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The King of Fighters Neowave (ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ ネオウェイブ) is a fighting game by SNK Playmore, released in 2004 for the Sammy Atomiswave arcade platform. It is the eleventh arcade game in SNK Playmore's The King of Fighters series and first fighting game by SNK Playmore to be developed on Atomiswave hardware rather than the Neo Geo console that their previous games appeared on. It's also a Dream Match, like The King of Fighters '98 and The King of Fighters 2002. It was developed specifically to test the hardware and is not counted in the new numeral progression followed by The King of Fighters XI (with 2003 being the tenth game in the series).

Ports of the game were released in Japan and the PAL region for Sony's PlayStation 2 console (due to SONY Computer Entertainment America's policy of not allowing straight ports of 2D games to North America) and in Japan, North America, and the PAL region for Microsoft's Xbox console.


By the mid-2000s, SNK's in-house Neo-Geo hardware had become quite dated. After The King of Fighters 2003, SNK Playmore looked for newer substitute platforms for future development. The Atomiswave, a cartridge-based multi-arcade system like the Neo Geo and based on SEGA's Dreamcast hardware, with which SNK was already familiar, was an obvious candidate.

Rather than commit a new major game blindly, SNK instead chose to "test the waters" with a remix of The King of Fighters 2002, tweaking the game's systems; reskinning the game with high-resolution backgrounds, character art, and interface elements to take advantage of the more advanced hardware; and removing characters originating with the Eolith-developed KOF 2001 and KOF 2002, replacing them with other SNK-originated characters.


The game reverts back to the 3-character elimination system from KOF '94 to KOF '98, ignoring gameplay features from later games such as the "Striker" system used from KOF '99 through KOF 2001 and tag team system in KOF 2003.

The game's sprites, move sets and some of its mechanics are mainly recycled from KOF 2002. The home version of the game uses fully 3D backgrounds similar to Capcom vs. SNK 2 (a feature later reused for the home version of KOF '98: Ultimate Match).

Changes in the systems include the addition of the Heat Mode button (which powers up your damage output at the cost of draining health), and can be activated at any time, though one must wait a while to hit the button again to end it, but it can also end after a certain amount of time has passed as well as getting hit. Heat Mode cannot be used if the character is low on health in the red zone.

All characters have been slightly rebalanced as well, and the CPU's now can occasionally use Free Cancels, Super Cancels and HSDM's/MAX2DM's, as well as making use of most of the other system mechanics, unlike in KOF 2002.

Though the more notable changes mainly involve three new gauge systems that have not appeared in other KOF games:

  • The first is Super Cancel Mode (SC Mode), which functions like Advanced Mode and the gauge system from 2002 by default, is a mode where the gauge is colored red and where 3 power stocks max are possible. The Free Cancel during 2002's MAX Mode can be performed in this mode via one power stock (as with normal DM's as well), while SDM's are done with two power stocks, and a Super Cancel costs an extra stock (meaning 2 stocks for a DM SC and 3 for an SDM SC). The other main difference is that HSDM's/MAX2DM's cannot be performed in this mode. The Maximum Impact series re-uses the Super Cancel and stock limit concepts of this gauge style.
  • The second is Guard Break Mode (GB Mode), where the gauge is colored pink and can go up to two stocks max, and like SC Mode, 2 stocks are needed for SDM's. However, characters cannot perform a Guard Cancel Blowback attack in this mode. This mode in this game also is schemed in the same fashion as Garou: Mark of the Wolves, in that 2 stocks max are the limit, and most of all, the Just Defend from MOTW is also possible as well, only you cannot Just Defend in midair, nor can you regain health from one either (a portion of stock meter is gained instead for a successful Just Defend). The primary feature of this mode via its name is the Guard Break attack (done with 236CD), where at the cost of one power stock, characters will perform a delayed and startup-only invincible (to all non-throws only) version of their standing Blowback Attack while glowing yellow. This inflicts a Counter Wire on hit and instantly breaks guards.
  • The third and last is the MAX2 Mode (M2 Mode), where the gauge is colored blue and is an altered version of Extra Mode, where only one stock is possible. The most notable differences are that the gauge fills automatically on its own, and no MAX Mode occurs when it is full. Like in Extra Mode, characters can use DM's all they want while their health bar is red, and can only use SDM's while both their gauge is full and their health is low. This is also the mode where you can use the HSDM/MAX2DM attacks featured in KOF 2002 (done like before while with red health) hence the name of the mode, as well as characters using this mode having their overall damage output increased (and even more with Heat Mode activated, though DM's and SDM's do the same amount of damage as with the two other modes). However, this mode often comes with a cost where all evasion type moves (rolls and cancelling into rolls alike) are disabled, save for the recovery roll.
  • Unlike in the original version of KOF 2002, both fighters start with their gauges maxed out at the start of a match on the first round.

Like KOF '98 and KOF 2002 (as its remakes), Neowave has no storyline and is considered a "dream match" game. The game is a gathering of numerous characters from previous installments, including dead characters like Mature and Vice from KOF '96 and the New Faces Team (Orochi Team) from KOF '97. The character roster is similar to 2002 if not the very same with only a few minor differences (especially between the arcade, Xbox and PS2 versions), including the addition of the young Geese Howard from Art of Fighting 2 as the new final boss. The character artworks was done by Tomokazu Nakano (Power Instinct Matrimelee's main illustrator). The game also features a complete original new soundtrack, all of them associated exclusively with the fighting stages.


Note 1: Some parenthetical citations are sometimes Japanese team names, sometimes shortened team names.
Note 2: Some team formations of this game are very similiar to the found in The King of Fighters 2002.

Official Team Roster

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

Kyo Kusanagi
Benimaru Nikaido
Goro Daimon

K' Team


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

Leona Heidern
Ralf Jones
Clark Still
Alternate Version
Orochi Leona (the Leona's Riot of Blood version appears as an Install DM from "Awakening" or "Dead End Inferno")

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

Athena Asamiya
Sie Kensou
Chin Gentsai

Women Fighters Team

Mai Shiranui
Yuri Sakazaki

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

Jhun Hoon
Chang Koehan
Choi Bounge

KOF '97 New Faces Team (A.K.A. Orochi Team)

Yashiro Nanakase

Awakened Orochi Team

Orochi Yashiro
Orochi Shermie
Orochi Chris

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

Ryuji Yamazaki
Blue Mary
Billy Kane

Yagami Team

Iori Yagami

Dream Team (A.K.A. Mixed Team)

Saisyu Kusanagi
Kula Diamond
Shingo Yabuki

Hidden Characters

Kim Kaphwan


Geese Howard (Young Version from Art of Fighting series [Art of Fighting 2])

Console Exclusive Characters

In All Consoles

Omega Rugal

Only in PlayStation 2

May Lee Jinju (Standard Mode) May Lee Jinju (Hero Mode)
May Lee Jinju


Normal Stages

Note: Only in console normal mode (3D backgrounds), the stages have variations of time and space from the 2nd round.

Gameplay of Choi vs. Kensou in the arcade version (with 2D backgrounds)

  • Bridge: The Manhattan Bridge, in New York. The fight takes in a platform next to the cars. In the arcade version, it's day; in the console version, from the 2nd round, it's night and a light post can be seen while also shifting the fighting plane at an angle along the bridge.
  • Train Hangar: The tracks of a train. Can be seen viaducts, a train and a screen with SNK Playmore, Atomiswave and Sammy's logos. In the console version, from the 2rd round, the fight takes near a viaduct, where a train can be seen approaching and stopping next to the characters right from the background.
  • Harbor: A harbor. Port ships and constructions can be seen. In the console version, the fight from the 2nd round takes place next to a freighter.

Gameplay of Terry vs. Andy in console version (with 3D backgrounds)

  • Clock Tower: The interior of a clock tower. Gears can be seen with beams of light shooting through the various openings and two open doors. In arcade mode, it's day; in the console version, from the 2nd round, it's night.
  • Green House: Features trees, flowers, a water fountain, butterflies, a balcony house, light projectors and a zepellin. In the arcade mode, it's day; in the console version, from the 2nd round, it's night, along with the trees having colorful lights placed within them and other various backlights being shined.
  • Ancient Ring: A courtyard in the Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. Features ancient buildings, statues, the gate of the courtyard, a full moon and water fountains with torches in the view of the night sky. In the console version, from the 2rd round, the fight takes place closer to the gate from an angle.
  • Plant: A platform of steel. Pipes, chains and a ladder can be seen. In console version, steam blasts can be seen coming off the platform. Similar to the Factory Stage of KOF 2000.

Boss Stage

  • Howard Connection: A new version of this stage, inspired in the Boss Stage in AOF 2. Features a table office, a piano, two armors, a globe, two lights and, in the background past the windows, various buildings. In the console version, from the 2nd round, the floor opens up via a mechanism, replaced with an aquarium with a shark right below. Associated with Young Geese.


The King of Fighters: Neowave met with mixed reviews upon release. Reviewers noted the updated graphics and traditionally solid mechanics, and were pleased with online play in the console versions. They also commented on the game's drab presentation and overly familiar design. Charles Onyett wrote for IGN, "Sure it's got updated graphics, a few different styles of play, and a huge roster of fighters, but it does little to entice any non-KoF fans into the mix, something this genre desperately needs."

For GameSpot, Greg Casavin wrote that the game "still packs some good stuff for hardcore fans, but the touched-up paint job doesn't make this feel like a whole new game. In fact, in some ways it feels like a step backward from The King of Fighters 2002."

External links

The King of Fighters series
Mainline '94'95'96'97'98'992000200120022003XIXIIXIIIXIVXV
Remakes Dream Match 1999'99 Evolution'94 Re-Bout'98 Ultimate Match2002 Unlimited Match
Offshoots R-1R-2EX: 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 Orochi CollectionThe Orochi SagaNESTS Collection
Cancelled Online (UnoTechnology)Fighters' WorldKOF MI "A2"KOF: Maximum Impact 360Online (DragonFly/Triple A Games)
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The King of Fighters games
Prologue The King of Fighters '94
Orochi Saga The King of Fighters '95The King of Fighters '96The King of Fighters '97
NESTS Chronicles The King of Fighters '99The King of Fighters 2000The King of Fighters 2001
Tales of Ash The King of Fighters 2003The King of Fighters XIThe King of Fighters XIII
Shun'ei Saga The King of Fighters XIVThe King of Fighters XV
Dream Matches The King of Fighters '98The King of Fighters 2002The King of Fighters XII
Remakes The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999The King of Fighters '99 EvolutionThe King of Fighters '94 Re-BoutThe King of Fighters '98 Ultimate MatchThe King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match
Maximum Impact series KOF: Maximum ImpactKOF: Maximum Impact 2KOF Maximum Impact Regulation "A"
Offshoots King of Fighters R-1King of Fighters R-2The King of Fighters EX: Neo BloodThe King of Fighters EX2: Howling BloodThe King of Fighters Neowave
Spin-offs Quiz King of FightersThe King of Fighters: KyoThe King of Fighters: Battle de ParadiseKOF Sky StageThe King of Fighters Online (DragonFly)The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match WebSNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy
Mobile The King of Fighters -Mobile- / R-2The King of Fighters -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 FightersThe King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match OnlineBeast Busters featuring KOFThe King of Fighters: WorldThe King of Fighters Destiny (Game)The King of Fighters All StarOrochi GoThe King of Fighters M: Fighting Stars AssemblyKOF: ChronicleThe King of Fighters for Girls
Pachinko The King of FightersChapter of NESTSMaximum ImpactIIICR The King of Fighters
Compilations The King of Fighters Orochi CollectionThe King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi SagaThe King of Fighters NESTS Collection
Cancelled The King of Fighters Online (UnoTechnology)The King of Fighters' WorldKOF Maximum Impact Regulation "A2"KOF: Maximum Impact 360The King of Fighters Online (Cancelled)
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