As an alternative fighting game series for many over the years, the King of Fighters from SNK has been incredibly popular among fans of the genre. Not only does the series have its own style of characters with anime flair, but it’s had a number of releases that were impactful to the fighting game genre. Since the release of the first KOF game in 1994, there have been over fifteen mainline KOF entries, with extra spinoffs released alongside them. The King of Fighters: The Ultimate History book from Bitmap Books tries to compile nearly everything about the fighting game series into one place, giving KOF fans a massive resource for one of their favorite series. While there are a few spots that the book glances over quickly, this is definitely one of the hardcover books you’ll want to look at if you’re a fan of fighting games.
The best part about this the King of Fighters: The Ultimate History is the inclusion of nearly every piece of artwork that was released from SNK. Tons of artwork by fighting game artist Shinkiro is included in the book, with many iconic Neo Geo box art and promotional material that was used during some of the big releases for KOF games. If you saw a magazine ad that highlighted the release of the King of Fighters 95 or 2000, chances are you’ll find it in this book. It’s a great thing for fans to see tons of visual material that may have been limited to specific territories back in the day. Luckily, this KOF book goes over everything on a global scale, so you won’t be missing out on anything that was exclusive to Japan, Europe, or North America.
But since this is the ultimate history of the franchise, the beginning sections of this hardcover book have a detailed history of the franchise’s legacy. From the surprising origins that started at Capcom with the release of the very first Street Fighter game through the release of KOF 15, this book goes over nearly everything. What’s more is how The King of Fighters: The Ultimate History includes interviews with many of the key figures in development for KOF games. This includes lead planners, developers, producers, and musicians that were vital to the creation of the games and responsible for the series’ success over the years. The interviews themselves are interesting and give some perspective on the timeframe where the games were made, as well as how difficult it was to put together many aspects of KOF that many have come to love.
If there’s one thing that stands out as a major omission of the book it’s how it glances over the period of the series that included the 3D King of Fighters games. This would include games like KOF Maximum Impact and its sequel, which are considered non-canon games. Other games that are parallel to the KOF series, like Garou: Mark of the Wolves, are mentioned numerous times because of their relevance to the KOF series as a whole, but the Maximum Impact games are limited to one reference throughout the whole book.
Although not considered canon, this era of KOF was important because it was a jump to 3D for the series that was in many ways similar to Street Fighter with the EX series. It would have given a more complete history and interesting insight to include more about the Maximum Impact games and peer into why those games were not received well. It would’ve also been interesting to include any visual material for those games alongside the rest of the KOF art within the book, showing a juxtaposition of the classic 2D sprites and how the KOF cast didn’t have a smooth jump to 3D. An opportunity for the book to show why later games like KOF 15 worked better for 3D renditions of the characters is also lost by not including Maximum Impact a bit more.
Luckily, The King of Fighters: The Ultimate History has more than enough to make up for what is not included. There are tons of screenshots from every game, frames of animation for characters, background shots of stages in multiple titles, as well as concept art and design documents. Early versions of characters like Terry Bogard and Kyo Kusanagi really showcase the effort and time taken for developing KOF characters. The series has always stood out from games like Street Fighter because of its visuals and willingness to go in directions that were radically different.
Anybody that loves the King of Fighters games will get something out of this book. There’s enough text to detail the history of the series and cover all of the important information, but plenty of visual material to enjoy and balance things out. If you’re a fan of video game art, then you’ll really love the diverse amount of key art and official promos from throughout the KOF series that are given full-page spreads. Despite a few missing bullet points, this hardcover book does justice to the King of Fighters series in a very significant way that makes it a must-own for fans.
What do you think of the King of Fighters games? Would you pick up The King of Fighters: The Ultimate History for your own collection? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comment section.
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