King of Fighters
Following the time honored custom.
This year, we will adopt a special rule
Of competition between teams of 3 fighters
The 1994 King of Fighters Tournament is under way, with a mysterious new sponsor to boot. Twenty four fighters from around the world gather in teams of three to compete for the eponymous title, all while something darker festers in the shadows.
The cast of fighters features both original characters and fighters from across other SNK series including Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, and Psycho Soldier. This is also the debut of KOF's Original Generation protagonist, Kyo Kusanagi, and his long-standing partners, Benimaru Nikaido and Goro Daimon, as well as the legendary SNK Boss Rugal Bernstein.
In terms of gameplay, it can be said KOF '94 is a mashup of Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and Samurai Shodown, as all of their fighting systems can be found here. Both the evasion move and the strong "Blow Back" attack from Fatal Fury are here, so are the quick dash and the power gauge from Art of Fighting. Maxing out the gauge gives your move an extra damage boost, just like Samurai Shodown. Then there's KOF's own innovation introduced in this title was the series' signature 3 Vs. 3 system, as opposed to the classic 1 Vs. 1 format. Players have to select a team of three fighters, each with a different set of Special Moves, and each round is won by defeating a different fighter from the opponent's team. Understanding the dynamics between all these characters, as well as picking a proper order to send them in a match, has remained integral part of the series ever since.
In 2004, a remake was release called The King of Fighters '94: Re-Bout for the PlayStation 2, which retroactively added Team Edit to the game, along with new 3D stages, upscaled sprites and the addition of Saisyu Kusanagi to the roster. The original game can also be played on modern consoles as part of the ACA Neo Geo lineup.
This work provides examples of:
- Adaptational Early Appearance: Re-Bout adds Saisyu as a playable character, who originally appeared as a one-off in Team Japan's story, using his graphics from KOF '95.
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: In the second round of Rugal's fight, the ocean in the background starts to flash red.
- Artistic License Biology: The Brazil stage has a baboon roaming behind, but the species is native to Africa.
- Big Bad: Rugal Bernstein, the sponsor of the KOF tournament.
- The Cameo:
- The Italy stage has a crowd of characters from the Fatal Fury series. From left to right: Cheng Sinzan, Raiden (Big Bear), Tung Fu Rue, Duck King, and Jubei Yamada.
- The Mexico stage has Ryuhaku Todoh from Art of Fighting, as well as Roddy and Cathy from Top Hunter.
- The 3D stages from Re-Bout add tons of SNK characters, including the KOF cast that'd appear in future games.
- Both Geese and Krauser make a cameo in Team Italy's ending, conversing about Rugal's failure to defeat the team.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Besides being an SNK Boss, obviously, Rugal in his second form never gets stunned no matter how many hits you land on him.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Saisyu (Kyo's father) and Mature (Rugal's secretary at the moment, later a part of Iori's team) briefly show up in this game, before their proper debut in KOF '95 and '96, respectively.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- No Team Edit at all in the original version; you were stuck to picking a pre-planned team and nothing else.
- Said teams had more of a link to the countries they represented in some fashion (Team Italy's stage being Andy's from Fatal Fury 2 and featuring numerous cameos or Team Brazil, the Ikari Warriors, named as such since they were in a Brazilian jungle.)
- Every single individual member had a win quote for every opposing team. Later games only gave them special winquotes to certain fighters.
- Storywise, the game had no links to the Orochi or NESTS plot as a whole, and was simply Rugal running a tournament. Iori Yagami is also nowhere to be seen.
- Ryo and Robert's Haoh Sho Koh Kens were specials rather than DMs, though with long startup to offset them.
- Executive Suite Fight: You fight Rugal in his aircraft carrier, but its interior looks like this trope, complete with red carpets.
- The Hero: Kyo Kusanagi, the leader of Team Japan. He's the one that goes on to canonically defeat Rugal.
- Hero of Another Story: The protagonists of several other SNK titles appear as the leaders of their respective teams; this includes Terry Bogard, Ryo Sakazaki, Athena Asamiya, and Ralf and Clark.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Rugal Bernstein spends the first round sparring without any kind of special move. If you beat him, he'll declare he shall "fight you with full strength," initiating the second fight.
- Kid Hero: The protagonist, Kyo Kusanagi, is a high schooler competing in a worldwide martial arts tournament. Along with him there's also Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou who are part of Team China.
- Lost in Translation: The English script in KOF '94 loses a lot from the Japanese version, because the huge size of English fonts forced it to cut down the lines. One example is that, if Athena wins against the Team England, she broke the fourth wall by declaring she's the original SNK heroine, referring to that her game (Psycho Soldier) is older than Team England's (Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting). This line was changed in the English version to "I'm sorry, sisters," which doesn't make sense without knowing this.
- Mythology Gag:
- All Fatal Fury characters retain crounch-moving from their home series.
- Yuri and King will suffer Clothing Damage when KO'ed with special moves, like in Art of Fighting.
- Playing as Team Italy will have Rugal remark how they had previously beaten Geese and Krauser, who both hosted the King of Fighters Tournament previously.
- Power Trio: Every team in the game is comprised of three powerful fighters. More enforced in this installment than the others, as there's no Team Edit.
- Practical Taunt: Doing a taunt depletes the opponent's power gauge unless it's already maxed out, a feature that'd stay in the KOF games that use the Art of Fighting gauge system, all the way up until KOF '98.
- Sequential Boss: The match against Rugal is a two-phase boss fight, starting with him in tuxedo that only uses basic moves, before showing his true colors as the SNK Boss. Each phase is treated like a battle against individual team member, and you only get a small portion of your current character's health restored between them.
- Taking You with Me: Rugal sets his ship to detonate after losing both fights. It fails no matter which team you choose, as the heroes are alive and well in all endings.
- Three Round Deathmatch: One of the first notable aversions in the genre. The team-based gameplay of '94 ensured fights always lasted at least three rounds and can stretch to five.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In Team Japan's story, Kyo meets his father in Rugal's ship, bloodied from his failed attempt at taking on Rugal, but he doesn't appear or get mentioned in the ending. You get to learn what happened to him in KOF '95.