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The Faces of Battle: Protagonists in the King of Fighters Franchise

Elizbar Ramazashvili
7 min

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The Faces of Battle: Protagonists in the King of Fighters Franchise
These are the faces of the series

game genre. This beloved series, developed by SNK, has introduced a diverse roster of characters, each with their unique storylines and fighting styles. Among these characters, the protagonists of KOF stand out as the central figures in the series, driving the narrative and captivating players with their compelling stories and impressive martial skills. In this article, we will explore the notable protagonists of the King of Fighters franchise, delving into their backgrounds, personalities, and contributions to the series.

Kyo Kusanagi

Kyo Kusanagi, a member of the Kusanagi Clan and the high school hero of the franchise, is one of the most iconic protagonists in the King of Fighters series. His character design and moves have become synonymous with the franchise itself. Kyo's background is steeped in family traditions and secrets, making him a complex and intriguing character.

Kyo is characterized by his rebellious and hot-headed personality, which sets the stage for many of the clashes and rivalries within the series. Despite his somewhat abrasive demeanor, he is a fiercely loyal friend and a dedicated fighter. His pyrokinetic abilities, which allow him to control flames, have made him a fan-favorite and a formidable force in the KOF tournaments.

One of the standout aspects of Kyo's character is his rivalry with Iori Yagami, a feud that spans the entire series. This long-standing rivalry has added depth and drama to the KOF storyline, making Kyo a central figure in the ongoing narrative of the franchise.

Iori Yagami

Iori Yagami, Kyo Kusanagi's perennial rival, brings a dark and enigmatic presence to the KOF series. His background is deeply tied to his clan's bloodline and its connection to Orochi, a malevolent and powerful being within the series' lore. Iori is known for his brooding and intense personality, which serves as a stark contrast to Kyo's fiery disposition.

Iori's fighting style revolves around his mastery of the Yasakani Clan's ancient martial arts, augmented by his ability to manipulate purple flames. His unique fighting style and the relentless rivalry with Kyo make him a captivating character.

Despite his harsh exterior, Iori is a complex character with his own inner struggles, adding depth to the KOF storyline. The intense feud between Iori and Kyo has been a driving force in the series, offering players a rich narrative filled with emotional and psychological layers.

Ash Crimson

Ash Crimson is a central character in the KOF series, particularly during the Ash Saga, which includes The King of Fighters 2003 through The King of Fighters XIII. His character is shrouded in mystery, manipulation, and cunning, adding a layer of intrigue and complexity to the franchise.

Ash's character is a stark contrast to many of the franchise's other protagonists. He is often portrayed as flamboyant, charming, and witty, with a penchant for theatrics. His design, featuring a distinctive hat and scarf, is a visual standout in the series.

However, what truly sets Ash apart is his role as a master manipulator within the series' overarching storyline. He orchestrates a grand scheme to steal the powers of other KOF combatants, including Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami. This plotline, filled with betrayals and alliances, drives much of the Ash Saga's narrative and introduces a level of complexity not seen in earlier iterations of the series.

Ash's character undergoes significant development throughout the Ash Saga, revealing a more multifaceted individual than initially meets the eye. His motivations and alliances shift, keeping players engaged in the evolving storyline. 


Shun'Ei, introduced in The King of Fighters XIV, is a character who brings a fresh and unique perspective to the series. He stands out as a central protagonist in the post-NESTS saga era and is often associated with the KOF's newest storyline.

Shun'Ei is characterized by his mysterious background and incredible martial abilities, particularly his control over a mysterious power known as the "Dragon's Fist." He hails from the "Dragon Tiger" clan, where he was the sole inheritor of this extraordinary power, setting the stage for his pivotal role in the KOF tournaments.

Shun'Ei's personality is notably more reserved and introspective compared to some of the franchise's other protagonists. He is portrayed as a thoughtful and soft-spoken individual, but beneath this calm exterior lies a burning determination to uncover the truth about his abilities and heritage.

His fighting style is a fusion of traditional martial arts and his unique Dragon's Fist abilities, resulting in a visually impressive set of moves. Shun'Ei's design, featuring his striking red and black attire and his dragon-themed moves, has quickly made him a fan-favorite and a standout character in KOF XV.

One of Shun'Ei's defining characteristics is his pivotal role in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the Dragon's Fist power and its connection to the events in the KOF storyline. As players progress through the KOF narrative, they discover Shun'Ei's relentless pursuit of answers, leading to significant revelations about the series' overarching plot.

The King of Fighters franchise stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of 2D fighting games and the power of strong, well-developed protagonists. These characters, with their unique backgrounds, personalities, and fighting styles, have contributed to the series' lasting legacy. From the iconic Kyo Kusanagi and Terry Bogard to the evolving Athena Asamiya and the enigmatic Iori Yagami, each protagonist brings their own charm and depth to the KOF universe.

As the series continues to evolve, new characters are introduced, and older ones undergo further development, ensuring that the King of Fighters remains a cornerstone of the fighting game genre. These protagonists not only entertain with their impressive moves and flashy battles but also engage players with their rich stories, rivalries, and personalities, creating a timeless and fun gaming experience.

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