Kyo Kusanagi (草薙 京, Kusanagi Kyō) is one of the main characters in SNK Playmore's King of Fighters video game series; he was first introduced in The King of Fighters '94 as the leader of the Japan team. He is the rival of Iori Yagami.
He was first introduced as a cocky delinquent high school student who is the heir of his clan, Kusanagi, one of the three clans that sealed the legendary snake entity, Orochi, 1,800 years ago. His clan wields pyrokinetic powers, an inherited power that few members obtain. They, along with the Yasakani and Yata clans, keep one of the three sacred treasures used to contain Orochi long ago. His family's treasure is the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣,Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi) or Kusanagi sword and his family crest is the sun, represented in a stylized halo of fire. His official nickname isScion of the Flame.
Aside from the main series, Kyo also has a spin-off manga story based on his adventure in King of Fighters '96 entitled,The King of Fighters: Kyo. A video game was also created under the same name to further expand his character. In addition, a number of image songs and audio dramas featuring Kyo's character have been released, including the contents of his own character image album consisting of all of his theme songs. He is also a member of SNK's character image band, The Band of Fighters.
When designing characters for the first King of Fighters, developers wanted a new hip hero who would easily fight against Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters. Through most of his development, Kyo was meant to be called Syo Kirishima, and was dressed in martial arts clothing common with fighting games at the time. But late in production, his name became Kyo Kusanagi, likely due to the KOF story's change in direction towards the Yamata no Orochi legend. The idea for his flames -as well as the other elemental powers for the rest of the Japan team- was derived from the anime Getter Robo. In the show, there were three featured heroes who served as the inspiration for the KOF trio: the protagonist had a "fiery" persona, his friend was "edgy and daring", and the third hero was the "down-to-earth giant". It is also a homage to a Japanese phrase of giving birth to fire (roughly translated: lighting strikes the earth which sparks the flame).
His change in fighting style was also made as a part of the series's overhaul in '96. To appease all fans, they also included an older version of Kyo from KOF '94 into '97 and placed the '95 version of Kyo in '98, which made both versions of Kyo popular during location tests. The idea of having two Kyos at once lead to the concept of his clones. During the early development stages of The King of Fighters '99, SNK planned to avoid adding Kyo (his clones included) or Iori to the game, as the story's focus was meant to center on the new protagonist, K'. However, they retracted this decision as "they couldn't leave these popular characters in limbo". Since then, veteran developers for the series admit that Kyo's repeated appearances in the series is due to the marketers and the main planners' insistence to add him, Iori, and other SNK regulars in every game, making it a challenge to decide the story for each title. Kyo's voice actor, Masahiro Nonaka, related greatly with his character as being young and reckless until he "grew up" in his later appearances. He then expressed some difficulty accepting Kyo on the same level.
Along with his rival, Iori, Kyo has been noted by several of the series's designers as being one of the most difficult characters to illustrate because of his popularity amongst fans. In Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Kyo was voted as the staff's second favorite character. In a 2005 poll made by SNK-Playmore USA, he was voted as the sixth fan favorite character with a total of 176 votes. In the character popularity poll on Neo Geo Freak's website, he was voted as the third favorite character with a total of 2,574 votes.
660 years ago, the Kusanagi and Yasakani clans were once allies. However, due to a horrible misunderstanding, the Yasakani struck a blood pact with Orochi for more power. They renamed their family name to Yagami and their flames, previously red like their former allies, changed to violet from Orochi's taint. Since then, the clans have waged a generation long grudge with casualties made from both sides. It continues in The King of Fighters series with Kyo and Iori Yagami.Kyo in The King of Fighters '97.
The Orochi saga takes place in The King of Fighters 94 and 97. Kyo surpassed his father at the age of fifteen and was designated as the clan's leader. Shortly after the completion of his training, Kyo competes in a preliminary held in Japan to determine the members of the country's representative team in the King of Fighters tournament. He bests Goro Daimonand Benimaru Nikaido to become the leader of the team, the two becoming his teammates and eventual friends. They reach the finals, where they met the host of the tournament, a powerful fighter named Rugal Bernstein. Rugal boasts his desire to fight powerful opponents and challenges them. After his defeat, he self-destructs his ship in attempt to bring them with him but the team escapes unharmed.
In the next tournament, Kyo and his team are invited to another King of Fighters tournament, organized once again by Rugal, who survived his craft's self-destruction. This time, Rugal also brainwashed Kyo's missing father, Saisyu, into attacking his son. Kyo's father regains his senses after he was subdued by the team. To counter the team's strength, Rugal challenges them with power sapped from Orochi. However, Rugal's body was overwhelmed by the power's immensity and he was vaporized after his defeat. Pleased with his son's prowess, Saisyu leaves unnoticed, insinuating that he entrusts the clan's duty to Kyo.
Prior to the events of The King of Fighters 96, a mysterious man -later revealed to be one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Orochi, Goenitz- challenges Kyo to a fight. Kyo arrives, powered by his overwhelming confidence in his fists, only to be defeated soundly by his challenger and sent to the hospital. In spite of his injuries, his anger and spirit from his loss drove him to invent powerful new techniques -this is the canon explanation for Kyo trading his ground-fireball attack for his now trademark flame-laced melee attack strings. He enters the year's tournament to prove his strength to his unknown attacker. In the tournament's finals, he meets the host of the tournament and the younger heiress of the Yata clan, Chizuru Kagura. At the tournament's end, he vanquishes Goenitz with Iori and Chizuru's help. Though he is warned by Chizuru of his clan's destiny with Orochi, Kyo ignores her and promptly departs.
Before The King of Fighters 97 takes place, he is pestered by fellow high school student, Shingo Yabuki, to teach him how to create his flames. Though annoyed and flustered by his persistence, Kyo partially agrees to mentor him as a means of gaining free meals. He also experiences nightmares of a strange man defeating him at the King of Fighters tournament but continues to participate. Though it's ambiguous as to which team he enters during the tournament, it is canonly accepted that Kyo joins with Iori and Chizuru for its conclusion.
He advances into the finals, where he confronts the remaining "Four Heavenly Kings" of Orochi, Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie, and Chris. When they are beaten, Orochi possesses Chris' body and attempts to destroy the three clans at once. As was done in the legends of their clans, the trio successfully defeat him. In a last-ditch effort, Orochi (manifested in Chris' body) causes Iori to enter the berserk Riot of Blood state, expecting him to turn on Kyo and Chizuru. Instead, Iori snares Orochi by the neck, and Kyo obliged his rival by crippling the great demon with one last deathblow, allowing Chizuru to reseal Orochi. Exhausted, Kyo passes out.
The King of Fighters 99 took place immediately after the events of The King of Fighters 97. Kyo was taken by theNESTS syndicate and his DNA was used to make various beings for their purposes. He awoke one day to find himself surrounded by bizarre gadgets and needles. Deciding to search for answers, Kyo broke out of captivity and managed to escape the hidden fortress despite the sedatives. While escaping, he constantly heard references to the NESTS cartel. He tries to personally gain answers from his captors but is forced to retreat when the base around him begins to collapse. He attempts to investigate privately again the following year but learns very little. As the fiasco of South Town's destruction ensued, Iori confronts him and they fight to an unknown outcome. In The King of Fighters 2001, Kyo reunites with his old teammates and Shingo to make a comeback in the Japan Team. They join the now NESTS-sponsored KoF tournament to relive their time together as a team.
In The King of Fighters 2003, Chizuru appeared to both Kyo and Iori, requesting that they form a team and investigate suspicious activities concerning the Orochi. Kyo initially protested allying with Iori (though Iori apparently did not do likewise), but relented to form the Sacred Treasures team. After besting Mukai, the team then investigated the weakening Orochi seal that they had been transported to before fighting Mukai, but were ambushed by Ash Crimson, who stole the power of the Yata no kagami or Yata mirror from Chizuru, promising to go after Iori next. Ash escaped and Kyo swore vengeance.
In The King of Fighters XI, Kyo, Iori, and Shingo formed a team to try and stop Ash once more. However, the growing presence of the Orochi (namely, the appearance of Magaki) caused Iori to snap and enter the Blood Riot state, and he trashed Kyo and Shingo in a berserk fit. Ash appeared thereafter and stole the Yasakani no Magatama within Iori's body -and presumably Iori's flames. The Rival Team (Benimaru, Duo Lon, and Elisabeth) arrived after the incident to whom Ash tells them that Kyo will be next.
The incident had Kyo hospitalized, but he escapes rather than wait for his recovery. As he wanders the city, he encounters two mysterious boys who try to attack him. Showing them his flames, they hand him the "R" invitation before taking their leave. Soon after the encounter, Benimaru and Goro find him. Seeing no need to visit the hospitalized Shingo or Chizuru, he reunites with his old team members to relive his past glory days together with them. After Ash disappears, Iori challenges Kyo once more to a fight. Though surprised to see Iori again with his flames, Kyo accepts and the rivals fight to an undecided outcome.
Kyo is the over-confident but well meaning protagonist of the series, more interested in enjoying life than having to partake in any particular responsibilities. He is quick to dismiss subjects that don't interest him and will often carry out his actions with a devil-may-care attitude. Despite his seemingly arrogant and rude demeanor, he treasures his friends and family, enjoying their presence and particularly doting on his girlfriend, Yuki. His extreme disinterest in studies has led to his chronic inability to graduate from high school (which has become subject to in-jokes). Although he is confident in his poetic talent, most of his poems aren't considered to be good by his listeners.
Kyo takes his clan's responsibilities on a more personal level, disregarding ancient legends and predestined events as any reason for his actions. His strong sense of justice and his zeal to fight stronger opponents are what he believes to drive him to carry out his destiny. His rivalry with Iori is one of mutual hatred and was hardly spurred by their clans' history. When they join forces, it is often begrudgingly and as a last resort solution to the conflict at hand.
- Pyrokinesis: Due to his Kusanagi heritage, Kyo can control fire. He can create fire from thin air, create fire balls, deliver punches of fire, create pillars of fire and put his own body on fire. He is not immune to other types of fire. He cannot control other fires that he didn't create. However, the fire he wields is nothing more than just ordinary fire: it does not have the 'trapping' ability of Iori's mystical and holy flame.
- Motorcycle Driving - Kyo likes to drive his motorcycle around the streets of Japan. Some official pictures depict Kyo driving a scooter.
- Poetry - Kyo likes to write poetry as a hobby.
- Ice Hockey - Although representing the element of fire, Kyo likes ice hockey.
- Musical Instrument - Kyo is also an accomplished guitarist. As seen in The Band of Fighters
Kyo fights using the Kusanagi style of ancient martial arts, a Japanese style of empty handed combat taught only to the Kusanagi clan members. Like most of the clan members in modern times, are labeled as Method/Style with numbers. 108 Shiki: Yami Barai/Method 108: Darkness Sweeper, etc. with "Reverse Methods" being stronger versions of other attacks such as Kyo's signature Ura 108 Shiki: Orochinagi/Reverse Method 108: Great Serpent Mower.
Kyo also knows Kenpo and uses it in most of his normals. Kyo's moveset emphasizes Kenpo from KOF '96 onwards, discarding his 108 Shiki: Yami Barai and 101 Shiki: Oboroguruma/Method 101: Hazy Wheel, making way for a series of completely new techniques which are a series of chain punches with several different followups, and thus adds a varying amount of kicks and elbow dropping attacks which are also types of notable moves in kenpou. The names of Kyo's new moves are anything but vague and simple names (such as 402 Shiki: Batsu Yomi/Method 402: Punishment Reading and 125 Shiki: Nanase/Method 125: Seven Rapids), possibly due to Kyo's taste for poetry.
Thus, Kyo is a strong combo character that takes a while to master as his moveset from KOF '96 and following games explodes to ridiculous levels. Mastering it though allowed players to more easily adapt to use other characters that had more diverse movesets. Kyo made way for archetypes with moves that not only had multiple inputs, but each followup had its own unique features. This would also paveway for powerful mixup if pressure was well set up.
Kyo in the original games (especially in KOF '95) followed the "Ryu and Ken" archetype with Iori. Kyo's moves differ slightly from game to game in the same manner as Iori, mainly their DM's. Changes in KOF '96 and onwards made them vasty different from each other. Alternate versions of Kyo would retain his old movesets from older games for nostalgia's sake, though each alternate version would be notably different from game to game.
In KOF XII and XIII, his default self switches back to his old KOF 94/95 moveset. His Neo Max in XIII, the Ama-No-Murakumo (Gathering Clouds of Heaven) is a reference to the original name of his heirloom. His NESTS-version uses his traditional "kenpou chain punch" moveset, and is given a Neo Max named Saishuu Kessen Hiougi: Totsuka (Final Profound Battle Hidden Secret Technique: Ten Fists); a nod to the famous Totsuka-no-Tsurugi (Sword of Ten Fists). Another possible nod is his 182 Shiki/Method 182, a powerful flaming punch attack, which may be the finishing blow dealt by Kyo to Orochi in the Orochi Saga's end.
- As mentioned by Kim Kaphwan, Kyo has not finished high school yet because of the KOF Tournaments.
- According his conversation with Athena Asamiya in KOF13, Kyo doesn't wear his school uniform anymore because no one will wear it in his age.
- In his mirror match in KOF13, it can be assumed that Kyo is fighting the last remaining clone of himself.
- ESAKA - The King of Fighters 94 and a remixed version in KOF 98 UM
- FUNKY ESAKA - The King of Fighters 95
- ESAKA? - The King of Fighters 96, 98, XI (as EX Kyo in Playstation 2)
- ESAKA FOREVER - The King of Fighters 97, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
- Tears - The King of Fighters 99, 2002
- Good Bye ESAKA - The King of Fighters 2000, EX2, XIII (as EX Kyo in console version)
- Inner Shade (GBA only) - The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood
- Flame of Invincibility - The King of Fighters 2001
- Blaze - The King of Fighters 2003
- New Order - The King of Fighters XI
- ESAKA '08 - The King of Fighters XII
- Esaka Continues... - The King of Fighters XIII
- ESAKA!! - The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match
- E-Groove (DJ Turbo's Paradise Mix) - K.O.F. Dance Trax
- R.E.D. Run - Days of Memories
- Burning Devotion! - 1997 image song
- The Sun & The Moon - Duet image song with Iori
- Pieces - 1998 image song
- The Song of Fighters II - Shared image song with other King of Fighters characters
- Masahiro Nonaka - since debut
- Andrew Roth - Maximum Impact series (English voice)
- Peter von Gomm - The King of Fighters XII (English voice)
- Ryōtarō Okiayu - The King of Fighters '94 Dengenki drama CD
- Tomokazu Sugita - King of Fighters movie (Japanese voice)
- The King of Fighters '94
- The King of Fighters '95
- The King of Fighters '96
- The King of Fighters '97
- The King of Fighters: Kyo
- The King of Fighters '98
- The King of Fighters R-1
- The King of Fighters R-2
- The King of Fighters '99 - hidden character
- SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millenium
- Capcom vs SNK
- The King of Fighters 2000
- The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise - as a striker
- The King of Fighters EX
- Capcom vs SNK 2
- SVC Chaos: SNK vs Capcom
- The King of Fighters 2001
- The King of Fighters EX2
- The King of Fighters 2002
- The King of Fighters Neowave
- The King of Fighters Maximum Impact
- The King of Fighters 2003
- The King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2
- The King of Fighters XI
- Neo Geo Battle Coliseum
- The King of Fighters Maximum Impact Regulation A
- The King of Fighters XII
- The King of Fighters XIII
- The King of Fighters (pachinko)
- KOF Sky Stage
- Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting
- Days of Memories (second, fourth, seventh and ninth titles) - unplayable
- NeoGeo Tennis Coliseum
- The King of Fighters Mobile
- The King of Fighters Mobile R-2
- The King of Fighters Volleyball
- The King of Millionaire
- The King of Fighters Mahjong
- Moeyo! KOF Daiundokai
- SNK Dream Battle
- Fatal Fury 3 - in Pao Pao Cafe 2
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves - In Hokutomaru's Stage
- Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits: Bushidou Retsuden (Neo Geo CD version only)
- SNK Gals' Fighters - in Miss X's ending
- The King of Fighters 2
- Maximum Impact
- Samurai Spirits Gaiden: Cham Cham
- Sister Quest
KOF '99: Evolution "Another Striker Kyo" character artThe King of Fighters 2001character artKOF Maximum Impact 2concept artKOF Maximum Impact 2Another Kyo concept artKyo in Capcom vs. SNKKyo in Capcom vs. SNK 2Kyo and Iori in the SS RPG.Kyo Kusanagi Image Album cover