We’ve got a good one for you today, folks. As some of you may know, yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of SNK’s classic arcade fighting game, The King of Fighters ’94!
Released in Japanese arcades for SNK’s Neo-Geo MVS hardware on August 25, 1994, The King of Fighters ’94 is the first game in SNK’s long running King of Fighters series. Unique for its time, KOF ’94 features eight teams consisting of three fighters from around the globe. Matches consist of battles between two teams of three fighters, instead of the more common two rounds between two fighters matchup. Matches are over when one team has all of its fighters knocked out first.
The game’s plot centers on Rugal Bernstein, a notorious criminal who holds the “King of Fighters” tournament in order to seek out the world’s best warriors. Of course, he does this to have a good ‘ol evil time, but is opposed by heroes such as Kyo Kusanagi and the Japan team, as well as brothers Terry and Andy Bogard (of Fatal Fury fame) from the Italy team.
KOF ’94 features characters from a number of SNK’s franchises such as Psycho Soldier, Art of Fighting, and Metal Slug. This was an innovative practice at the time, and Sega and Nintendo both would later follow suit with Fighters Megamix and Super Smash Bros. respectively. However, some characters, specifically series hero Kusanagi and villain Bernstein, were created especially the game. If you’re interested, you can see some of these characters in the intro to KOF ’94 (respect to Ferdaus Ahmad Zaki for the upload), which is embedded below.
KOF ’94 was a hit upon its release, leading to the start of an enduring franchise of video games that had a new title released each year for several years. The series has been successful in merchandise (including comic books and action figures), and has even been adapted into to an animated series and live action movie.
I remember the first time I saw KOF ’94. It was in an Aladdin’s Castle arcade room at Harlem & Irving Plaza here in Illinois. Upon first glance, I wasn’t exactly sure what the game was. Although it was a 2D fighting game, it didn’t look like Street Fighter (KOF’s sprites were much bigger) and it didn’t look like any of the Mortal Kombat games either. However, from the moment I saw Kyo’s hand burn his invitation to the KOF tournament in the game’s intro, I became intrigued. It may not have been clear exactly what I was witnessing, but it was something serious. After some hesitation, I finally decided to give the game a try.
I hated it.
Perhaps it was my familiarity with Street Fighter that prevented me from initially enjoying KOF ’94 , but most likely it was due to my lack of fighting game skill. Still, Street Fighter provided the foundation for what I knew about fighting games, mostly because I had not played SNK’s previous fighting games often (I may have played an Art of Fighting game once at the most).
Some of the things I learned from Street Fighter– namely the quarter-circle forward punch command for that game’s “Hadoken” special move– actually worked in KOF ’94, but only with certain characters. Since I was unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics, I spent much of the match just jumping up and down while kicking. If you hadn’t guessed, the game’s A.I. whooped me.
Despite the rough beginning, there were things about the game that I did appreciate, first of which were its graphics. Like many SNK games, KOF ’94 had colorful, large, detailed 2D character sprites, really some of the best of its time. Furthermore, the game had great sound effects, especially evident in the hits characters delivered. Every blow sounded like it came out of a martial-arts film, providing a great sensation of damage.
It wasn’t until my adult years that I learned to really appreciate KOF for what is, though ironically enough, that appreciation came through a Capcom fighting game, 2001’s Capcom vs. SNK 2.
This game was a collaborative effort between Capcom and SNK, and included characters from both companies’ games. CVS2 features a tutorial I used to take time and actually learn many of SNK’s characters, an effort that served me well in playing the later games in the KOF series.
That about does it for this segment. For a nice tribute to the KOF series, do check out Game Art HQ’s site for a number of great illustrations by fans of the series. Until next time.
Peace & Pixels