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 the modern consoles 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.
The original characters who was released along with the game are:
- Kyo Kusanagi, the main protagonist of the game and series, is the heir of the Kusanagi clan, one of the three clans that sealed the legendary snake entity known as Orochi. He is a cocky delinquent high school student and leader of the Japan Team. His clan is the owner of the artifact known as Kusanagi Sword;
- Benimaru Nikaido, a young model and Kyo's best friend, is other member of the Japan Team and has electric powers. He is also a professional fighter and young son of a multi-millionaire family (Japanese father and American mother), and is very confident in his abilities;
- Goro Daimon, a Judo master and other Kyo's friend, is other member of the Japan Team and a former Olympic gold medalist in his martial techinique;
- Heidern, the Commander of Ikari Warriors squad and leader of the team, lost his wife and biological daughter at Rugal Bernstein's hands, and seeks revenge for it entering in KOF tournament;
- Chin Gentsai, the eldest master of Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou, from Psycho Soldier series, dominates all styles of Kung Fu, especially the Druken Fist;
- Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge, a duo of violent criminals once feared across Korea, were captured by Kim Kaphwan for his Rehabilitation Project. Chang uses a iron ball to fight, and Choi, gloves with claws (Choi was a butcher, which explains the claws);
- Heavy-D!, a famous former boxer, expelled from the normal competitions due to seriously injuring a fighter during battle. He is the leader of the American Sports Team;
- Lucky Glauber, Heavy-D!'s friend and member of the American Sports Team, is a Karate champion and a former professional basketball player. He enters the KOF tournament to test his fighting ability;
- Brian Battler, an American football player and member of the American Sports Team, has a violent behavior and only found pleasure in tackling his opponents;
- Rugal Bernstein, the boss of the game, is a criminal, a drug dealer and a cartel leader feared throughout the political and fighting world. He operated aboard his aircraft carrier Black Noah. To those who would oppose him, he would defeat them and later preserve their bodies in liquid metal to add to his grisly trophy room. He is also the host of this KOF tournament.
The old characters who entered the franchise (for being a crossover) are:
- Terry Bogard, the main protagonist of the Fatal Fury series, it's leader of the team that bears the name of his game series' source and enters to the tournament to investigate the possible involvement of Geese Howard, his biggest enemy;
- Andy Bogard, from Fatal Fury series, it's Terry's brother and ninja of Shiranui-ryuu style. He enters to KOF tournament to follow his elder brother, along with his friend Joe;
- Joe Higashi, from Fatal Fury series, is Terry and Andy's personal friend and Muay Thai champion. He enters to the tournament to accompany the Bogard brothers, and for being a motivating factor for the team's union, and has a rivalry with King, since both have the same fighting style;
- Ryo Sakazaki, the main protagonist of the Art of Fighting series, it's leader of the team that bears the name of his game series' source and enters to KOF to show the world the force of the Kyokugenryu Karate, the fighting style created by his father, Takuma Sakazaki. He has a rivalry with Terry Bogard;
- Robert Garcia, from Art of Fighting series, is Ryo's best friend and Takuma's student, besides being the heir of Garcia Foundation. He enters to KOF to help the Sakazaki family with the promotion of Kyokugenryu style;
- Takuma Sakazaki, from Art of Fighting series, is the founder of the Kyokugenry Karate, father of Ryo and Yuri Sakazaki and master of Robert Garcia. Like his son, he enters to the tournament to how the world the force of his creation;
- Ralf Jones, from Ikari Warriors series, is an American elite mercenary-for-hire agency and Colonel. He has proven himself to be a powerful soldier who is known for his natural leadership abilities and courage on the battlefield. He currently holds his rank as a colonel, and befriended Clark when they were in their twenties, stayed good friends with one another since then. In his series' source, his name is Paul;
- Clark Still, from Ikari Warriors series, is an mercenary agent, and Lieutenant. He was formerly a spy before he entered their service, and is known for being a focused and loyal soldier who specializes in gathering information for their missions. In his series' source, his name is Vince;
- Athena Asamiya, from Psycho Soldier series, it's the leader of the team that bears his source series' name. She is a modern day high school girl in Japan who fights in the name of justice, along his friend Sie Kensou and his master Chin Gentsai;
- Sie Kensou, from Psycho Soldier series, is of the young disciples of Chin Gentsai who wields psychic powers - dubbed by SNK as Psycho Powers. Both he and Athena are trained by Chin to prepare for "the worst case scenario of oncoming evil" and use the tournaments as a method of training for such an event;
- King, from Art of Fighting series, is a bartender and owner of the Illusion Bar. She enters to KOF tournament to make his little brother, Jan, proud, and to promote his bar;
- Mai Shiranui, from Fatal Fury series, is the heiress of Shiranui clan. She enters to the tournament to get his attention of Andy Bogard, after his refusal to form a team with her;
- Yuri Sakazaki, from Art of Fighting series, is Ryo's sister and Takuma's daughter. She enters to KOF with King and Mai, even after the denial of her older brother, defying the family wit her decision;
- Kim Kaphwan, from Fatal Fury series, is a Taekwondo master loved across Korea. He enters to KOF tournament to help his new disciples, Chang Koehan and Choi Bounge, to rehabilitate them of their criminal life.
From Fatal Fury series
Japan Team (A.K.A. Hero Team)
Italy Team (A.K.A. Fatal Fury Team)
Mexico Team (A.K.A. Art of Fighting Team)
Brazil Team (A.K.A. Ikari Warriors Team)
China Team (A.K.A. Psycho Soldier Team)
England Team (A.K.A. Women Fighters Team)
Korea Team (A.K.A. Korea Justice Team)
U.S.A. Team (A.K.A. American Sports Team)
- 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: The Hanshin Expressway, in the Japanese city of Osaka. The fight takes in a crosswalk next to a Neo Geo headquarters and the Esaka Station. Can be seen people cheering, buildings, veichles, obstacles and guards. This stage also can be seen in The King of Fighters XV, in a new version.
- 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.
- 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 Black Noah's flag), a fountain, statues, a light post and graves.
- Intro: doves flying in the sky.
- Korea — Korea Justice Team: A courtyard in the middle of an abandoned forest, 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. A similiar version of this stage can be seen in KOF XIV (Art of Fighting Team's stage).
- 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, besides the Manhattan Island, in the background.
- 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. This stage also appears in KOF '95 and in the two versions of KOF '98 and KOF 2002, in new versions. 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.
- The King of Fighters '94/Credits
- 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
- Title at Moby Games
- Title at Gamefaqs
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