is one of the main characters in SNK Playmore's The 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 one of the iconic characters of the series and regularly appears on publicity material and merchandise. His name and abilities were designed in order to relate him with the Yamata no Orochi legend. Due to the fact he was highly popular and his outfit changed along the series, the designers created a few clones with his old appearance.
Kyo is first introduced as a cocky delinquent high school student who is the heir to the Kusanagi clan, who can use pyrokinetic powers. In The King of Fighters universe, his clan is one of the three clans that sealed the legendary snake entity, Yamata no Orochi. Due to his clan's past, Kyo fights against the Kusanagi's enemies; his rival Iori Yagami, the last member of the Yagami clan, and the Orochi's soldiers. He enters every The King of Fighters tournament representing Japan and uses his clan's fighting style to combine fire with kenpo. Aside from the main series, Kyo also appears in several other media series such as spin-offs and crossover video games as well as comic adaptations of the series.
When designing characters for the first King of Fighters game, developers wanted a new, "snazzy" hero who would easily fight against Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters. Through most of his development, Kyo was meant to be called , and was dressed in martial arts clothing common with fighting games at the time. But late in production, his name was changed to Kyo Kusanagi in order to relate him with the Yamata no Orochi legend, which was used as the idea to the first arc. His fighting style was changed as a part of the series' overhaul in The King of Fighters '96. To appease all fans, they also included an older version of Kyo from KOF '94 into The King of Fighters '97 and placed the The King of Fighters '95 version of Kyo in The King of Fighters '98, which made both versions of Kyo popular during location tests. Developers from the game decided to make Kyo's main skill would be fire along with the other movesets from the other members of the original Japan Team being inspired by the anime Getter Robo. In addition, the three members of the Japan Team had similar personalities to the main characters from such anime. Kyo was based on the main character who had a "fiery" persona. The elements and the personalities are also a homage to a Japanese phrase of giving birth to fire (it is roughly translated: "lighting strikes the earth which sparks the flame").
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 and Iori Yagami 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". Kyo was redesigned for the game, but some designers wanted to return to his iconic school uniform. When they were nearing the end of their production schedule, staff members were indecisive upon which uniform the Kyo clone should wear. The project head decided to make two clones instead. To save time, the project head drew designs for Kyo-1 and Kyo-2 on the character roster. The same event was repeated in The King of Fighters 2002; the designers created another clone from Kyo called Kusanagi to include his school uniform design.
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