The King of Fighters isn’t a series I’m very familiar with and I didn’t enjoy it’s 13th installment, but I get excited for most fighting games that release and being able to get my hands on this game before release sold me on the final product, and I’m satisfied with how it turned out.
There was a fair bit of worry when King of Fighters XIV was announced as it looked rough and quickly became a bit of a joke in the fighting game community but, thankfully, the work and effort put into it and paid off and quickly rolled in positive previews and people warming to the graphics which had greatly improved. However, what’s a fighting game without solid mechanics? King of Fighters XIV has 50 playable characters and you might be wondering ,”how exactly will these characters feel different?” but SNK Playmore made it work! There are characters you’ll prefer to others and you’ll have to put in a fair bit of time to find the perfect team of 3 characters, but there’s something here for every fighting fan.
So, as you may have guessed, this is the 14th installment in the long-running series and so it has a name to live up to. Whilst I can’t particularly comment on whether or not it does, I am confident in saying that this is a fun fighting game that’ll keep bringing me back time and time again. Not all fighting games ship with an arcade mode or versus CPU mode these days, so it’s nice to see that they’re both present and intact. The story mode, which is essentially arcade mode, is strung together by a handful of cutscenes but don’t expect a cinematic story with great characterisation as it’s brief and shallow, but the interactions between certain character match-ups are a nice addition. In versus you can play 1v1 or 3v3, which also applies online which I plan to talk about once the game has officially released, so expect an update!
The fighting itself is competent and enjoyable, being accessible to those who want to play competitively and those who aren’t as familiar with the genre or series. Auto-combos are included, like with many fighting games released nowadays, where you can mash square and a combo will play out with a special attack at the end, but otherwise you have traditional button inputs, quarter and half-circles, charge moves and more. If you’re familiar with fighters then you’ll pick up King of Fighters XIV relatively quickly. It’s physics aren’t too weighty and it’s fast-paced, brutal, arcade fun that’s a blast to play – this is the game where I’ve picked up charge characters the fastest as the quicker timing of it feels natural to me. Fighting is what you’ll be doing most of the time and you can unlock items in the gallery via story mode and online play, and there are even 2 unlockable characters! There’s bundles of offline and online content to keep yourself busy with and a robust training mode.
The best way to describe how the gameplay feels is as a cross between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat X where it feels fast like the latter but has a better emphasis on timing like the former. I love both of those series’ so I felt pretty familiar with King of Fighters XIV and whilst I may not enjoy it quite as much, I can see myself growing to love it the more time I spend with it. Hardcore fans may not like the series’ fresh approach but I think that this will make the series bigger than ever, and SNK Playmore deserve praise for handling such a radical change as well as they have done and bringing such a huge multitude of characters into the 3D world.
Visually it can be a bit rough but I enjoy the colours and character design, and I honestly have no problem with the graphics. With so many interesting characters and stages, artwork to gaze upon and a few cinematic cutscenes, the game easily brought me joy and whilst it might not be the greatest looking game in the genre, it’s clearly a whole bunch of fun which comes across in its visuals. Special attacks are explosive and, from my brief experience with the series, it seems that SNK Playmore have brought the characters into another realm perfectly in their skills and movements.
There’s no English voice-over but the Japanese voice-over is excellent and the soundtrack is packing more than a few brilliant tunes – something I find quite important in raising the intensity of a battle! The voice cast seems well casted and the characters sound how I would imagine them to sound, and some of the characters’ match-up lines or cutscenes are pretty funny – the assistant in the story steals the show!
King of Fighters XIV made me a fan of the series and I think it’ll remain popular for a very long time, especially with it launching in Europe, North America and Japan within the same week – it’s going to be very competitive! I’ll be returning to it and putting in more hours, and there’s a chance I’ll come to love the gameplay more and if so, I wouldn’t want this review to not be indicative of my feelings so I’d update it and let you all know. Regardless, this is an easy game to recommend to fighting fans and Deep Silver’s marketing has been fantastic so far with trailers releasing almost daily. If you’re looking for a new fighter, then you have no reason to say no to The King of Fighters XIV.