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Yashiro's inclusion in King of Fighters 15 means two other dearly missed characters will likely be joining the roster as well

For anyone familiar with King of Fighters teams and lore, it really shouldn't come as a surprise which fighters I'm talking about

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • March 28, 2021 at 7:40 p.m. PDT • Comments: 25

Every week we get a new King of Fighters 15 trailer from SNK featuring fighters from the roster, many of them previously unannounced, and I know I'm not the only SNK fan for whom this has become one of the high points to look forward to every week. We've also seen them do misdirections and tease us in order to surprise us, and that's just what they managed to do this week in a big way.

This week it started when they did something they haven't done before by showing a silhouette. Since we'd seen Yuri Sakazaki just a few weeks ago and this character clearly had spiky hair, the vast majority defaulted to assuming this silhouette would be her older brother Ryo, one of the main protagonists of Art of Fighting and a true King of Fighters mainstay. Some more astute observers noted that the character appeared to have sleeves, though, which Ryo typically does not, and found themselves vindicated when the reveal finally came and showed us the long-absent Yashiro Nanakase as the latest roster addition. Not only is his return a big deal in and of itself, but also because of the implications that come with it.

To start off, let's have a look at why Yashiro has even been absent for such a long time. As part of the New Faces Team back in King of Fighters '97, Yashiro was a new character in the game alongside his teammates Chris and Shermie. This team proved to be very popular with fans, but unfortunately these characters died in their very first appearance.

Since SNK are quite the sticklers about their lore (for the most part), they actually stuck to their guns on this decision and kept the beloved trio out of future games outside of the non-canon dream match titles like '98 and 2002. So while Yashiro and his companions would appear on occasion during special circumstances, their canon status remained "dead as three doornails".

This is where we get to the foreshadowing of their return, though — SNK has actually been fairly candid about their intention of bringing these characters back. During the ending of King of Fighters 14, the final boss of the game Verse inadvertently revived many dead souls from past King of Fighters titles, suggesting that the status of dead characters was no longer set in stone.

The main reason on SNK's part for doing this was likely two-fold, one was to bring back the highly popular Ash Crimson who sacrificed himself during the events of King of Fighters 13 to overcome that game's final boss Saiki while the other, in my opinion, was so they could finally bring back the New Faces Team in canon titles.

This was further elaborated upon in the spin-off title SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy where Shermie was brought in as a roster member. If you're unaware, this game is actually considered to be canon to the King of Fighters series (if you're wondering how Terry grew breasts and then de-grew them for King of Fighters 15, it's because the majority of the game takes place within dream sequences — the canon-to-reality parts are largely the character endings).

Shermie's inclusion in SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy confirmed that for all intents and purposes, the New Faces Team was back on the block. Chris and Yashiro both featured in her ending, so it was also clear that she wasn't the only one who had returned to the canon timeline.

With all this in mind, it should be of little surprise to finally see Yashiro back in King of Fighters 15 — though it's clear that he's still a sight for sore eyes. All of this foreshadowing coupled with Yashiro being officially unveiled basically makes it all but confirmed that Chris and Shermie will be joining him as returning team members, but if you happened to have any doubt, look no further than the artwork SNK shared of Yashiro for the game.

If you've got a keen eye (or even if you don't, really) you should be able to spot Chris' arm and Shermie's hair to Yashiro's sides. SNK aren't even trying to hide what Yashiro's team is going to be — and honestly, why would they? They're fully aware that this is what fans have been clamoring for going on 24 years at this point.

What's important to note about their return as well is that Orochi, the catalyst of their death in their original appearance, was also revived but swiftly dealt with by Kyo, Iori and Chizuru in one of King of Fighters 14's endings.

With Orochi vanquished, it's entirely possible that Yashiro and his allies won't be focused on reviving the old deity anymore, something that's been somewhat alluded to when looking at animation comparisons for older games due to Yashiro looking much more friendly and less savage this time around, suggesting he may not be as vicious anymore.

Given the high amount of time and care SNK tend to put in their games in order to make fans feel right at home with classic throwbacks and animations, it's a telling sign that many of Yashiro's motions are filled with nostalgia but he doesn't look nearly as angry while doing them. It's hard to imagine this being anything but an intentional decision on the developer's part.

We also see Yashiro interact with Iori in the trailer, which is likely a callback to the bad blood between them in the past. Believe it or not, but the backstory goes that Yashiro, Shermie and Chris' band had a gig cancelled in favor or Iori's jazz band, leading to them holding a grudge against "the red-haired man". Based on what we see, though, Yashiro seems to be fairly friendly towards him, further suggesting that he's not quite as infused with Orochi energy as when we last saw him.

If we're indeed seeing a somewhat more peaceful Yashiro, then it's likely that him, Shermie and Chris will be focusing on their musical activities (as they have a band together) and may be around for the long haul. With no Orochi bloodline to push them into doing the bidding of higher powers, they may just be joining the King of Fighters family as mainstay characters from now on, given their popularity.

The only real question to me at this point is what will become of their Orochi forms. Each of the three has an Orochi variation to themselves where they're imbued with Orochi's power and have completely different movesets. Given that the movesets aren't at all the same as their regular versions, there could definitely be value in bringing these back as well.

While Yashiro in the trailer is clearly not Orochi Yashiro but instead the regular version, it's possible we'd see alternate versions of the characters more as easter eggs than anything else, or maybe there's more to Orochi's supposed demise than meets the eye, given that Kyo, Iori and Chizuru are officially teaming up this game as the Sacred Treasures Team, a union which is synonymous with sealing away Orochi from our world.

It's hard to say when we don't exactly know what SNK's plans are for the story of King of Fighters 15 yet, but an easy solution to keep the New Faces trio around for fans but also placate the people who preferred their Orochi-fied movesets would be to simply include their Orochi variations as non-canon DLC.

This way, everyone would get what they want without having to form the entire story around it and retread old ground. While there's definitely a lot of nostalgia to be had for the old games, it's telling that the Hero Team still focuses on Shun'ei and Meitenkun, meaning we're likely going to be hitting new beats rather than just revisit nostalgia hits just because dead characters have returned to the surface world.

Whatever the case, with Yashiro now part of the roster and looking absolutely fantastic, I know a lot of fans will be waiting with bated breath to see Chris and Shermie in all of their 3D glory (although the latter we already got a sneak peek of back in SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy).

Don't be surprised if they fake us out by revealing Yuri's teammate next, though... They do aim to shatter all expectations, after all.

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