The King of Fighters '96

STORY:  Unlike the mystery surrounding previous KOF competitions, KOF '96 has become a major international event sponsored by a number of huge corporations. Preliminary contests have been held in various areas throughout the world, and among the top nine teams are, naturally, the usual KOF contestants who have been looking forward to test their abilities in an official competition. This time, however, there is a team among them who cannot fail to raise eyebrows, composed of Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser, and Mr. Big. The three who once attempted to conquer the world are now but mere contestants in this tournament.

Is their object, perhaps, to do away with the Bogard brothers or the disciples of Kyokugen karate? If that weren't enough to surprise...Iori Yagami appears once again, teamed up with a pair of mysterious women. How will the rivalry between Iori and Kyo Kusanagi that has cursed their two families since ancient time play out this time around? This is KOF '96, held as an official recognized sporting event, over which dark clouds have already started to gather...."

One of the biggest character selection screens in '96!

KOF '96 introduced a couple new faces to the series: Mature & Vice, as well as hosting the debut of the badass "boss team" consisting of Geese Howard, Krauser, and Mr. Big. The newcomers bring the roster to an impressive 27 combatants. A few returning characters were updated visually with re-drawn sprites and new animations. Following series tradition, many new hand-drawn backgrounds were also introduced, keeping the graphics engine looking fresh. Worth mentioning, KOF '96's stages were definitely the best looking stages of the KOF series thus far.


Pao Pao Cafe does good business!

As many players expected, '96 had same core gameplay mechanics as the two previous installments, but there were also some memorable new features added this time around. The "Dodge" technique from the previous two games was replaced with the "Emergency Evasion," which allows fighters to "roll" away or towards the opponent. (This gameplay element would remain a staple in many future games.) Players could also perform "small jumps" as well as high jumps, enabling a variety of new ways to mix up / cross up your opponents! These two gameplay elements alone helped to speed up KOF's gameplay system, keeping it competitive with other 2D fighters at the time.

Go Team Korea! Err... you wore the wrong colors Chang.

Along with some new attacks, commands for several classic special and super moves were changed for a variety of characters. Along with the classic super moves, characters can now perform a more powerful version of their regular super move if the character has low energy and Maximum level power gauge.

Page Updated: February 3rd, 2020
Developer(s): SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Artwork by: Shinkiro
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Game Boy, PSN
Release Date(s): July 30th, 1996              Arcade
Sept. 27th, 1996         /   NeoGeo
Sept. 27th, 1996          Saturn
Oct. 25th, 1996           /   NeoGeo CD
July 4th, 1997                 PlayStation
Aug. 8th, 1997               Game Boy
Characters Kyo, Benimaru, Daimon, Andy, Terry, Joe, Ryo, Robert, Mai, King, Yuri, Ralf, Leona, Clark, Athena, Kensou, Chin, Geese, Chizuru, Mr. Big, Kasumi, Mature, Vice, Iori, Chang, Kim, Choi, Goenitz, Krauser

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Featured Video:

Related Games: KOF '94, KOF '94: Re-bout, KOF '95, KOF '96, KOF '97, KOF '98, KOF '98: Ultimate Match, KOF '99, KOF 2000, KOF 2001, KOF 2002, KOF 2002: Unlimited Match, KOF 2003, KOF XI, KOF XII, KOF XIII, KOF XIV, KOF: Maximum Impact, KOF: Maximum Impact MANIAX, KOF: Maximum Impact 2, KOF: Maximum Impact Regulation A, KOF: Neowave, KOF EX Neo Blood, KOF EX2 Howling Blood, KOF R1, KOF R2, KOF Collection: Orochi Saga

Gameplay Engine

 7.5 / 10

Story / Theme

 8.0 / 10

Overall Graphics

 7.5 / 10


 6.5 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 6.5 / 10


 7.5 / 10

Art Direction

 9.0 / 10


 7.0 / 10

Options / Extras

 6.5 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 7.0 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 7.5 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 7.5 / 10


 8.0 / 10


 7.8 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version     


Final Words:

The inclusion of the emergency evasion and small jumps definitely improved KOF's overall gameplay and enjoyability. The new gameplay elements sped up the gameplay a bit - which the series needed in my opinion. Even so, KOF 96's gameplay still felt like it was missing something... feeling arguably slow and stiff compared to other recent 2D fighters of the era.

At the very least, KOF '96 some solid progress for the series with great new characters, new moves, and beautifully hand-drawn stages (easily some of the best in the series to date). However... the sequel, KOF '97 was a title that would put KOF on the map like no game before it. It's only looking up from here! 
~TFG Webmaster