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2002 Story title screen
The King of Fighters: All-Star is a free-to-play, mobile RPG game released for iOS and Android, developed by South Korean gaming company Netmarble and licensed by SNK. The game brings together all the characters of the KOF series up to The King Of Fighters XIV. While including KOF series fighters, the game also includes limited crossover events with other franchises and companies, including Gintama, Samurai Shodown, Tekken, Seven Knights, WWE, The Seven Deadly Sins, Dead or Alive, and Guilty Gear. In addition to crossovers, the game also holds special events that introduce fighters with holiday themes, references to pop culture, gender-bent characters, and special versions of series' bosses and protagonists
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The game was initially released in Japan on July 26, 2018, and after high demand from South Korea, the game was released there on May 9, 2019, having gone through tests at events since the end of 2018 and holding special venues for promotion. The global launch was on October 22, 2019.

Story

The player wakes up in the world of The King of Fighters without any memories. With the help of an energetic girl named Noah, the player must participate in the tournaments from The King of Fighters '94 and onwards, and win, hoping to remember who they are and how they ended up there. The player, however, is constantly attacked by various punks that want to steal their invitation. Soon it becomes apparent that there's more at play behind these attacks. Meanwhile, a sinister group calling themselves 'Tuners' continues to watch over the player setting a plan in motion to put a stop to their journey.

Examples

  • Adapted Out:
    • The NESTS team attacks Japan team and is confronted outside of a formal match, despite NESTS team competing in the tournament. As a result, this allows the game to dodge the issue of using K9999 or writing in Nameless as it doesn't have to adhere to the "four characters to one team" rule. Additionally, while Foxy is still present, she isn't fought during the stage like Angel and Kula.
    • Nests himself (as in the syndicate's previous leader) does not appear at all in the 2001 storyline. Igniz is the Big Bad from the get-go.
    • Advertisement:
    • While Igniz and Clone Zero, two of the four NESTS bosses that returned in the Unlimited Match remake, appear in the 2002 chapter, Krizalid and Original Zero do not.
    • April gets left out from May's Ultimate, being replaced by Lady Chang.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Occasionally, events will focus on specific KOF fighters, shifting the POV to them rather than following Noah/Kaya and the player.
  • Action Girl: Every female fighter, naturally.
  • Actor Allusion: During the Gintama collab, Gintoki reacts to post-Clothing Damage Yuri and King with "Niiiiiice!!" similarly with the same character with the same voice actor that peeked on a naked lady. Specifically, his mom.
  • Adaptational Badass:
  • Advertised Extra: The different title screens and promotional material have a tendency to prominently show characters before they become playable.
  • All Just a Dream: How the Tekken side of the collaboration event ends thanks to Ein and her Robot Buddy Stein
    • Keeping with the original source, the Athena in Wonderland event ends like this.
    • The 2020 Halloween Rush Dungeon also ends this way, although the intro cutscene already sets it up as one. Potentially subtly acknowledged by the use of False Advent Orochi as the final boss of the storyline instead of regular Orochi.
  • Amazon Brigade: Having a team composed entirely of female characters grants you a team bonus.
  • Anime Hair: There's a lot of it, but it's worth noting that this game is where two characters whose hairstyles are based on Jean Pierre Polnareff, Benimaru and Paul, can be together. In fact, during the Tekken event, Iori almost mistook Paul as Benimaru due to their hairs (only to retract that Paul is a lot more Idiot Hero than Benimaru).
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Following the implementation of the Awakening system, a new resource called Dimensional Invites allows collaboration units to be Awakened without having their memories present, mainly to offset their limited availability and to keep them viable long after their events end. This also came with changes to most events like Advent Dungeons; as Dimensional Invites are obtained by trading in either gold All-Star memories for gold characters or FES memories (regardless of source), most events now have ways to purchase those memories so that even if a player has no intention of ever using the character, they can instead use them as resources to Awaken guests.
    • Awakening also introduced an overhaul to the summon system via Pick Up slots for both character and card summons. Players can choose one 5-star or FES character for each elemental type in addition to any 5 battle cards of similar rarities (albeit with the restriction of only having 2 FES cards available); those chosen have their chances of being summoned raised higher, not only making it easier to pull preferred new units, but also is another way to get souls and Memories for characters already in the lineup. A sixth slot on both ends was added to focus on newly released fighters and cards, with a slightly higher chance than those on the regular ones. Eventually, this led to a change in how Loyalty was rewarded, as getting enough would now give players a pass to directly choose any character or card on the Pick-Up list.
    • Netmarble added in August of 2020 special dungeons called Hall of Elements - one per color in permanent rotation - that rewards the players with both special boxes that can drop specific characters' memories (including FES ones) and special coins that can be exchanged for specific character memories at the exchange shop, these memories available are randomized and change every month. This after players complained about how hard was to collect memories without spending tons of money.
    • The card leveling system was reworked in October 2020, so now skill levels are raised by using a set amount of card materials rather than depending on success percentage. And shortly after this change, the Weekly Card Dungeon was also reworked, getting additional difficulty levels and an increased drop rate for every card material so is much easier to farm them. This new system made maximizing your battle cards easier and less time-consuming.
    • The above reworking for the card system also included adding a new Ultimate Battle card slot for all Awakened units, allowing duplicate cards to be equipped to grant an additional stat boost. Since Collab fighters' cards can't be obtained once their respective events end, a generic type of Ultimate battle card was introduced to allow them to get those stats boosts without the need of having duplicate cards.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: Like most F2P games of its type, the game can only be played so much before an energy meter runs out, requiring the player to pay for refills or wait for it to refill naturally. Or they can watch an advertisement first.
  • Arc Words: The Epic Quests tend to use recurring words for their chapters and the units associated with them:
    • Episode 0: Averted; Episode 0 doesn't use any particular word for its chapters and the units do not share a particular word.
    • Episode 1: False. Both the chapters and the units given from them have "False" or a synonym in their names.
    • Episode 2: Twisted for the chapters and Phantom for the units.
  • Arrange Mode:
    • The Epic Quest mode focuses on stat-grinding, something practically nonexistent in the main game which emphasizes material grinding instead. Epic Quest also has its own missions, including one that allows you to get the unique boss variant of the character featured in that chapter. Episode 1 ups the ante by having Chapter-specific gimmicks that feature heavy Character Select Forcing.
    • Guild Raid, Challenge Team Relay, and Dungeon of Trials focus on a race to do as much damage possible in the time allowed, forcing the players to build specific teams for each mode to tackle them
  • Artificial Limbs: Omega Rugal's mechanical hand in his '95 incarnation. It noticeably sparks and smokes when he's in play.
  • Ascended Meme: The very idea of SNK Boss and even its old name itself get hilariously acknowledged by a new category of units called Boss Syndrome that introduces massively buffed versions of units that previously had powerful but mostly balanced forms. Among these are Omega Rugal ('95), Orochi, Krizalid (first form from '99), Geese Howard (Nightmare form, using his DLC costume from ''XIV''), Igniz and Zero (Original) ('01), Goenitz and Leona, Nameless and Dark Ash.
  • Assist Character: There are a few variants present in the game:
    • Strikers are characters from your own roster paired with one of your main fighters who can be summoned multiple times (with a cooldown period) and have a range of different skills, ranging from status buffs, health recovery or attacking the opponent. If there's a lore connection between the striker and the main fighter, you get an additional boost.
    • Support is the main fighter from another player that you can pick from a list before each mission, they can only be used once per stage and they will attack all enemies on-screen when summoned.
    • Original Zero brings with him, his team of strikers from KOF '01: his pet lion Glaugan, Krizalid, and Ron. Regular O. Zero can only summon Krizalid and Glaugan while his BS version also includes Ron. Finally, his ultimate move, Kyou Hoshi Meikaijin EX summons all three of them to beat up the opponent.
    • Two of the FES fighters included in the Gintama collaboration are this to each other: Katsura can summon Elizabeth to either trample enemies or just dance on them for his Special Skill. In turn, he shows up to assist with Elizabeth's parody of Orochi's Marokare... by lifting Elizabeth up and vocalizing an angelic choir while doing so.
    • The Seven Deadly Sins collaboration brings Elizabeth Lioness who despite being a playable unit doesn't fight at all. The one who does all the fighting is her companion, Hawk.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The raid bosses appearing in Episode 0 of the Epic Quest, thanks to a post-Face–Heel Turn Noah, are giant monsters that emerge from their hosts. One of them, Greed, is the default boss of one of the Time Attack challenges and even makes an appearance in the game's opening movie.
  • Attack Reflector:
    • The gimmick of Epic Quest Episode 1, Chapter 2 is that every enemy has one of these that reflects any color type other than the one the enemies are weak against.
    • The Mysterious Observer Set enables any character equipped with it to reflect 10% of damage received towards their opponent for 5 seconds. Some units like Leona XIII or Meliodas count with a similar in their kit.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • Heidern, Takuma, and Chin earned their place as their respective teams' leaders through sheer skill.
    • The in-game codex identifies Igniz as the most powerful member of NESTS by a considerable margin.
  • Background Music Override: Unlike the rest of the cast, the WWE fighters' personal themes play over the victory results instead of the normal music, much like how they do in real life.
  • Badass Adorable:
    • To complement Lady Original Zero's new look, his/her pet lion Glaugan got transformed into a pretty adorable-looking cat.
    • Lady Kim, Lady Chang, and both Lady Zeros are top-tier units despite their cutesy looks. Lady Chang embodies this trope so much, she's become an honorary member of the Jellyfish Pirates and even assists May's Special (a recreation of her Instant Kill from Xrd) to boot.
  • Badass Baritone: Taiten Kusunoki gives Original Zero a noticeably deep voice.
  • Badass Crew: Teams like Fatal Fury or Kyokugenryu are comprised of family members and close friends. Furthermore, some team bonuses require having related characters together on your teams.
  • Badass Normal: Per the series's tradition, you can have very skilled martial artists going toe to toe against Physical Gods, Chosen ones, Artificial Humans, and more just with their skills. Heavily applies to the WWE characters, who are actual real-life people, and even they get crazy buffs to put them on the same level as the many KOF regulars; The Undertaker's supernatural powers get turned Up to Eleven for example.
  • Bar Brawl: One of the settings used in the minor stages.
  • Barrier Change Boss:
    • A recurring trend among the Epic Quest Episode 1 bosses: False Trial Saisyu gains a barrier that is weak to one character class and resists the other two. False Advent Orochi also uses this gimmick after using his special attack once. False Conspiracy Yashiro, being the logical conclusion of his chapter's gimmick, can create a barrier that reflects the damage of characters with the same color type as the barrier he creates. At least until he gets mad.
    • Phantom Gatekeeper Zero from Episode 2 is a more traditional example: Zero makes himself vulnerable to one element for the benefit of resisting all others.
    • Revival Hell Dungeon demands the player to use the correct element (and type in later stages) when building their teams, since using even one unit with the wrong type/element, will cause the enemies to reflect all and any damage.
  • Baseball Episode: The Baseball event released in April 2020 that introduced Cheerleader Shermie and Baseball Vanessa variants to the game.
  • Battle Aura: Both BS and SS units are surrounded by one as a means to easily set them apart from their regular counterparts.
  • Beach Episode: Summer 2019 (2020 New Year for global) and July 2020 banners that added to the game swimsuit-themed versions of K', Kula, Mai, Angel, Blue Mary, Chizuru, Mature, and Vice.
    • The Dead Or Alive collaboration is a huge Beach Episode.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The player character grows attached to Noah as they continue to spend time together. Unfortunately for them, Noah was just using them to further her own, nefarious goals.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru appear from nowhere to save the player character and seal Orochi in the final stage of the '97 chapter.
  • Big Eater: Noah has an impressive appetite, and she spends most of the time between fights stuffing herself full at restaurants.
  • Bitch Alert: At certain points, when Noah gets time alone or with the Tuners while away from your character she starts displaying a nastier personality while going back to being the supportive guide in front of you. As your character is never around during these moments, they have no idea that Noah is using them.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    • While much better compared to the games is retelling on its story mode, there are still some pretty glaring mistakes, the most notorious being Ein referred with male pronouns despite having long silver hair and having Saori Hayami as her voice actress. Thankfully this was quickly patched in one of the game's first updates.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Any unit able to inflict a paralyzing status effect like petrify, freeze or stun will be invaluable in PvP since it leaves the opponent unable to defend themselves from your attacks.
    • The Mysterious Observer Set offers a 30% chance to refresh all of your active skills when one of them successfully hits the opponent. Paired with units that have innate refreshing effects will trivialize most of the fights in the game.
  • Boss Warning Siren: A Warning alert flashes on the screen when the players reach the boss of each stage.
  • Bowdlerise: The initial art for Hotaru's final move (Ten Shou Ran Ki) actually had her expression with eyes closed and mouth open, following similar fan jokes that she just had a questionable expression, combined with her position of sitting on top of her foe. Afterward, Netmarble issued a new art whereas Hotaru just had a Determined Expression to remove the possible innuendo.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • Thanks to post-Face–Heel Turn Noah, several characters get brainwashed into a more savage version of themselves themed after some aspects of the Seven Deadly Sins and eventually capable of summoning huge deadly fighting spirits that act more like SNK Boss. Blue Mary gets Envy, Chizuru Kagura gets Wrath. Averted with Rugal Bernstein, who got Greed: He's evil enough that he doesn't need brainwashing for that.
    • In Episode 1 of the Epic Quest, Saisyu finds himself on the receiving end of this trope yet again. Turns out he willingly accepted Orochi's influence so he could use his full power against the Player Character, hoping it would help them to get ready for Orochi.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Hilariously done by Kaya during the '99 story.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Like most F2P games, getting the highest level characters and equipment will either take a long, long time and a lot of grinding or can be fast-tracked with money.
    • There was a brief period at the end of 2019 where paywalled characters were introduced in the form of Dark Resurrection Xiaoyu, Valentine Diva Alice, and Lady Pretty Big (in the global version, strangely, the regular version of Alice was introduced as a paywalled character) But it was ultimately subverted with the reworked summoning mechanics and the Awakening system. Since you need dupes for the Awakening, Netmarble added all the characters -bar the collaboration ones- to the permanent summoning pool.
    • Since the release of Lady Kim, every Lady fighter can be rolled on the gacha or bought with money. The money spent not only goes into the individual packages and the contents therein but also feeds into a loyalty system that grants souls, a special battle card, and a Memory for awakening. Similarly, collaboration events have this system, modified such that it gives a guaranteed summon for a preferred fighter.
    • Boss Syndrome and Special Signature banners include a special set of Imprint Stones -that massively buff them- only available during the summoning period of their banners and that can only be obtained through summoning the featured units multiple times. Unless the player has been hoarding their rubies for months, the easiest way to get those stones is by using real money.
  • Broad Strokes: The game's story mode approach to the events of each canonical game in the King of Fighters series.
  • The Bus Came Back: This game sees the return of many characters not seen for years in the main series like May Lee, the American Sports Team, or Nameless.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • American Sports Team once again is the punching bag of the series, with their appearances during the '94 chapter being reduced to get eliminated offscreen, New Face Team openly talking about taking their invitation in the '97 chapter, being the player first opponent in chapter '98. And during the WWE event, getting steamrolled by the modern Superstars team and Undertaker on three different occasions. There is even a Battle Card depicting them after being tossed to a trash can in reference to how they always got beaten and had their invitation taken away from them even in canon.
    • Paul Phoenix during the Tekken event. He faced Athena and both gave their best. Paul won the match, but then faced the wrath of Athena fans who didn't take their idol's defeat well.
    • Carrying from his original series, Shinpachi becomes the butt of jokes through all the Gintama events, going so far as to even lack a character portrait and being reduced to just a pair of talking glasses.
  • But Thou Must!: The only way to advance through the story of the '94 to '97 tournaments is to follow Noah even if this ultimately leads to the entire simulation falling into disarray and the Tuners group dissolved. Lampshaded by Gintoki during the second part of the Gintama collaboration who points out that the player would have seen it coming and the lack of response options.
  • Canon Foreigner: Netmarble has created a bunch of new characters specifically for the game: the Tuners group (Ryugo, Kaya, Shine, and Ein), your guide Noah, Serina the reporter, Akane, Eru, and Leah who are clerks for the different exchange shops. All of which have seemingly minor roles through Story mode and Epic Quest.
  • Cap: Characters' levels initially cap at 30 for three stars, 40 for four stars, and 50 for five stars. Materials have to be spent to reach the final level cap of 90.
    • A new system called Awakening introduced in May 2020 (and implemented in June 2020) allows the player to use duplicates of their characters to go beyond the level 90 cap.
  • Cast Herd: Teams can be assigned bonuses to their compositions based on shared criteria. While generic compositions such as having characters that share the same gender, country of origin, and year/game representednote , more specific lineups yield more potent bonuses. These include arranging teams based on canonical KOF teams for each year represented in the game or having characters from the same collaboration or seasonal event together.
  • Character Class System: Three Classes: Offense (High ATK, low DEF), Defense (High HP and DEF, low ATK), and Balanced (All the stats are evenly spread).
    • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: Characters are further classified with elemental affinities. There are five elements: Red, Green, Yellow, Purple, and Blue; they're arranged in a Pentagon grid, with Red at the top and the rest of the elements filling clockwise each of the pentagon vertexes. Each element is stronger against the following element in the Pentagon and weak to the preceding one.
  • The Cameo: Many characters yet to be added to the game can be seen in the art of the different battle cards.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The overall lighthearted tone of the story becomes a lot more serious during the Epic Quest chapters. Episode 2 takes it even further than the first two did by having Igniz conquer the world halfway through the first chapter.
  • Character Select Forcing:
    • League seasons often limit the characters players can use to compete based on their type.
    • Characters available to use in Championship changes weekly, with some weeks restricting the entry to only one type of fighters, others to KOF originals, others to only males, and so on.
    • A certain series of Epic Quest missions require specific characters to be on the team in order to complete them. While Episode 0 simply puts extra souls for the requested characters, Episode 2 locks the unique special cards behind the final ones.
    • Chapters 2 and 3 of Epic Quest Episode 1 do this with color and class respectively: Not using the allotted color or class will result in any damage done to enemies also being reflected at you, making it practically impossible to clear the stage otherwise.
      • Chapter 3 of Episode 1 also has a downplayed example: Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru get buffs in all of the stages, encouraging the player to use them. Fitting, given that the boss of the chapter is Orochi. In a similar vein, the game encourages players to equip their "Three Sacred Treasures" cards, along with having False Trial Saisyu and False Conspiracy Yashiro on the team in some fashion to counter the final boss' gimmicks, though the boss is still beatable without them.
      • In a similar vein to the card example, Epic Quest Episode 2 has certain bosses that are immune to damage unless the unit attacking them is holding a specific option card.
    • Similar to Epic Quest Episode 1 Chapters 1 and 2, Reviving Hell Dungeon requires both specific Elemental Affinities and Awakening Levels to be completed and these requirements change with each stage, forcing the players to awaken as many fighters as possible to successfully tackle this mode. Eventually, that gets stacked on to force a specific character type in later tiers.
    • Every collaboration includes different events where the player is restricted to either only using Collaboration characters (Time Attack) or granting bonuses by using them (Rush and Score Attack Dungeons).
    • The Lunatic difficulty for story mode penalizes the player with an increase in taken damage for using anyone on the roster except for the characters who represent that specific KOF game.
  • Christmas Episode: One for each year so far. 2018 added themed versions of Leona, Whip, Chang, and Choi. 2019 added themed versions of Sylvie, Kasumi, Shingo, and Elizabeth. And 2020 added themed versions of B. Jenet and Goro Daimon, also much like the 2020 Halloween Event it also includes a proper storyline as part of its Score Dungeon. The story focuses on the 2019 Christmas Fighters' (Elisabeth, Kasumi, Shingo, and Sylvie) efforts to deliver presents to children all over the world and their search for a suitable Santa Claus replacement.
  • Cliffhanger: Story mode ends with chapter '98, with Kaya stuck with the player character inside the simulation, Noah taking over the system, Ryugo forced to follow Noah's command and Ein nowhere to be found. The story continues in the Epic Quest Chapters 0 and 1, and later on the '99 story mode.
  • The Coats Are Off: Played straight and inverted with both versions of Nameless. His 02 incarnation removes his cape at the start of every mission, only wearing it again once he has completed it, his BS version on the other hand, wear the cape at all times.
  • Combat Commentator: The WWE characters are The Voiceless so in exchange, Netmarble got Michael Cole himself to voice some lines that play anytime the WWE characters are used.
  • Combat Stilettos: Taken literally by some of the regular mob bosses and the aptly named Lucia Pierna, boss of the Purple Advent Dungeon.
  • Combination Attack:
    • John Cena's ultimate move is officially named the Attitude Adjustment. However, when actually executing the move, after he's done with Attitude Adjustment, he'll follow up with his Five Knuckle Shuffle (the one where he does his trademark "You can't see me" motion). Similarly, Kofi Kingston's Special Card is named Trouble in Paradise, but he finishes the attack with his Boom Drop.
    • The Orochi Saishu Ougi finishers have Kyo and Iori combining their forces to wipe out the opponent. Likewise with K' and Kula's Harmony & Conflict. Seems like a staple for Special Signature Fighters starting from Vol 2. (SS Mai and Athena do not have this benefit).
    • Galactica Electron has one of Sentai Rangers summon the other to use the eponymous Galactica Electron against the opponent.
    • Original Zero's Kyou Hoshi Meikaijin EX summons Glaugan, Krizalid, and Ron to beat up the opponent.
  • Composite Character:
    • Due to the way Battle cards work, you can give to your fighters, Ultimate Skills not available in their original games.
    • Seth Rollins is depicted as his fiery Face Architect persona visually, but his dialogue and profile both lean towards his Heel "Monday Night Messiah" gimmick.
    • BS Zero design combines elements from Zero's winning portraits from both '01 and '02UM
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In Time attack Novice, Greed Rugal, Festival Athena is able to use her ultimate move as soon as her intro finishes; ruining the player's run and forcing them to retry the stage. Worse yet, whether she uses it or not is completely randomized so is possible for her to multiple times back-to-back.
  • Crossover: The game has crossed over with Samurai Shodown, Gintama and at the end of 2019, Tekken 7, the last one likely as a response of SNK lending Geese Howard to appear as Guest Fighter in said game. 2020 on the other hand, brought an unexpected crossover with the WWE out all the things, a surprise rerun of the Gintama event -now accessible worldwide- and the Seven Knights to the game. 2021 on the other hand, introduced the cast of The Seven Deadly Sins, Dead or Alive, and Guilty Gear to the KOF Universe.
  • Convenient Replacement Character: The player character becomes one during the NESTS arc, replacing one (two in the case of '99) of the characters on one of the teams rather than being a solo entry like in the Orochi Arc. Ein eventually notices how the story is changing to revolve around the player, which leads her to give up on Kaya and pursue her own methods.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: Zig-Zagged, for Story mode, Epic Quests, and Power-up Dungeons, the same environments are reused. But seasonal events and collaborations have their own stages that are only used there and are retired once the event ends. Although you can trigger some of those stages in certain PvP modes by using characters from those events as team leaders.
  • Damage Over Time:
  • Demoted to Extra: Kyo gets hit with this in Story mode since the player character is the one who goes on to win every tournament, defeating every major villain in the process. This is explained because your character was meant to be an anomaly/bug that would derail the story off its proper course, with the Tuners trying to stop you, and Noah using you for her own ends.
    • However, it gets subverted with Orochi, since the Player can't beat it without the help of the Three Sacred Treasures.
    • It happens to Benimaru and Shingo in the '99 story, where they get replaced by the player character and Kaya as K's team members. Their only appearance, as a result, is in a NESTS lab while searching for Kyo.
    • Due to Seth getting injured by Lin, the Player, and Kaya take his place on Benimaru's team in the 2000 story.
    • The player character replaces Iori on his team in 2001, leaving him to only make a Big Damn Heroes moment late in the story. Ein takes notice of this.
    • Amusingly, this happens to Kaya and the player in the climax of the 2002 story since the story focuses on Nameless rebellion against NESTS.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Nameless is in the receiving one of a particularly brutal one in the final chapter of the 2002 story when Igniz confirms that Isolde is dead and he was an expendable asset.
  • Deuteragonist: Nameless in the 2002 chapter; All of the sub-chapter blurbs are from his perspective and he usually gets a scene in each sub-chapter exploring his past. By the final sub-chapter, he pretty much takes over as the focal character, leaving the protagonist more akin to a Viewpoint Character.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The Rock brings his signature interruption against Orochi, which left the deity utterly speechless.
    Orochi: Hmph, foolish human. My name is—
    The Rock: It doesn't matter what your name is! The Rock isn't interested in your name, your tattoos, or why you're glowing. Do you think making tattoos appear scares The Rock? The Rock also has tattoos.
    Orochi: .........
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Both The Rock and John Cena - two of the most prominent Badass Normals out of the entire roster - end up taking on godlike beings in their respective campaigns in the WWE crossover and win.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • The Tekken collaboration gave players one of two 5-star ranked characters for free at the start: '98 Iori and Jin using his Tekken 3 design. Whoever is not initially chosen can quickly be unlocked via events.
    • After the April 2020 update, new players can get Orochi Chris or Orochi Shermie as freebies, while returning players (who haven't log in at least 15 days) can pick between Goenitz, Mukai, or Omega Rugal as a freebie.
    • The infinite reroll banner, available to all accounts for one time only, was overhauled by the May Update with the addition of select FES characters: Orochi, Orochi Leona, Original Zero, Mukai, Omega Rugal, Krizalid, XIV Geese, Goenitz, Ash, Nakoruru, Orochi Iori, 2003 Terry, and NESTS Kyo.
    • The WWE event allowed players to either craft or earn Dr. of Thuganomics John Cena who was one of the strongest non-FES units available in the game at the time of the collaboration. The People's Champion version of the Rock was also available as a reward for finishing a series of in-game missions, and while not as strong as Cena he's still a great addition to anyone's roster.
    • The second Gintama event gave an automatic FES unit in the form of Elizabeth, with the resources to upgrade him available via the roulette. Kagura can also be obtained from the Super Mission associated with the event.
    • The 2020 Halloween Event made it possible to obtain FES Halloween Crasher Chris through a roulette or to craft him using 200 of his souls.
    • Keeping the tradition of previous collaborations, the 7 Knights one gave Rachel for free through a series of in-game missions. Interestingly, Rachel is on par with regular FES units.
    • The Seven Deadly Sins gave away the regular version of Elizabeth and the Tavern Master version of Meliodas as rewards for in-game missions and log-in bonus, respectively.
    • Special Signature Honoka and special Signature Marie are freebies from the DOA 6 Collaboration, Honoka is earned by getting character Memories and Marie through a roulette-like board game. Unusually, they're on par with some of the strongest units in the game.
  • Ditto Fighter: Elizabeth from Gintama copies moves from Terry, Mr. Big, Mai, Omega Rugal, and Orochi for his various skills, even donning their attire temporarily while performing their moves. Other versions of himself cosplaying as the first three are fought as bosses and regular enemies throughout the Rush Dungeon. Amusingly, Elizabeth has special links with all of the fighters he's emulating, with each link making allusions at the copied attacks. To wit: Please let me light my fist on fire... (Terry), So this is California... (Mr. Big), It should be easy to burn a fan (Mai), Does having one eye make you stronger? (Rugal), M-my body is floating?! (Orochi).
    • Hijikata mimics Terry's Power Geyser on his Super move Mayo Geyser, but as the name implies, he uses a bottle of mayonnaise instead of using Ki.
    • Honoka, already one in her home series, not only mimicked some moves from DOA fighters not present in the collab, but she also manages to copy Benimaru's Inazuma Sandan Geri and Kyo's Oniyaki (and unlike Shingo, she goes for the extension too).
  • Dramatic Irony: The player learns of Noah's true nature early on. The player character only realizes it when she confronts them during the '98 chapter. Likewise, the first Gintama collaboration was released globally way after Noah's true nature has been revealed on both servers, so players end up thinking like Gintoki that Noah was roping the main character for something.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Weaponized by Orochi Shermie.
  • Dream Match Game: Even taking out the crossovers with other properties, the comprehensive list of characters spanning the history of the series makes for match-ups that cannot be done in canon. For example, this allows somewhat newer fighters who have never been in any of the Unlimited Match games (Mukai, Saiki, Alice, Nakoruru, Sylvie, Rock) to battle older KOF characters, including those like Hinako and May Lee who haven't made appearances in the series for a long time.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Nameless' Boss Syndrome is revealed to be this in the 2002 story. After Igniz reveals to him that Isolde is dead and Nameless falls into the Despair Event Horizon, he stops holding back and unleashes his full power, easily defeating Igniz.
  • Enemy Mine: The extensive roster available means you can pair archnemesis together and sometimes, these combinations even unlock special buffs.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • The game launched with the entire roster available from the Orochi saga ('94-'98) and has been adding new characters in roughy, the same chronological order that the games themselves were released. However, as part of the Limited Events, themed versions of certain characters -like Angel or Kula- were added before their regular versions. ** Because Global got the Tekken collaboration early Stein not only appears prior to the event that introduces him but it also spoils the fact that he eventually chooses Ein as his master.
    • In a similar, but less spoiler-ish way, Rock Howard appears in the WWE event despite not being available in global at the time.
    • The Athena that gets involved in the Wonderland event is the '99 version, which strangely, wasn't playable in neither the Japanese or Global versions at the time.
    • Shine appears on the Soul Quest icon long before her introduction to the plotline in Epic Quest Episode 1.
    • Unlike the original arcade, Clone Zero makes a physical appearance at the end of the '99 story.
    • Sylvie and Nameless appear in Epic Quest Episode 2 on the road to Igniz. While both were involved with NESTS, Sylvie was introduced in KOF XIV, long after NESTS collapsed and Nameless has a complicated relation in general given the unusual circumstances in which he was introducednote  meaning his role in the organization was unexplored outside of background material.
  • Exposed to the Elements:
    • A staple for some of the series' lady fighters and a few male ones, but the Summer versions are particularly egregious about this.
    • Zigzagged with the WWE wrestlers, some like the Rock enters the fray wearing only a speedo while others like Kofi Kingston, Undertaker, or Becky Lynch wear full costumes.
    • Omega Rugal '95 and all versions of Orochi forego entirely the need of using a shirt.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Noah. Or rather, she has been evil from the start and using you to her own ends. To cap this off, during the Epic Quests, she changed her costume into a more black-themed dress, and Serina takes over in several places of announcing something whenever Noah would announce (eg: announcing powerful enemies during Core Quests)
    • Heel–Face Turn: On the other hand, one of the Tuners, Kaya, ends up having to help you out after Noah dumps her, sent Ein MIA, and also had Ryugo join her nefarious plans.
  • Fake Shemp:
    • Unshō Ishizuka is still credited as the voice actor of Heihachi Mishima, therefore his voices are from existing voice clips from his last Tekken game (7).
    • Bonne Jenet and Hotaru Futaba practically used their very first voice clips dating back from Garou: Mark of the Wolves (which was also re-used in their appearances at KOF XI and NeoGeo Battle Coliseum) instead of getting new voice actors like a majority of previous generation characters.
  • Fanservice:
    • Besides offering the chance to create teams using characters from every entry on the franchise, limited units tend to up the sex appeal from their regular versions.
    • With the exception of Lady Chang and arguably, the two Lady Zeroes, the Lady fighters are all designed to be MsFanservice, sometimes, in stark contrast to their male counterparts.
    • The Dead Or Alive collaboration is built entirely on this, there are no male characters, to begin with.
  • Featureless Protagonist: As opposed to other gacha games where some of the protagonists had their features described or even appearing in the picture, the protagonist's true face is completely unseen and undescribed, and you can't even assign a gender to them.
  • Freudian Trio: The Tuners form one, with Kaya as the Id, Ryugo as the Ego, and Ein as the Super Ego.
  • Fictional Currency: Souls are required to fully upgrade the playable characters. These are divided into four categories: Souls of the specific character, Souls of their rarity levelnote , Souls of their elemental affinity, and finally, rainbow-colored souls that can be used with any character.
  • Flat Character: Expect any character to lack any plot relevance in the original games to be reduced to this within the game's story mode.
  • Flash Forward: Due to the event staring Alice, the 2020 Halloween Rush Dungeon is set right before KOF XIV, while the main storyline is still in the NESTS arc.
  • Flunky Boss:
    • A number of bosses in general, though Dark World Yamazaki makes it a gameplay mechanic; Namely, defeating his goons quickly enough is the key to removing his buffs or making him more vulnerable.
    • False Trial Saisyu follows suit: He summons copies of himself throughout the fight and leaving them alone long enough results in him absorbing them and filling a rage meter.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water:
    • The premise behind the Samurai Shodown collaboration, with Haohmaru, suddenly finding himself in modern times and deciding to take the chance to enter KOF and fight strong opponents. At the end is revealed that Amakusa sent him to the future in an attempt to wear him down and make him susceptible to possession. When Haohmaru successfully fights back, Amakusa sends him back to the start of the story, trapping Haohmaru in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • This trope also applies to Seven Knights and Seven Deadly Sins as both of these series have characters from fantasy settings who suddenly end up in the modern world of KOF.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: True to his real-life gimmick, the appearance of Undertaker is usually preceded by an ominous bell, and occasionally the screen also turns black. The KOF characters soon learn that Undertaker is The Dreaded.
  • For Want of a Nail: The "NESTS" Rush Dungeon event does this in regards to Krizalid. With Krizalid surviving his betrayal at the hands of Clone Zero at the end of 99, he ends up being more involved with the later chapters of the NESTS saga, being the one to foil Clone Zero's plot in 2000 and removing the need for NESTS to create another clone of him in 2001. As a result, he manages to to weaken Iori enough to allow Zero to capture him, enabling him and Igniz to obtain the power of his flames before his fight with the finalists of 2001. Though Iori manages to free himself in time to assist Kyo, it's implied the fight with Igniz will be much harder for the both of them.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: Epic Quest Chapter 2 has level gates that require the player to be of a certain threshold to play through note . While it starts off manageable, it gets absurd by chapter 3 where a cumulative 270 levels are needed to fight the final boss.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The new type of Boss units referencing the infamous SNK Boss Syndrome is called Boss Syndrome and is abbreviated as BS Many players agree that is a fitting description for their cheapness.
    • The heroic counterpart of the Boss Syndrome units, are named Special Signature units; or SS.
  • Future Badass: Most FES fighters tend to be incarnations of characters taken from games that succeeded both the Orochi and NESTS sagas. Kyo, Iori, Terry, Geese, and Leona have FES variants using their appearances in the Ash saga (2003-XIII), while Ryo's FES variant comes from XIV; for example.
    • Inverted with Gintoki, whose FES variant is that of his younger self as the White Yaksha.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Or rather, differing game engine segregation. The Guilty Gear guests had their Instant-Kills as their ultimate skill, but they only deal huge damage instead of outright winning the match or wiping out the target instantly. Therefore, if the enemy still has some HP left, they still wouldn't surrender in spite of Dizzy unleashing a nuclear-level destruction next to them.
  • Gender Bender: Female versions of Billy Kane (no, not his little sister Lilly Kane, who played similarly to him in Maximum Impact 2), Chang Koehan and Yashiro Nanakase were added to the game as part of the game's 1st anniversary. Chang probably possesses the most egregious one out of all of them, transforming into a petite Short Tank who still wields the same giant ball s/he normally uses. The original arc explains it as the work of Stein, who sought to replace Kaya with a new master and offers each of the first three fighters an opportunity to gain more power if they fulfill that role. Funnily enough, not only do they never return back to being men, but Stein's disruption of the simulation causes them to co-exist with their original selves.
    • After the success of the Genderbent fighters (called Pretty Fighters in JPN, and Lady Fighters in GBL) with players all over the world, Netmarble announced in January 2020 that more Lady Fighters would be joining the roster, with female versions of Original Zero, Mr. Big, Clone Zero, Kim, Brian Battler, Maxima, and Geese as the second generation of Lady Fighters.
    • It's worth noting that, unlike most original character variants, the Lady fighters all need their own unique Special cards to access their respective skills, instead of being able to share cards used by their male counterparts.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Noah. If she just loses the 'h' in her name, it would be a slightly exotic girl name (Noa). As of now, she has the same name as the male Ark builder from The Bible.
  • Genre Savvy: Yashiro cuts his introduction really short towards The Rock because he knows The Rock's spectacular speech skills and would more likely interrupt him and get the discussion Off the Rails before he finished his proposal.
  • Glass Cannon: Attack types, in general, tend to have low HP, making them pretty fragile.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: BS Original Zero and BS Igniz have this as part of the Boss Syndrome makeover.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Between fighters and battle cards, there's a staggering amount of things to collect in this game.
  • Guest Fighter: Available through limited time events. These characters often come with various changes to the game's UI and even the announcer to have them properly reflect the series they come from:
    • Samurai Shodown: Haohmaru, Genjuro Kibagami, Ukyo Tachibana, Charlotte Christine Colde, Rimururu, and Amakusa Shiro Tokisada (Nakoruru doesn't count since she officially became part of the KOF roster in XIV).
    • Gintama: Gintoki Sakata, Kagura, Shinsuke Takasugi, Toshiro Hijikata, Sougo Okita, Isao Kondo, Kotarou Katsura, Elizabeth and Kamui. Gintoki's younger self as the White Yaksha is also present as an FES unit in the second event. (The last 4 listed were added as FES Units when the Gintama collaboration ran again in 2020.)
    • Tekken 7: Jin Kazama, Kazuya Mishima, Heihachi Mishima, Ling Xiaoyu, Paul Phoenix, and Armor King II. Both Jin and Xiaoyu possess alternate variants; Jin dons his classic Tekken 3 design while Xiaoyu wears her schoolgirl uniform from Tekken: Blood Vengeance.
    • WWE: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, John Cena, The Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Kofi Kingston and Becky Lynch. Both John Cena and the Rock possess alternate variants as with the Jin and Xiaoyu examples above; Cena dons his 2004 era "Doctor of Thuganomics" gear while the Rock uses his casual tanktop/sweatpants combination for his "People's Champion" persona. Notably, the Undertaker, as well as the default versions of the Rock and Cena, became the first three collaboration units to be classified as FES fighters.
    • Seven Knights: Shane, Dellons, Eileen, Rudy, and Rachel.
    • The Seven Deadly Sins: Meliodas, Elizabeth, King, Ban, Merlin, Diane. Similar to The Rock and John Cena from the WWE event, Elizabeth and Meliodas has alternate variants available: Tabern Mastern Meliodas, and Dancer Elizabeth.
    • Dead or Alive: Honoka, Marie Rose, Kasumi, and Nyotengu. Much like the WWE collaboration, all of them have regular outfits and Swimsuit versions. Furthermore, the versions in their regular outfits are the first Collaboration Special Signature units.
    • Guilty Gear: Sol Badguy, Baiken, May, I-no, Dizzy, and Ramlethal Valentine
  • Halloween Episode: The game has had one per year so far, for 2018's (2019 in global) holiday season it added Halloween themed variants of Angel, Shermie, Mature, Yashiro and Kula. For the 2019 Holiday season (released on Global in March 2020 as the "False Halloween" event) that added variants of Blue Mary, Heidern and Xiangfei. And the Halloween event of 2020 (released simultaneously worldwide) not only added themed variants of Alice and Chris, is also the first event to have a Rush Dungeon telling its story.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The removal system that unleashes hoards of Mooks on you will either come up with an in-universe justification, simply try to steal your invitation or, at worst, have someone get offended by your or Noah's actions, regardless of how nonsensical it may be. This is most apparent during KOF '94 when Kaya is manning the system.
  • Heroic Second Wind: All the WWE Superstars have a special, PvP-only ability called "Wrestlemania" that grants them this. When their health drops under 50%, they get a 30% attack boost and enable their special skills to destroy enemies' super armor when connecting.
    • Both versions of John Cena take this a step further, with FES Cena gaining a 50% damage reduction besides Wrestlemania effect and stunning the enemy after being hit. Thuganomics Cena on the other hand nullifies all damage for 3 seconds after dropping to less than 30% health plus Wrestlemania effect.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: After the WWE Superstars team successfully defeat Geese, Seth Rollins breaks away from the group to make it known that he is now the ruler of South Town.
  • Idol Singer: The Japanese 2020 Valentine Banner introduced to the game an Idol Unit called Valentine Diva KMA, comprised by Kula, May Lee and Alice.
  • Info Dump: Happens the first time the player unlocks a new feature. Also how the notices for new events are delivered.
  • Inside a Computer System: This version of the series is a computer simulation, of which the Tuners are in charge. They see the player character as a bug that is derailing the natural flow of events, compromising the system's stability.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: Amongst the affected heroes in the Epic Quests thanks to Noah is Goenitz... who's now Mecha-Goenitz.
  • Irony: During the Lady Fighters event, Kim and Geese find themselves confronted by the newly-transformed Chang and Billy, who try to prove their identities despite their new appearances; the former two laugh them off for being too ridiculous. In due time, both of them eventually got turned into Lady Fighters themselves.
  • Item Farming: The Power Up dungeons are designed to allow the players to easily farm Cores, Gold, Souls, Evolution Elements, and EXP capsules, all of which are needed to fully upgrade the playable characters.
  • It's All My Fault: For some unrevealed reason, Ein feels responsible for Noah's actions.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: A number of UI elements around the game show Noah in her Epic Quest outfit, spoiling a key twist in the Orochi Saga's storyline.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the NESTS story accompanying the BS Igniz and Original Zero's release, thanks to Ryugo's (Under Noah's pressure) tinkering, in the NESTS Saga, Clone Zero's plan is undone not by Kula and Candy, but by a surviving Krizalid who originally was killed by Clone Zero after running out of use in 99. As a bonus, Krizalid also kills him for betraying NESTS.
  • Later Installment Weirdness:
    • While previous Boss Syndrome type units have been Purposefully Overpowered, they by and large still looked like their usual selves (with Geese using his DLC costume from XIV as a basis.) Zero and Igniz on the other hand get largely different outfits, both black in color with purple Tron Lines, glowing eyes, and a constant aura around them, a massive departure from their old and playable selves. That said, Zero's outfit seems to take design cues from his winning portraits in both '01 and '02UM.
      • The Volume 4 units one-up even them by having one of the units be Leona, with her XII/XIII appearance who hasn't been featured as a boss outside of Orochi Leona.
      • Nameless gets similar Tron Lines to those found in BS Zero and Igniz, his cape remains all the time and his eyes turn red.
    • Doubling as one for the Epic Quest: Units from the first two Epic Quest episodes are either Gold or Silver rank, with the one exception (False Resurrection Chris) not being given out from the mode itself, and are listed under King of Fighters All Stars. Episode 2, however, gives all three of its units (Phantom Invader Maxima, Phantom Gatekeeper Zero, and Phantom Ruler Igniz) FES rank and files them under Boss Syndrome, making them not only the first proper FES Epic Quest units but also the first KOFAS-original variants to get Boss Syndrome/Signature Special status.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The way characters are classified according to their rarity, where characters with bronze borders are the weakest and purple border characters are the strongest.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: [[spoiler: Ryugo's musing at the end of the 2002 chapter calls to mind how Nameless' story is unlikely to be concluded in the main games compared to the ending he gets here.
  • Licensed Game: Of the The King of Fighters series.
  • Lightning Bruiser: You can turn a Defense Type unit into one of these by equipping them with either the Kaya FES Set, the Mr. Big set, or the Summer Kula set; all of which increase the ATK of the unit they're equipped to with a significant percentage of their DEF stat. Additionally, some FES units like K' and Iori XIII, Leona XII, or Saiki have effects and stats that let them dish out absurd levels of damage without help.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: More than 200 playable units and counting.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman: Averted with the Lady fighters, who don't realize they've been transformed into women. During the initial arc, the three fighters Stein transforms (Chang, Billy, and Yashiro) somehow fail to acknowledge that their genders and appearances have changed, despite those around them noticing. None of the subsequent characters also acknowledge the changes, still continuing to act like they were as men. At best, the Lady fighters who come close to acting differently based on their new bodies are those who subsequently became younger and physically smaller, like Kim becoming visibly tired for some of his moves or both Zeroes levitating instead of walking.
    • Played straight with some of the newer Lady fighters like Brian, Maxima, and Geese who not only acknowledge their new genders but also make strides to accept their newfound femininity in their biographies; Brian's boost in confidence has led him to focus on being the most beautiful woman in KOF history, Maxima's somewhat Stripperific outfit was in part due to his decision of shedding the excess weight his old gear had and maximizing his more slender physique to its fullest, and Geese decided to test the limits of his new body by challenging everyone in South Town.
  • Manipulative Bastard: It seemed that the Tuners are manipulating the outcome of KOF, thereby allowing your character to win the KOF tournaments that were supposed to be Kyo's job. However... Noah is the actual Manipulative Bitch, manipulating your efforts in order to obtain something that could be dangerous while keeping up the supportive plucky heroine mask. The Tuners are actually closer to Hero Antagonist, trying to stop Noah. By the end of it, Noah has completely dropped her 'supportive' mask and went full-on smug evil, roping Ryugo into her plans while Kaya ends up being your assistant and Ein went MIA.
  • Man of Kryptonite:
    • Ash's and Saiki's kits are specifically designed to counter burning, poison, and bleeding-focused tactics; making them a perfect pick for Epic Quest 1 Chapter 1 (where very enemy attack inflicts burning) or against NESTS Kyo, The Rock, Samurai Shodown, and Gintama characters.
    • Terry '03, Lady Zero and Lady Kim have petrify immunity, making them perfect counters against Mukai.
    • Baseball Vanessa has DoT immunity in her first skill and automatic Freeze if she's hit with an ultimate skill or by an enemy with Super/Hyper Armor; making her a valuable asset in Live PvP.
    • The Rock, John Cena, and Undertaker have skills that make them immune to Freeze, Shock/Poison, and Petrify, respectively.
    • Adel, Swimsuit Mature, and Kamui have skills that allow them to cancel the opponent's Hyper and Super Armor.
    • Swimsuit Vice and Original Zero reflect stun, making them perfect counter picks against Lady Big.
  • Mecha-Mook: Animated training dummies are the enemies in a few Power Up Dungeons.
  • Micro Transactions: Is a mobage, what did you expect?
  • Mini Mook: One of the events in the Gintama collaboration pits the player against big versions of Elizabeth that are backed by an army of miniature Elizabeths that spawn endlessly until the big one is defeated.
  • The Mole: Ryugo might be on evil Noah's side, but he's only doing so because it's the most pragmatic way to prevent her plans to come to fruition. He's secretly leaking data for the left-behind Kaya to help her and the player stop Noah.
  • Money Sink: Fully upgrading each of your characters and their skill cards will quickly add up.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Sentai Rangers Ralf & Clark basically harkens back to their special faceoff pose in KOF 98 when they struck a Sentai pose and called out "Cross Changer!" They even still had the quote.
    • Yuri and King have special portraits where their clothes are ripped during the '94 chapter simply to reference the way their clothes could get ripped in the original game.
    • Keeping it with his origin game, the version of Rugal with his full suit from '94 is the weakest version available of the infamous SNK Boss.
    • Almost all of the teams in the 98 chapter are based on team combinations that give special pictures upon completing the game. The lone exception, American Sports Team, is likely a reference to 98 being the last game they appear in before getting Put on a Bus.
      • The idea of 98 going Off the Rails due to the Hakkushu returning to life and the scrambled teams could also be a reference to 98's status as a Dream Match Game.
      • The June 2020 Score Event, The fathers' battle of passion focuses on 98's "Father Team" (Heidern, Takuma and Saisyu) note  ending with them deciding to enter the tournament and facing off against Omega Rugal. Kim and Rugal's appearances in the event could also be a stealth reference to them both being fathers note 
    • The team scenarios in the 2000 chapter are largely based on the team endings of that game, modified to remove the connections to the finale.
    • In a similar vein as '98, the 2002 chapter features unique teams that give ending pictures in Unlimited Match. Nameless attacking the protagonist outside of a formal match can be considered a reference to Nameless' status as a Bonus Boss who interrupts the Arcade Mode run.
    • Collaboration characters change the announcer and graphics to those from their origin series anytime they're used. With some of them like the Tekken representatives, taking their hit effects straight from Tekken 7. They also retain their Rage mechanic, indicated by a red aura above their models when low on health. The same goes to the Samurai Shodown characters (except Nakoruru, who's counted as a KOF XIV representative), right down to the botched Engrish message of "VICTOLY", because it's what was displayed in Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge.
    • Paul's victory pose is his now infamous botched somersault.
    • The special links of the Tekken characters have names alluding to Tekken lore, like Xiaoyu's Unrequited Love for Jin or the issues between the Mishima clan members.
    • False Trial Saisyu is a brainwashed version of Saisyu, much like in KOF '95. He's even identified as "Brainwashed Saisyu" during the fight instead of "False Trial Saisyu" like in the menus.
    • False Conspiracy Yashiro and False Resurrection Chris wear outfits similar to Goenitz's. They and Shermie were actually depicted in similar garments in their team ending illustration in KOF '98. Chris' use of the outfit could also double as a Development Gag, as concept art suggested he was originally going to appear in that outfit as far back as 94'.
    • False Conspiracy Yashiro's stage is a corrupted version of the stadium that Goenitz destroyed from 96. Similarly, False Advent Orochi's stage is a unique variant of the stage used by him and the other three Hakkushu members in 97. While Saisyu's stage appears to be unique, it bears similarities to a certain stage from 98, the second game he was playable.
    • In Epic Quest Episode 1 Chapter 2 and The Rock's chapter of the WWE collab, Yashiro hosts a KOF to generate enough energy to resurrect Orochi, much like how he and his teammates hijacked the 97 tournament for the same reason.
    • Crazy Envy Blue Mary has a similar color scheme and the schtick of 'evil Mary' with a version of Blue Mary found in Real Bout series where a non-canon version of her is depicted as a more aggressive Dark Action Girl.
    • The Undertaker having literal supernatural powers instead of gimmick was not the first time he did so. One of the WWE games that were the closest to a fighting game did so to Undertaker as well (back then, so did a few of other wrestlers, whereas now only Taker does so.)
    • Kofi Kingston is the only WWE wrestler to identify that The King of Fighters was a video game he played. This plays into his real-life love for gaming, especially with fighting games.
    • In his final stage from the WWE Rush Dungeon, The Rock taunts Orochi by demanding he become The Rock's sidekick in an upcoming movie, even describing a scene where Orochi uses his powers to save The Rock's car from crashing in mid-air.
    • Billy Kane's appearance as a woman slightly resembles that of his sister (and Moveset Clone in the Maximum Impact spin-offs) Lilly.
    • Lady Kim marks the second time Kim was subjected to a Gender Bender. That said, his transformed state appearance here vastly differs from his Midnight Bliss-inflicted one there, now appearing as a clumsy pre-teen girl wearing a Taekwondo uniform as opposed to a slightly younger woman wearing traditional feminine Korean clothing.
    • The three main WWE superstars that form the proper WWE Team in their campaign all notably challenged for world championships at WrestleMania 35 and won, likely playing a role behind why they were chosen.
    • As expected, the Gintama collab is filled with these:
      • A special match in the Gintama Rush Dungeon pits the player against the original three Lady Fighters, referencing how Gintama notably had a Gender Bender arc of their own.
      • Katsura's Ultimate move, Dancing All Night! is lifted straight from the third Opening of Yorinuki Gintama-san
      • Kondou's Ultimate Everyone's born with nothing has him covered in honey from head to toe and striking the same pose he did during the episode in which the Shinsengumi was tasked with finding the Shogun's pet beetle.
      • Okita's Ultimate move I'm serious now! is a reproduction of the slash he used to cut a moving car in half in episode 87 of the anime.
    • The Seven Knight characters all carry over the same attack animations from their game, now updated with full 3D models. Their ultimate attacks even use the same backgrounds and effects from their game as well.
    • The wings Balance type fighters gain have the same aesthetic used for Rock Howard's famous back turn victory pose, which is even more fitting considering that Rock himself is a Balance type in this game.
    • While still recognized as "Geese Howard", Boss Syndrome Geese is clearly based on Nightmare Geese from KOF XIV who, in turn, is based on the recurring Fatal Fury Bonus Boss. One of Geese's cores and one of his skills alludes to the name.
    • The Orochi Saishu Ougi finisher is a faithful representation of the way Kyo and Iori defeated Orochi in the canon end of '97. Additionally, Kyo's opening pose in his version almost perfectly emulates the box art of KOF 95.
    • Halfway through Epic Quest Episode 2 Chapter 1, the city gets blown up by Igniz' satellite, taking a page from what Clone Zero did to South Town at the end of KOF 2000.
    • Outside of Zero, Igniz, and Nameless most of the Boss Syndrome Units take their appearances from a form they took in their original games: Omega Rugal is based on his KOF 95 appearance, Krizalid is based on his round 1 form in KOF 99, Geese is based on his KOF XIV costume, Leona is based on a form she briefly takes during supers in KOF XIII and lastly, Goenitz is based on one of his colors in 2002 UM, in addition to making him fit colorwise with the rest of the Orochi Team.
    • In the tag Super Harmony & Discord, K' replicates the walking he does during the intro to KOF 00.
    • Boss Syndrome Leona's intro and winning screen reference her winning poses from KOF 02 UM. While BS Nameless' winning screen is a perfect recreation of one of his round win animations from the same game.
  • Mysterious Woman: Leah's role in the Gender Bender and '99 stories.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: None of the girls have any noticeable muscle but that doesn't stop them from being able to manhandle opponents twice their size with no issues.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the Lady fighters, who lose the musculature of their male forms after being transformed into women.
  • Nerd Glasses: Ryugo's defining characteristic. Shinpachi from Gintama is also only physically present via his glasses, which the Gintama characters mercilessly mock.
  • Never Found the Body: Nameless is last seen by Kaya and the player inside the self-destructing Deimos Mars Base, according to NetMarble, this was intentional since they can't give his story a definitive end without the explicit involvement of SNK.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The player character's actions are what allows Noah to take over the entire system.
    • Yeah Kaya, insult the Reality Warper Robot Buddy that suddenly fell on your lap simply because he isn't cute. Not like he could've stopped Noah without breaking a sweat.
  • Non-Dubbed Grunts:
    • The Tekken characters notably reuse voice clips and samples from Tekken 7. This means that Paul is the only character among the entire game's roster to enforce Surprisingly Good English, and much like their home series, Jin and Kazuya are reusing dialogue recorded for Tekken 4 almost 20 years ago. This proves to be the way to include Heihachi despite the deaths of his previous and current voice actors.
    • Strangely, they're also The Voiceless, since unlike the other characters in the game they don't have any voiced dialogues, just combat grunts.
    • Similarly, some KOF originals actually have dialogue entirely taken from other games as well. Alice and Rock's voiced lines for example are taken directly from XIV, while Jenet (and later Hotaru) reuses dialogue taken from Garou, which actually predates the Jin and Kazuya examples above as some of the oldest existing voicework recycled for this game.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Gintama cast spends the entirety of the collaboration event poking fun at the setting and Lampshade Hanging every single thing they can.
  • Off the Rails: The reason the Tuners are after the player: Given that they're a bug, by winning tournaments and generally displacing Kyo and important competitors, they run the risk of compromising the entire system and derailing the plot of the KOF games, leading to the Tuners to constantly attempt to stop them. In particular, The '97 tournament almost ended with Orochi destroying the world and the '98 tournament has various issues, primarily the Hakkeshu being split into Female and Male Orochi teams with a different background (though that's more due to Noah rather than the player).
    • The Boss Syndrome Rush Dungeon reveals that Noah wants to further change the story of KOF for her own amusement and has asked Ryugo to further modify the simulation in an attempt to achieve this. Ryugo, in turn, created the Boss Syndrome units to try and satisfy Noah without permanently modifying the simulation
    • The "Nightmare" Rush Dungeon begins as a retelling of the Tales of Ash Saga from Leona's perspective. Then, Goenitz shows up and Leona gets controlled.
  • One Steve Limit:
    • Amusingly averted. Since the game classifies the characters according to the Tournament they appeared in, it is entirely possible to have a full team comprised of the same character. With each unit coming from a different entry in the series or variants from special events.
    • Played straight in the Tekken 7 collaboration. Despite King being the original, more well-known Masked Luchador of Tekken, Armor King was chosen as the representative Masked Luchador because SNK already has its own King, who doesn't go by any other names. In fact, during the actual event, Jin came across King and at first expected to face the jaguar-masked wrestler instead of the Bifauxnen bouncer. Then again in The Seven Deadly Sins event, where there's a Sin named King, so in an attempt to look for him, Elizabeth, Hawk, Diane and Ban approached King the bouncer again, and she thought they're expecting King the jaguar-masked wrestler.
    • Comes close enough with Rock Howard and the Rock, which actually plays into the first part of the Rock's arc in the WWE storyline and the unique Option Card they share. And likewise, in John Cena's story, John Cena faces some of the newcomers of the 2000 roster; Ramon, Vanessa, and Seth... except the last one is Seth Rollins, because the SNK Seth wasn't implemented in the game at the time of the collaboration. Eventually, the KOF Seth got added to the game, allowing him to share space with the Monday Night Messiah.
    • There are now two characters who directly share a name with each other: the whip-wielding KOF original, and the alien from Gintama are both called Elizabeth. The developers poke fun at this by having Gintama's Elizabeth have a special link with KOF's Elizabeth called Don't confuse me!. And in a latter collab, there's Elizabeth Liones...
  • One-Man Army: As is the case for most KOF participants, some characters enter as single entries without forming teams. Notably, the three WWE Legends (John Cena, The Rock, The Undertaker) participate as single entries for their respective storylines in the WWE Rush Dungeon, contrasting their modern counterparts being put in a team in their arc.
  • One-Winged Angel:
    • Each of the people Noah corrupts in Epic Quest Episode 0 (except for Goenitz) summons a monstrous form after their initial defeat.
    • The Boss Syndrome units are effectively this for the regular SNK bosses.
  • Ore Onna: The Lady fighters still retain many of the speech patterns and behavioral traits they had as men, which leads to a lot of them - Billy and Brian in particular - speaking like this.
  • Out of Character: Everyone starts acting unlike themselves during the '98 chapter thanks to Noah tampering with the system. Kaya, being a tuner and therefore not part of the system, is the only one to notice this.
  • Original Generation: In addition to the Tuners, the game introduces gender-bend and themed variants (based on either holidays or pop culture references) for a bunch of characters.
  • Palette Swap:
    • Characters that don't vary their outfits between tournaments (like Terry or Ryo) use this to visually differentiate their versions from different tournaments. They also often differ in rank, auto combos, core tree progression, and skills. Furthermore, the limited mechanics of the game mean that no single incarnation of a character will have their full moveset. Notably, variants of the same character often allow them to equip any of their character-specific cards; for example, any version of Terry can equip cards for either of his two Limit Breaks.
    • That said, the rule is not universal. The Lady fighters, in addition to the KOF XIII variants of Kyo and Iori, cannot equip special cards used by their normal selves, nor can the latter two equip the option cards that give them their respective character-specific buffs. Ditto for the Orochi versions of Iori and Leona.
    • The Epic Quest episode 0 bosses change color depending on which version you fight: The first fight makes them blue, the rematch at the end of the chapter makes them orange, and the Chapter 5 versions are rainbow. Mecha Goenitz is unique in that both of his boss versions use separate palettes (black and red) from his playable version (blue, just like normal Goenitz).
  • Pet the Dog: Kazuya's Striker skill heals you. Yeah, the guy who's squarely Jerkass, thinks of only himself with a Lack of Empathy to others and can turn into the Devil... heals you when his other family members has more offense-oriented Striker skills. Additionally, his link bonus with Paul is listed as 'Friendly', when Kazuya usually didn't give him any damn after the events of Tekken 2.
  • Power Creep: The game periodically releases characters with new effects or new combinations of previously available ones that set the new standard for the following releases.
    • Taken to utterly ridiculous levels with the release of Boss Syndrome and Special Signature units.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Hilariously, the female version of Mr. Big. Ditto the female version of Chang. Lady Brian and Billy have similar designs as long-haired blonde beauties that both share a Striker bond boost based on this connection.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: While a decent amount of the OST is original to the game, many characters' Leitmotifs are taken directly from the games they appeared in for the first time. Much of the soundtrack tends to be lifted wholesale from XIII, with a few additions from XIV. The Tekken characters recycle stage music from Tekken 7, while the WWE wrestlers retain their regular theme music. Each of the characters has their own unique quirks, however:
    • Kyo and Iori use the themes associated with their EX versions from XIII ("Goodbye Esaka" and "Stormy Saxophone 2"), whereas their teammates from Team Japan and Team Yagami use their standard team songs from the same game ("Esaka Continues" and "Stormy Saxophone V"). Funnily enough, for their XIII incarnations, Iori still keeps that theme while Kyo instead gets a remix of "Tears", one of his themes from the NESTS saga.
    • Characters not playable in XIII often gain the theme songs of the teams they are associated with. For example, Chizuru uses the Women Fighters' theme while Chang, Choi, and May Lee all use the Kim Team's theme (funny enough, this actually does not apply to Kim himself, who gains a remix of "Seoul Town" exclusive to this game). As Yuri has canonically joined both the Women Fighters and Art of Fighting teams in the past, her playable variants use either one of those themes depending on which team she fought for in that year.
    • Despite being a canon team in XIII, the three members of the K' Team do not use their theme ("KDD-0063") from that game for most of their incarnations; K' and Maxima (along with the latter's Lady variant) use a new remix of "KDD-0075" while Kula uses the XIV remix of "Ice Place". "KDD-0063" wouldn't make an appearance until the actual XIII incarnation of K' became playable as an FES unit.
  • Redemption Earns Life: In his story chapter, John Cena successfully stops Igniz from self-destructing after being defeated and convinces him to use NESTS' vast resources in benefit of all mankind, an act that earns Igniz the moniker of "Benevolent God".
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Nameless' blue eyes turn red in his BS version,as expected he's significantly stronger in this version.
  • Retcon: The game shows how the betrayal of NESTS Team towards Kula, injuring Foxy, went in 2001: Angel did it alone with no assistance, previously K9999 did the heaviest damage while Angel acted like his enabler.
  • Rewriting Reality:
    • Noah completely derails the events of KOF 98 upon taking over the simulation. It gets even worse when she draws upon the power of the Phantom Gate, leading into the Epic Quest.
    • Stein, Ein's Robot Buddy literally rewrites reality at will. He's the one that separates the KOF and Tekken universes at the end of the Tekken collaboration and creates the Lady versions of Chang, Yashiro, and Billy during the Genderbent event due to needing a new "master". Not to say his methods of reversing his changes are complete; Stein ends up creating rifts during the Lady Fighters' storyline that causes the transformed characters to coexist with their original counterparts, for instance.
    • Epic Quest Episode 1 introduces Shine, who is responsible for the events of the episode and is working with Noah. However, she notes that her goals are closer to Ryugo's than Noah's.
    • Geese, Yashiro, Igniz, and Rugal somehow manages to capture the WWE superstars and trap them within the KOF universe.
  • Robot Me: Mecha Goenitz's description notes that he technically isn't Goenitz, but rather unused Goenitz data loaded into a robot body.
  • Sentai: One of the special dungeons has Ralf and Clark getting roped into playing the role of the Sentai Rangers (Growth Rangers in the Japanese version) Red -Ralf- and Blue -Clark-. These versions of Ralf and Clark can be obtained after clearing the dungeon and fulfilling certain requirements.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The second Gintama collab ends this way. The player and Kaya are finally successful in retrieving Stein... only for Stein to reveal that he let himself get captured and fleeing as soon as Kaya boots him back up.
  • SNK Boss:
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
    • Similar to The King of Fighters: Destiny, Mai gets top billing in promotional materials for the game. She's so prominent that anyone not familiar with the franchise would easily assume she's one of the main characters.
    • The story mode of KOF 02 is focused entirely on Nameless and his crusade to save Isolde.
  • Super Mode: The Special Signature modes are effectively this for the series protagonists. The units available are Mai and Athena from KOF XIII added in February 2021. The May 2021 update added Kyo and Iori from KOF '97. In August 2021 K' and Kula were released, late October 2021 brought Yuri and King -based on their XIII incarnations- to the game, and in December Chizuru Kagura was added to the group.
    • The Dead Or Alive collaboration introduced Special Signature versions of Kasumi, Honoka, Marie Rose, and Nyotengu showing that Special Signature isn't restricted to KOF protagonists.
    • During the Guilty Gear collaboration Sol Badguy, Baiken and Dizzy were introduced as Special Signature units.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: The tuners have golden eyes but when Kaya gets stranded inside the simulation, her eyes turn blue. Ein similarly loses her golden eyes after Noah attacks her at the beginning of the '98 storyline. The opposite happens to Noah once she takes over the system, her formerly blue eyes turn gold.
  • Surprisingly Good English: The roster is predominantly voiced in Japanese (complete with the usual Engrish seen from characters like Terry and Geese), but there are two notable exceptions. Paul speaks in English courtesy of his Tekken 7 voice clips being reused with Jamieson Price's voice work, while Michael Cole provides a running commentary for the WWE characters.
    • Averted by Krauser, known for being one of the only characters in previous Fatal Fury and KOF games to enforce this trope. He now has a Japanese voice actor instead of getting a native English speaker to provide his dialogue.
  • A Taste of Power:
    • Novice Time Attack gives you predefined teams of fully upgraded characters. This also includes the ability to temporarily play as time-limited characters outside of their normal events, like the guests and Special Signature/Boss Syndrome units.
    • Rush dungeons always include at least one stage where you're lent one of the featured units of said event.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The player character and Kaya get assigned to K' team during the '99 chapter but K' makes clear from the start that he's only working with them out of necessity and has zero interest in getting along with them.
  • Translation Train Wreck: The April 2020 update inflicted this to the Epic Quest text boxes, where every character gets mislabeled.
  • Tron Lines, Igniz, and Zero get this in their Boss Syndrome versions.
  • Turns Red: Present in a few ways:
    • In Soul Quest, every fighter gains super armor and immediately attempts to use their super move when their health bar is close to empty, on the highest difficulty. All of the end-of-stage bosses in Episode 1, Chapter 3 of the Epic Quest also do this.
    • The Epic Quest bosses usually do this after losing a certain amount of health, taking a moment to roar, and summoning mooks. Most drastic is Greed, who uses a different attack and somewhat changes his attack pattern after going berserk, Mecha Goenitz who no longer staggers, summons enemies and uses larger, more dangerous versions of his usual moves and False Conspiracy Yashiro who forgoes his barriers in favor of hitting hard and absolutely never staggering note .
    • False Trial Saisyu is unique in that, outside of changing the character class he's weak against, he doesn't seem to become enraged after health loss. Instead, he becomes enraged if too many of his copies are left alive for too long.
    • The Samurai Shodown and Tekken guests retain their respective series' Rage mechanics, giving them a boost to damage output when near death.
  • The Unintelligible: Carrying on from his origin series, Armor King continues to communicate just by roaring. Somehow, Iori is able to perfectly understand him, much to Iori's own confusion.
  • Unique Enemy: An odd Downplayed variant considering the type of game this is: False Resurrections Chris is currently the only fighter-based Epic Quest unit to be not be unlockable for the player via the mode itself; His chapter unlocks False Resurrection Orochi instead. False Resurrection Chris would eventually be released via Roulette Event in August 2021. Some year variants of characters are also unavailable to players, sometimes being released later than would be expected.
  • Updated Re-release: A collaboration Event example, since the original Gintama event was exclusive to Japan, in July 2020 it was made available worldwide but this time included 4 new characters: White Yaksha Gintoki, Kamui, Kotarou Katsura, and Elizabeth. A balance buff to all the previously released characters and new events and cards were also included.
  • Shapeshifting: In the main campaign, the player character - due to being The Ghost - participates by actually transforming into any of their collected fighters. Amusingly, the implications of facing a character as themselves or even past and future versions of them aren't brought up at all.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Everything the player does in Story fuels into Noah's more nefarious plans and after Orochi has been sealed in '97, she dumps him while Kaya recovers him and tries to fix things.
  • Villains Out Shopping: In the original Lady Fighters event, the New Faces team appear in a more friendly manner compared to their 97 (where they were blatantly Faux Affably Evil) and future appearances, with Shermie and Chris looking for Yashiro for the sake of band practice, rather than resurrecting Orochi.
  • The Voiceless:
    • The WWE wrestlers never let out a voice, not even grunting. Michael Cole instead fills in their voiceover via commentary. More or less a Justified Trope, since asking the WWE wrestlers to directly voice themselves would shoot the licensing fee to the stratosphere and they've been doing this trope for other WWE video games.
    • Despite having a talking sprite, Foxy is completely silent, not even using Non-Dubbed Grunts from whatever games she was in (2001, 2002, 2002UM), despite Haruna Ikezawa gladly providing new voice lines for her other role (Athena).
  • Vocal Evolution: Many of the new seiyuu introduced on XIV deliver noticeably improved performances compared to their debut game.
  • Weird Crossover: With WWE. Not something you'd expect to say... Heck, during the event story, Kofi Kingston acknowledges that KOF is a game he played, and then he got dragged into it and treated it as if nothing is weird at all. Not even, in his own words, people who shoot out fire and lightning.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The opening cutscene for the 96 storyline begins with a flashback of Ryugo confronting Noah after knocking you unconscious. Then she shocks him by referring to him by his name and making it clear that she knows him. This is one of the earliest clues as to Noah's true identity.
    • Chapter 4 of the '97 tournament has your character wandering the streets in search of Noah's whereabouts while Noah goes to meet with Ein. Their conversation reveals Noah has a history with the Tuners, that Ein treats the system as a person (even saying that "he is the memory of this world"), and that Noah was apparently allowed to keep her memories from whatever event turned her into an NPC in the system anyway.
    • The '98 storyline in its entirety counts, as it sets up the events of both the first two Epic Quest chapters and the NESTS saga. Chapter 7 in particular marks the point where your character finally learns of Noah's true nature and the reveal that Noah was the former director of the Tuners.
  • Wham Line: The Abyssal Darkness dungeon is an original story with the first half staring the Art of Fighting characters and the second featuring the Ikari Soldiers team. Nothing about the event seems particularly strange aside from Orochi being one of the featured units... until the ending where Leona hears Goenitz speaking to her about a reunion, foreshadowing both as the next batch of Boss Syndrome characters.
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    • Accompanying the second Boss Syndrome, the 'Disturbance in Southtown' Rush Event is based on the events of the first Art of Fighting, with certain characters replacing the original Art of Fighting characters that never made it to the KOF series (Kasumi replacing her father, Chang replacing Jack Turner, Choi replacing Lee Pai Long, Heavy D! replacing Mickey Rogers, Clark replacing John Crawley)... and Mr. Big is in 'Pretty Big' version. The final chapter of the dungeon reveals that the changes are due to the whole thing being Stein telling the story to Ein, and he replaced Mr. Big with his female counterpart because Ein hates bald men.
    • The Third Boss Syndrome Rush Dungeon, simply titled "NESTS" is a retelling of the NESTS saga games, streamlined and focused on Iori's quest to find Kyo. At first. Similarly, the "Fight in Search of the Self" Rush dungeon for the third Signature Special retells the climaxes of the NESTS trilogy from K' and Maxima's perspectives.
    • The Fourth Volume Boss Syndrome Rush Dungeon Nightmare is a retelling of the events from KOF '03 and KOF XIII from the perspective of the Ikari Warriors' team with the difference of Goenitz being alive and crashing those tournaments to recruit Leona to his cause. The epilogue of the story reveals the whole thing was Ryugo running an experiment in the simulation.
    • The fourth Special Signature Rush Dungeon, Charm of the Original, retells the formation of the original Women Fighter's Team in '94 in Chapter 1, and the Woman Fighter's Team story of XIII in Chapter 2.

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