SNK revives their classic fighting game series with The King of Fighters XIV for PS4. How does it hold up? Read on to find out.
What’s Wrong With Her Mouth?
The most glaring difference one will notice right away between The King of Fighters XIV and any previous entry are it’s graphics. For a series known for gorgeous 2D sprite art and animation, the new 3D-based look is a bit jarring. Especially if you stop an animation on an unflattering frame.
It makes the game look kind of cheap when compared to some of its closest competitors, which would include the beautiful Guilty Gear Xrd. Unfortunately, SNK developed the game on a very tight timeframe and with what’s rumored to be an equally tight budget. This lead to the decision to ditch the series’ traditional art style for something that could be created at a quicker pace and a much lower cost.
Yes, The King of Fighters XIV has some visible warts. If you take the time to get to know her, though, you’ll find she’s worth it.
Alright, So What Are We Working With Here?
Capcom’s Street Fighter V launched not too long ago and was thrashed by critics and gamers alike for it’s lack of traditional Street Fighter play modes at launch. Some of which are still missing as of this writing.
So what does KoF XIV offer fighting fans in comparison?
There is a rather barebones Story Mode that features a few cutscenes staggered across 10 matches. At the end of which, you will face a total of two boss characters. I didn’t find much meat here, clearing it rather swiftly without a single loss on my first attempt. I was still a bit rusty, even going with my pick of classic KoF characters. I hadn’t used them since the last few Dreamcast games to feature them, after all.
A Versus mode for either local multiplayer or CPU allows 3 on 3 and 1 versus 1 match styles. This is where myself and my family spent the majority of our time. Everyone had a lot of fun trying out different characters and passing the controller around. The game seemed to remain accessible even for those who hadn’t played an SNK fighter before.
An Online mode allows you to join lobbies and fight other players across the globe. I did not spend enough time with this mode to comment, but peer reviews of the experience find it adequate with some improvement possible.
Training and Tutorial modes will help newcomers get on their feet by running them through demonstrations of how to string together combos.
Inside of Mission mode are three separate play modes. Trial, Time Attack and Survival. Survival has always been a favorite of mine in any fighting game that features it. It sets you up an unending assault of consecutive foes with one life, challenging you to beat as many as possible.
All of the Mission modes feature long-term tracking of results so you can compare new results to previous attempts.
Finally, a Gallery of unlockable art, voice, and video clips exist. It all totals to hundreds of items, giving you plenty to check out.
Clearly, SNK has attempted to meet all possible preferences here and for that I applaud them.
How Does it Play?
In single-player and local multiplayer matches, the game plays great.
I’ve never been an incredibly technical fighting game player. As a mostly casual fan of the genre, I’ve played SNK’s offerings from the original Samurai Showdown through to the likes of Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
Combos can be strung together by players of all types. The Rush Combo feature allows newcomers to string together four simple taps of the light punch button to create a short super move that gives them a training wheel. The catch is that they have to be quite close to their opponents to perform it, leaving them open to counterattacks and simple evasive maneuvers. I think it’s a nice compromise.
From there, a player can get very technical with the game, utilizing a large variety of moves to string together large series of combos. Counters, cancels, and other expected features are available.
This is a fighter you can grow with, no matter your starting ability.
The biggest drawback I can note about playing the game on the PS4 is that the DualShock4 is perhaps not the best controller to use. It’s adequate, but I found myself longing for an arcade stick once I started spending more time with the game.
Luckily, PS3 arcade stick support was added to the game in a patch on the first day it was available. If you have one laying around still, or grab one, you’ll be set.
The King of Fighters XIV : Closing Remarks
As I said above, the graphical changes are a bit jarring. Once you sit down and play the game for the first hour, you might find yourself mostly oblivious to The King of Fighters XIV‘s cheap appearance. Underneath it’s hood is a promising return for the franchise. One that we haven’t gotten our fill of just yet, despite a couple of weeks with it.
The roster features 50 playable characters after you clear the Story Mode once and this has provided plenty of diversity to keep the game feeling fresh. Even during sessions that ended up being several hours in length.
Fans of the series likely already pre-ordered and are playing the game by this time. I think you should give it a shot and join us in enjoying it!
You can find The king of Fighters XIV at quality retailers everywhere or order it on Amazon.
Our previous coverage of the game can be found here.
Full disclosure: I was provided with a review code for the retail version of the game by the American publisher Atlus.