SNK has truly outdone themselves as King of Fighters XIV has taken itself to a whole new level for the next generation consoles. From the increased frame rate, astoundingly diverse roster, and extensive upgrade over the engine that powered King of Fighters XIII which released back in 2010, this may be the best King of Fighters I have played since King of Fighters ’99.
Like all fighting games, King of Fighters XIV gameplay is relatively straightforward. You choose a character, fight another character, and hopefully win the fight. Simplistic, yet highly addictive. What separates King of Fighters XIV from the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken is the ridiculously large roster. With 50 characters to choose from (2 whom are unlockable), the unique and diverse roster is fantastic. Another thing that sets King of Fighters apart from other fighting series is the ‘team’ element. The game defaults around teams of three , so online and versus play gives you the option to either fight in teams of 3, or 1-on-1. You can mix and match some interesting combinations, as the vast roster gives you many possibilities.
There are 6 modes to enjoy. Story, Versus, Training, Mission, Online, and Tutorial. The Tutorial mode is somewhat bare, giving you the basics and hoping you hop into the Training mode to practice your skills. The story mode is a 10-stage mode which gives you a cool little cutscene type dialogue between the group of characters. Mission mode consists of Trial, Time Attack, and Survival. Time attack is where you must fight 1-on-1 against the computer for the fastest time, survival where you must fight nonstop until your character runs out of strength, and trial where you attempt certain set challenges for each individual character.
Those who are familiar with fighting games will know exactly what to expect from the controls. Each individual character has their own special unique skills and animations that they use in combat. You have your simple punches, kicks, character-specific normal attacks, evasion rolls, EX moves, supers (which are called Specials), and ultimates (which are called climaxes). The controls and feel of King of Fighters XIV is very smooth, especially in comparison to King of Fighters XIII. All the issues I had with the last installment seem to be remedied. This provides some terrific playing and responsiveness to certain unique skills of characters. The new combo system is something that allows new players to jump in and do damaging combos, and for veteran players to create their own unique combos. This can lead to a slight learning curve, but as most hardcore fighters are, it’s always recommended to jump into the training room and practice a bit before taking things online.
Online in King of Fighters XIV is a significant improvement over King of Fighters XIII. The lobbies feel more fluid and make much more sense than it’s predecessor, allowing you more control over who you fight specifically. The online play itself was okay – I had some bouts of lag that really hindered my gameplay and to some extent, crashing my entire game. This is a major stain on the game, as a majority of fighting games aren’t played for their single-player experience, but for their online experience. Hopefully these problems will be remedied by the time the game does release.
Graphically this game is significantly smoother looking than XIII, despite the 3D animation which I wasn’t all to fond of. I still believe this game should’ve stayed in 2D or even brought back the amazing sprite effects it’s predecessors had. Despite my qualms with the graphic style, it’s a major step forward for the series in finally bringing a non-clunky form of 3D fighting to King of Fighters, something I hope they maintain for future installments. The visual effects of the skills are beautiful, and the climax finishers are also very cool to see unfold on-screen as well – so it adds to the sense of improvement this game has done.
Despite all the good in King of Fighters XIV, there is also its fair share of bad. The game’s Tutorial system, as I said previously, is insanely bare. Though it does teach you the basics and some advanced mechanics, it does a poor job of showing you how to string things together. It’s easy to pick up and play, but I found myself getting stomped by players who were executing these combos and cancelling mid-combo in comparison to my minor-skill using. This made it hard for myself and I believe will make it difficult for newcomers, though veterans of the series (or fighting games in general) will know it’s the same rodeo. Another issue I had with the game was odd sluggishness and choppiness of some skills. Sometimes jumping would feel odd and give me the sense that I was floating downwards instead of aggressively fighting, other times I felt like hitboxes weren’t registering properly even though my character was clearly hitting the opponent. The issues I had with the Online mode were limited to a small sample-size of those online, so hopefully what issues I did have online are fixed by the time the game officially releases, but you can never be too sure. The graphics, though improved, don’t truly feel next-gen. At times I played this game, I felt as if I was playing a PS3 title. In comparison to games like Guilty Gear, Street Fighter, and Tekken, this game just isn’t as graphically as impressive.
All-in-all, King of Fighters XIV is a fast improvement for the series and I would consider this one of the best ones yet. Despite feeling a bit weaker in gameplay than the big-guns like Tekken & Street Fighter, King of Fighters XIV has shown that it’s a series that is willing to evolve and to slug it out with other fighting games on the market, even if it’s not as strong.