Friday, March 7, 2014

A Brief Intro to The King of Fighters (Shameless Self-Promotion)
Very recently my band, Zombie Apocalypse NOW!, released a new EP: “ZANVSKOF”. Although it is very short, only three tracks, it is the culmination of over a year of hard work despite numerous setbacks. I’m very proud of this album and feel like it contains some of the best songs I’ve ever written. It’s also the first of what will be a series of EPs coming out by us over a period of time. What’s different about these releases versus our previous ones is that while there’s often been a nerdy tone on our music I had the idea to make full-on themed EPs. Meaning that every EP is inspired by a different subject and, because I’m the biggest nerd I know, they will be pretty dorky ones. I was heavily inspired to do this by the music of Adam WarRock. For those of you not in the know WarRock is a rapper whose song topics tend to cover a wide variety of topics that include comic books, cartoons, TV shows, and even occasionally professional wrestling. He’s pretty fantastic and also a giant nerd so you can guess why I like him. He regularly releases free EPs/Mix Tapes and they usually are based on some top or another (I originally discovered him from his West Coast Avengers and Firefly albums). I loved that idea and wanted to do something similar. Then I remembered that I have a band and I have access to a home studio. So why the hell not?

Anyway “ZANVSKOF” is inspired by the King of Fighters video game series. I had a lot of ideas for EPs but I settled on starting with King of Fighters because I had already written lyrics to a song about my favorite KOF character years before so it seemed like a decent place to start. So now, with the album finally done, you can listen to it from our Bandcamp page and also download it for free (Or any amount. Tips and donations are appreciated).

Twenty Years of sadistically difficult bosses!
But I don’t want to just plug my new album today. It occurs to me that a lot of people, whether folks who frequent this site or even people who like my band, may not know a hell of a lot of stuff about this game series. Thankfully I have a blog and a lot of useless information in my head and therefore I can give a beginners guide to exactly what this franchise is all about.

A brief look at the King of Fighters after the jump.

And this is actually only a tiny percentage of the characters
Created by SNK Playmore the game was original conceived as a side scrolling beat ‘em up game called “Survivor” that was a crossover between the company’s two big fighting game franchises, Fatal Fury (which was likely their most popular game at the time) and Art of Fighting, which makes sense as both games take place in the fictional American city South Town (though AOF takes place during the 70s, but whatever). However Capcom released Final Fight which had a similar game style and SNK abandoned their game. The idea of a crossover lingered with the company though and eventually they decided to make a proper fighting game featuring the two games. In fact they decided to throw in characters from some of their other games, Psycho Soldier and Ikari Warriors, and original characters including the game series primary protagonist and mascot Kyo Kusanagi. The game became a hit in arcades and quickly became SNK’s signature game and the main competition for Capcom’s Street Fighter series.

There are several aspects about KOF that differentiate it from its competition. The most obvious one is that their battle system is three-on-three rather than a usual one-on-one and the roster is made up of teams (though after the first game fans could start making their own teams). The number of characters that have been featured in the game series is staggering. Between characters from the various original games, like Fatal Fury, to characters related to those games to the huge number of guys they just made up there’s just a lot people to choose form with various backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities. And all of them have a lot of little personal details that are available. Another thing is the amount of story that gets written for these games. While not exactly Shakespeare or anything I always found KOF to be significantly more interested in storytelling than Street Fighter normally is. Their games are made up of story arcs that tend to spread through several games at a time.

There are many games in the franchise, thirteen in the main series and a shit ton of spin-offs in numerous genre (including dating sims because, you know, gotta make that money) and in theory there’s more to come. Maybe. I’d like to talk a bit about some of the characters but with so many, and so many games, it’s hard to really tell someone where to start when talking about them but as I made an album of songs based on a few characters why not start with them?

Shingo Yabuki
Ineffective schoolboy at its best
First Appearance: King of Fighters ‘97

Country: Japan

Possibly my favorite character in the games Shingo was originally a kid who was a huge fan of Kyo and when he found out that he went to his high school he begged the big time fighter to teach him his family’s martial art style. In exchange for free food (because that’s just the kind of great guy Kyo is) he agreed to demonstrate one move at a time and only once to which Shingo would scribble down notes and practice as much as he can thus creating a reasonable facsimile of Kyo’s fighting style. Since then he keeps entering the King of Fighters tournaments dreaming of the day he surpasses Kyo and masters using flame as he does (Shingo either doesn’t know about or is in denial of his inability to generate them). Shingo is basically a joke character, thought the joke is more subtle than Dan Hibiki from Street Fighter. But his ridiculousness and overwhelming optimism makes him super fun to play as. His “Shingo Kick” move is a personal favorite of mine.

Doesn't appreciate all those French jokes you make
First Appearance: Art of Fighting

Country: France

King was a bouncer working for the gangster Mr. Big, albeit against her will. She switched sides upon meeting, and secretly falling in love with, Ryo Sakazaki the main protagonist of Art of Fighting (and thinly veiled Ryu from Street Fighter expy). A Muay Thai specialist her gimmick from her first appearance was that we, the player, didn’t know she was a woman unless we beat her with a special move that, um, blew her top off reveling her gender. Yay feminism? Thanks for nothing, early 90s gamin industry. Anyway she usually is depicted in an interesting mix of femininity and masculinity as she always comes off as a classy lady but also wears primary suits and tomboyish hairdo. It’s pretty rad. Like many characters in the series she has several catchphrases and such but perhaps she is best known by her mocking jab of “Come on, baby”, which seems to imply she’s not taking her opponent particularly seriously. King usually either appears in KOF as a member of the Art of Fighting team or the all female Women's Team.

Terry Bogard
"Hey, come on, come on! Get serious! OK!"*
*Shit Japanese people think Americans say

First Appearance: Fatal Fury

Country: USA

Terry is (was?) the main character of the Fatal Fury series and also the mascot of SNK, arguably being the company’s most popular character. Originally from South Town Terry was the oldest son of a martial artist who was murdered by the crime boss Geese Howard. Terry trained for years to become strong enough to face Geese to avenge his father and that’s pretty much the plot of the original Fatal Fury game. Also the plot of this song I wrote and made a music video for.

The thing about Terry is that he is an American through the eyes of Japanese developers who don’t really seem to know much about Americans. Just looking at him is hilarious as he’s such a stereotypic looking guy. His clothes matching the flag, moves inspired by basketball? Ridiculous. Also he is the king o mispronounced English words in Japanese video games, often saying words and phrases that pretty much make no sense. Even so I love Terry. He’s super fun to play as and has a lot of moves that makes him pretty a versatile character. Also he yells out “Are you okay?” before hitting one of his super moves, Buster Wolf, which makes no goddam sense but I love it!

Some other characters that reoccurring the series who we didn’t write songs about include Kyo, the games' main protagonist, Rugal Bernstein, the series’ most famous final boss, Terry’s brother and best friend Andy Bogard and Joe Higashi who he normally teams with in the games, Athena Asamiya, a psychic/martial artist/J-Pop idol (because of course she is), and of course Iori Yagami, Kyo’s main rival and overall badass. I LOVE Iori and the only reason I didn’t write a song about him too is because at the time I thought it’d be cliché. Every time I look at ZANVSKOF I deeply regret this.

How he thinks he can fight in that getup is beyond me
Anyway I could write essay after essay about King of Fighters as between huge cast, the storylines, and the background information from the other games there’s a lot to talk about. But I think the most important thing to take away from the little bit I’ve shared with you today is that ZANVSKOF by Zombie Apocalypse NOW! is available at Bandcamp and can be downloaded for free! Check it out!

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