Since my last two Favorite Character articles focused on very well-known characters, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit and pick something a little more obscure: the Psycho Soldier team from The King of Fighters series. This is a little bit of a cheat since they’re a group and not a single character, but KoF is about teams, so I think I can get away with it.
The Psycho Solder Team is a mainstay of the KoF series, and it consists of three core characters: Athena Asamiya, Sie Kensou, and Chin Gentsai. There are four other characters also associated with the team, but we’ll get to them a little later. They were based on the arcade game Psycho Soldier, from which Athena and Kensou originated (although Athena’s roots can be traced back to an earlier game called simply Athena).
The Psycho Soldiers are considered to be the comic relief of the KoF series. For some reason, I tend to gravitate towards the cute, silly characters in fighting games. Maybe it’s because their style and personality stands out to me a little more, or maybe I just like the non-serious attitude. In any event, the Psycho Soldiers are definitely non-serious and very humorous.
That strong humor and personality is a large factor in what makes these characters so memorable to me. It’s really easy to imagine them having their own adventures outside of the KoF series, and in that sense, they transcend the games. In my opinion, they’re perfectly suited to having their own cartoon/anime or comic/manga series.
So, let’s begin with Athena. She’s just a regular Japanese school girl, but with “psycho powers.” And she moonlights as a pop idol. And studies kung fu and enters international fighting tournaments. Oh, and she’s also supposed to be the reincarnation of the Greek goddess Athena.
I’m not sure if there was any rhyme or reason to her design, but that bizarre mix of traits is kinda what makes her fun and interesting. The other thing she’s known for is frequently changing her outfit throughout the series, which fits her fashion-conscious pop idol persona. However, in more recent games, she’s stuck with a traditional school uniform, and that’s a little more generic. But her constant changes throughout the series have kept her fresh and interesting.
Kensou was originally the player-two character from Psycho Soldier, and as such, his moveset was, at first, very similar to Athena’s. His character, on the other hand, is far less random than her’s. Kensou is a good mix of “cool” and “silly.” He’s definitely a goofball character, but his more recent appearances in the series have leaned a little more on the “cool” side. Still, he never lost his humor, which is what I find appealing about him. He’s also probably the most balanced character on the team.
Chin was an original character created specifically for KoF. He’s the classic “drunken master” stereotype, and is almost too silly for his own good. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into using the character if he wasn’t part of the Psycho Soldier team, but he’s grown on me over the years. I like how he goes from being completely drunk during the game to spouting Confucius-like wisdom in the endings.
Finally, four other Psycho Soldiers have been part of the team over the years. Bao, a very young boy with psycho powers, was added in 1999 as the fourth team member during the NESTS Saga. I don’t mind him, but he’s really unpopular among KoF fans. Momoko, a girl who fights using capoeira, briefly replaced Chin on the team in KoF XI. Although she’s a much more popular character than Bao, she was only playable that one time. Kaoru first appeared in the ending to KoF ’97, and she was simply a fan of Athena’s who later became her friend. She appeared as an alternate striker in KoF 2000. Bai Tang is a panda bear who really doesn’t have much to do with the team other than being an in-joke. (Chin hates panda bears.) He was also an alternate striker in KoF 2000.
Despite that these characters were only playable in a few games (or not at all), they have continued to appear in the endings of recent KoF games. For me, having this extended cast adds to the feeling that these characters could have carried their own franchise. I feel that there’s really a lot of potential for them, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy them so much.
In the interest of space, I haven’t gone too in-depth on each individual character, but as I’ve eluded to, I think I appreciate them more as an ensemble. Each character has his or her own charm, but they’re more interesting as a group. Their individual personalities and their relationships with each other make for a fun dynamic. Perhaps one day, SNK Playmore will spin them back off into their own Psycho Soldier series.