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Position in the series
Saga/Story Arc
Is it canonical?
NESTS Chronicles
Dream Match

"The system 3-on-3 is back, expanding the battle on who will be the next competitor! Seven fearsome figures from King of Fighters '96 to '98 take part in the fights! This year, the dream fight is guaranteed to heat up! The Dream Match is happening again. BE THE FIGHTER!"


The King of Fighters 2002: Challenge to Ultimate Battle (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ 2002ツーサウザンドツー チャレンジ トゥ アルティメットバトル) is the ninth game in The King of Fighters series, and is the second and final King of Fighters game produced by Eolith. Much like The King of Fighters '98, this game is more of a "Dream Match" for characters from all previous King of Fighters games, including killed-off characters. The series' canon storyline would resume in The King of Fighters 2003 - adapting, however, a character introduced in this game, Kusanagi.

It was later released for the Dreamcast, this time adding two characters absent from the original version, King and Shingo Yabuki. The PlayStation 2 version included Orochi Iori, Goenitz and Geese Howard.

Characters were directly ripped from this game for use in The King of Fighters Neowave, which was a hardware test before the production of The King of Fighters XI.

An upgraded version of The King of Fighters 2002 known as The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match was eventually released in Japan on February 26, 2009. It later released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation Network, Steam, Humble Bundle, GOG and Prime Gaming, worldwide. The PlayStation and GOG versions uses the NeoGeo mode in the remake.


The game brings back the team play composed by three characters each that was a tradition in previous games. The game has also several important changes in the gameplay, like the "Free Cancel System" or "Max Mode System", the "Quick Emergency Evasion" and "Quick MAX Mode Activation", aside from the countless changes in each character's special moves and their properties.

Orochi Yashiro using his HSDM against Ralf.

Max Mode compared to the previous games, while it enables Free Cancels (which use up a set duration of the mode), now halves the damage done at a cost for its duration. Normal DM's now no longer use up an extra gauge stock when performed, and now only instantly end Max Mode. SDM's instead use one extra stock while also ending Max Mode as well.

Gameplay of Angel vs. Billy in arcade version

One of the most notable changes is the inclusion of MAX2 Desperation Moves (also known as Hidden Super Desperation Moves), which are DM's that can be used only with 3 stocks and at a certain threshold of low HP.

Gameplay of Orochi Iori vs. Chris in the console version.

Another notable changes are the allocations of both normal DM's and SDM's, as not all normal DM's have SDM versions and some SDM inputs may be completely different attacks depending on the character(s). Nearly all SDM commands end with 2 of the respective buttons for their inputs (A+C or B+D) due to the fact that Normal DM's can be used in Max Mode.


The roster consists of many key characters who were playable throughout the NESTS Chronicles Saga. Along with, certain Teams are represented by a prior game; for example, the K' Team (K', Maxima and Whip) are called the "KOF '99 Team", with its members debuting in The King of Fighters '99 representing that game. Additionally, characters who were not present in the NESTS Chronicles Saga appear in this game, such as the '97 Special Team (representing KOF '97) and the New Faces Team (representing KOF '98).

The only character added to the roster is:

Kusanagi, a mysterious and angry individual who looks like Kyo Kusanagi during the Orochi Saga. His moveset consists of Kyo's moveset in KOF '94~'95 (as well as EX Kyo in KOF '98/UM).

Official Team Roster

Note: Some parenthetical citations are sometimes Japanese team names, sometimes shortened team names.

KOF '99 Team (A.K.A. K' Team)


Japan Team (A.K.A. Kyo Team)

Kyo Kusanagi
Benimaru Nikaido
Goro Daimon

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

Terry Bogard
Andy Bogard
Joe Higashi

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

Ryo Sakazaki
Robert Garcia
Takuma Sakazaki

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

Leona99.gif Wildleona97.gif
Leona Heidern/Orochi Leona (her Riot of Blood version appears as an Install DM from "Awakening" or "Dead End Inferno" [MAX 2])
Ralf Jones
Clark Still

Psycho Soldier Team

Athena Asamiya
Sie Kensou
Chin Gentsai

Women Fighters Team

Mai Shiranui
Yuri Sakazaki
May Lee Jinju (Standard Mode) May Lee Jinju (Hero Mode)
May Lee Jinju

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

Kim Kaphwan
Chang Koehan
Choi Bounge

KOF '98 Team (A.K.A. New Faces Team or Orochi Team)

Yashiro Nanakase

KOF '96 Team (A.K.A. Yagami Team)

Iori Yagami

KOF '97 Team (A.K.A. '97 Special Team)

Ryuji Yamazaki
Blue Mary
Billy Kane

KOF 2000 Team (A.K.A. Agents Team)


Hidden/Alternate Team

Awakened Orochi Team

Orochi Yashiro
Orochi Shermie
Orochi Chris


KOF 2001 Team (A.K.A. NESTS Team)

Kula Diamond

Mid-Boss Solo Character

Note: This character is not playable by normal means in the original Arcade and MVS versions of The King of Fighters 2002, and must be selected with an input code, but is normally selectable on the home console versions. See the section Trivia for more info.


Omega Rugal

Console Exclusive Characters

Note: All of these characters can also appear as mid-bosses.
Shingo Yabuki
Geese Howard
Orochi Iori

NPC Characters

Characters who accompany the playable characters of the game.

  • Kogoro Daimon - appears in Daimon's round start intro and in his win screen
  • Rock Howard (child) - appears in one of Terry's round win poses
  • Candy Diamond - appears in one of Kula's round win poses and two of her Desperation Moves
  • Diana - appears in one of Kula's round win poses and two of her Desperation Moves
  • Foxy - appears in one of Kula's round win poses and two of her Desperation Moves
  • Antonio - appears in Mary's intro and one of her win poses
  • Asuka and Maria - appears in one of Athena's intros and in one of her HSDMs

Stage Cameos

Original Characters

  • Bao (KOF '99) - in China Stage (Day)
  • Lin (KOF 2000) - in China Stage (Day)
  • Jhun Hoon (KOF '99) - in Korea Stage
  • Kang Bae Dal (KOF 2000) - in Cambodia Stage
  • Heidern (KOF '94) - in Mexico Stage (Day) and Italy Stage
  • Heavy-D! (KOF '94) - in Japan Stage (Day)
  • Lucky Glauber (KOF '94) - in Mexico Stage (Day)
  • Brian Battler (KOF '94) - in Mexico Stage (Day)

Fatal Fury/MOTW series

Art of Fighting series

  • Eiji Kisaragi (AOF 2) - in Japan Stage (Evening); he also appears in the special intro Billy vs. Iori, and one of Billy win poses
  • Ryuhaku Todoh (AOF 1) - in Japan Stage (Day and Evening)
  • Kasumi Todoh (AOF 3) - in Japan Stage (Day and Evening)
  • Lee Pai Long (AOF 1) - in China Stage (Evening and Night)
  • Wang Koh-San (AOF 3) - in Holland Stage (Day)
  • King (AOF 1) - in Mexico Stage (Day), only in Arcade version
  • Mr. Big (AOF 1) - in Italy stage

Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter series


Note 1: In the PS2 and Xbox versions, the stages have been remodeled in 3D, although it is still possible to play with the 2D versions via the option menu. In all other versions, they are only available in their 2D forms.
Note 2: The NESTS Team/Kusanagi's and Omega Rugal's stages look very different in the PS2 and Xbox versions. The NESTS Team/Kusanagi's stage also appears immediately before the Final Boss in these versions, rather than before the last match against a regular team/character.
Note 3: In this game, the stage are randomly chosen by the game's system.
Warning: The sight of some stages can cause epilepsy.

Normal Stages

Stage Name
Stage Changes
Japan Stage (Morning)

Japan Stage (Evening)

Japan Stage (Night)
The garden of the Ryoanji Temple, in Kyoto. The fight occurs in a balcony. Can be seen some people cheering, the other side of the temple, trees and shrubs, two geishas, a small lake and two giant fans, one of them with tiger print, a sun umbrella and two flags. The game's name can be spotted on the floor of the temple and on one of the flags.
In the 1st and 2nd round, it's afternoon; in the 3rd round, sunset; from the 4th round, night of full moon and the stage partially empty.
Korea Stage (Morning)

Korea Stage (Evening)

Korea Stage (Night)
A boat in the front to the 63 Building and the Hangang Railway Bridge, in Seoul. Many people can be spotted cheering, and other buildings, bridges, flags can be found here. Seagulls can also be spotted flying over the stage and tires.
In the 1st and 2nd round, it's afternoon; in the 3rd round, sunset; from the 4th round, night.
China Stage (Day)

China Stage (Morning) China Stage (Evening)

China Stage (Night)
A ring near the Nanhu Garden and the Quanfu Temple, in the city of Kunshan. Many SNK characters can be seen people cheering and holding plaques with Chin's name, a bridge, a sign with the Athena's name and balconies in the background, a gate next to the courtyard and a big vase in the left, besides the famous logo in the doors.
In the 1st round, the gate is closed; in the 2nd round, the gate opens; in the 3rd, it's sunset; from the 4th round, night.
Holland Stage (Day) Holland Stage (Evening)
The village of Zaanse Schans, in the city of Zaandam. In the first two first rounds, windmills (one with the franchise's name), a hot air balloon with the game's name, a man coughing, people cheering and photographing, a fence, giant clogs, sheep with the initials of the game and barns can be seen. Giant clogs can also be seen throughout the whole match.
From the 3rd round, it's sunset and the stage is partially empty. The only changes among the 3rd and 4th round is the animals: can be seen dogs and sheep in one, and crows in the other.
Cambodia Stage
The fight takes next to the Angkor Wat Temple. Can be seen a tree, shrubs, stones and a electric post. The weather in the stage is cloudy and lightings can be seen in the sky.
Mexico Stage (Day)

Mexico Stage (Evening)

Mexico Stage (Night)
The Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. The fight takes outside of an ancient building. Can be seen people cheering, a screen with Heidern, plaques with the game's name with the inscription MEXICO-TV by IO-NET, an antenna, the Mexican flag, a river and the Quetzalcoatl Temple, in the background.
In the two first rounds, it's day; in the 3rd round, it's sunset, the stage is empty and the screen it's off; from the 4th round, it's night and a torch is on.

Mid-Boss & Boss Stages

Stage Name
Stage Changes
Italy Stage 1

Italy Stage 2

Italy Stage 3
An aerial platform next to the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Mr. Big and Krauser can be seen in the background. A screen showing Heidern, a cameraman and the Italian flag, can also be seen in the left and right corners of the stage. This stage is the last of Team/Single Play Mode.
Starting from the 2nd round, the platform will slowly rise, and stop at a certain point. A blue flag with game's short name can be found in the tower; from the 4th round, one more rise until the top of the tower, where can be spotted the two villains and a sign "FINAL: THE KING OF FIGHTERS".
In the Arcade version, the Italy stage in a dark and empty version. In the PS2 and Xbox versions, the fight takes in a military airplane, next to a helicopter. Can be seen obstacles, a military jeep and a war tank. There's a little turbulence and things start to fall. Home stage of NESTS Team (Kula, Angel, K9999) & Kusanagi.
Omega Rugal's Stage
Unknown Airship
In the Arcade version, a heap of debris, possibly military aircraft. Can be seen a control panel screen in the background. In the PS2 and Xbox versions, is a version of Sky Noah stage. Can be seen control panels, screens and ladders. Associated with Omega Rugal.


  • In the console versions of KOF 2002, Goenitz, Geese, Shingo and King's CD/Blowback attacks do not inflict any damage. This was due to a programming oversight. Technically however, Geese's CD attack through its SvC Chaos incarnation as a command normal (6C) is still able to do so.
  • This is the only Neo Geo KOF game and the only KOF game produced by Eolith to not have an arranged soundtrack.
  • This is the last mainline KOF game that K9999 appears in, due to copyright issues.
    • This may also be the reason why Neo Geo version of The King of Fighters 2002 does not appears in subsequent releases of The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match after the PlayStation 2 version.
  • In this game, when playing in either Team Play or Single Play Modes, the player can choose before each match which team or character they will fight among two possibilities. However, the last team, fought in the Italy stage, is forced upon the player, always appearing immediately before the Mid-Boss fight (in the PS2 and Xbox versions) or in between the Mid-Boss fight and the Final Boss fight (in all other versions).
  • The Mid-Bosses of this game appears in Team Play as a Single Entry. However, this don't occurs with the teams after the Boss.
  • To unlock Kusanagi (only in Arcade and Neo Geo): On the Character Select Screen, highlight Kyo on the select screen and input: Up Input.png, Down Input.png, Forward Input.png, Back Input.png, Down Input.png, Up Input.png, Back Input.png, Forward Input.png. If done correctly, Kyo's portrait will change to KUSANAGI's portrait, allowing you to play as him.
    • In home console versions of KOF 2002, KUSANAGI is a normally selectable character, performed by holding Start on Kyo's portrait on the Character Select Screen.

See also

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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