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Ayano Koshiro stated that she and her team love reading various of "Weekly Shounen Champion" manga, mainly "Baki" and "Apocalypse Zero" manga series. They were a big influence to the game and there were lots of mangas referenced in the game.
Jacky Bryant is likely based on the design of Super Saiyan Trunks from Dragon Ball Z, with game designer Seiichi Ishii stating in an interview that Jacky was inspired by a ‘Super Saiyan’ from Dragon Ball.
The character Lau Chan was inspired by Mercenary Tao, also known as Tao Pai Pai, from the original Dragon Ball manga and anime. Lau was even once named Tao Chan, which is speculated by fans to be a combination of Tao Pai Pai and Jackie Chan. This connection also extends to Lau Chan’s daughter, who would be named Pai Chan. Pai Chan was also based on an ocha tea commercial actress.
K′ and Maxima are directly inspired by Cool and Harry Ness from the unfinished arcade game, The Fallen Angels. The designer for the Fallen Angel characters, Shin'ichi Morioka, migrated to SNK shortly after the game's failed release and used elements of Cool and Harry Ness to design the KOF duo.
According to Masahiro Sakurai, in an interview with Famitsu, the reason why Kirby (being a creation of Sakurai's) was the only one that survived Galeem's attack was because he was the only one who could plausibly escape it using his Warp Star. This also made the character accessible to starters or newcomers to the game, as a result of his speed and attacks.
According to an issue of Neo Geo Freak, Mai's bust was modeled on Fumie Hosokawa and her buttocks on Ai Iijima; both women were famous idols at the time.
Shermie was based on the character Fujiko Mine from the manga/anime series Lupin the Third.
Brian Battler is inspired by the SNK football game Football Frenzy. Early designs of Brian depicted him in more traditional football player fashion, but his final design left him without a helmet and a more "casual" uniform. This was done to make him not look exactly like the character Johnny Maximum in the World Heroes 2.
Ryu Hayabusa's iconic Izuna Drop was inspired by a move from Sanpei Shirato's manga series Nukenin Kamui (Kamui Gaiden). The game's director, Tomonobu Itagaki, had to get formal permission from Shirato to include the move in the game. It has since been one of Hayabusa's staple attacks throughout all of the character's appearances.
An earlier design of Link featured him wearing silver armor, similar to Zhao Yun's design from Dynasty Warriors 6.
In an interview with Nintendo Everything, the game's director, Masahiro Yamamoto, confirmed that the game takes place in a Kindergarten class within the Mario universe.
The game originally started out in a fantasy setting where the player used magic, but after the development team realised that there were lots of other games with a fantasy setting, it was changed into a cyberpunk setting based on animes favoured by the game's creator, Takahisa Taura, such as Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed.
Sub-Zero's Fatality was inspired by the scene in Predator (1987) in which the Predator rips out the spine of his victim.
According to former game's illustrator Tom duBois in 'My Life in Gaming', he was fined $15,000 by 'Sports Illustrated' for using their photo and position of Wayne Gretzky & Billy Smith from 1983 as a reference for the game's front cover without their consent. The charges were later dropped to $10,000.
According to former game's illustrator Tom duBois in 'My Life in Gaming', the appearance of 'Jennifer (Operation 747)' on the game's front cover was based on his wife 'Victoria duBois'.
When asked by GamesBeat what the word "Eternal" meant in this game, creative director Hugo Martin described the word "Eternal" as an "eternal struggle for the good and evil. It's meant to symbolize that there's always going to be demons and there's always going to be a slayer."
Camelot president Hiroyuki Takahashi gave Luigi the main role in the story as a surprise to the player. Luigi had always been "stuck in his brother’s shadow ," and Takahashi wanted to give him a much larger role with as much prominence as Mario.
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