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Analysis: The King of Fighters

The King of Fighters '94

The first game of the KOF series, The King of Fighters '94, concerns Blood Knight and notorious crime lord Rugal Bernstein. Seeking to establish a title as the world's strongest fighter, he resurrects the international tournament "The King of Fighters" (initially held by Geese Howardnote ) to challenge the strongest combatants of each nation. Team Japan, consisting of high schooler flame wielder Kyo Kusanagi, The Casanova lightning wielder Benimaru Nikaido, and Badass Normal judo master Goro Daimon, make it to the finals aboard Rugal's personal aircraft carrier, the Blacknoah. Kyo's father Saisyu is already aboard the ship, having tried to take down Rugal by himself, but to no avail. From within their meeting, Rugal explains to the trio the real reason of why he had held the KOF tournament: to find worthy opponents to kill so that he can bathe their bodies in liquid metal and display them in his museum as part of his "collection", which consists of slain fighters whom Rugal had killed from within the past and that he had turned each and every one of them into his personal "trophies". During the final match of the tournament, Benimaru and Daimon are swiftly defeated by Rugal, leaving Kyo to face the villain by himself. Kyo sees his father's unconscious body, and, assuming the worst, goes into an Unstoppable Rage that allows him to overwhelm Rugal who, sore loser that he is, activates a series of timed bombs set around the ship. The heroes (as well as Rugal's secretaries, Mature and Vice) escape just in time.

The King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga

The Orochi Saga (the name given by the Compilation Re-release launched in 2003, see below) is composed by four of the games of the series: from The King of Fighters '95 all the way to the dream match The King of Fighters '98 and the Updated Re-release The King Of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match'.

The first major plot arc of the series, the Orochi Saga, begins in The King Of Fighters '95. Rugal, having survived the destruction of the Blacknoah, once again invites the world's strongest fighters to partake in KOF. This time, however, Rugal is not the first of the problems Kyo Kusanagi is about to deal with. Iori Yagami, a peculiarly-clothed, red-headed drifter, has revealed himself as Kyo's rival, thanks to a thousand-year-old blood feud between his family (formerly the Yasakani, now the Yagami) and Kyo's. Like Kyo, Iori also wields flames, although the price for their use comes from a blood pact made with the being known as Orochi that tints the flames blue. Kyo's team makes it to the finals but Iori's does not, resulting in Iori ruthlessly beating teammates Billy Kane and Eiji Kisaragi for their failure. Kyo is forced by Rugal to fight his own Brainwashed and Crazy father, and although Kyo succeeds in defeating and de-brainwashing him, he faces Rugal immediately thereafter, who reveals that he has gained Orochi's power, transforming himself into the nearly unstoppable Omega Rugal. Kyo wins by the skin of his teeth, and an enraged Rugal attempts to use more of the Orochi power, but (as Iori points out) he is not of the Orochi bloodline, and instead of giving him strength, it consumes him and kills him from within.

In The King of Fighters '96, the plot begins to thicken once again as new tournament invitations are sent out. Heidern and Takuma have decided to leave their posts as members of the Ikari Team and Kyokugen school teams and are replaced by their daughters Leona and Yuri, respectively, and Kasumi Todo, a rival of the Kyokugen school, joins the Women Fighters Team to make up for Yuri's loss. Iori Yagami once again returns to the fray with the deceased Rugal's secretaries, Vice and Mature. And to make matters worse, a new team has entered the fray, consisting of Wolfgang Krauser, Mr. Big, and their leader — none other than the legendary Geese Howard himself, long thought to be dead since his defeat at the hands of Terry Bogard which sent him careening off of his tower. Kyo's team once again makes it to the finals, and they meet the tournament sponsor: a woman named Chizuru Kagura. Chizuru tests Kyo to see if he is worthy of fulfilling his 1800-year destiny of destroying Orochi. Kyo defeats Chizuru, and shortly afterwards, the first messenger of Orochi appears: Leopold Goenitz, the Heavenly King of Wind. He is attempting to revive Orochi by breaking his seal, which is being held in place by Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru. Goenitz fights Kyo, and begins to overpower him, but just as all hope seems lost, Iori steps into the fray and helps his rival. Goenitz is defeated, but reveals the truth of the blood pact that Iori's family made with Orochi: it a terrible curse upon them that causes every woman in the family to die in childbirth. Iori, tired of Goenitz's blathering, kills him by engulfing him in flames...which suddenly become crimson red - their original color. Chizuru also reveals another side effect of Yagami's curse - a state known as the Riot of the Blood which causes the afflicted to lose control of their minds and become mindless zombies, slaves to Orochi's will that kill everything in their path. Iori, at first, simply brushes it off, but later while he is conversing with Vice and Mature, he starts to feel sick. Suddenly, he becomes blind and starts coughing up blood, finally becoming overwhelmed with pain. When his teammates try to console him, they do not realize that Iori has finally lost control of himself as he slashes the secretaries' throats wide open. As they die, Iori lets out a deranged, inhuman scream.

In The King of Fighters '97, the Orochi storyline was concluded. The roster saw many new combatants, such as Ryuji Yamazaki, insane criminal mercenary, who was working for Geese Howard alongside Billy Kane, and Blue Mary, who joins the team to investigate their true motives. Chizuru joined the Women's Team, and there was an entirely new team, known as the New Faces Team, made up of Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie and Chris, a group of musicians who hated Iori due to his success as a professional guitarist. Their reason for entering the event was simply to publicly defeat Yagami, but deeper reasons would be revealed. At the conclusion of the official event, Iori once again enters the Riot of the Blood, but to everyone's shock, Ikari Team member Leona does the same. Her pupils dilate to an extreme degree, her hair turns bright red, her skin turns a shade of violet, and she vomits blood rather than simply coughing it as Iori does. Leona experiences these symptoms because she is actually the daughter of the Heavenly King of Water, Guidel, who betrayed his cause in exchange for a life of peace. Goenitz awakened her Orochi blood as punishment for Guidel's betrayal, and she killed every single person in her village, including her father. After their defeat, the New Faces Team appeared, revealing their real purpose... they were the other three Heavenly Kings of Orochi, completing the revival of Orochi begun by Goenitz. With the powerful people in the event, as well as several other Orochi descendants (such as Yamazaki), it had been easy to gain the power needed. A grueling battle with them turned out to be pointless, as their plan was to sacrifice themselves to embody Orochi in the single most powerful Orochi descendant: their own team's Chris. Orochi, saying that nothing about humanity had changed in 1800 years, intended to finish its duty of eliminating the race. In the ensuing final battle, Orochi is easily defeated once again by Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru due to Orochi embodying a human host. Orochi tries one last attempt at victory: activating Iori's Riot of the Blood state. It doesn't work, and while Iori is holding Orochi at bay, it gives Kyo enough time to deal one final blow so that Chizuru can reseal him. The plan succeeds, and Orochi is sealed again, but Kyo and Iori are nowhere to be found...

The King of Fighters: The NESTS Chronicles

This saga consists of the games going from The King of Fighters '99 (and the Updated Re-release The King of Fighters '99: Evolution) all the way up to the dream match The King of Fighters 2002 and The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match.

The NESTS plot arc concerns the Nebulous Evil Organisation known as NESTS. After the Orochi battle, Kyo is taken by the organization and used to create an army of clones, all who have his pyrokinetic powers. In addition, his DNA is also injected into several kidnapped children as a step to creating a perfect clone, one of whom is K'. He gains Kyo's powers, although due to a flaw in the process he must wear a special gauntlet to control them. He is assigned by NESTS to enter the '99 tournament, along with his cyborg partner Maxima. The two form the K' Team along with Benimaru and Shingo Yabuki, both of which are looking for the missing Kyo. The team's success eventually leads them to an underground warehouse where they meet the head of the Kyo clone project: Krizalid. Like K', he is a human injected with Kyo's DNA. Krizalid reveals that the tournament was a ruse to gather battle data for the various armies of Kyo clones around the world, so they could be activated and sent out in one simultaneous strike. K' and co. defeat him, however, and his unknown superior terminates the project... and Krizalid. After the battle, Kyo reveals himself to the fighters, but as always, Iori is one step behind him, and the two fight in the collapsing base.

The King of Fighters 2000 continues the NESTS arc. Once again, K' enters the tournament with Maxima, but this time they are joined by two agents investigating NESTS' activities: Vanessa and Ramon. NESTS has not forgotten K's betrayal, and in the meantime has created a new clone of Kyo to terminate him: a young girl named Kula Diamond. Kula, along with her caretakers Foxy and Diana, are also investigating a rogue agent within NESTS: Zero, Krizalid's superior who killed him the previous year. K' confronts him along with Kyo and Iori, and he reveals the Zero Cannon, a weapon designed to destroy NESTS' Southtown base so that Zero can take over the organization. Although he is defeated by K', the Zero Cannon still manages to fire, destroying the majority of Southtown in the process. As Zero is apprehended by Heidern's newest officer, Whip, he reveals that she is actually a clone of K's sister created by NESTS. Shocked by this information, she shoots Zero and kills him.

The NESTS arc concludes in The King of Fighters 2001. NESTS begins putting its final plan into motion, sending out new agents Foxy (a fencer), Angel (a Luchador wrestler), and their latest experiment, K9999, who is an homage to Tetsuo Shima, right down to the same voice actor. K' and his team are once again the tournament finalists and are taken to the NESTS orbital space station via blimp, but they find a familiar foe waiting for them: Zero! He explains, however, that the Zero they faced last year was a clone of himself that developed self-awareness and delusions of grandeur. The Original Zero is an older, more experienced man and is truly loyal to NESTS' cause. He also reveals a past foe long thought dead: Krizalid, who was resurrected by the real Zero after he was crushed by the boulder that the Clone Zero threw on top of him. The Ninja Lin's master Ron also appears, and confirms that he is a traitor to Lin's clan, the Hizoku. Zero is defeated by K' as they arrive aboard the space station, and Zero presumably dies as the blimp plummets to the earth. K' finally meets with the leader of NESTS, an elderly man wielding a broadsword. He at first asks for their mutual cooperation, but in a surprise move, his right hand man Igniz kills him in front of the team's eyes. Igniz explains that the numerous experiments, and the true aim of NESTS, was to help him become a God and Take Over the World. Despite his power, K's team defeats him, and he instead decides to use the station for a Colony Drop, hoping to take out the planet with him, explaining that if he cannot become a God, then he will become the Devil. Unbeknownst to the fighters, Ron had escaped from the plummeting blimp that Zero was on and stopped the space station from colliding with the Earth. Igniz had used all of his remaining energy to fuel the Colony Drop, and since it failed, he died shortly afterward. With NESTS finally destroyed, K', Maxima, Kula, and the other clones created by NESTS are free to live out their lives as they choose. Kula, however, doesn't get off that easy. Foxy is attacked (but not killed) in front of her eyes by K9999, who disappears. In that instant, Kula's emotions are reawakened, and she realizes the true nature of the organization she served. Angel leaves to follow K9999. Kula is left only with Diana and Foxy, and decides to join K' in rebuilding their lives.

The King of Fighters: The Tales Of Ash

The third arc in the series begins with The King of Fighters 2003 and ends with The King of Fighters XIII, with The King of Fighters XII breaking up the saga as a Dream Match Game.

The major player in this arc is a girly-looking, French Jerk teenager named Ash Crimson, who we are introduced to in The King of Fighters 2003. Ash is a strange individual with the ability to wield flames, much like those in the Yagami and Kusanagi bloodlines, but green in color as opposed to orange or purple. Joining Ash are Shanghai Blood Knight Shen Woo and Hizoku assassin Duo Lon, on the hunt for his rebellious father Ron. Despite being the central character, Ash hides a very villainous motive. Ash begins the saga as an Enigmatic Minion, simply participating in the tournament for an unknown purpose. The tournament this time is being hosted by Chizuru Kagura. However, everything becomes unhinged at the conclusion, where it is revealed that Chizuru is not the tournament host but merely a pawn of a sinister collective that call themselves "Those From the Past". They seem to be wanting to undo the seal on Orochi set in the '97 tournament. Chizuru is beaten and the real mastermind behind the tournament, an individual named "Mukai", appears representing Those From the Past. He is defeated by K's team but manages to escape. Chizuru's sacred treasure, the Yata no Kagami (or Mirror of Yata) is taken by Ash, revealing his true intents. Also during the tournament, a young man named Adelheid Bernstein and his sister Rose accept challengers aboard their flying aircraft SkyNoah, facing off against the Ikari Warriors team.

The second game in the arc is The King of Fighters XI. Ash, who has secured the power of the Yata no Kagami, now seeks Iori Yagami and the Yasakani no Magatama. However, running counter to him is a woman named "Elizabeth Blanctorche". Elizabeth appears to have a past with the young Frenchman and is trying to redirect him towards a different end. Once again, Those From the Past helm the tournament, with a twisted individual named Magaki representing the organization and his very effeminate henchman, Shion. Adelheid and Rose once again attend the tournament but this puts Rose within striking distance of Those From the Past. At the tournament's end, Shion fails to sacrifice Kyo, Iori, and Shingo to break the seal on the Orochi. Magaki pulls Shion into a dimensional rift and chooses to confront Kyo's team himself. Unfortunately, Magaki is not able to contend with Kyo's team and is bested. He attempts to escape until Shion breaks out of the dimensional gap and hurls his spear through Magaki's chest. Magaki falls but Kyo's team is now left weakened, which is the perfect opportunity for Ash to strike. Iori's Riot of Blood breaks out and he soundly defeats Kyo and Shingo but Ash is able to take him down with little difficulty, stealing the Yasakani no Magatama from Iori. Elizabeth arrives after the battle and confronts Ash, who whimsically blows her off. Meanwhile, Botan, the mind control specialist of Those From the Past and the one who was manipulating Chizuru's actions in the previous tournament, has put Rose Bernstein under her command.

The story ends in The King of Fighters XIII. Ash now possesses two of the sacred treasures of the Guardians of the Orochi and it seems that Those From the Past will successfully undo the seal holding back the mythical beast. Elisabeth gathers two of Ash's former team members, Shen Woo and Duo Lon, and is determined to interfere in his progress on capturing Kyo's Kusanagi no Tsurugi. The tournament host this time is Rose Bernstein, who is being controlled by Botan and Those From the Past. The mysterious leader of the organization finally reveals himself in XIII as "Saiki", a man who bears a very high likeness to Ash Crimson. Iori Yagami, despite not being able to wield his Yasakani flames, still participates in the tournament, eager to seek revenge against Ash Crimson. At the tournament's end, all appears to be going smoothly until time itself freezes and a gigantic monolith emerges from the ground. Those From the Past immediately descend on the championship arena, lead by Saiki. Saiki reveals his ability to manipulate time and the monolith in the arena is in fact a gateway to the past, through which Saiki intends to use to seize the power of the Orochi. Right before the battle begins, Mukai offers to challenge Elisabeth's team but Saiki treats this as insubordination and drains his follower before transforming into his true image. He engages Elisabeth's team but is unable to hold the gate open despite the negative energy from the fight pouring into it. At this point, Ash reveals his Batman Gambit: he hasn't been collecting the sacred treasures for the sake of Those From the Past, he's been doing so in order to stop them. To cap this plan off, he steals Saiki's power as well. Unfortunately, he is unable to control this power and Saiki's mind overtakes Ash's. Saiki tries to cross through the gate but is defeated regardless. Ash uses his remaining will to prevent Saiki from crossing into the past and the gate closes. In doing so, both Saiki and Ash have become displaced in the time stream, as Ash is descended from Saiki. Ash and Saiki both vanish from history, with Ash leaving his headband as a final memento to Elisabeth. Iori's Yasakani no Magatama returns and despite the opportunity to live out the rest of his life without its curse, Iori decides to take it back inside his being and restore his flame powers.
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