The King of Fighters XIV
Game review on PS4
Kris Godwin / Fri 30th Sep 2016
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After a six year absence, SNK's iconic The King of Fighters series returns - but can it still tangle with the best fighting games in the industry?
The storyline for The King of Fighters XIV is very basic, and really not much different to early entries of Street Fighter, Tekken or Mortal Kombat. Basically, big baddie Antonov (who just loves cheating death in every KoF game) stages yet another 'King of Fighters' tournament (not to be confused with Tekken's 'King of the Iron Fist' tournament!), and as a result, many (and I mean many) pugilists from all over the world enter, in order to resolve their personal quests.
Depending on who you bring along with you (fights are three vs. three), dialogues will change, and witty barbs are exchanged, but it's only skin deep. However, it evokes the glorious years of the '90s, and made me feel like I was a kid again, playing one of SNK's awesome arcade games - so that's a big plus in my book!
As expected, this is where the meat and potatoes of KoF XIV lie. The series has long been venerated for its ocean-deep gameplay, and the latest installment doesn't disappoint.
At its base, things are as you'd expect. There are light and heavy punches and kicks, and you hold back to block. Going deeper into the mechanics, you'll learn that blocking actually depletes a stamina bar (which I'm always a big fan of), and a another triple-bar fills up, enabling you to unleash classic EX moves, such as 'Super Special' and 'Climax Super Special Moves', in addition to the third-tier 'Max Super Special' (which can only be used in Max Mode). Players of Street Fighter will be familiar with this set-up, which creates a risk-reward dynamic. If this sounds too complicated, there's also an easier 'Rush Combo' for more casual players (like, er, me).
On top of this, the angle and height of your jumps can also influence your fighting style, with different attacks performed depending on how you play the air game. Those with faster reflexes can also recover from knock-back by pressing a button before hitting the floor, in addition to performing counters. Especially crafty players can even take advantage of the EX system, by intentionally faking-out opponents through canceling super moves and laying the smackdown with even more devastating moves.
Make no mistake, this is an incredibly deep game. Feature-wise, it's basically what you'd expect from a fighting title. There's the standard story mode, as well as survival, time trial, three vs. three, and one on one. Of course, there the expected online modes, but these are limited to the aforementioned team and single modes, as well as party.
Either way, players will have a lot of time to experiment, with a massive 50 fighters, including Fatal Fury alumni - the legendary Terry Bogard!
A main issue during previews, the visuals for King of Fighters XIV are a little threadbare. Character models are basic (I'd even argue last-gen quality), but the action is silky-smooth - and that's what ultimately matters. The characters themselves may not be as recognisable as those of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, but they're colourful enough, and are diverse enough so that you'll easily find a favourite or two.
Mine's Terry Bogard.
Sound is nothing spectacular. Voice acting is suitably cheesy, and music is relentless with its techno bass and synthesised beats. Again, it feels like the '90s filters through a 21st century mixer - which evokes warm nostalgia in yours truly!
To sum up, The King of Fighters XIV is a successful return for a long-dormant (and long-running) series. It's great to see SNK back in the videogame industry, as it throws its hat into the ring. All hail Terry Bogard!