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Position in the series
Saga/Story Arc
Chapter
Is it canonical?
1st
Prologue
Yes

We are opening The King of Fighters 1994, following the time-honored custom. This year we will adopt a special rule of competition between teams of 3 fighters. That's all... ®

-Intro

Experience the action of the Team Battle System!

-Tagline

The Brand New-Shock! Challenge the Battle Dream!

-Arcade Tagline

The King of Fighters '94 (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ '94ナインティフォー) is 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). It is the prologue game of the series.

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 Re-Bout 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.

Story

The official story given by SNK is as follows:

Rugal Bernstein, organizer of this tournament. Illustration by Shinkiro

"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.[1]

Development

AES version

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.

Gameplay

Gameplay of Joe vs. Terry in Italy stage

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.

Gameplay of Athena vs. Choi in Korea Team stage

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.

Characters

The original characters who was released along with the game are:

KOF94-Kyo.png
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 the Kusanagi Sword.[2]
Beni-k94.jpg
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.[3]
Kof95-goro.jpg
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.[4]
Heidern-k94.jpg
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.[5]
Chin-k94.jpg
Chin Gentsai, the eldest master of Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou, from the Psycho Soldier series, dominates all styles of Kung Fu, especially the Druken Fist.[6]
Chang-k94.jpg
Choi-k94.jpg
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).[7]
Heavy-94.jpg
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.[8]
Lucky-94.jpg
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 abilities.[9]
Brian-94.jpg
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.[10]
Rugal-k94.jpg
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.[11]

The old characters who entered the franchise (for being a crossover) are:

KOF94-ConceptArt-Terry.jpg
Terry Bogard, the main protagonist of the Fatal Fury series, is the 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.[12]
Andy Bogard Kof '94.jpg
Andy Bogard, from the Fatal Fury series, is Terry's brother and ninja of Shiranui-ryuu style. He enters to KOF tournament to follow his elder brother, along with his friend Joe.[13]
Joe-k94.jpg
Joe Higashi, from the 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.[14]
KOF-ConceptArt-Ryo.jpg
Ryo Sakazaki, the main protagonist of the Art of Fighting series, is the 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.[15]
???
Robert Garcia, from the Art of Fighting series, is Ryo's best friend and Takuma's student, besides being the heir of the Garcia Foundation. He enters to KOF to help the Sakazaki family with the promotion of Kyokugenryu style.[16]
???
Takuma Sakazaki, from the Art of Fighting series, is the founder of the Kyokugenryu 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.[17]
???
Ralf Jones, from the 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.[18]
Clark-k94.jpg
Clark Still, from the 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.[19]
Athena94.jpg
Athena Asamiya, from the Psycho Soldier series, is 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.[20]
KOF94-ConceptArt-Kensou.jpg
Sie Kensou, from the 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.[21]
???
King, from the 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.[22]
???
Mai Shiranui, from the 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.[23]
???
Yuri Sakazaki, from the 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.[24]
KOF94-Kim.png
Kim Kaphwan, from the 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.[25]

Official Team Roster

Japan Team (A.K.A. Hero Team or Protagonist Team)

Kyo94.gif

Kyo Kusanagi

Benimaru94.gif

Benimaru Nikaido

Gorodaimon94.gif

Goro Daimon

Italy Team (A.K.A. Fatal Fury Team or Garou Desentsu Team)

Terry94.gif

Terry Bogard

Andy94.gif

Andy Bogard

Joe94.gif

Joe Higashi

Mexico Team (A.K.A. Art of Fighting Team or Kyokugenryu Team)

Ryo94.gif

Ryo Sakazaki

Robert94.gif

Robert Garcia

Takuma95.gif

Takuma Sakazaki

Brazil Team (A.K.A. Ikari Warriors Team or Ikari Team)

Heidern94.gif

Heidern

Ralf96.gif

Ralf Jones

Clark94.gif

Clark Still

China Team (A.K.A. Psycho Soldier Team)

Athena94.gif

Athena Asamiya

Kensou94.gif

Sie Kensou

Chin94.gif

Chin Gentsai

England Team (A.K.A. Women Fighters Team)

King95.gif

King

Mai94.gif

Mai Shiranui

Yuri94.gif

Yuri Sakazaki

Korea Team (A.K.A. Korea Justice Team/Kim Team)

Kimkaphwan94.gif

Kim Kaphwan

Chang94.gif

Chang Koehan

Choi94.gif

Choi Bounge

USA Team (A.K.A. American Sports Team)

Heavyd94.gif

Heavy-D!

Lucky94.gif

Lucky Glauber

Brian94.gif

Brian Battler

Boss

Rugal in the first round.Rugal in the second round onwards.

Rugal Bernstein

Stages

Note: The Black Noah's stage doesn't have intros in either version.
Warning: The sight of some stages can cause epilepsy.

Normal Stages

Stage
Stage Name
Team/Character
Description
Kof94japanbg.gif
Osaka, Japan
Japan Team (A.K.A. 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, vehicles, obstacles and guards. This stage also can be seen in The King of Fighters XV, in a new version.
Intro: The camera slowly pans upwards to the stage.
Kof94italybg.gif
Venice, Italy
Italy Team (A.K.A. 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: A series of fireworks commence over various flags of several countries.
Kof94mexicobglite.gifKof94mexicobglitealt.gif
Pao Pao Cafe, Mexico
Mexico Team (A.K.A. Art of Fighting Team)
The Pao Pao Cafe's 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 appears logo over the side of a brick wall.
Note: The dragon statue also can be seen in The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match's Art of Fighting Team stage.
Kof94brazilbg.gif
Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
Brazil Team (A.K.A. Ikari Warriors Team)
The Amazon Forest, next to the crashed military helicopter of the 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.
Kof94chinabglite.gif
Hebei, China
China Team (A.K.A. Psycho Soldier Team)
The temple of Chin Gentsai, next to the mountains of Hebei. 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 slowly opens to present the stage.
Kof94englandbg.gif
London, England
England Team (A.K.A. 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: Several doves flying in the sky before panning down to the stage.
Kof94koreabg.gif
Unknown Forest, South 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 similar version of this stage can be seen in KOF XIV (Art of Fighting Team's stage).
Intro: A dark sky with raindrops and lightning strikes, with the final lighting flash transitions to the stage.
Kof94usabg.gif
Brooklyn, New York City, USA
U.S.A. Team (A.K.A. American Sports Team)
The Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City. 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.
Intro: A gate opens up to the stage.
Note: This stage earns a new version in KOF '98, without the game and company's logo. 

Boss Stages

Stage
Stage Name
Character
Description
Kof94rugal1bg.gifKof94rugal2bg.gif
Black Noah, Unknown
Rugal
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.
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.

Reception

In Japan, Game Machine listed The King of Fighters '94 on their October 1, 1994 issue as being the second most popular arcade game at the time. In North America, RePlay reported King of Fighters '94 to be the third most-popular arcade game at the time. Play Meter also listed the title to be the thirty-second most-popular arcade game at the time. The game was well received, with reviews generally praising the deep combat system and the matching up of fighters from different SNK franchises, though the inability to choose team lineups in Team Battle Mode was a near-universal complaint among critics.

A reviewer for Next Generation argued that King of Fighters '94 was a particularly worthwhile arcade game, since the three-character teams meant the player would effectively get three lives for each credit, providing a high value per quarter at a time when most arcade games were much more expensive than they had been in the past. Reviewing the Neo Geo home version, GamePro remarked that the character selection is massive, but very unbalanced, and that most of the new characters are "goofy looking" and underpowered compared to the other fighters. They nonetheless concluded that "The King of Fighters is the very best non-Shodown game available for the Neo Geo, and it's one of the most playable fighting games ever", citing enjoyable gameplay additions such as the dodge move and juggle combos.

In a review of the Virtual Console release, Lucas M. Thomas of IGN praised KOF '94 for its graphics, including fluid animation and vibrant colors, but concluded that buyers might be better off waiting for the improved sequels to arrive on the Virtual Console. According to IGN's Jeremy Dunham, the game "was essentially a cross between Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting," with a faster control response. He added commented that the creation of three-on-three battles was an advanced feature for a game from 1994 and the idea of 'borrowing' characters from other games from the company was also innovative. Reviewing the Virtual Console release, Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer identified the use of characters from multiple franchises and the Team Battle Mode as the most distinctive points. He concluded the game to be "a solid, technical fighting game that, like most SNK outings, skews more towards the hardcore player than the casual punching aficionado." According to Kyle Knight of Allgame, the graphics and sounds, while better than most games of the time, were subpar by SNK standards. He concluded The King of Fighters '94 is "a very good fighting game, but it lacks some refinements that would have made it great."

Electronic Gaming Monthly gave KOF '94 its Game of the Year awards in the categories "Best Fighting Game" and "Best Neo-Geo Game" of 1994; additionally, Mai Shiranui was awarded the title of "Hottest Game Babe" of the year. In Japan, the game was awarded the title of "Best Game of 1994" in the Eighth Annual Grand Prize by the arcade magazine Gamest, also placing first in the categories of "Best Competitive Fighting Game" and "Best Direction", fifth in "Best Graphics", and third in "Best VGM" (several characters from the game were also featured in their list of 1994's top 50, including Athena at #3, Kyo at #4, Yuri at #7, King at #8 and Mai at #10).

The game was acclaimed in a number of retrospective articles and top lists by several publications. G4 noted that The King of Fighters '94 was regarded by some fans as the "Street Fighter beater" and was unique due to its team system. Maximum similarly called it "the first beat-em-up to offer more than the Street Fighter series" and said that the game "helped spearhead the SNK renaissance". 1UP.com lauded the game for its large and well-balanced cast of characters, calling it "a hell of a cast in 1994". In 2010, UGO.com listed it among the Top 25 Fighting Games of All Time, while GamePlayBook ranked it as the seventh best 2D fighting game ever made. Complex writers ranked it as the eighth best fighting game of all time in 2011, as well as the eleventh all-time best SNK fighting game in 2012, commenting that "the unique team selection and elimination style matches of the series made their origin in this great '90s fighter."

Next Generation reviewed the Neo-Geo version of the game, and stated that "Every fighting fan should take a look at this one either in the arcades or in the home."

Trivia

  • This is the only game of the series which the characters are chosen in teams, and not randomly. This system is abolished in the following game. With that, the first chapter of the Orochi Saga and the remake of this game allows teams with random characters.
    • However, KOF '94 Re-Bout and KOF '95 also allows the player to choose complete teams.

See also

References

External links

The King of Fighters series
Main The King of Fighters '94'95'96'97'98'992000200120022003XIXIIXIIIXIVXV
Remakes The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999'99 Evolution'94 Re-Bout'98 Ultimate Match2002 Unlimited Match
Offshoots King of Fighters R-1R-2The King of Fighters EX: Neo BloodEX2: Howling BloodNeowave
Spin-offs Quiz King of FightersThe King of Fighters: KyoBattle de ParadiseKOF: Maximum ImpactKOF: Maximum Impact 2KOF Maximum Impact Regulation "A"KOF Sky StageOnline'98 Ultimate Match WebSNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy
Mobile The King of Fighters -Mobile- / R-2-Volleyball-KOF Gals MahjongThe King of MillionaireThe King of ReversiMahjongKOF Kentei - Mezase Cult Quiz Ou!Moeyo! KOF DaiundokaiKOF x Garou DensetsuBattle Festa-i/AndroidEncounterThe Rhythm of Fighters'98 Ultimate Match OnlineBeast Busters featuring KOFWorldDestinyAll StarOrochi GoM: Fighting Stars AssemblyKOF: Chroniclefor Girls
Pachinko The King of FightersChapter of NESTSMaximum ImpactIIICR The King of Fighters
Compilations The King of Fighters Orochi CollectionNESTS Collection
Cancelled Online (UnoTechnology)Fighters' WorldKOF MI "A"2KOF: Maximum Impact 360Online (DragonFly/Triple A Games)
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