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
The King of Fighters 2003 and The King of Fighters XI
Each battle consists of a three-on-three single round match between your team and your opponent's team. At the start of each match, every fighter's life or health bars are full. The player may only control one fighter at a time, but other members of the team can be called out to switch places with the primary fighter. If a fighter's health is driven to zero, they are removed from the match. The first player to defeat all three members of the opponent's team wins the match and moves on to the next team. If a single player loses to the computer, the game is over and the player must continue to rematch the recent opponent.
The King of Fighters XII and The King of Fighters XIII
Each battle consists of a three-on-three match between your team and your opponent's team. At the start of each match, every fighter's life or health bars are full. In each round, one of your characters fights against one of your opponent's characters. If a fighter's health is driven to zero, they are removed from the match. Another round begins with the next character from that team, while the winner stays with some of their health restored. The first player to defeat all three members of the opponent's team wins the match and moves on to the next team. 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 ( to throw forward or to throw backwards, or in XII). 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.
Your character can perform several kinds of jumps:
- Normal jump: press or or
- Hop: quickly tap or or
- Hyper jump: quickly tap , then press or or
- Hyper hop: quickly tap , then quickly tap or or
Specific to The King of Fighters 2003 and XI
Leader Super Move
One member of each team is designated as the leader, and has access to a Leader Super Move that requires two stocks of the meter.
Exclusive to The King of Fighters 2003
Exclusive to The King of Fighters XI
Quick Shift/Saving Shift/Guard Cancel Shift
Exclusive to The King of Fighters XII
When your character gets hit or when he blocks an attack, your critical counter bar will get filled. As soon as the bar reaches it's maximum (it will begin to flash green), your character will be ready to perform a critical counter. To do this, you have to land a successful counter attack and then press a character specific button (you can look it up at the character movelists here). Once initiated, your opponent will be stunned for several seconds and thus allow you to perform a very large custom combo that inflicts massive amounts of damage.
Exclusive to The King of Fighters XIII
There are two configurations:
Most special moves have EX versions which are faster and/or stronger. These can be done by pressing both punches or kicks when performing the move, and take up one stock of the power gauge. Super moves can be upgraded the same way, using two stocks instead of one.
The Neo Max Super requires three stocks of the power gauge and 100% of the Hyper Drive gauge, or two stocks while in Hyper Drive mode.