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Smash Underdogs #8: Iori Yagami (King of Fighters)


Hello and welcome to the eighth episode of the Smash Underdogs series! In these articles, I’ll be taking a look at some of the lesser talked about names in Smash speculation. These characters aren’t super popular or as likely as say Crash or Master Chief, but would be equally great additions. The purpose of these articles is to get viewers hooked on these characters and the idea of them appearing in Smash one day.

Hot-headed 90’s fighting game characters are some of the coolest things around. But you know what’s even cooler? Giving them a rival with red hair, purple flames, and a necessity to stalk said protagonist 24/7. Ok that last part might sound off, but if there is any fighting game character to serve as the definition of cool, it’d be Iori Yagami from The King of Fighters series!

Who is Iori Yagami?

First Appearance: The King of Fighters ‘95 (1995)
Latest Appearance: The King of Fighters XV (2021)​

Iori is a core character of SNK’s The King of Fighters series who debuted in The King of Fighters ‘95 as the rival to protagonist Kyo Kusanagi. Being a descendent of the Orochi clan (rivals of the Kusanagi clan), Iori has vowed to defeat Kyo in battle and constantly pursues him throughout most of the series. Despite the two butting heads almost all of the time, Iori and Kyo have often teamed up together, most notable in KoF ‘97 where they worked together to defeat and seal the divine being Orochi.

Appearing in every KoF game since his debut in ’95, Iori is one of SNK’s most popular and recognizable characters. He’s even gotten special treatment over Kyo, as he appeared as a guest character in Million Arthur Arcana Blood and has even gotten his own Isekai Novel a few years ago.

Trivia: Despite their popularity, both Iori and Kyo were almost cut from the roster of KoF ‘99 due to that game going in a very different direction story-wise. The decision to do so was met with negative reception from playtesters, and thus the two were added as standalone fighters that aren’t on any team.

“I’m interested in The King of Fighters! How can I get into it?”

For which ones to start with, I’d recommend: ’98, 2002, XIII, and XIV. All four of those games are available on Steam while ‘98 and 2002 are playable in the form of the enhanced Ultimate Match editions. Notably, the Ultimate Match edition of 2002 recently got rollback netcode on both the Steam and PS4 versions. It’s also worth noting that all of the original NEO GEO KoF titles (’94 - 2003) are available on the Switch eShop (though without online play).

Last and certainly not least, The King of Fighters XV will be releasing later this year. The systems it will be available on have not been revealed yet, however the PS5 is definitely the safest bet as KoF XIV was originally a PS4 exclusive. Seeing as how Samurai Shodown got a Switch port and that XV runs on the same engine, I feel like a Switch port of XV is inevitable even if it’s not at launch.

Iori’s Chances for Smash

Unlike all of the other third party characters I have covered up to this point, Iori currently has a fair amount of content already in Ultimate. In the Fighters Pass along with Terry’s release, Iori received a Mii costume, a spirit, a remix of his main theme, and a background cameo in Terry’s stage. Not to mention that SNK and KoF as a whole got a ton of songs and other content as well. Needless to say, it’s almost impossible to see him taking up one of the final two slots for Fighters Pass Vol. 2 since KoF was stuffed with content during the DLC cycle.

”Laugh all you want but it’s still more than what Kyo got!” - Iori... probably

In addition to this, Iori would also have to compete with other big SNK names if we were to ever get another character from them in a future game. The two biggest hurdles are Geese Howard - the super popular antagonist of the Fatal Fury games - and Kyo Kusanagi - the actual protagonist of the King of Fighters games. Other notable competition includes characters from Samurai Shodown and Metal Slug.

If Smash were to ever get another SNK character, Iori would easily be one of the frontrunners. I know I just mentioned earlier that Kyo is the protagonist of their respective series, but Iori is generally the more popular of the two and I could see him getting in similarly to Pyra over Rex.

”Wait, we can’t have a FOURTH fighting game character! This would conflict with the archetype choices of the roster and-”

As for Geese, we technically have Terry repping Fatal Fury so I could see Sakurai opting for a SNK character from a different series before double-dipping with Terry’s universe. It should also be noted that Sakurai has a great liking for Iori. While going over the King of Fighters stadium background cameos during the Terry presentation, Sakurai said: ”whoever created this character must be a genius!” Heck, Iori even got a full-blown scene during Terry’s trailer while Kyo was reduced to appearing as only a hand at the very start. During a 2015 interview, Sakurai talked about his memories playing KoF ‘95 (Iori’s debut game) and how he’d usually be able to win about 50 times in a row. Although the article didn’t state on whether he actually used Iori (it’s implied that he mained Ryo, who funnily enough also got a mii costume) I’d be willing to bet that Sakurai was an Iori main as well given everything he said about the character.

Why Should Iori be in Smash?

Iori is one of the best SNK characters around, both in terms of how fun he is to use in-game as well as how cool he is lore-wise. He's a relatively straight-forward fighter that is fairly easy to use, but would also have an advanced mechanic in the form of a Max Mode meter which would allow for extended combos and additional creativity. Granted there may be some more unique SNK choices like a swordfighter from Samurai Shodown or a gunner from Metal Slug. But to those interested in another 2D fighting character, Iori is right up your alley.


Like with fellow SNK character Terry, Iori will automatically face his opponent in one-on-one fights. He would also have an additional side special move, which can be performed by pressing the movement stick in the opposite direction Iori is facing + the special button (example: if Iori is looking to the right, you’d perform it by holding left and pressing B). Iori’s main gimmick is that he has a Max Mode meter, which is explained in the special moves section.


Light punch → light kick → Ge Shiki Yumebiki command normal attack.

Dash Attack:

Iori’s 129 Shiki: Akegarasu special move from KoF XII & XIII. Hits the opponent with a fast claw attack.

Forward Tilt:

Iori’s standing heavy punch from the KoF games. A fast punch with a long range.

Up Tilt:

Iori’s standing heavy punch when performed right next to the opponent.

Down Tilt:

Iori’s crouching light kick from the KoF games. Has comparable attack speed to Terry’s down-tilt.

Forward Throw:

Iori quickly moves behind the opponent in the middle of grabbing them, then throws them over his shoulder. Based on his forward throw in the KoF games (and to an extent, his back throw).

Back Throw: This is Iori’s Kuzekaze special move and would be one of the most unique backthrows in all of Smash. Iori shoves the opponent behind him while they are still standing. Although this move does 0% damage and has no knockback at all, the opponent will be unable to move for a brief second. This allows them to be combo’d into another attack, such as a light punch → special move combo or just a simple smash attack.

Up Throw:

This is his 212 Shiki Koto Tsuki In special move in the KoF games, but without the running at the start. Iori slams the opponent by the face and throws them to the ground, then causes an explosion using his flames which send the opponent flying upwards. Of all of Iori’s throws, this one has the most killpower and can kill from the center of Final Destination at roughly 145% with no rage/DI (comparable to Zelda’s up-throw).

Down Throw:

Iori holds the opponent up by the face for a brief second, then throws them towards the ground so that they bounce in the air.

Side note but I considered swapping the up and down throws due to the animation taking place, but I figured up throws are better known for launching enemies upwards while down throws have better combo potential.

Smash Attacks:
Forward Smash:

Iori’s blowback attack where he rams you with his shoulders.

Up Smash:

Iori’s crouching heavy punch from the KoF games. Has a sweet spot on his hand which does more damage/knockback.

Down Smash:

Iori’s crouching heavy kick. Best comparable to Terry’s down smash.

Neutral Air:

Iori’s jumping light punch. Quickly pulls out his fist in a downward aiming position.

Forward Air:

Iori’s jumping light kick. Comes out super quick and has very little active frames. Not exactly a killing aerial move, but knocks the opponent a fixed distance away.

Back Air:

Iori’s Ge-Shiki • Yuriori command normal from the KoF games. Deals a fair amount of shield stun so it is relatively safe to use on shield. The strongest of Iori’s aerials.

Up Air:

Iori’s jumping heavy kick, though angled more upwards to be better suited as an up-air.

Down Air:

Iori’s jumping heavy punch. Spikes the opponent if sweet-spotted.

Special Moves:
Neutral Special: 108 Shiki • Yamibarai

Press the special button (no manual input for this move) and Iori will throw out some flames that travel on the ground. Hold it while performing the move and the flames will travel farther. This move does not deal any knockback to the enemy on the ground but will put them in hitstun for about a whole second.

Side Special #1 (Forward + Special): 127 Shiki • Aoibana

Manual Input:↙ ← (up to 3 times) + Attack

This is Iori’s signature rekka move where you can hit 1-3 times. If both you and the opponent are grounded then the hits will generally connect. The final hit does a ton of damage to shields and will often break them if they are low, serving as a reference to the final hit being an overhead attack in the original games which is useful for getting past people’s guards..

Side Special #2 (Backwards+Special):

Manual Input:↙↘→ + Attack

Iori’s 311 Shiki • Tsumakushi special move. During the jumping part in the middle, Iori will actually dodge/pass through attacks and projectiles (but not actual opponents). The final hit deals a lot of knockback. Useful for recovering and gaining distance in a short time.

Up Special: 100 Shiki • Oniyaki

Manual Input: → ↓ ↘ + Attack

Iori jumps up high as flames appear around him. If performed using the manual input, the distance will be higher. Despite the appearance, the flames only hit the opponent once and aren’t a multi-hit attack.

Down Special: Charge/Max Mode & Ura 108 Shiki Ya Sakazuki

Hold down special and Iori will charge his meter like the KoF games from ’94 to ’97. The meter will also fill by getting hurt like in KoF. In the KoF games after ’96, the meter could also fill up by dealing damage, however I chose to omit this for balancing purposes.

Once the meter is full, press down special and Iori will flash orange very quickly and have a continuous slight flash. This means he is in Max Mode, where his specials deal extra damage and he has the ability to cancel in between special moves. For example, in Max Mode you can perform his neutral special projectile and then immediately perform his side special. Doing so will take away a small amount of meter as it continuously drains. You can also do the very first Max Mode activation in the middle of a move before using it, allowing you to perform a cancel without already being in Max Mode. Doing it this way will result in the meter already being half-depleted upon entering Max Mode however.

Finally, if you press down special while you are still in Max Mode, Iori will perform his Ura 108 Shiki Ya Sakazuki super move from the KoF games. This move is a slow moving projectile that dishes a lot of damage to enemies (about 20%) and leaves them paralyzed for 3 entire seconds. This can be useful as a combo continuer or simply as a way to land a charged smash attack on the enemy. You can perform this super move attack as long as your meter isn’t empty while it is going down, so even if it’s a split second away from ending, you can still use it.

Final Smash: Kin 1211 Shiki • Yaotome → Ura 316 Shiki • Saika

This is Iori’s signature super move followed by the additional Ura 316 Shiki • Saika super that can be performed immediately afterwards. Upon using the final smash, Iori would quickly dash forward and hit all enemies in his path while saying ”Asobi wa owari da!” ("Playtime is over!"). The enemies that are caught will enter a cinematic of Iori slashing at them repeatedly, during which he will say ”Nake! Sakebe! So****e, shine!” ("Cry! Scream! Then, die!"). Afterwards, Iori will perform the Ura 316 ending fortune while laughing maniacally, and the enemies caught in the attack will be sent flying.

Other Animations/Victory Theme:
Intro Animation:

Iori would jump in, have his back facing the camera, and then turn around while saying “Sugu raku ni ****e yaru” ("I'll make this quick and easy”).

Idle Poses:

  • Idle Pose #1: Iori moves his body and arms in a more exaggerated manner for a brief second.
  • Idle Pose #2: Iori leans back and puts his hands in his pockets for about 2 seconds.

  • Up Taunt: Iori’s taunt from the KoF games. Stands firm and then says ”Ore ga kowai no ka?” ("Are you afraid of me?")
  • Side Taunt: Lights a flame up and says ”Kiero!” (“Begone!”).
  • Down Taunt: Iori’s taunt from Capcom vs SNK. Puts his hands on his hips, bends over, and says “Muda na agaki da!” (“It's useless!”).
Victory Theme:
Iori’s victory theme would be the win theme from KoF ‘98. There’s a lot of other options to choose from but I feel this would be the best since ’98 is one of the more popular games in the series.

Victory Animations:

  • Iori does his trademark laugh after winning a round in KoF.
  • Iori puts his hands in his pockets, bends down towards the camera, and says “Sonomama shine!” ("Die as you are!").
  • Iori turns around (so his back with the crescent moon symbol would be facing the camera), points to the sky, and says “Tsuki o miru tabi omoi dase… (You'll remember me each time you look at the moon...")


Iori would have an alternate costume taking up the final two slots, similar to Joker.

  1. Default.
  2. Purple - Iori’s alternate color in pretty much every KoF game.
  3. Brown - Iori’s color when pressing C (Heavy Punch) in KoF ‘98 while on the character select screen.
  4. Bright - Iori’s color when pressing D (Heavy Kick) in KoF ‘98 while on the character select screen.
  5. Green - One of the default alternate colors in KoF XIII.
  6. Blue - One of the default alternate colors in KoF XIII.
  7. (Coat) Black - Based on Iori’s appearance in KoF XV, which is heavily inspired by the Another Iori striker character from 2000.
  8. (Coat) Red - Based on Iori’s appearance in KoF XIV.

Stage: U.S.A. Junkyard

This is Iori’s stage in ‘95 and is a stage commonly associated with the character as it would return along with EX Iori in XIII. While Terry’s stage helps serve as one of the cool tournament stages of the KoF universe, this one helps show some of the more visually appealing stages (yes there is literal garbage everywhere but just look at that sunset!). Since stages in fighting games typically don’t have any actual hazards, you’d be able to jump on the garbage truck to the left as well as the garbage to the right. They could even add a hole where you can kill enemies like the white smoke area in the background.

Spirit Battles

Iori’s spirits would revolve entirely around KoF original characters.

Side note but going forward I’m going to be including DLC characters as part of spirit battles (like with Min Min and Joker in this one), even though Ultimate technically doesn’t have them. This is because they’re meant to serve as references for future games, and well… because I can get away with it lol.

  • Leona (:starman:) [Song]
    • Zero Suit Samus on Figure-8 Circuit. ZSS represents Leona who is a trained military fighter while the stage is based on the ‘96 Ikari Warriors bridge stage. Ralf and Clark already have their own spirit fight that was released alongside Terry so I chose to not add them here.
  • New Faces Team (Chris, Shermie, and Yashiro) (:starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Squad Strike Battle on Spear Pillar against blue male Villager (with fire items), Incineroar (with electric items), and red Roy (with pitfall items). Characters represent the Orochi forms of the New Faces team and their abilities, with Chris/Villager having fire powers, Shermie/Incineroar having grappling/electric abilities, and Yashiro/Roy having earth abilities. Spear Pillar represents the Altar of Orochi from KoF ‘97, which is where you fight against the Orochi versions of the New Faces Team during the climax of the story.
  • K’ Team (K’, Maxima, and Kula) (:starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Squad Strike on Frigate Orpheon battle featuring Captain Falcon, blue R.O.B., and pink Ice Climbers. Captain Falcon represents K’ since he fights with fire and it mirrors the Kyo spirit fight that also uses Falcon since K’ is a part Kyo clone. R.O.B. represents Maxima since they’re both robots with beam attacks, and Ice Climbers represent Kula since they’re both cheerful fighters with ice abilities. Frigate Orpheon represents a NESTS cloning facility which is a common theme of the NESTS saga.
  • Ash Team (Ash, Duo Lon, Shen Woo) (:starman::starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Squad Strike battle on Fourside featuring red Lucas, grey Min Min, and Pink Pit that uses side special a lot. Lucas represents Ash since they’re both light haired sorcery users. Min Min represents Duo Lon since they can both since they can both stretch their arms long and also originate from China. Pit represents Shen Woo because they both are wearing pink and Pit’s charging side special represents Woo’s Geki-Ken charging move. Fourside represents the Czech Republic stage from KoF 2003.
  • Shun’ei & Meitenkun (:starman::starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Free-for-all on Bridge of Eldin against school outfit Joker (who would have Arsene out at the start of the fight) and blue Toon Link who will randomly fall asleep. Joker represents Shun’ei who fights using magical hands not attached to him (represented by Joker’s Arsene), while Toon Link represents Meitenkun who often falls asleep and is tired in general. Bridge of Eldin represents the Great Wall of China stage from XIV. I considered doing a squad strike battle for this but opted not to since the Hero team for the current saga doesn’t have a true third member yet.
  • Orochi (:starman::starman::starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Stamina battle on Final Destination against Mewtwo, with him at 200hp and you at 100hp. Mewtwo represents the divine being Orochi with psychic abilities. Final Destination represents the Altar of Orochi during the true final battle of ’97.
  • Igniz (:starman::starman::starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Stamina battle on Omega form Space Battleground against Purple Simon, with him at 250hp and you at 100hp. Simon represents Igniz who fights with a (super annoying as hell) whip attack. Space Battleground represents the NESTS space station which is where you fight Igniz at the end of 2001.
  • Omega Rugal (:starman::starman::starman::starman:) [Song]
    • Stamina battle on Omega form Dracula’s Castle against Ganondorf, with him at 300hp and you at 50hp (no that is not a typo). Ganondorf represents Rugal due to them being the big baddies of their respective universes (but most importantly: because Ganondorf’s smash attacks have giant hitboxes like Rugal’s genocide cutter attack). This spirit battle is meant to be annoying as hell so good luck with this one.

Classic Mode: "I'm looking for... THAT one"

Iori's Classic Mode route would have him searching to fight Kyo Kusanagi. Along the way, he fights opponents that use fire attacks, are hot-headed, and/or originate from fighting games as he keeps finding the wrong person. The more enemies he fights, the more closely they resemble Kyo. The classic mode ends with him fighting his one true rival: Kyo... or at least a Mii fighter)

  • Stage 1: Ness
  • Stage 2: Lucas
  • Stage 3: Pyra
  • Stage 4: Ryu
  • Stage 5: Terry
  • Stage 6: Ken
  • Final Boss: Mii Brawler (wearing Kyo costume) on New Donk City


SNK already has a more than alright representation in Smash when it comes to music, so this is basically just going to be a big list of songs that’d still be awesome to have:
Mii Costumes

  • Kyo Kusanagi (Mii Brawler)
  • Geese Howard (Mii Brawler)
  • K’ (Brawler)
  • Maxima (Mii Gunner)
  • Haohmaru (Mii Swordfighter)
  • Fatal Fury hat (Hat)
Closing Comments:

Sorry for the long delay in between articles (last article was the CJ one all the way back in December). I’ve been getting on top of things and the next two articles will be releasing in a much shorter time frame. The next article in particular I am super excited for and have already begun work on it already (should be out by late May/early June).

Hope you enjoyed this article! I know I never shut up talking about SNK so I'm probably just going to end it here (unless I cover Metal Slug in the future).

Next time on Smash Underdogs: This character raced a laggy online Sonic to the steps of The Great Cave Offensive, found a smash ball in the middle of Mushroomy Kingdom, and discovered the fabled Fountain of Dreams. This character is a legend.

You know, I spiked the man who told me that.

@Scribe and @Zerp
Graphics: @Zerp
Social Media: @Zerp
Special Thanks: fightersgeneration.com for their Iori gifs.
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I'd be all for Iori if they ever decide to rep KoF more. (Though I do have a soft spot for Kula and K', but they stand no chance over Iori / Kyo imo.)

Iori is cool though for sure.
While Iori looks cool I would prefer if the next SNK rep is someone outside the fighting games such as Metal slug rep and Athena I think Terry is enough for the SNK fighting games rep as for now
I’d love to see Iori in Smash, with more KOF music, and Smash remixes of his other themes, but honestly, my choice for a second SNK rep would be Geese Howard. I think a Smash remix of Geese ni/For Geese would be EPIC. But still, Iori would be cool.
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You know, I've always thought that a Second SNK Character is more likely than most give credit, and I'm glad Iori got some attention, even if he's not my first choice (those are Nakoruru, Geese, and Rugal), I'm still glad that this article brought up this possibility.
You know, I've always thought that a Second SNK Character is more likely than most give credit, and I'm glad Iori got some attention, even if he's not my first choice (those are Nakoruru, Geese, and Rugal), I'm still glad that this article brought up this possibility.
Nakoruru has always been my favorite SNK character. I used to love her in that one KoF game back on the Game Boy Color / Pocket (I forget which), I didn't even realize she was from a different fighting game series until much much later.
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I did not know SNK was planning to cut Kyo and Iori from the roster in KOF 99. It's not nearly as bad as their plans to kill off Terry in the same game until the managers at SNK vetoed it.
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