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The King of Fighters 2003/System

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| Health Bar

The health bar includes 3 bars atop the screen, on both the left side(P1) and the right side(P2). A player loses when all of their 3 bars reach zero, meaning all of their 3 characters are down.

| Power Bar

The super bar is the bar on the bottom of the screen, on both the left side(P1) and the right side(P2). You will need power gauges from the super bar in order to use desperation moves[DM], leader desperation moves[LDM], guard cancel roll[GCR], guard cancel attack[GCA] and also multi-shift attacks[MSA]. This time, the power bar starts at 3 gauges, which is also the initial limit. If you lose a character, you can charge up to 4 gauges, and if you lose two characters, you can charge up to 5 gauges. The power gauge charges as you hit, gets hit by attacks, or make use of some special moves.

| Walk

Hold forward or backward to make your character walk. This is used to get close to the opponent more safely or strategicaly, since you can just block anytime, and you don't have the risk to activate a hyper hop/super jump by accident, in case you are planning to hop/jump. There are different animations to the character's walk, and some of them walk faster or slower than others.

| Run

Tap forward twice, and hold forward on the second. This is used to get close to the opponent fast, but upon running, there is a "cooldown" period until you can block again, which makes running risky. If you try to hop or jump while running, a hyper hop or super jump will be activated, instead. There are different animations to the character's run, and the speed may vary; Mai, for instance, run very fast, but Tizoc runs really slow; Malin can walk really fast, but she is slow while running. Also, some characters can shorten their hurtboxes while running, such as Gato and Iori, by lowering their bodies. With this, they can go under some attacks; this type of run is useful for some circunstances, such as running under the opponent, or running under King's qcf+P.

| Back Dash

Tap backwards twice to make your character backdash. There are different animations to the character's run. Some backdashes are faster, and some go further.

| Roll

Press A+B to roll. While rolling, you become invincible to attacks for a short period, and then you will turn vulnerable at the recovery, so be careful. You can roll forward or backwards.

| Hop / Hyper Hop

Tap up, up-back, or up-forward to hop, and by pressing down before, you can hyper hop, which goes further than a normal hop. Some character's hop go high enough to hop over mid-height projectiles, and Duolon's hop can even go over DM projectiles. In this game, you can also neutral hop, by taping down~up, which will result in you being able to use a neutral jump attack in case you press an attack button, even though you are using a hop.

| Jump / Super Jump

Hold up, up-back or up-forward to jump, and by pressing down before, you can super jump, which goes further than a normal jump.

| Triangle Jump

This is the action of jumping off a wall. It happens when, while in the air and close to a wall, up-forward is pressed. The character will jump forward, while mid-air. These are the characters which can triangle jump:

   - Duolon
   - Mai
   - Athena
   - Malin

| Throw

You can throw the opponent by pressing forward or back+C or D close to them. Despite the button you use, there is only one grab; the animation will remain the same. The only difference is which side your opponent will be throw. Throws can be break by pressing the same button used by the opponent to throw; either C or D. There is also an option select that allows you to break despite their choice, by pressing CD together. Refer to the advanced techniques section for more information.

| Air Throw

Some characters can air throw the opponent by pressing any direction except UP, and then pressing punch or kick while mid-AIR. Unlike regular throws, these throws can't be broken. Also, you can option select into air throws. For example, if you are jumping in with Yuri's air D, keep holding forward while you press D; in case the opponent jumps, he will be air throw, while if he remains on the ground, air D will come out. These are the characters who can air throw:

   - Yuri
   - Clark
   - Mai
   - Athena
   - Tizoc [Can air GRAB]

| Attack

There are normal attacks and special attacks. You can attack while crouching, standing or while mid-air, by pressing A[Light Punch], B[Light Kick], C[Hard Punch] or D[Hard Kick]. When you attack very close to the opponent while standing, a "close normal" will be activated, which is an attack that usually activates faster, and in most cases cancelable into special attacks. For some reason, in this game close normals have a shorter range, however, there is also less pushback on guard, meaning attack strings can be extended. There are also special moves, which are specific to the characters. Refer to the character's move list for more information on these.

| CD Attack

Due to the inclusion of shift, there is no universal CD Attack anymore. However some character's CD have morphed into command normals and air specials. These are the characters who can still use it:

   - Terry: df+D
   - Chang: Air f+C
   - Leona: Air CD
   - Billy: df+A
   - Mary: Air CD
   - Athena: f+AC
   - Whip: Air CD
   - Chizuru: dp+K, Air CD

| Whiff cancel

It is not possible to whiff cancel anymore.

| Guard crush

In later games, the guard crush would take but a brief moment, so the only way to hit the opponent would be to cancel the move that guard broke them. This time, when the opponent is guard crush, they will be in a "stun" state for about 1 second, allowing you to follow up with a combo if you can react fast.

| Guard Cancel Roll[GCR]

This is a move that allows you to cancel guard into a roll, by pressing forward or backwards+AB while blocking. It can be used either to save you from a pinch, or to allow you to punish an opponent's attack string. Remember you MUST hold forward or backwards while pressing AB, or else it GCR won't come out.

| Guard Cancel Attack[GCA]

This is a move that allows you to cancel guard into a blowback attack. Unlike in previous games, this time the GCA deals no damage. It can be used to free you from a pressure, or to help you keep the offensive, when the opponent tries to counter through your pressure.

| Shift

This is a new mechanic introduced this year. It allows you to switch characters during the match, by pressing BC or CD. There are two ways to normaly shift: "Normal Shift" is what happnens when you just press BC or CD, and "Multi-Shift" is what happens when you input qcf+BC/CD. In order to learn which character BC or CD is going to call, you must pay close attention to the character list, that can be found under the life bar, and also replicates the order. BC will always call the first available character after the one you are using, and CD will always call the last. Consider your order is composed of Ash, Duolon and Shen, while Ash is in order 1, Duolon is in order 2, and Shen is in order 3. If you are using Ash, pressing BC will shift to Duolon, because after Ash, he is the first character available in the order, and pressing CD will shift to Shen, because he is the last. However, if you are using Duolon or Shen instead, the first character available will be Ash, and then pressing BC will shift to Ash, because he is the first character available in the order. The same way, if you are using Shen, the last character available in the order will be Duolon, and then pressing CD will shift to him instead.


| Multi-Shift Attack Landing

When you use a multi-shift attack, the incoming character will lock on the opponent and try to hit them with an attack. Depending on the character, they might land on the opponent's front or back. Refer to the character's page for more information.

| Leader

This year introduces the leader system, and teams are now composed of a leader and two members. The leader will always be the first character you choose when picking your team, and during the match, the leader will be highlighted by a blue life bar, unlike the members, whose life bars are orange. The leader gains access to a 2 stock super, known as LDM, which means "Leader Desperation Move". The characters have different effects for their LDM. There are many types: Install, OTG, Unblockable, Command Grab, Projectile, Anti-air and Combo types. Refer to the individual character's pages for more information.

Advanced Techniques

| Running Throw

This is a technique that allows you to cancel a run into a throw. Run and get close to the opponent, then imediately hold back for a brief moment(less than 1 second) and then press C or D. Unlike previous games, where you could press back+C or D, now you must hold back for a brief moment for it to work. Think of it as an special move, where you press back~C/D in a single motion.

| Throw Invincibility

In this game, throws can win against close attacks more easily. This is mainly notable during wake up, as a wake up throw will defeat a meaty attack.

| Throw Break Option Select

You can option select a throw break with forward/backwards+CD in order to break either a punch or kick throw. Just be careful, since C+D is also the command for the shift, so if you press it when you are not being throw, your character will procceed to execute a normal shift, and let you open.

UPDATE: It has been found by player nissouma55 you can also option select by pressing forward/backwards+BCD instead, which is much better because it won't trigger the shift in case it goes wrong. In fact, if you do it far from the opponent, a st.B comes out, if close, you'll throw them, and if they throw you, you will throw break. It's perfect!

| Guard Cancel Roll Basic Option

As a general rule, every string ending in a projectile that lets the character standing still can be GCR and punished. Since projectile strings make a very important part of some character's gameplay, such as Athena's [f+AC, qcb+P], it is very important you know this, so you can limit their choices, since there is a risk of you GCRing on them.

| Counter Wire

Recurring from The King of Fighters 2001, this mechanic has been even more limited this time around. Although some moves have the ability to automatically counter wire, such as Hinako's LDM or Tizoc's Hercules Throw, they don't actually counter hit. Despite the method, every counter wire allows juggles. Moves which counter wire on counter hit include K's f+A, Maxima's qcb+P, Shen's qcfx2+P and Ralf's qcfx2+AC(this one does not allow any useful juggles). You can see how to do it at their respective character pages.

| OTG(On/Off The Ground)

This is a technique that allows a character to hit the opponent when they have already landed on the ground after a knockdown. Characters who have been found to have this ability include Ryo, Yuri, Terry, Kim, Benimaru, Daimon and Malin. Refer to the character's page for more information.

| Normal-Shift Vulnerability

When a player normal shifts by using BC or CD, they get vulnerable before leaving, meaning they can be freely hit, and their shift will be stopped. If their shift succeeds, the summoned character will come in, and although during this phrase they will be invincible, upon touching the ground they will also be vulnerable for about 1 frame, meaning anything you use will freely hit them. For example, if a character shifts in front of Iori, and Iori uses his Ya Otome[qcf,hcb+P] when the summoned character is falling, then the incoming character will be unable to block it.

| Multi-Shift Lock Off

When the opponent uses a multi-shift attack, their incoming character will lock on your character, and reach you with an attack, even if the first hit of their MSA whiffs. If you use a normal-shift just after the first hit of the MSA misses, then their incoming character will not be able to track you, and land somewhere else.

| Multi-Shift Punish

The lock on attack used by the opponent's incoming character can be punished by your character's attacks. Refer to the character's page for more information.

| Down-Shift Air Throw

When your character is defeated(Down), your next character will be send exactly to where the previous character was. If a character is defeated while backturned, that means the incoming character will be send across the screen, possibly passing through the opponent. If the opponent jumps, then the incoming character, while still on air flying to where his defeated teammate was, can air throw the opponent, even though it is not possible to attack.

| Juggle Loop:

Some characters have the skill to juggle the opponent after they have already been hit on air, resulting in a combo. It is something similar to the juggle system found in The King of Fighters 2001 and The King of Fighters XI(Arcade). The characters who have been found to have this skill are Terry, Gato, Mary, Kim, Tizoc, Ralf, Whip, Chizuru and Adelheid. Refer to the character's page for more information.

| Succession-Shift

When a character, which is not the last, gets defeated while blocking, the next character will be summoned right away. As a result, it is possible that when he comes in, the move used to defeat his comrade is still active, and so it can be punished. For example, if Kyo uses his qcfx2+AC LDM, which is also unGCRable, to defeat a character on cheap damage but defeats them on the first frames, Kyo will still be on it when the next character comes in through Succession-Shift, and will be punished. Unlike Normal-Shift, Succession-Shift makes the opponent invincible upon landing, so they can choose to either block the move who defeated their partner, or also use an invincible move on their own to punish it, in case it is still active.

Character Data

Crouch Height

Extra high: The Griffon/Tizoc

High: Chang, Maxima, Daimon, Whip

Medium: Duolon, Shen, Terry, Joe, Ryo, Robert, Kim, Jhun, Ralf, Clark, Kyo, Gato, Billy, King, Mary, Shingo, K'

Low: Ash, Yuri, Leona, Iori, Mai, Benimaru, Yamazaki, Athena, Hinako

Extra Low: Malin

  • Some moves will connect on a certain height, while not on others. This is mainly notable during the application of attack strings, such as KUSANAGI's hop dw+C crossup, which will always whiff on low crouchers.
  • In this game, most crossups fail on normal characters; those can be blocked even if the opponent is blocking the wrong way. However, for characters of high and extra high height, they will work normally, just as in previous games; except for Whip, who is character specific.

Multi-Shift Attack Frame Data

2 Frames - Iori

4 Frames - Yuri, Kim, Billy, Athena, Maki, Adelheid

5 Frames - Ash, Duolon, Shen, Terry, Ralf, Kyo, Chizuru, Hinako, K', Maxima, KUSANAGI

6 Frames - The Griffon/Tizoc, Robert, Mary, Daimon, Malin, Mukai

7 Frames - Ryo, Gato

8 Frames - King, Shingo, Whip

9 Frames - Chang

10 Frames - Jhun, Benimaru

11 Frames - Leona, Yamazaki

12 Frames - Mai

13 Frames - Clark

14 Frames - Joe

  • Every MSA over 10 frames is not combo-able from an air attack; except for Mai, who can combo only from her air dw+A, due to extended hitstun.
  • Beginning from 10 frames, every MSA has a lot of invincibility; except for Jhun and Leona.

Character Wakeup Speed

Kyo was used as standard to compare with other characters

He wakes up in 27F (needs confirmation?)

-13 Frames - Yuri

-7 Frames - Yamazaki, Athena, Mukai

-6 Frames - Joe, Robert

-5 Frames - Tizoc, Ryo, Kim, Ralf, Gato, Mai, Blue Mary, Hinako, Whip

-4 Frames - Adelheid

-3 Frames - K'

-1 Frame - Ash, Duo Lon, Terry, Jhun, Clark, Daimon, Malin, Chizuru, Maki

0 Frame (no difference) - Kyo, Shen, Chang, King, Shingo, Maxima

+2 Frames - Iori, Leona

+5 Frames - Billy

+6 Frames - Benimaru

Hidden Mechanics

MSA Lock

A weird and somewhat inexplicable set of frames where you cannot use an MSA attack immediately after a grounded Normal or Special. This can be canceled by inputting a movement before the MSA, as the game registers you moving before the MSA overrides and activates. As long as the game tries to move you for 1 frame in any direction, the MSA input will be legal, and will overtake the attempted movement. This can be a bit tricky because the game doesn't allow buffered inputs and MSAs are not treated as Specials (which would allow them to be canceled into from cancelable normals). As a result, MSAs in combos are mostly links.

Some examples of this would be:

  • Ash- hcf+C > MSA
  • Iori- cr.B > MSA
  • K'- cl.A > MSA
  • Ralf- cr.C > MSA

These are tricky if you're not aware that you need an input before the MSA (qcf+BC/CD). You'll drop your combo if you just try to input qcf+BC/CD as soon as your recovery is over. There are plenty of combos that give ample time to use your MSA, but some, like the ones above, are tight.


What is buffering?

A Buffer is a tactic in fighting games where the inputs for attacks are done while another action is active. This means that an input will immediately activate as soon as it is able to. Fighting games saves inputs for a set amount of frames, in case a special or super input is read. Additionally the saved inputs determine the case of which normal/special/special is to be activated.

Unfortunately in KOF 2003, buffering is almost non-existent. You cannot buffer while an attack is active but hasn't made contact, or whiffs. This means that cancels require manual timings, and precision. The lacking leniency of buffers makes KOF 2003 strict on timing and small cancel windows alike.

Old forum posts of the PS2 port of KOF2003 would suggest that this non-existent buffering is in fact a bug of the NeoGeo release, and that buffering was added in the console ports, or at least made much more lenient.

Due to the nature of this, the game relies heavily on links-- timing your recovery with the next input so your attack can connect with the opponent. However, there is a type of motion input buffer that has been found that is usable in specific scenarios.

Run Cancel Buffer

Running buffer exists in KOF 2003 for (going by visuals) what looks like to be 2~3 frames (This needs frame testing). When holding back, your previous inputs are saved briefly during this time until you hit a button or walk backwards for more frames than the allotted frame window. This means that qcb/hcb inputs can be delayed briefly in case you need to shimmy an attack or take caution. This can be critical for characters with command grabs and spacing tools within this command set can run and adjust their distance properly or properly time their Oki.

Some examples of characters who can use this to their advantage would be:

  • Duo Lon
  • Shen
  • Ralf
  • Clark
  • Hinako
  • Daimon
  • Yamazaki
  • K'
  • King
  • Shingo

Hidden Gauges


In KOF 2003, the game has a hidden meter for guard. While infrequent, when the guard meter is depleted it will cause Guard break. Here's what you need to know about it:

  • The Guard meter has a value of 420 for all characters.
  • When a character does 420 or more guard damage (accumulative), the guard broken character will be unable to block or move for 28 Frames.
  • During this time, they are able to be hit.
  • Guard damage does not begin to dissipate until you are not blocking for several seconds. There is no scaling for Guard damage, all hits will do the guard damage they have predetermined.
  • Supers either do 0 Guard Damage or in specific cases, negative Guard Damage.
  • Negative Guard Damage, will reduce the Guard Damage accumulated against a character's guard meter.


Also known as dizzy or being dizzied, stun is a factor of getting hit too much. When this happens the opponent can hit you for free, before your character returns to normal. You can mash out of the dizzy however before you are hit. Here's what you need to know:

  • Stun is represented by a hidden meter, similar to Guard.
  • Stun damage does not begin to dissipate until you are not hit for several seconds. There is no scaling for stun damage, and all hits will do the stun damage they have predetermined.
  • Supers will do 0 Stun Damage, with the exceptions of Yuri's and Ryo's Leader Desperation Moves.
  • If you are stunned, your character becomes stun invulnerable for 5 seconds (300 frames). This, accounting for the dizzy animation as well, which is a maximum of 160 Frames (2.667 seconds). During this time you can mash repeatedly to lessen the dizzy duration.
  • The value for a character's stun meter is either 900 or 1000 for all characters (as shown below).

Character Stun Values

Character Stun values:

  • 900
Adel, Ash, Benimaru, Chizuru, Clark
Duo Lon, Jhun, Joe, K', King
Kyo/Kusanagi, Mai, Malin
Robert, Shen, Terry
Whip, Yamazaki
  • 1000
Athena , Billy, Chang, Daimon, Gato
Hinako, Iori, Kim, Leona, Mary
Maxima, Ralf, Ryo, Shingo
Tizoc, Yuri

Juggle States

If an airborne character is in...

Full juggle:

  • You can hit the character until they reach the height where they can recovery roll, a bit higher than ground.
  • Close to any move that doesn't knockdown will cause full juggle. For specifics, launchers, first hit of heavy DPs or first hit of light DPs that have multiple hits.

Half juggle:

  • You can hit the char until a little bit after they start falling down.
  • If a launcher has a heavy and light version that both launch, the light will generally cause half juggle and the heavy full juggle.

No juggle

  • You can't hit them. Example: First hit of single hit light DPs

Anywhere juggle:

  • Moves don't care about the juggle state, they'll hit anytime until recovery roll height.

Game Navigation

Duo Lon
Console/Cheats/Rom Hacks Only