Review: The King of Fighters: The Ultimate Story

The King of Fighters: The Ultimate Story
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Capcom’s street fighter has had many rivals over the years, including such as Virtua Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Guilty gear. One franchise, however, stands out as the true competitor: SNK’s king of fighters. Since its launch in 1994, the series has offered what many fans see as the only legitimate alternative to Capcom’s one-for-one offering, and was at one point more popular than Street Fighter in Japanese arcades. After a rather barren period for the franchise (and arguably the genre in general), King of Fighters is enjoying a minor resurgence, making Bitmap Books’ release of The King Of Fighters: The Ultimate History all the more timely.

At over 540 pages and packed with interviews, illustrations, screenshots and more, The King Of Fighters: The Ultimate History follows in the footsteps of Metal Slug: The Ultimate History and Neo-Geo: A Visual History; All of these books are the result of the publisher’s close relationship with SNK, a relationship that has provided unprecedented access to the company’s vaults — as well as its past and present collaborators.

The book covers the complete history of the series, from its beginnings in the fatal rage Franchise – which itself was seen as a spiritual successor to the 1987 original street fighter (Creators Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto would be leaving Capcom after its release for SNK) – down to the latest entry, King of Fighters XV. The origins of the game that started out as a side scrolling brawler survivor, is also detailed, with the developers filling in gaps in the timeline that were previously left blank. Bitmap Books proudly announces that this is the first time that the entire story of King of Fighters is fully told, and it’s hard to argue with that fact.

We also get pages and pages of gorgeous in-game onscreen art, as well as a wealth of hard-drawn concept and character art – including some sketches by fighters who never made it into either game. There’s also a generous helping of full-color key art, most of which has been used to promote each title or adorn the covers and instruction manuals of domestic ports. Classic artwork by legendary illustrator Toshiaki “Shinkiro” Mori runs throughout the series and still looks absolutely stunning today. Bitmap’s typically brilliant production values ​​are once again evident here; The paper is of unrivaled quality and that enables the art Yes, really seem.

Arguably the book’s most stunning element for seasoned fans is the section at the end, which features question-and-answer conversations with some of the key people who have worked on the franchise since 1994. Led by none other than former video game journalist and occasional Nintendo Life contributor James Mielke (along with his wife Joy), these interviews feature Masanori Kuwasashi (Planer on KOF ’94 to ’96), Toyohisa Tanabe (Head Planner, KOF ’94 to ’96), Shinichi Shimizu (Head Programmer, KOF ’94 to ’96), Masaki Kukino (Producer, KOF XII to XIII), Hideki Asanaka (musician at KOF ’95 to XV) and Eisuke Oguru (artist, KOF 2000 to XV) and are a veritable treasure trove of new insights and information.

Bitmap Books continues to set the standard when it comes to such things; This is undoubtedly an illustrated book, but unlike so many gaming releases that clutter bookstore shelves, it’s not busy rehashing the same information and artwork. The King Of Fighters: The Ultimate History aims to provide an experience that can be enjoyed by newcomers and series veterans alike – and is absolutely essential reading for anyone who considers themselves a fighting game fanatic.

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Fry Electronics Team

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