Choose Your Fight, Through The Night! Read on for our full The King of Fighters XIV review.
Title: The King of Fighters XIV
Available On: PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Copy Supplied by Publisher
Fighting games will always hold a special place in my heart. Being introduced to the genre thanks to Street Fighter II in my local arcade, I dropped countless amounts of my parents quarters into that arcade cabinet every weekend. That love only intensified when Mortal Kombat hit my local arcade in 1992, but it wasn’t until Mortal Kombat II on the SNES that I became a true fan of the genre. Hours upon hours were spent in the world of Mortal Kombat II after school and on the weekends, and my friends and I just could not get enough of that game. So when the King of Fighters ‘95 released on the PlayStation back in 1996, I had to give it a shot. And I became an instant fan.
After a very rocky and quite negative release for Street Fighter V earlier this year, I was honestly wondering what SNK would do with The King of Fighters XIV to make sure the same wouldn’t be said about it. They actually paid attention, because this is probably the best fighting game released this year, and most likely will stay that went through the end of the year.
The King of Fighters XIV retains the classic 3 on 3 fighting style that the series is known for. Boasting a roster of 50 fighters, there’s bound to be a play style and character for almost everyone. For the first time in a numbered release, however, the fighting is fully realized with 3D models on a 2D plane instead of being all in 2D. This is a drastic change for The King of Fighters, but it honestly works rather well. I did miss the old 2D style at the beginning, but after spending quite a bit of time with this one, the 3D models just felt natural to me by the end. The graphics are also gorgeous, with the character models looking rather nice, especially during the various cutscenes through the story mode. The different stages you have at your disposal for fighting are also rendered beautifully, with a lot of attention being given to the small details in the background. By far the best looking King of Fighters released to date.
The fighting and gameplay is executed nicely. I’ll be the first to admit that when playing with a controller, my hands tend to cramp up after a while and start to bother me. While this was still true with The King of Fighters XIV, the actual mechanics present and how you can seamlessly pull of an insane combo kept me coming back again and again for more. The fighting system feels really comfortable and familiar, but still allows you the chance to pull out some crazy stuff thanks to the Max Mode gauge. Once activated, you can pull off unlimited amounts of EX special moves for a limited time, and this can totally change the pace of a match.
Now, let’s get in to the various ways you’ll be able to actually play within The King of Fighters XIV. The Story Mode tells the story of the King of Fighters tournament. The Champion, Antonov, is inviting everyone to a massive tournament to crown the next Champion. SNK has said that The King of Fighters XIV is the start of a whole new chapter and story arc. You begin by selecting the three fighters you want for a team. You can mix and match if you want to, but I always stuck to the defined teams the game presents. I am quite partial to Team Ikari Warriors, but Team K’ comes in a close second for me. Anyway, the story mode takes you through a series of ten matches, pitting you against various other teams within the King of Fighters universe. There are a few cutscenes spread out as you progress along, detailing the background of Antonov, and giving you an in depth look at what he is up to during the actual tournament. If you happen to have a character go up against their rival, you’ll also be treated to a quick dialogue scene between the two before the match begins. This all leads up to the fight with Antonov, and it is not an easy thing to defeat him. But if a true challenge is what you want… then just wait until after the Antonov fight for a massive test of your skills. Let me just say that I don’t consider myself to be terrible at fighting games, but it took me a little while to actually finish the story mode. Once you do finish the tournament, each team has their own respective ending, and the animated scenes are a delight to watch, and it’s worth replaying the story to see them all.
The Mission Mode offers three separate ways you can also enjoy The King of Fighters XIV. The first, Trial, allows you to attempt a set of challenges set forth for each individual character on the roster. This is quite fun to run through, but after a while, you’ll want a break and to explore some of the other things the game has to offer. Time Attack is exactly like it sounds. This is a set of ten fights, all 1 on 1, against the A.I. The object is to aim for the fastest time possible. The last part of Mission Mode, Survival, will have you competing 1 on 1 against the computer until you lose. This is where the real bragging rights will come in to play. How many opponents can you go through before eventually being defeated?
There is of course the standard offline Versus Mode, offering two different ways to enjoy couch co-op with friends. Team VS is the traditional 3 on 3 style, and Single VS is the 1 on 1 version of it. We ran through a multitude of matches, trying out all the characters and seeing who was the best here at Level Down Games. It’s insanely exciting when fights come down to the wire, and if a round ever ends in a Double K.O., that’s about as intense as it can get!
The rest of the single player modes consist of the basic Training Mode, which allows you to set up matches and configure the opponents however you see fit in order to test different things and learn your move set completely. There’s also a Tutorial Mode which runs you through the basics of The King of Fighters XIV, and teaches you everything you need to know in order to eventually master the controls and become the Champion yourself. The Gallery also hosts the movies that you will unlock during the story mode, various art assets, sounds, and items. It’s fun to go back and look at everything you’ve unlocked from time to time.
The Online Mode is where a lot of time will be spent after completing the single player stuff, and luckily we were able to test it out extensively. There are a handful of ways to compete online. Ranked Match is your standard ranked matches, where you’ll increase your wins and work on your personal records. Free Match is non-ranked, and can have rooms supporting up to 12 players at a time. Online Training allows two people to practice together, even if they live on opposite ends of the globe. And Online Replay will let you upload and view replays from others, possibly learning a thing or two from time to time!
The Online unfortunately did suffer from a bit of lag for us, and there were a few times we had a heavy dose of it to the point where we couldn’t even really do much on screen. But when it works right, it feels so good and it is probably the most enjoyable way to play The King of Fighters XIV. The various players and styles you’ll come across when competing online is second to none, some testing your skills to the absolute max, and others just providing the right amount of challenge.
The King of Fighters XIV is definitely the best version in the series to date. With the introduction of the 3D models and beautifully realized graphics, on top of the traditional and classic fighting system that SNK has perfected over the years, this one will keep fans coming back for quite some time.