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Heh, heh. You got burned!
~ Kyo
Don't let it get you down. You probably have some talent... Probably.
~ Kyo in The King of Fighters XIV
I am the champion!
~ Kyo's win quote

Kyo Kusanagi is the main protagonist in SNK Playmore's The King of Fighters series of fighting games; 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. Because 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 pyrokineticpowers. 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. Video games reviewers have praised his design and fighting style as one of the best from the series. Reviewers noted him to be a necessary character to have in every video game from the series and commented of him to have the best winning pose. Within Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Kyo was voted as the staff's second favorite character. A variety of collectibles based on Kyo have been created, including key chains and figurines.

Personality

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 instinctually mutual hatred and was hardly spurred by their clans' history.

When Kyo and Iori join forces, it is often begrudgingly and as a last resort solution to the conflict at hand. Both however are genuinely willing to set aside their, at times, nigh homicidal disdain for one another, as they did in KOF 96, KOF 97, KOF 2003, KOF XI (with Shingo), and in KOF XIV where not a single hint of hostility was felt nor shown as they worked together.

As mentioned by Kim Kaphwan, Kyo has not finished high school yet because of the KOF Tournaments. According his conversation with Athena Asamiya in KOF XIII, Kyo doesn't wear his uniform anymore because no one will wear it in his age.

Fighting Style

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, these are labeled as Method/Style with numbers; numbers that actually use alternate kanji different from their originals. These examples are 108 Shiki: Yami Barai (Method 108: Darkness Sweeper), etc. with "Reverse Methods" being stronger versions of other attacks such as Kyo's signature DM, Ura 108 Shiki: Orochinagi (Reverse Method 108: Great Serpent Mower) being an example. In some sources, this even applies to his "unnamed" normal attacks.

Kyo also knows Kenpo, and uses it in most of his normal attacks. 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 (the 114 Shiki: Aragami/Method 114: Wild Bite and 115 Shiki: Dokugami/Method 115: Poison Bite) with several different followups, and thus adds a varying amount of kicks and elbow dropping attacks which are also types of notable moves in Kenpo. The names of Kyo's new moves are anything but vague and simple names (such as 402 Shiki: Batsu Yomi/Method 402: Punishment Recital 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 pave way for powerful mixups and combos if pressure was well-setup. Story-wise, this was possibly due to his initial defeat by Goenitz, Kyo reformed his style into a more-offensive focus.

In the original games (especially in KOF '95), Kyo followed the "Ryu and Ken" archetype with Iori, as Kyo's moves differ slightly from game to game in the same manner as Iori, mainly their Desperation Moves. Changes in KOF '96 and onwards made them vastly 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. The 100 Shiki: Oniyaki (Method 100: Demon Baker) is the one technique both Kyo and Iori still share to this day.

In KOF 99 onwards, Kyo even applies personal touches derived from his father's techniques of the Kusanagi style, via his Hikigane (Plowing Iron) mimicking Saisyu's Kamukakari (Divine Consult) and even adapting his father's Nata Guruma (Hatchet Wheel) attack in KOF: Maximum Impact 2.

In KOF 2003, Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru's LDM's are all named the San Shingi (Three Divine Arts), taking after their clans, destinies, and treasures. Kyo's San Shingi no Ichi (Three Divine Arts No. 1) however, is his SDM version Saishuu Kessen Ougi: Mu Shiki (Final Play-Off Secret Skill: No Method), as opposed to Iori and Chizuru's versions being original attacks.

In The King of Fighters 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-Style version uses his traditional "Kenpo chain punch" moveset, and is given a Neo Max named Saishuu Kessen Hiougi: Totsuka (Final Play-Off Hidden Secret Skill: 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 (though in some other games, the 182 has a different animation, while its SDM version in XIV is a combination of its two different animations).

Also, two other new moves in XIV that compliment his poetic taste are an overhead finishing move to his new low-attacking Munotsuchi (Six Mallets) followup from Aragami, and his Climax DM; they are respectively known as Tsurube Otoshi (Well Bucket Fall; a term for sinking quickly) and Yaegaki (Double Fences; a term for fences over fences).

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