The King of Fighters fighting game series, produced by SNK Playmore, includes a wide cast of characters, some of which are taken from other SNK games. The story takes place in a fictional universe in which an annual series of 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 fighting tournaments are held.
The first game in the series introduces the initial main character of the series, Kyo Kusanagi, a young Japanese fighter who is the heir to a powerful group of martial artists having pyrokinetic abilities. Kyo fights against the Kusanagi clan's enemies, his rival Iori Yagami, and the god Orochi and its human followers, among others. The first four games in the series revolve about these fights, while The King of Fighters '99 introduces a new story arc, revolving around K', a young man who seeks to destroy the mysterious NESTS organization because they kidnapped him at an early age and stripped him of his past memories, so that they could force him to be a fighter under their control. In The King of Fighters 2003, a new character named Ash Crimson enters the tournament, to steal the powers of the clans who sealed the Orochi in the past for an unknown reason. A new group of antagonists, known as Those From the Past, also appears in the series; they want to obtain Orochi's power for the purpose of giving it to their unknown master.
The plot and the characters came from the Yamata no Orochi legend. There are also several characters in the games that are parodies or homages to several popular anime, manga, and films. Merchandise based on the characters has also been released, including action figures and keychains. The characters have garnered praise from several video game publications for the quality of their designs and movesets. Comments focused on the lack of improvements in some of the characters, but added that the roster is greatly diverse.
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1UP.com labelled the characters from the series as one of SNK's best creations, claiming that their appearances and quotations are all "cool"—although they commented some of the storylines are "nonsense" ... The boss characters were criticized by multiple reviewers for being too difficult to defeat, with Krizalid from The King of Fighters '99 being singled out as too powerful ...