The King of Fighters series are one of the oldest fighting game series around, and a new version has now graced the PS4 with King of Fighters XIV. Here’s our review.
A franchise that I originally only knew as a brand of games for the Neo Geo system, King of Fighters was out of reach for me for a long time. I didn’t know anyone with a Neo Geo system, and all I knew about them was that the games were horrendously expensive. I know there are plenty of people who complain about the prices of games these days, but a look at some Neo Geo history might cheer you up.
The first King of Fighters game came out when Street Fighter 2 (in its many incarnations) was still king of the genre, so it’s only fair that we look at Capcom’s recent Street Fighter V for a comparison. When we do, we see a few similarities but also plenty of striking differences. For starters, King of Fighters XIV uses a rendering style that’s 3D while trying to still capture that old school 2D feel – a lot like Street Fighter V does. The visual quality of SNK’s game isn’t quite as polished as what we saw in Capcom’s offering, but they’re remarkable for another reason.
The animation quality is good, but fans of the King of Fighters franchise might miss the sprite-based look of the last few games in the series. The biggest issue they are likely to have with the game is its way of switching between visual styles throughout the course of the story. There’s the in-game engine – the default rendering option in many games these days, now that they’re powerful enough to also render cutscenes. However, SNK uses CGI movies for cutscenes instead, and the visual style is different from the in-game one. Making matters even more bizarre, the story mode ends with a 2D anime wrap-up for your character. It’s an odd choice that distracts from the otherwise solid in-game experience.
That in-game experience, to come back to our Street Fighter V comparison, is what we’ve come to expect from SNK. It’s full of content, with close to 50 characters available on the roster and plenty of unlockables as well. In this regard, Street Fighter’s offering from earlier this year pales in comparison. Even to this date, many people still consider Street Fighter V to be incomplete as we wait for more content to roll in – and this is something no one is going to be claiming about King of Fighters XIV. In fact, the game is so complete that we haven’t only really gotten some serious playing time in with about a third of the characters so far.
Having said that… the game feels remarkably well balanced for having such a huge roster. Perhaps this is due to the fact that SNK’s fighter is slightly more accessible than other games, with a relatively simple control scheme and a fighting model that’s not as deep as some fighting purists might like. However, for others this might actually be a plus – and as a more casual fan of the genre I’m definitely one of them.
Oddly enough sweeping an opponent doesn’t cause them to fall in place, but knocks them back – but other than that this is a very recognizable fighter. You gradually charge up a bar that allows you to unleash super moves, you can select several fighters at once to form a tag team of brawlers, and with some practice you’ll quickly develop a few favorites. Online play might become a factor here as well, as it might break the perceived balance that we see in the game now – but it’s not a game mode we spent too much time with, preferring local multiplayer instead.
If you refrained from buying Street Fighter V because of its barebones approach to the game’s release, then by all means check out King of Fighters XIV. It’s not just completely jammed with content, it’s also a rock solid fighting game that’s a ton of fun to play for veterans and newcomers alike.