui - From Fatal Fury series
- Kim Kaphwan - From Fatal Fury series
- Ryo Sakazaki - From Art of Fighting series
- Robert Garcia - From Art of Fighting series
- Takuma Sakazaki - From Art of Fighting series
- King - From Art of Fighting series
- Yuri Sakazaki - From Art of Fighting series
- Ralf Jones - From Ikari Warriors series
- Clark Still - From Ikari Warriors series
- Athena Asamiya - From Athena and Psycho Soldier
- Sie Kensou - From Psycho Soldier
- Japan Team (A.K.A. Hero Team): Kyo Kusanagi, Benimaru Nikaido & Goro Daimon
- Italy Team (A.K.A. Fatal Fury Team): Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard & Joe Higashi
- Mexico Team (A.K.A. Art of Fighting Team): Ryo Sakazaki, Robert Garcia & Takuma Sakazaki
- Brazil Team (A.K.A. Ikari Warriors Team): Heidern, Ralf Jones & Clark Still
- China Team (A.K.A. Psycho Soldier Team): Athena Asamiya, Sie Kensou & Chin Gentsai
- England Team (A.K.A. Women Fighters Team): King, Mai Shiranui & Yuri Sakazaki
- Korea Team (A.K.A. Korea Justice Team): Kim Kaphwan, Chang Koehan & Choi Bounge
- U.S.A. Team (A.K.A. American Sports Team): Heavy D!, Lucky Glauber & Brian Battler
- Note: The Black Noah's stage doesn't have intros in either version.
- Warning: The sight of some stages can cause epilepsy.
- Japan - Hero Team: A viaduct next to a Neo Geo headquarters and the Esaka Station, in Osaka. Can be seen people cheering, buildings, veichles, obstacles and guards. The fight takes in a crosswalk.
- Intro: the climb to the stage.
- Italy - Fatal Fury Team: The city of Venice. The battle takes in a pier, next to the sea. Can be seen people cheering in gondolas, bathers and flags of Italy and other countries, besides ancient builds.
- Intro: flags of several countries.
- Mexico - Art of Fighting Team: The Pao Pao Cafe branch in Mexico. The fight takes in the main hall of the restaurant, with a euphoric crowd. Can be seen a big chandelier, a statue of a dragon which goes beyond both sides of the hall and two ceiling fans.
- Intro: the Pao Pao Cafe's logo over a brick wall.
- Note: the dragon statue also can be seen in The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match's Art of Fighting stage.
- Brazil - Ikari Warriors Team: The Amazon Forest, next to the crashed military helicopter of Ikari Warriors. Can be seen trees, a toucan, baboons and some indians with arrows in their hands.
- Intro: A hedge of vegetation.
- Note: The baboons are natives of Africa, not Brazil, as the stage makes us believe.
- China - Psycho Soldier Team: The temple of Chin Gentsai, next to the mountains. The battle takes in the backyard of the temple. Can be seen people cheering and fluttering a dragon, trees, vases, bags and, in the background, gates and mountains.
- Intro: the gate of the temple.
- England - Women Fighters Team: The Tower Hill Memorial, in London. Can be seen the Tower Bridge in the background, a english bus and soldiers, knights with horses, people cheering, flags (one with the game's logo and the Blacknoah's flag), a fountain, statues, a light post and graves.
- Intro: doves flying in the sky.
- Korea - Korea Justice Team: A courtyard in a rainy day. Can be seen trees shaking, an abandoned temple and a leafless tree, in the background, and fire pyres, next to the players.
- Intro: raindrops and a lightning.
- USA - American Sports Team: The Brooklyn Bridge, in New York. The battle takes in a ring under the bridge. Can be seen people cheering (some in baseball costumes), a flag with the word KOF at the style of the NFL, abandoned vehicles, the game and company's logo in the ring, cat and dogs, a narrator next to the ring, graffiti, tires, crates and a basketball table. In the background, the Manhattan Island.
- Note: This stage earns a new version in KOF '98, without the game and company's logo.
- Intro: a grid.
- Black Noah: A control base in a unknown place. Can be seen the Earth's hologram, in the center of the stage, two black panthers, control panels and screens flashing, Rugal's portraits and military airplanes, in the background. Associated with Rugal.
- Note: From the 2nd round, the stage turns red, the letter R appears in one of the screens and Rodem, the Rugal's panther, observes the fight, ready to save his master if needed.
- The King of Fighters '94/Team Stories
- The King of Fighters '94 Rebout, an upgraded version of the game.
- Wii Virtual Console page
- Arcade Archives official website, product page
- Neo Geo commercial A
- Neo Geo commercial B
- Neo Geo commercial C
- Neo Geo CD gameplay footage
- Overview and artwork at Jap-sai.com
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