Kyo Kusanagi (草薙 京, Kusanagi Kyō) is a character from King of Fighters. He marks the official debut in the Metal Slug universe in Metal Slug Defense as a KOF20th Anniversary Collaboration Campaign.
"Heheh. You got burned." -Kyo's pet phrase.
When designing characters for the first The King of Fighters, developers wanted a new hip hero who would easily rival the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting characters in style.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. When designing Syo, Shinichi Morioka (Kyo and Iori's creator) used Shotaro Kaneda from the Akira manga as inspiration. When Syo appears as a striker in KOF 2000, he would be voiced by Mitsuo Iwata who also voiced Kaneda.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 as "lighting strikes the earth which sparks the flame").Other influences include Jo Yabuki and Akira Fudo from the respectively series Ashita no Joe and Devilman.
His change in fighting style was also made as a part of the series's overhaul in The King of Fighters '96. To appease all fans, they also included an older version of Kyo from The King of Fighters '94 into The King of Fighters '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 versions of Kyo 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 any version of Kyo altogether, 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.
According to Nobuyuki Kuroki, the staff wanted to provide a new design that would captivate new fans.Despite Kyo being the main character, they decided to drastically change his hair and outfit. Fearing fans would not like Kyo's new appearance, the staff commented that they aimed it as a challenge, they also mention that old players from the series would understand he is still the same character despite cosmetic changes.This new design, alongside Iori's, provoked major controversy during the time it was revealed. However, in an interview, The King of Fighters XIV director Yasuyuki Oda said the team wanted the characters to carry a new look due to the game being set in a new story arc.Oda also notes that Kyo became more macho as the games progressed, so they decided to alter his physique so he won't look as aggressive as he did in KOF XIII.
Kyo, along with his rival, Iori, 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 Mook Vol.197, Nona comments that he found it difficult to draw Kyo in a heroic image, since he draws Kyo in the image of Devilman's Akira Fudo.In Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Kyo was voted as the staff's second favorite character. In the Neo Geo Freak's 1997 Volume 8 character poll, he was voted as the favourite character overall, with a total of 2,160 votes.620 votes from the male fans and 1,540 votes from the female fans.And in Neo Geo Freak's August 1998 issue, he was ranked as the 3rd best 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. In an interview with one of the manhua artist and authors, Wing Yan, he replies that Kyo is his favorite original character in the series.Garou: Mark of the Wolves planner and The King of Fighters XIV producer Yasuyuki Oda states that Kyo and Leona are his favourite characters in The King of Fighters series.