The King of Fighters ’97[lower-alpha 1] is a fighting game produced by SNK for the Neo Geo arcade and home console in 1997. It is the fourth game in The King of Fighters series. It was ported to the Neo-Geo CD, as well as the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn in Japan only. An updated version titled Global Match featuring online multiplayer was released in 2018 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Steam.
KOF ’97 follows the same format as the previous KOF games, but introduces two distinct playing styles which the player can select before choosing their team: Advanced and Extra.
Advanced mode is based on the previous game in the series, KOF ’96, but features a revamped Power Gauge. Instead of charging the Power Gauge, the Power Gauge is now filled whenever the player strikes the opponent or by performing Special Moves. The player can stock up to three Power Gauges. The player can use one stock of the Power Gauge to perform a Super Special Move or enter a “MAX” mode, in which the player‘s defensive and offensive strength are increased. Performing a Super Special Move while in MAX mode will make the player perform a more powerful Super Special Move.
Extra mode is based on the first two games in the series, KOF ’94 and KOF ’95. Like in those games, the player fills the Power Gauge by charging it or defending against the opponent‘s attacks. After the gauge is filled, the player enters MAX mode and like in Advanced, their character’s offense and defense will increase. The player can only perform Super Special Moves in MAX mode or when the life gauge is near empty and flashing red. When the player performs a Super move in MAX mode while the life gauge is flashing red, then the Super move will be even more powerful. The Emergency Roll maneuver from KOF ’96 used in Advanced mode is replaced by the side-step from KOF ’94 and KOF ’95.
Despite the events at the end of the previous game, the KOF tournament was a huge commercial success and sparked a worldwide fighting craze. Within a few months of the tournament ending, various large corporations had held smaller KOF tournament qualifiers and constructed special KOF stadiums around the world, building the excitement up for the next tournament. News of the tournament spread through every form of media and fans and new fighters from across the globe come to watch the preliminary matches.
All of the characters from the previous game return, with the exception of the Boss Team (which was disbanded after its first appearance), Kasumi Todoh (who went off to search for her father), and Mature and Vice (who were killed by Iori Yagami after he was possessed by the Riot of Blood at the conclusion of the previous game).
Chizuru Kagura, the sub-boss in the previous game, takes Kasumi‘s place in the Women Fighters Team, while Geese Howard‘s underling Billy Kane, who previously participated in The King of Fighters ’95 tournament, returns to join forces with female agent Blue Mary and wanted felon Ryuji Yamazaki (both from Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory) to form the unlikely “’97 Special Team”. Iori returns as a Team Edit character along with Shingo Yabuki, a high school student who patterns his fighting style after his idol and reluctant mentor Kyo Kusanagi. An alternative version of Kyo with his pre-KOF ’96 moveset also appears as a hidden character.
Iori and Leona will fight as mid-boss characters in the Riot of the Blood curse depending on which characters the player is using. A team of all new characters also appears in the form of the “New Faces Team”, consisting of bandmates Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie, and Chris. The New Faces Team will be revealed to be the last three servants from Orochi during the Arcade Mode. Additionally, they fight as sub-boss characters having more powerful abilities than their common forms. Once they are beaten, Orochi will possess Chris’ body to fight as the final boss character.