So the first question will probably be “why 97 Greg?” I choose 97 because over all of the King of Fighters (and I’ve played them all lengthily) this was the shining star. Prior to 97 the King of Fighters was a fun little distraction for people who weren’t SNK die-hards like myself. KoF 94 was a bit too Fatal Fury for newbs and 95-96 still felt stiff even with the flexible rosters. What 97 brought in was a sick combo system combined with some fighting elements that made the model of SNK that many of us would say is the key. The ability to roll and cross-up your opponent along with a hard combo breaker are just a few of the elements that made 97 work. Personalities such as Fatal Fury 3’s Blue Mary and the new Orochi team ESPECIALLY Shermi stayed in your head and made you an instant fan.
One of the most powerful things that 97 held above other King of Fighters is the actual story. The story was so cool that you actually could get into it, you wanted to go up against a god like Orochi, you wanted to know who had his blood within them and you wanted to fight his demon team prior to taking the man on himself. It was such a fun ride kicking ass all the way up to the lightning striking cheater of a boss at the end. One thing I loved about King of Fighters 97 (which many of you will disagree with) is the ability to pull off sweet 100% damage combos on your opponents if you are good enough to learn them. Blue Mary once red and flashing due to dying could take her enemy out in one well timed sequence of destruction, same with Terry Bogard with his high-angle geyser into a rising tackle.
KoF 97 made me king of the arcade for a time, utilizing the hawte that is Shiranui Mai and my new girl’s team. Once the year was over and ’98 came in with additional elements such as controllable Orochi rages and character intros, the game only got better but ’97 started the run so it deserves all the praise in the world.