Since I’ve been writing for Japanator for almost a year now, some of you may already know I’m a big King of Fighters fan and it’s one of the first series I ever played as a child. Even since then I haven’t missed a single entry, even the spin-offs. However I don’t consider myself a hardcore player of the series since I only played it casually among my group of friends.
For the exception of all Maximum Impact games and King of Fighters XII, I haven’t been disappointment in any King of Fighters game. Sadly there’s always a first time for everything. When the game first unveiled during last year’s SCEJA, I was deeply disappointed at the massive graphical downgrade. Both King of Fighters XII and XIII showed a massive improvement in graphic department, and it just left me confused how it took a 180 with this new entry.
The King of Fighters XIV (PlayStation 4) Developer: SNK Publisher: Atlus USA Released: August 23, 2016 (US), August 26, 2016 (EU), August 25, 2016 (JP) MSRP: $59.99
Regardless, I decided to be open-minded and not completely trash the game, so I was still looking forward to it, but with less excitement compared to XII, however. I definitely made the right decision of still giving the game the chance since as the months went by, and as information came in, the game was shaping up to be good, and definitely a lot more robust than one of its competitors when it came to content.
King of Fighters XIV marks the beginning of a new canonical saga for the series. Compared to previous entries, I don’t think the story is that exciting this time around since the story is more streamlined compared to other King of Fighters. The story revolves around a billionaire known as Antonov, who claimed to be the “first champion” of the KOF tournament and bought out all of the rights for the KOF Tournament. His announcement of a new KOF Tournament created unprecedented enthusiasm around the world. From there, this excitement reached many of the veteran participants of the legendary tournament directly in the form of an official invitation.
After finishing up Story Mode, which should be fairly quick, there are other modes you can try out like Versus Mode, Training, Online, Mission and Tutorial. Naturally, Versus Mode is just like previous King of Fighters where it gives you the option to do both Single and Team VS matches. After selecting your character, you got a handful of handicaps you can choose from, such as 50% health, 75% health, an extra bar of power gauge and lastly your power gauge completely filled. After that, you choose your stage and the rest is history.
Practice Mode offers a variety of options that will help you on your training such as changing the position of you and your opponent, change whether they are standing, crouching, jumping, as well as have the AI completely take over. You can also set up so the training dummy guards, counters and recovers. All of this is definitely good if you want to have great training sessions. Additionally, there’s also Tutorial Mode which shows you the ropes. It helps if you’re new to the series or fighting games in general.
Mission Mode consists of Trial, Time Attack, and Survival. In Trial, you will attempt a set of challenges for each character. They usually consist of pulling off combos. Time Attack and Survival both are self-explanatory. I personally liked playing through Trial since it helped me out practice some combos for some of the characters that I used.
Now to address the elephant in the room—Online mode. The previous game, King of Fighters XIII, was known for its awful netcode on consoles. While the Steam version heavily improved this, it still wasn’t perfect. It’s really noticeable that they actually worked hard to improve the netcode in this game. I played around 10 matches or so without any lag—I had a smooth experience all around. Additionally, the game offers some features that make the online better as well.
Ranked Match takes you straight into a 3-Man Team Battle, which affects your rank depending whether you win or lose. For advanced players, it gives you the option to play 10 battles and depending in your wins, it sets you into a Rank much faster. Free Match is most robust as it gives you more modes to play such as Team VS, Single VS and Party VS. The first two work just as if you were playing offline with another player in the same room. What I really love is the addition of Party VS, which lets six players instead in a 3-on-3 fight. If you got a group of friends, it’s definitely a lot of fun.
Room settings are the same as any fighting game in general, such as making the room public or private, the number of players, the round time, and the number of rounds. Inside a room, you’re allowed to play multiple set ups, such as Tourney, Elimination and Series. Tourney removes the losing player after the fight, Elimination removes the winning player after the fight while Series allows you to face the same opponent continuously.
There’s also Online Training, which allows you to train with a friend online. This is definitely helpful for those who lack a training partner outside of the Internet. Naturally, there’s also Online Replay, which you can view all the replays submitted by players, whether it’s Team VS or Single VS matches. Spectators can join to watch the match up with an integrated voice and text chat. Additionally, a "Crowd SE" option is available for spectators, which allows them to root, applaud, and boo the match current players.There's also a Live feature, but that's just a shortcut to game's Live from PlayStation menu.
While the game resembles the Maximum Impact series graphically, it still remains on a strictly two-dimensional plane and keeps the same basic mechanics as its predecessors. New features have been added such as a new Max mode system, allowing players to access the EX moves, which can be activated by using one bar of the power gauge. Additionally, using three bars of the power gauge can allow players to unleash Climax supers.
With the game catering to newcomers as well, the added a feature called Rush Mode, which is similar to games like Dengeki Bunko and Persona 4 Arena. Just like those games, it can be activated by repeatedly hitting the light punch button, however, will do lower damage compared to normal combo attacks. While I’m certainly not a fan of these types of things, it doesn’t really hurt the game either.
Overall, I am definitely pleased with King of Fighters XIV. While the story was kind of bland compared to the previous games, and the graphics are a bit disappointing, it still offers a great experience that both King of Fighters fans and fighting game fans can appreciate. There’s just so much content from the get-go, like a game should, that can keep you occupied for a while. It definitely makes up for the game's flaws. You can bet I'll be playing this for months.