King of Fighters 15 characters set it apart from other fighting games

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From day one, the King of Fighters series came out as a “dream match”, answering the question “Who would win?” if you mix various game franchises.

SNK had gone overboard with their line of fighting games, and it allowed them to bundle some of them together and build a series of center tents. It was a bit strange to see that this set not only included Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, but also action series Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier, but it quickly became an annual affair.

Since then, the series’ trajectory has been fairly consistent. While we’ve seen a few graphical overhauls, spinoffs, and timing issues, each mainline entry has generally mixed in new characters with fighters from those same four franchises. Rather than going the Smash Bros. all about bringing in as many guest characters as possible, King of Fighters stayed in its lane, leaving that kind of fan service for background cameos. (Although that doesn’t mean the idea never came about.)

Instead, SNK has spent a lot of time over the years designing new fighters, and unlike many of its competitors, it has spent a lot of time designing new ones. main characters – often featuring them in its stories and marketing materials. When the series began, SNK did not support Fatal Fury star Terry Bogard; he put newcomer Kyo Kusanagi front and center. When I think back to king of fighters ’99, the first thing that comes to mind is to see the work of newcomer K’. In King of Fighters 2003Ash Crimson’s distinctive red coat gives the series an entirely different feel.

Image: SNK

These protagonist changes align with story arcs in games, but more than that, SNK’s eagerness to promote characters on magazine covers, box art, and merchandise has established different eras for the long-time franchise.

Playing king of fighters 15 last week I was struck by the fact that the series had become something different than it was when it first started. What started as a series pitting different franchises against each other has become a series depicting the clash of totally different eras.

Now led by illusionist Shun’ei, the series is starting to feel like a museum of its different phases, and I love it; it brings a certain weight to the cast. While series like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat have created pop culture icons in Ryu, Scorpion, and others, these legacy stars usually overshadow any new characters that show up. King of Fighters, by comparison, feels more balanced.

Part of me wonders how much that has to do with the freedom that comes with being a small show. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat sell King of Fighters by a pretty wide margin, so it seems harder to get Ryu out of the box art than Kyo. And the last time Capcom tried this kind of thing, it didn’t go well.

But whatever the reason, it gives the cast of King of Fighters a distinct feel compared to other fighting games – and I’d love to see more of it. Capcom teased that its latest street fighter 5 Luke’s character will be “an important part of the next Street Fighter project”, so we hope to see how far other fighting series are willing to go down this path soon.

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