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King of Fighters XIV Review: Return of the King?

Is King of Fighters XIV an impressive addition to the year of fighters, or is this an unwelcomed comeback to the ring?

Ask hardcore fans what do you want from a modern fighting game? They'll answer -- strategic gameplay, playstyle variety, solid online, character balance, content, etc. You ask the same from casual fans, they'll answer -- tons of characters, a lot of modes, easy to pick up, tons of features, online, stylish aesthetics, and more.

So, does the new King of Fighters XIV deliver on these concerns? We find out in our review.

The King of Fighters(KOF) franchise began back in 1994 and was developed by SNK. The main idea was to create a title where their most popular characters can fight in a "cross-over". To further flesh out the universe new fighters were created to be able to take on the likes of Terry Bogard and Roy Sakazaki as well -- Thus, The King of Fighters '94 was released.

The franchise became popular both in Japan and worldwide. Along the way, the series abandoned their yearly releases after 2003. Their last title to support 2D sprites was released back in 2011. With KOFXIV's release the series now fully supports 3D models for their mainline titles going forward.

Fighters galore 

What's never changed with KOF has been the diverse character roster. Players have always had the ability to select among a sizable cast. Much to the game's credit we can chose among an impressive roster of 50 fighters. For current fighters that is unheard-of. The norm is to feature a more sparse offering.

When I say diverse roster, I really mean that in every sense of the word. The game features fighters from various backgrounds and genders from all over the world (and other dimensions). There's the all female teams of Team Another World and Team Women Fighters. You also have a showing of Afro-Latin fighters with team South America as well. This barely scratches the surface of whose available.

The selection is much more impressive considering that it consists of 19 brand new characters. Every single character is wholly unique and so is their respective fighting style.

Sure, it's not a numbers game but it's refreshing when a fighter gives players a lot of people to chose from. A large majority of your time will be spent on asking yourself; whom do I chose? - That's a good problem to have and one I think no one would mind having.

The Sweet Science

To put it simply gameplay blends between casual and hardcore. It's fast, responsive, and feels good as you land every punch, kick, and or super move. Battles are three on three, characters fight in the order you choose. Once the last character falls you win.

Your attention will be focused on your health, power gauge, max mode gauge and guard meter...among other things.

The power gauge dictates what real offensive options you have against an opponent. One level allows you to execute a super special moves like Kyo's fiery "182 shiki".

It also allows you defensive options when under attack. While guarding, you can escape using a power gauge as well. While under attack, you can also knock your back foe into the wall.

Another valuable resource for players is Max Mode which requires at least one gauge to be active. While activated, Max Mode's blue aura allows you access to more powerful versions of character's moves.

For example, Shun' Ei's, "rising efreet" becomes a two hit move finishing with an opponent in the air. Besides dealing more damage, ex-moves also create more opportunities for follow up combos.

Then there's Cancels, most character's moves can be cancelled (interrupted) into others. Normal moves can cancel into super special moves normally. There's also Climax Cancelling where you can cancel a super special move into a highly damaging climax super special move.

New to gameplay is -- Rush, auto combos performed by using light punch. These simple combos can end with a super special move if there's a gauge available.

So in layman’s terms what does the above mean to anyone playing this game? You have options and more in terms of offense, defense, and maneuvering yourself. What separates beginners and vets is responding to these situations.

At any given time you have to exploit your opponent and punish them thoroughly. If you can’t you’ll find more losses than you'd like.

Thankfully, KOFXIV has been designed to encourage you to learn and refine your battle tactics. Ultimately, you can unleash flashy moves and look cool as you proceed to pummel your foes.

Beautiful Fighting 

Aesthetics- After KOFXIII, many fans were worried when SNK switched over to 3D models. KOFXIV is, by no means, an ugly game. Although, when compared (rightfully) to other fighters on the market, its visuals leave something to be desired. This is a valid argument. It doesn’t look as impressive as other games, but it's far from ugly.

Regardless, when you have a game featuring 50 fighters a compromise is in order and the visuals were sacrificed. 

Character designs range from secret agents, hipsters, fashionistas, athletes, and so forth. It all works in the wacky world of game. The fighters, their powers, and stages animate nicely.

The series continues to follow tradition and offers a varied soundtrack. Stages, characters, and teams have songs that range from pop, techno, tropical, rock, classical, and etc. How that all fits into a fighter is a good question. What's impressive is that it fits just fine and you'd be hard-pressed to not have a few favorite tunes. 

Taking on the world

Now let's go to the most crucial part of any modern fighter -- its online capability. So online for KOFXIV in a nutshell is good and it's at best a little noticeable. It's certainly not the best game for online play.

I'll go into detail as to what will make a good online experience. You'll need to make sure you have the best connection setting for yourself. You'll also need to make sure you chose to fight players with the best connectivity. 

The worst connectivity slows the game down to where its fundamentals aren't very useful. At this point, you'll probably resort to throw out light punches and connecting with basic combos. 

Online does allow to you train while searching for an opponent. It's a nice feature that helps players stay ready before a fight.

Online is actually as robust as any fighter should be in 2016. You can record your matches, watch live matches, create rooms for single players and more. It's one of the game's best features.

The heart of a fighter

At its core any game, especially fighters, have to be judged by their content. The content has to be fully fleshed out. After all, if a game feels lacking then buyer's remorse quickly sets in. Now, I mentioned online mode.

The title includes a story mode, mission mode for combo trials, versus mode, tutorial, gallery, and more. KOF recognizes that players need content and it delivers well. 

Shortcomings

So with all the positive points for the game, where does it fall short? Despite being designed as a very competent fighter there's a proverbial wall that the game possesses. Unless you're a seasoned fighting game fan, chances are you won't get over said wall of difficulty.

Although, the game features a lot of causal friendly options and features in mind it's very daunting. The time to learn its nuances and more, requires a lot from any player.

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing but it falls into the hardcore category easily. It really hinges on how much time that you'll dedicate. 

On to the next round...

In conclusion, this game is a welcome addition to 2016's year of fighting games. It's been designed to appeal to both new and older fans.

Again, there are 50 characters for you to learn and maximize. It features a style that's wholly unique to itself and that no other game can replicate -- If you're a fighting game fan and would like a new challenge, The King of Fighters XIV is the game for you.

Our Rating
8
Is King of Fighters XIV an impressive addition to the year of fighters, or is this an unwelcomed comeback to the ring?
Reviewed On: Playstation 4
Published Aug. 23rd 2016

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