One player may compete against the computer, or two players may simultaneously compete against each other. Each player has an 8-way joystick and 4 buttons.
The buttons on the arcade are typically laid out in the following fashion:
Though they might as well be laid out like this:
The joystick works intuitively in that pressing left will generally move your character left, and pressing right will generally move your character right. But it is more important to think in terms of relative direction.
- If your character is facing to the right, then pressing left on the joystick means backward, and pressing right on the joystick means forward.
- If your character is facing to the left, then pressing left on the joystick means forward, and pressing right on the joystick means backward.
For this reason, all movelists assume that your character in standing on the left side, facing right. If you are standing on the opposite side, reverse directions.
How to Play
Each battle consists of a 3 versus 3 match between you and your opponent. At the start of each match, all 3 character of you and your opponent are at full health. In each round 1 of your characters fights against on of your opponents character. The first player to drive the other player's health bar to zero wins the round. If a player won a round, his health bar regains a little health. If a player lost a round, his character is out of the game and he has to use his next character. The first player who doesn't have any characters left loses the match. If a human player won he moves on to the next match against the computer AI. If a single player loses to the computer, the game is over and the player must continue to rematch the recent opponent.
To win a round, the player must use his or her character's attack moves to damage the opponent, and block or dodge the opponent's attacks. Each player may attack from a standing or crouching position, or they may jump in to the air and attack. To attack from a standing position, press any single attack button. To attack from a crouching position, pull the joystick in a downward direction (including both diagonals) and press any single attack button. To attack from the air, direct your character to jump straight up, or jump in a diagonal position, and press any single attack button in mid-air.
To block an attack, a player must push backwards on the joystick when the opponent attacks (otherwise, pressing back on the joystick moves the player away from the opponent.) Blocking can be done standing which blocks middle and high attacks, as well as attacks in the air, but does not block attacks which are low to the ground. Blocking can also be down crouching by pressing the joystick diagonally down and back. A Crouching block will successfully block low and middle attacks. High attacks will usually go over your character's head if they are crouching, but a crouching block does not defend against air attacks.
In addition to normal attacks there are attacks known as command moves and special moves. Command moves are special combinations of a joystick direction and a particular attack button that produces a different attack than when the button is pressed alone. A special move is a move that requires a more complicated joystick motion and an attack button to perform. Special attacks can be blocked like any other attack, but they do what's known as "tick damage." That is, even when blocked, they removed a single hit point from your health bar. Most special moves have a pause associated with them that leave you vulnerable to attack if you miss the opponent.
Throws are executed by standing immediately next to your opponent, pressing the joystick either towards or away, and pressing a certain button (usually or ). If performed correctly, your character will grab the opponent and toss them to the ground in a manner specific to your character's fighting style. Different characters might have a different array of throws with more complicated commands associated with them. Throws are unblockable.
Some special moves require a full or flashing energy bar to be executed. This bar can be charged by holding down ++. The energy bar is used in KOF94 - 96 and in KOF97 - 98 as the Extra Mode. To charge the energy bar in Advanced Mode in KOF97 and KOF98 you need to deal damage or receive damage.
By pressing certain buttons depending on the game you play (see the Basic Moves section of the game's movleis), you can taunt your enemy. This takes away a certain amount of spirit energy from your opponent in KOF94 - 96 and KOF98 (in Extra Mode). It also makes it more likely that a human player will attack you. Taunting always leaves you vulnerable for enemy attacks, so it should be used with caution.
After the player character lost a certain amount of life energy, his life bar will start flashing. This allows you to perform a desperation move. Desperation usually include a complicated input pattern, but the also inflict large amounts of damage.
Super Desperation Moves
Some Desperation Moves become Super Desperation Moves if they are performed when the life bar is flashing and the energy bar is at maximum (or on Extra mode: if POWer is activated). These moves deal more damage than any other move in the game.
In KOF97 and KOF98 there are two modes of play: Advanced Mode and Extra Mode
Advanced Mode allows you to gather POWer gauges by dealing or recieving Damage. These POWer gauges can be used to increase the inflicted damage. Performing Desperation Moves cost 1 POWer gauge. If a Desperation Move is performed while a POWer gauge is activated, this Desperation Move becomes a Super Desperation Move.
Extra Mode is the Mode used throughout KOF94 - 98. In Extra Mode, you can manually increase your Energy bar. If the energybar has reached its maximum, the inflicted damage is increased. A blinking life bar (at 20% Life or less) allows you to use Desperation Moves. If life bar is flashing and energy is at maximum, a Desperation Move becomes a Super Desperation Move.