Reclaiming the Throne: The King of Fighters XIV Review
It's been quite a strong year for the fighting game genre. With new releases from the likes of Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, and Mortal Kombat XL, there has been plenty for fans of the genre to be excited about. Even with all of these high-profile releases, I've been much more excited for the return of The King of Fighters, the first new entry in the long-running series in nearly six years.
The King of Fighters XIV feels like a reboot of the long-running franchise, while also offering plenty of fan service for longtime fans of the franchise. The new story picks up with the King of Fighters tournament being in disarray due to numerous knock off tournaments ruining the reputation of the annual event. This leads to a businessman named Antonov buying the rights to the King of Fighters name in the hope of returning the tournament to its former glory.
This new competition attracts the interest of some of the greatest fighters in the world, many of which are participants from the previous tournaments. Antonov's King of Fighters tournament will feature forty-eight fighters, made up of sixteen teams, each of which is vying for the chance to be crowned the new King of Fighters. With a worldwide audience and the title on the line, the game begins during the tournament's opening ceremony.
The game certainly doesn't offer the greatest depth in terms of story, but digging into the actual story mode will answer a number of questions, and provide plenty of fan service for longtime fans of the series. Each of the sixteen teams has its own ending and, while some don't offer much in the grand scheme of things, there are several that piece together the story. Thankfully, this offers players plenty of incentive to playthrough the story with each of the teams. However, if you aren't interested in the story, the ten fights are fun to run through a few times, and there is plenty of other content to round out the package.
In addition to the story mode, the game offers the typical training and multiplayer modes. The training modes allow you to learn the games basic mechanics. This leads into combo training for each of the game's fifty characters. While this may sound daunting, the combo training feels much more forgiving than other games in the genre.
Multiplayer modes include local and online multiplayer in both traditional one-on-one battles and a three-on-three team battle mode. Online modes are great, and I experienced no major issues with lag during my time playing King of Fighters XIV online. Atlus and SNK appear to have done a fantastic job with the game's net code, and that is a welcome change of pace when compared to the launch of Street Fighter V earlier this year.
The King of Fighters XIV's gameplay benefits greatly from the developer's decision to focus on the game maintaining a constant framerate rather than focusing on flashy looking attacks. While this may cause The King of Fighters to take some knocks due to it not looking quite as good as other games on the PlayStation 4, the focus on performance will make the game stand out, in particular among the fighting game community. It's clear that SNK has built The King of Fighters XIV with the competitive scene in mind, and I hope to see it pay off for them. The King of Fighters XIV is among the best fighters I've played this year and it deserves to receive the extra attention from the fighting game community.
King of Fighters XIV features the biggest departure regarding presentation for the series as it marks the first time the core series has used 3D models for its characters instead of 2D sprites. One of the biggest criticisms of the King of Fighters series before King of Fighters XII was their reliance on recycling old sprite work, causing some pretty drastic differences in quality between the game's characters, but with this new look, that is not longer the case.
Each character featured in the game's fifty character roster sports a brand new character model, each of which looks fantastic and serves give each character their own unique look and feel. Couple this with excellent set pieces and SNK has done a fantastic job updating this storied franchise to 3D. Thanks to a set of fifty unique characters and vibrant and lively stages for them to fight in, the game looks better than any previous entry in the series. This graphical overhaul is something I've wanted to see for the series for quite some time, and I am glad that SNK finally gave the franchise the long overdue visual overhaul.
One of the biggest surprises in King of Fighters XIV, is undoubtedly the soundtrack. Being a longtime fan of the King of Fighters series it saddens me to say that much of the previous game's soundtracks have never stuck with me. There are a handful of tracks from the series that I love, but it's never had the type of catchy tunes you'd get from a game like Street Fighter. Thankfully, this has changed with King of Fighters XIV.
The newly composed tracks for the game sound fantastic and several of the team's songs feature themes from their previous tracks, which offers a great throwback for longtime fans of the series. Several classic tracks have also been updated and play when certain characters face off against one another, giving some great fanservice to long-time SNK fans.
Ambient noises round out the package in a strong way, and voice-over is offered only in its native Japanese. Many of the game's characters see their voice actors return from previous King of Fighters outings, and it sounds like, at least to me, that many of the voice overs were newly recorded for King of Fighters XIV. I've seen online that many critics have been negative about the game's overall presentation, and I think that is unfortunate. While the game certainly isn't on the same level as Street Fighter V, it doesn't need to be. King of Fighters XIV is the best the series has ever looked, and taking that away from it is doing the game a great disservice.
The King of Fighters XIV offers a great jumping on point for newcomers thanks to it's easy to learn system and a wide variety of characters. The new Rush system offers up a great way for inexperienced players to jump in without having to learn timing or inputs for combos. Couple this with a story mode, tutorial mode, challenge modes, great online and local multiplayer and plenty to unlock in the game's in-game gallery, and you have a great, fully featured fighting game.
The King of Fighters XIV is easily one of the best fighting games of 2016, it's ideal for newcomers and longtime fans alike, and offers plenty of replayability thanks to a robust offering of content. If you're a fighting game fan, and you're looking for something new to play, then King of Fighters is a no brainer.