Iori Yagami is one of the major playable characters and protagonists of SNK's The King of Fighters franchise. He has since become one of the company's most recognizable mascots, alongside his rival Kyo Kusanagi and Fatal Fury's Terry Bogard.
Iori Yagami is a no-nonsense, blunt, and rude young man with a ruthless, sadistic, and violent side; his fighting style reflects this, as he practices the Yasakani style of ancient martial arts that typically incorporates wild clawing-based attacks. He is not known to make friends or create enemies, instead preferring to be a lone wolf; depending on his teammates, he can be at best distant but cooperative, but at worst apathetic and at times downright treacherous. Though despite his personality and behavior towards others he is not known to be antagonistic and follows a moral code, and even famously does not like violence.
Iori is a trauma survivor, mainly due to the actions of his clan. In ancient times, the Yasakani clan (the ancestors of the Yagami clan) betrayed the Yata and Kusanagi clans to make a blood pact with the devil Orochi that gave them immense power, but consequently cursed their descendants forever. Iori is the current possessor of Orochi's power, which results in his long standing rivalry with the series' first central protagonist Kyo Kusanagi, something that is heavily implied to be out of instinct; however, recent depictions of both have transitioned their tense rivalry into something of an odd couple, with Iori remarking that even he's not sure why they keep bickering nowadays. Despite the demonic power he harbors, he does not care much for his family history and would rather spend his time playing sports or performing in gigs with his saxophone and bass guitar.
Iori's first appearance is in The King of Fighters '95 as a part of Team Rivals alongside Fatal Fury's Billy Kane and Art of Fighting's Eiji Kisaragi, with his reasons for joining purely to meet Kyo Kusanagi. By the end of the tournament, Iori severely injures his teammates to show a dying Rugal Bernstein the Orochi power within him, and vows to eliminate Kyo and his clan next. In The King of Fighters '96, Iori is informed of his rival's intentions to join the tournament by two mysterious women calling themselves Mature and Vice, who are secretly in league with the game's antagonist Goenitz as all three are descendants of Orochi. After a brief fight, the ladies agree to join Iori and enter the tournament as Team Yagami. During the competition, Iori meets Chizuru Kagura, the heir to the Yata clan who intends to gather him and Kyo in the hopes of sealing the demon; they eventually come together in the finals to defeat Goenitz, who dies saying he does not want to underestimate the power of either Orochi or Iori; this declaration strikes fear upon Mature and Vice, who are violently killed by Iori, unable to control his transformation into Orochi Iori. Prior to the events of The King of Fighters '97, he has a nightmare of two women mocking him for not being able to kill Kyo; he awakens enraged and coughing up blood, vowing to defeat his rival once and for all, and later joins the 1997 tournament without a team. In the finals, Iori confronts the remaining members of the Four Heavenly Kings (of which Goenitz was a part of) who make up Team New Faces (Yashiro Nanakase, Shermie, and Chris), who initially joined to exact revenge on Iori for upstaging them at a previous concert gig. In the ensuing battle, Orochi possesses Chris and attempts to kill Kyo and Chizuru, who have also advanced into the finals. All three team up once again to ultimately defeat the demon, but Orochi suddenly reactivates Iori's transformation in the hopes that he will betray the two; however, Iori manages to ensnare Orochi, allowing Kyo to cripple him with the finishing blow and Chizuru to seal him, officially ending the saga.
In The King of Fighters '99, Iori joins the tournament to investigate whoever is responsible for the creation of clones of Kyo; it is eventually revealed to be a mysterious organization called NESTS, who have created the clones in the hopes of killing the original Kyo. For the rest of the story, Iori follows the battles in secret with his whereabouts unknown at the end as well as during The King of Fighters 2000. In The King of Fighters 2001, Iori reemerges after coercion from a secret agent named Seth, believing he would get his new chance to battle Kyo who is also entering as a part of a team. Though he believes he can do it alone, Iori decides to form a new Team Yagami, comprised of himself, Seth, and agents Vanessa and Ramon. By the time he and Kyo reach the semi-finals, they split off from their respective teams to battle elsewhere. Iori returns alongside Mature and Vice for The King of Fighters 2002, once again as Team Yagami, though the game has no storyline and is not considered canon.
Tales of Ash
In The King of Fighters 2003, Chizuru returns to have Iori and Kyo work together to look into the newest tournament as Orochi's seal has been tampered with. However, during their investigations they are ambushed by Ash Crimson, who has since defeated Chizuru to steal her clan's sacred treasure, the Yata Mirror, along with her powers and plans to do the same to Kyo and Iori. The two team up again in The King of Fighters XI to assemble Team Kusanagi-Yagami alongside Kyo's student Shingo Yabuki under Chizuru's request. They manage to defeat the tournament's host, Magaki, but Iori once again succumbs to his transformation due to the increased presence of Orochi and attacks his comrades. Ash then reappears to incapacitate him and steal both his power and his clan's sacred treasure, the Yasakani Jewel. Iori returns for The King of Fighters XII, which much like KOF 2002 is not considered canon as it also lacks a storyline, and for The King of Fighters XIII alongside the spirits of Mature and Vice for the reassembled Team Yagami, in the hopes of exacting revenge on Ash. At the final battle of the tournament, Iori and Chizuru regain their respective treasures after Ash is erased from time; his teammates remark that should he refuse the Jewel, he will finally be free from the Orochi curse, but also let him decide what he believes is the right thing to do. He decides to regain his abilities and challenges Kyo to another battle.
Iori returns for The King of Fighters XIV, once again alongside the spirits of Mature and Vice as Team Yagami. At the tournament's climax against Verse, Iori senses multiple souls trapped within its body, one of which is Orochi's weakened state. In the aftermath, Iori tracks down the escaped soul to Hungary and reseals Orochi once again alongside Kyo and Chizuru. He is set to return for The King of Fighters XV, this time in a team with Kyo and Chizuru as Team Sacred Treasures.
A DLC Spirit of Iori was added into the game as a part of the DLC Spirit Board in Terry's Challenger Pack. It is a Primary Neutral Spirit under the Advanced class.
His Spirit Battle uses Wolf, who is meant to represent Iori's signature Yasakani martial art since it incorporates a lot of scratch attacks, while Wolf's general purple colorization for his attacks are meant to resemble Iori's purple flames. When the first Wolf is defeated, a second one appears and is far more aggressive, which is meant to represent Orochi Iori. Both Wolfs and the player have reduced jump height as the battle is meant to mimic a traditional fighting game (hence it also being a Stamina match). The stage is the second form of Reset Bomb Forest, meant to resemble the red hue a stage takes on whenever Orochi Iori is around, with Iori's theme song "Stormy Saxophone 2" playing in the background. To win, both Wolfs must be defeated.
Iori has a random chance of appearing in the background of the King of Fighters Stadium, though he will always appear if either the songs "Stormy Saxophone 2" or "New Order - KOF XIV" are used.
Iori makes a cameo in Terry's reveal trailer; in it, he is the last person before Terry to try to catch the Smash invitation, but ultimately fails. He then laughs maniacally, which is his regular victory pose.
- As revealed during Terry's "Mr. Sakurai Presents" presentation, Iori is Masahiro Sakurai's favorite character in The King of Fighters series, stating that whoever made the character's design was a "genius".
- Iori's segment of the "Mii Fighter Costumes - Round 4" trailer make several references to the The King of Fighters series:
- Mario can be seen running away from the Iori costume at the segment's beginning. In this context, Mario represents Kyo Kusanagi, as both use flame-based attacks.
- The Iori costume can be seen performing a combo consisting of a Jab, Up Tilt, and Down Aerial. This is meant to mimic Iori's three-hit combo move 127 Shiki: Aoi Hana.
- The promotional image for the costume features purple particle effects, a reference to Iori's purple flames.