New characters introduced in this episode include Kasumi Todoh, daughter of Ryuhaku Todoh, who became a member of the Women Fighters Team and acts as a rival to the Art of Fighting Team (in particular Ryo Sakazaki); Leona Heidern, who joins the Ikari Warriors Team in place of her mentor and adoptive father, Heidern, to investigate Geese Howard; Mature and Vice, two of Rugal's assistants who join Iori Yagami and aid him; and the Bosses Team, composed of Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser his half-brother, and Geese's right-hand-man, Mr. Big.
KOF '96 was ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in Japan; the Saturn port requires a memory expansion cartridge to run. Like with '95, '96 would receive a Game Boy product based on it, Nettō The King of Fighters '96; it was also released in Europe, as The King of Fighters: Heat of Battle.
In terms of gameplay changes, this is the first game in the series to allow characters to run and roll, while also redrawing the sprites from the ground up from the prior installment.
The official story given by SNK is as follows:
"Unlike the mystery surrounding previous KOF competitions, KOF '96 has become a major international event sponsored by a number of huge corporations.
Preliminary contests have been held in various areas throughout the world, and among the top nine teams are, naturally, the usual KOF contestants who have been looking forward to test their abilities in an official competition.
This time, however, there is a team among them who cannot fail to raise eyebrows, composed of Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser, and Mr. Big. The three who once attempted to conquer the world are now but mere contestants in this tournament.
Is their object, perhaps, to do away with the Bogard brothers or the disciples of Kyokugen karate?
If that weren't enough to surprise...Iori Yagami appears once again, teamed up with a pair of mysterious women.
How will the rivalry between Iori and Kyo Kusanagi that has cursed their two families since ancient time play out this time around?
This is KOF '96, held as an official recognized sporting event, over which dark clouds have already started to gather...."
Fatal Fury Team
Art of Fighting Team
Ikari Warriors Team
Psycho Soldier Team
Women Fighters Team
Korea Justice Team
Bosses Team (Doubles as the in-game 'Mid-Boss' Team)
Special Edit Teams
Three Sacred Treasures Team
- Kyo Kusanagi
- Iori Yagami
- Chizuru Kagura
- Goenitz with two other characters (not including Chizuru Kagura)
Game Boy Exclusive Characters
- Mr. Karate
- Orochi Iori - as "Iori!"
- Orochi Leona - as "Leona!"
- Chizuru Kagura - as "Kagura" - "Kagura" is her boss form. A toned-down, balanced version of her is playable under the name of Chizuru.
An extensive database for game, titled The King of Fighters '96 Neo Geo Collection, was released on February 14, 1997 to promote the year's title. It was available only for the Neo Geo CD. The database included the game's into, an interactive reenactment of the game's backstory, character profiles spoken by their voice actors, outtakes, an exclusive gallery section from the creators, a complete command list and a sound selection. A similar version of this game, The King of Fighters '96 Perfect File, was also released for Windows and Macintosh computers. This version was released on June 18, 1997 and included most of the features found in its predecessor.
In 1998, the game was pirated to the NES by a company called Hummer Team. This version only includes 7 characters: Leona, Iori, Chizuru, Goenitz, Yuri, Goro and King. Originally, there were going to be 20 characters, but 13 of them were cut out. They are: Kyo (as "Kyu") Kusanagi, Benimaru (as "Benimary") Nikaido, Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi, Ryo Sakazaki, Kim Kaphwan, Ralf Jones, Athena Asamiya, Kasumi Todoh, Mai Shiranui, Geese Howard, and Wolfgang Krauser.
- Note 1: The Yagami Team and Goenitz's stages don't have intros.
- Note 2: This game is last of the franchise where we can fight all teams in Arcade mode.
- Warning: The sight of some stages can cause epilepsy.
- Osaka at Night — Hero Team: A walkway in Osaka, next to the famous train station and in a school. The fight occurs in a cloudy day. Can be seen students sitting, leaning over the terrace of the catwalk and others cheering on the balcony of the school. Most wear suit and tie (men) and more formal uniforms. Also can be seen a viaduct, a plaque with the train stations, two screens with the active fighters, followed by the lettering "FIGHTING NOW" and the game's special logo for this game, veichles passing and, in the background, the SNK's headquarters. This stage also is present in KOF XIII.
- Intro: the special logo of the game with the writing "1996 IN JAPAN".
- Southtown Railroad at Noon — Fatal Fury Team: An abandoned railroad next to a railway. The fight occurs in a sunny day. Can be seen people watching the fight, light poles, tires, somes plaques, a weather vane, a house and a truck.
- Intro: flags with the game's special logo in the sky.
- Southtown Railroad at Night — Art of Fighting Team: The same stage of the Fatal Fury Team. The changes are: the weather, with a sunset that turns into cloudy sky in the fourth round; an attendant sitting in the right; a red luxury car instead of the truck; and a water tank that wasn't visible in the other version of the stage.
- Intro: the name of the team's source game.
- Ikari Warboat — Ikari Warriors Team: An aquatic plataform. Can be seen a flag with the game's name and special logo, metal structures partially destroyed and, in the background, people cheering, two bridges, buildings and a balcony with stairs.
- Intro: a helicopter flying over the stage.
- Osaka at Noon — Psycho Soldier Team: The same stage of the Hero Team. The changes are: it's sunny day; the crowd is different, wearing costumes of Psycho Soldier Team and school uniforms; and can be seen some photos of Athena, from screens to posters with the writing "ATHENA ASAMIYA: LIVE TOUR '96".
- Intro: the writing "IN OSAKA".
- Skyscraper Restaurant — Women Fighters Team: A restaurant on the top floor of a building. Can be seen clients sitting in the tables, an aquarium in the right, a big chandelier, light projectores, a flag with the name and logo of the game, a small artificial waterfall in the middle of the stage and the waitresses of King, Sally and Elizabeth, besides Ryuhaku Todoh, Kasumi's father. In the background, the city can be seen.
- Intro: a small close up on the floor of the building.
- Hwaseong Fortress Waterway — Korea Justice Team: A famous palace in the city of Suwon. The fight takes in front to the Gate. Can be seen people cheering, bands with Hangul and the game's name and special logo.
- Intro: the gates of the temple opening.
- The Shipyard — Yagami Team: An aquatic ring with the game's special logo, next to a pier and a ship. Can be seen people cheering, light posts, lifebuoys, a red car, buildings (one with the sign ALPHA) and a bridge and flashing lights in the background. Also can be seen bats flying over the stage.
- Note: In lieu of an intro, the screen has a fade-in effect like a video screen being turned on.
- The Strolheim Tunnel — Bosses Team: A balcony with a high-class public and other swinging flags with the game's special logo, a small gondola with a gondolier and a film crew and a small ladder can be seen. When the boat sails through the tunnel, the gondola follows the route. Stroheim Castle can be seen in the ongoing thunderstorm.
- Intro: the gate of the tunnel.
- Note 1: The stage also appears in KOF '98: Ultimate Match, with some changes.
- Note 2: in this game, the boat moves in the second and fourth rounds. In KOF '98: UM, the boat starts to move from the 2nd round, back to the place of origin in the 4th round and moves back in the final round.
- Note 3: In KOF '98 UM, this stage is called Dark Arena.
- The Finals at Kagura Stadium: A glamorous stadium where the finals of the tournament take place. Can be seen an euphoric audience, photographers, videographers, bands with the sponsors, the game's logo, women with bikini and people dressed like some characters. In the arena, can be seen the game's logo and name, pillars, stone lions and a screen, when appears the name's game and the words LAST STAGE and THE FINAL BATTLE, besides Kyo, Iori, Andy, Robert and Clark fighting. Associated with Chizuru.
- Intro: the game's name and special logo.
- The Ruins of Kagura Stadium: The Kagura Staduim destroyed by a hurricane. Can be seen the collapsed pillars, the broken floor and the scorched arena. The bands are scattered and flying all over the stage and the screen is knocked over. Only one band remained, with the name Masato, a former SNK illustrator. In one round, can be seen a person (who was dressed like Athena) trying to hold a ruined pillar, but is blown away by the wind. Associated with Goenitz.
- Note: The stage also appears in KOF '98: Ultimate Match, with some changes.
- Curiously, this is the only KOF game (as well as in its ports) so far that entirely omits any command normals from the characters' movesets.
- Likewise, as of this game, a large majority of projectile attacks were reworked into close-ranged energy attack variations instead.
- Neo Geo Collection Character Profiles and Interviews Part 1
- Neo Geo Collection Character Profiles and Interviews Part 2
- Neo Geo Collection Character Profiles and Interviews Part 3
- Neo Geo Collection Character Profiles and Interviews Part 4
- Neo Geo Collection Character Profiles and Interviews Part 5
- Neo Geo Collection Story Check
- Gameboy footage
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