Everybody fight the dinosaur.
The King of Fighters series has been around a long time, as is evident by the fact that this is the fourteenth numbered entry in the series. Over the years it has attempted several spin-offs and even changed the formula of its standard fighting game series, much like any series that has been around this long. King of Fighters XIV is the first entry in this generation of consoles, it is a console exclusive to the PS4, and it just so happens to be my favorite entry in the series to date.
KoF XIV continues with the style set forth by its predecessors. The core matchups are based on teams of three. While players can mix and match combatants, the core teams are comprised for a reason. The game hosts a whopping 48 main characters with two unlockable boss characters; that is one heck of a day one roster. Of course, with so many fighters it can be hard to strike a balance. Thankfully the developers have managed to pull it off, as well as making most of the roster feel both unique, and fun to play.
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
After my disappointment with Street Fighter V’s paltry single player content, my biggest concern with KoF was whether it would satisfy my mostly offline interest in fighting games. The single player content here is plentiful. There is a story/arcade mode that consists of eight regular fights and two boss encounters. There are standard and team-specific cut scenes, and of course a ton of various teams to complete it with.
In addition there are also missions such as time trial, survival, and trials. The trials teach the basics of each fighter, but are sadly limited to only five lessons. There is a training mode, which is extremely robust, complete with dummy recording for practicing setups. There is also local versus against the CPU and of course other players. I know these things sound basic, but after recent offerings, they are much appreciated at launch. As a solo player, there is plenty here to warrant a purchase.
The systems in KoF XIV combine the familiar, with fresh. Character movement feels different than in the past. Short hops and large jumps feel ever so slightly different than say KoF XIII. Every character also has a rushdown, which essentially works as an auto combo achieved by mashing the square button. This combo will also perform a level one attack if the player has a bar of meter.
Speaking of the meter bar, it is used for everything. Every character has two super moves as well as a climax finish. These flashy combos are unique to each character, and a blast to pull off and watch. The meter bar can also be popped for EX moves and even EX supers. The traditional KoF roll mechanic is still in place as well as a breaker that uses a bar of meter that can be executed while blocking. This motion also serves as a blowback when not blocking. Of course, advanced players can also cancel into supers and even climax moves, which the tutorial does a great job of showcasing, as well as every other facet of the combat.
One thing the King of Fighters series has always struggled with is online play. Going into KoF XIV I was skeptical that was going to be fixed, or at least viable at launch. After spending time pre and post launch finding matches, it is clear there are still issues in this area. Several of my online encounters were slideshows, making them unplayable. Moves were unresponsive, and executing anything was near impossible.
This is depressing because the structure of online itself is fantastic. Lobbies are available which can host tournaments, or several other styles of online game play. Players can even participate in Party Play, where one player takes on one of the three characters in a standard 3-on-3 match. It is visually slick and well put together, but at launch it is haphazard at best, and downright unplayable at worst.
One of the most drastic changes to this entry is that instead of using 2D sprites, the game is rendered in full 3D. This gives the characters a more anime-style look to them. I loved the way the game looks in motion, the animations are absolutely stellar, and everything from the menus to the stages have a slick, clean look to them. The game also runs flawlessly.
Certain characters will have small quips with each other before fights, and everyone has several quotes they spout when winning. All dialogue is in Japanese, without an option for English. There is also a gallery full of stuff to unlock. Everything from character voices to special illustrations, with one unlocking after each win in story mode.
The King of Fighters XIV is everything I wanted it to be going in. There is enough content to keep me testing out the teams of fighters. With 50 playable characters to experiment with, it is fun to learn match-ups and play with friends. I found myself coming back constantly to this game, and always finding new characters I really enjoyed playing as. I am glad to have this series back, and this new iteration has been the most fun I have had with it to date. Sadly right now though it is only recommended as a local experience. Online is far too fickle at launch, so if that is what you are coming to King of Fighters for, you might want to wait it out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.