The King of Fighters XIV Review (PS4)



The King of Fighters XIV is the next iteration within the famed SNK series that is renowned and loved around the world.  Their previous title, The King of Fighters XIII, was a brilliant game whose flame died too early, mainly because of the difficult execution, abysmal netcode, and dwindling player base because of these two reasons.

Making the leap that other modern day fighters have taken to 2.5D, creating a simpler system for newcomers, and improving their netcode, will SNK finally have what it takes to come out on top?  Check out the full review after the jump to see!



 Getting Started 


Getting started, you will notice that The King of Fighters XIV is a 16GB file that you will have to download and install.  Upon starting up the game up you will be taken to a menu after you push start, having all the current available options presented to you; Story, Versus, Training, Gallery, Online, Mission, Tutorial, Player Data, Options, and Playstation Store.

Also, by pushing the triangle button, you will be able to toggle between BGM 1 and BGM 2; This is an option for the “Follow Me” anthem for The King of Fighters XIV, one features lyrics and one is just the instrumental.



 Tutorial 


Tutorial is a mode meant to teach all players the mechanics that go along with The King of Fighters XIV.  Mechanics within a fighting game are important because it tells you how to make the most of the characters and how to efficiently make use of your “super meter”.  They separate the tutorials into two sections; Basic moves and Attack moves.

Basic moves focus primarily on movement options (such as Jumps, Dash, walking Forward/Back, etc.) and defensive options (such as GC Emergency Evasion, GC Blow Back, and Recovery).  Movement options show players all of the ways that they can have their character get around the 2D plane.  The King of Fighters has always been known for its “hops” and how you have different types, as well as being able to flat out run for some characters as opposed to just dashing.  The defensive portion shows how characters are able to defend themselves against incoming attacks through use of things like “Recovery” to avoid mix-ups and on-the-ground follow up attacks, while things like GC Blow Back and GC Emergency Evasion demonstrate ways to get around an opponent who is pressuring their guard.  All of these things will have to be known in order to successfully mount a defense against strong opponents as well as finding a way to close the distance on projectile users.

Attack moves focuses on attacking (such as Advanced Cancels, Max Mode (Quick), Counter Throws, etc.).  Knowing these mechanics will allow someone to know what is all possible with characters, allowing them to experiment in training mode and find optimal ways to counter certain opponent’s moves and get the maximum damage on combos.  For example, knowing the difference between Max Mode and Max Mode (Quick) will be a pivotal part of the metagame because not everyone can make full use of either mode, as one benefits a character more than the other.  Full utilization of the attack mechanisms present within The King of Fighters XIV will allow someone to kill their opponent in a minimal amount of combos as the damage present from properly making use of meter is extravagant.

What I did not particularly like about tutorial mode was that it only gave you a rundown of the basic system mechanics and how to perform them.  There was nothing in tutorial mode that would teach you about basic ways to actual use them within a combat situation (such as when it would be better to Short Hop instead of Full Hop, etc.).  It did not even tell you about the basic ways to be able to start a combo, paying attention to certain normals, or anything remotely pertaining to basic okizeme (how to mix-up an opponent after a “hard” knockdown) within The King of Fighters XIV.  Do not get me wrong, I understand that they may be thinking “we do not need to cover all of this”, but in actuality, they might.  

Also it really needs to be addressed that they missed out on telling players about a crucial element that I discovered by accident, as well as a mix of context clues.  Normally when I play Andy, for his corner combo I will do jumping hard kick, standing hard punch, forward light punch, MAX mode, blow back, EX Zaneiken, EX Hishou Ken, Shoryuu Dan.  However, when I was playing in single player Survival mode I was able to do EX Shoryuu Dan.  I realized that dependent on how many characters you have left, your MAX mode changes just like your meter limit changes.  So dependent on which character you are on (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), the amount of power gauge you can build changes as well as the amount of MAX meter you have when you enter MAX mode.  They do not outline this within the tutorial and it is a VITAL aspect of the game.  You can kind of tell from the settings in training, but it flat out tells you online in The King of Fighters XIV online manual that you can access.
The introduction of “Rush” in The King of Fighters XIV was a way to give newer players, as well as older veterans who have waned in responsive time, to be able to perform a combo into a super.  If you are trying to break the entry gate to fighters, and especially to KOF, you are going to need to go over every little thing that will have to be known for those who are new to the series.  Myself, I graduated from a button masher in 2009 with the release of Street Fighter IV, and I have played many titles and series since then (Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, TEKKEN, etc. but I have not really gotten into a KOF simply because the game’s “netcode” did not promote good online competitive play.   Many, like myself, will be getting into the game more because of a better netcode (which I will talk about later), and many will not want to deal with the frustration of having no idea how to apply pressure enough to go into combo situations.
Overall, we just have a basic tutorial mode with not much in the way of teaching very many practical skills that will be needed within basic combat.  While they do a good job of going over all the system mechanics and how to properly execute them, it is a difference between knowing how to simply do a move and how to apply it within actual matches.  While I am all for players learning how to do so themselves, you are much more likely to attain longevity in your new game’s player base by allowing them to get from “how do I play this game” to “I’m getting better!” as quickly as possible.  I feel SNK failed here by not modernizing their approach, much like Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has.  Also, not explaining the differences in how much power gauge can be built by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd characters, as well as the amount of MAX mode each one has available is something they should really rectify.


 Gallery 



When you first choose gallery, a prompt comes up which tells you the ways that you can acquire items for that mode

“Gallery items can be acquired by meeting the following conditions:
You will acquire 1 random item for each match won in [STORY] mode.
You will acquire 1 random item held by your opponent when you claim your FIGHT BONUS under [FIGHTING LIST] after an online match.”

There happen to be four categories for things that you will be able to earn for your gallery – Items (Special illustrations, Posters, Character illustrations, and Icons), Movies (No sub categories), Sounds (Voice, System voice, and Background music), and Artwork (Reward illustrations).

Honestly, this mode is pretty basic and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Everything that is obtainable within the game can be viewed here once you earn it.  You get those items by fighting opponents online and completing the various modes within the game. 



 Mission 


Mission mode is divided into three separate sections; Trials, Time Attack, and Survival.  I will explain each one of these modes in detail.


 Trials 
Trial is very basic and teaches you 5 combos with the character you have chosen.  They start off from basic normal into special moves, to advanced cancels, and finally a combo that ends with a climax cancel for major damage.  Each tutorial will take the player between 5 to 15 minutes dependent on how difficult they find the trials to be.  Unfortunately, this mode disappoints me as far as a character tutorial goes.

The tutorial does not even go as far as to go over all of the moves within your character arsenals; normals, command normals, command grabs, command dashes, etc.  They should have ran through each character’s complete move list and then moved onto combos that were beginner, then intermediate, and then advanced.  SNK did not do a very good job as introducing this to everyone.  It should also be noted that, while you can turn on “Key Data” to see inputs as to exactly what YOU are doing, you cannot turn on inputs to see exactly what the CPU is doing.  So when you have trials like Vice’s 5th one which wants you to Climax Cancel her Negative Gain into Obscura it can prove tricky.  That is because Vice switches sides various times throughout her Max Super Special move and the timing and direction to cancel her move can be tricky, watching the inputs to see exactly when the CPU chooses to do theirs would help greatly.  Unfortunately this is not an option that was made available to players.

It disappoints me that we do not see a lot of the specific things you will really need to know in order to be effective with your character; however, I guess they want everyone to rely on experimentation and practice in order to make that happen.  However, I would have liked to see combos that focused more on just generating basic damage instead of relying so much on MAX mode combos and finishing a combo that required that you have meter for a Super or Climax.  While I do understand that a big part of SNK is the burst damage possible by having meter and that those will be important, it is also inherent that they focus upon basics and how to make the most of moments when you do not have even a single bar yet.

Overall, Mission mode was a real miss.  Even with me having to do 15 trials back over again (more on this at the bottom) it only took me around 3 and a half hours to do all 50 character trials.  I did not get to learn a lot about characters, only enough to allow me to start experimenting in training mode (which is probably the intention… perhaps).  It does basic enough functions to get the gist of a character’s style down, but it really should have had more for those who wanted to know more about combos outside of meter.

  IMPORTANT!  – For whatever reason, SNK thought it would be a good idea for your game not to auto save after every completed trial.  Therefore, if you happen to do a trial, you need to go to the main menu in order to let it save.  This is because if you complete multiple character missions back-to-back and the game just so happens to freeze up, you accidentally click out of the application, start up a different game, or your Playstation 4 encounters an error, expect to have all of your data lost. 

Unfortunately, I had no idea about this at first and suffered because of it.  I completed the first 17 character trials including Love Heart’s of Team Another World for a grand total of 18 missions completed.  When I came back into the game, I had only 3 missions done; Kyo Kusanagi and Benimaru Nikaido of Team Japan, along with Love Heart (who was the first character mission I finished). 

This is a very, very poor oversight by SNK and will hopefully be patched to autosave after every completed trial or after every return to the Member Select menu.


 Time Attack 
Time Attack is nothing more than attempting to get the best time by defeating 10 randomized computer opponents with any one character of your choice.

To be perfectly honest, this mode is pretty basic and is focused upon applying rush down and offensive play, especially since you regain life after every victory.  Landing your most damaging combos are the best means of beating your previous scores.  However, it can also be luck of the draw as you fight random opponents every time you start Time Attack, so you never know which characters you are going to engage.  Some characters could simply be more bothersome than others because of the computers predictive A.I. (so counter characters like Geese, Angel, and Chin can be annoying at times).  Though, it should be noted that most of the computers were the same difficulty the entire way through.

Next I want to say that your bar and MAX mode gauge are set to their highest setting since you are the sole character here.  With that being said, I was able to land more damaging combos than I normally would have because of the increase of gauge length for both the super gauge (goes up to 5) and your MAX mode.

Upon beating Time Attack mode, you are simply going to best your previous score.  Do not expect anything for Gallery to be unlocked here.


 Survival 
Survival is a mode that pits you against an endless stream of CPU controlled characters that are randomized.  You regain life after every victory and score is kept based on how many opponents you have defeated.  

This mode is just as it says, endless survival with a single character to see how many opponents you can defeat before you are KO’d.  The CPU starts off relatively harmless before they begin to ramp up the blocking, aggression, and counter attacking.  I started to notice a real shift within the CPU around the 18th opponent I defeated, but it could have started a little earlier.  If Time Attack does not go on long enough for you (as it takes 6 minutes or less to complete), you can attempt your skills at Survival mode.



 Game Play 


Game Play for The King of Fighters XIV keeps SNK’s old feel while adding new generation charm onto it.  By that, I mean they are optimizing the play style to fit those who may be new to fighting games while keeping some complexity intact for those who are veterans to fighters and the series itself.

The King of Fighters XIII had one of them most complex fighting systems to date within a game.  They had cancels upon cancels, specific juggles, and different resources that activated particular move properties (EX) or allowed for custom combos.  The execution and requirements to master KOFXIII made it one of the most technique heavy games of the previous generation, making perfectly optimized combos difficult for even masters of the game.  Just like modern generation fighters Street Fighter V and Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, The King of Fighters XIV hopes to lower the barrier of entry by allowing use of the new “MAX” mode system and “rush combo” mechanics.

Even though fighting is 3 vs 3, it goes by extremely quickly due to the fact that you can take (with proper meter) upwards to 800 damage in a single combo; very impressive considering that every character has 1000 HP.  However, this extreme damage is nothing like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, as you can only dish out this amount of damage if you have all 5 meters and manage to get your MAX mode combo, Super, Advanced, and Climax Cancels perfectly.  It should also be known that your three characters each have different allowances on how much MAX mode meter and Super gauge they can use, increasing in size as your roster dwindles done to your anchor character.

The fighting itself is beautiful to watch at high level play (regardless if the graphics are mediocre), as the use of hops allow players to traverse quickly.  Running, dodging projectiles, and throwing opponents out of rolls display the skill of combatants currently engaging against each other.  Watching anti-airs, pokes, and combos is a joy when both players know what they are doing.  It is not a very good spectator sport if the combatants are both amateurs, however; it can also drag on for a very long time if both opponents cannot land a solid hit for a combo or simply do not know how to optimize their damage when an opportunity does come.

To aid that there are characters that are different archetypes; grapplers, chain move users, zoners, rush down, balanced, etc.  They have included a wide variety of characters that are sure to appeal to every demographic, meaning that were are in for some interesting team combinations as this game makes its debut.

The barrier to entry as far as game play is as relatively moderate.  It is not as hard to combo and get the hang of all your options like the newest Guilty Gear, but confirming into combos can be considerably more reactive heavy than the Street Fighter series due to the fact most of your moves must land close-up for them to cancel into another.  Fighting game fans will be fine after some practice while those who are new to the series may struggle from this faucet of the play style alone.

All-in-all, I will give SNK credit for making a game that is both enjoyable to play and enjoyable to watch.  The only downside to this game is that characters will possibly only have a few variations to their MAX mode combo dependent on mid-screen or corner, and whether-or-not they have another bar to spend for their EX Super moves.  Though, with so many characters we are bound to constantly run across new things, so there are no real negatives.  Excellent game play, lowered barrier of entry for newcomers without taking away the shine of The King of Fighters XIII, and works very well as a game that can be played and watched competitive.  The King of Fighters XIV excels on all fronts as far as the game play is concerned, well done SNK.



 Training 


Training is where you go to practice everything you will need in order to be successful when you take on other players; combos, mix-ups, counters, etc.  Training mode within modern fighting games have really turned up the notch for practice, making sure that players have all the resources needed in order to simulate even the rarest of occurrences that might happen in a match so that they are prepared with an answer should it arise.  The King of Fighters XIV is no exception to this.

The King of Fighters XIV has the ability to change Stun, Super Meter, Attack Data, Inputs, Actions (stand, guard, jump, etc.), Counter, Recovery, and others.  You can even set the CPU to fight you automatically at different difficulty levels or give the control over to the second player’s controller.  The biggest thing that bothered me was I did not see the ability to record your opponent’s actions to play out scenarios, then I realized that both Play and Record for the CPU are controlled by pushing in R3 and L3.  It is possible to go into your button configuration and set them for other buttons in case you are using a fight stick or hitbox and do not have a R3 or L3 button, so do not fear.  While I do like R3 and L3 as it allows me to quickly do what I want, these should have acted as shortcuts with an option to record multiple slots somewhere in the menu.  An example of this is how you can use the touchpad in the middle of the Playstation 4 controller to go to the left-most corner, middle of the screen, or right-most corner at an instant or you can use the option within the training menu to reset to either of those three.

Though something I did not particularly like is that it does not save any of your settings for training mode.  Every single time that you head back into training mode you are going to have to readjust your settings to your liking, I think this is archaic.  Training settings should be saved for future use and only changed once the player selects “default” or wants to switch things up by readjusting them themselves.  While this is a minor annoyance, it does not detract from anything.

Training has a simple layout but it is effective at doing what you want, missing absolutely nothing from other major fighters practice area.  The ability to record, set your meter, view inputs and attack damage data, etc. are features you would expect from a modern fighter and luckily the newest KOF delivers.  The only thing I wish would be available are the character hitboxes as well as possibly their frame data, but what was put into the game will suffice.  Good job SNK.



 Online 


As with most fighters released in this generation, The King of Fighters XIV has online ready and available for those that want to try their hand against other players all over the world.  They currently have a good amount of online options available; Ranked Match, Free Match, Online Training, Online Replay, Online Profile, Fighting List, Leaderboard, and Live.

  IMPORTANT!  – Many of you already know about SNK’s history with online play, that is to say their horrible “netcode”.  Netcode is what we within the fighting game community use to describe the general connection between players within an online environment.  While we know that online will never be completely lag free, we are hoping to get as close to that as possible with as broad of a range of people as possible.  However, this has been something that has kept people away from previous SNK The King of Fighters games because their reputation with having a fulfilling experience was abysmal when it came to connections.

It should be noted that EVERY game I have played by SNK online has been absolutely terrible, and I do not say that as an exaggeration; Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, The King of Fighters 2002 Ultimate Match, The King of Fighters XII, and The King of Fighters XIII all had so much input and stuttering problems due to lag that they were unplayable online.  It should also be noted that each and every time they promised an improvement over previous iterations, to which there was barely any progress at all…and that changes just slightly with the release of The King of Fighters XIV.

The King of Fighters XIV online netcode could only be described as "decent" at best.  What we are seeing is SNK doing their best to optimize what they have always done, and we are seeing it pay off in a way that is similar to their old style.  While we actually have some matches that are playable, we are also seeing bad matches between players who should have good connections towards each other.  They have failed and succeeded simultaneously.

I believe that they are still using some form of latency based netcode which adjusts the lag dependent on the connection between two people, rather than doing the “rollback” technique that many modern day fighters have been doing (including Street Fighter V).  While I believe this netcode is still not the best and could be much better to get it up-to-date with current standards, it is a far cry from what we have experienced in the past and will allow fans of The King of Fighters to finally have the ability to play online without resorting to multiplayer assisted emulation programs like GGPO or Kaillera.


 Free Match 
Free Match is just another way for saying “Online Lobby”, as that is exactly what it is.  You have the option of creating three types of rooms (each with their own specific settings); Team VS, Single VS, and Party VS.  Team VS is the typical mode which features 3vs3 KOF action with one player controlling an entire team of custom picked characters, Single VS is a mode which allows for players to only use one character against each other without worrying about forming an entire team, and Party VS allows for three individual players per team.

The way the lobby is setup is basically six different sections (except for Party VS, which has two) that are named depending on how those smaller rooms operate.  “Tourney” is basically “winner stays on”, a staple of fighting games that mimic the arcade experience; “Elim” is basically “loser stays on” and allows for the person who lost to continue playing while the winner is kicked to the back of the line; “Series” which allows you to play the same person repeatedly with a “rematch” option; and “Free” which is the default option and allows two of each room type to be listed there.  However, Party VS has different options than the other modes, they are “Fixed” and “Shuffle”.  Fixed allows for players who are part of one team to remain together, “Shuffle” random assigns players to be part of a team for a group of friends who want to randomly switch it up after every match.
It should also be noted while you are waiting to play any match you can simply wait for it while spectating or not, it is completely your choice on the matter.

The games online have been pretty smooth, but it is disappointing that the lobby is setup how it is.  You should not have a room with multiple smaller rooms that divides everyone without having an option to remove them.  If you want to make a room where everyone is forced to play in a typical “winner stays on”, you do not have that ability since everyone can freely split up.  Sure, you can always make the lobby where every single little room is composed of “Tourney”, but you will still have everyone split up into sections.

Overall, Free Match is just weird in its setup compared to other fighting games, however it does still fulfill all the basic functions.  I feel that everyone will have to get used to it initially, but it will not be something that hinders the game for the long haul as it is only a minor adjustment.


 Ranked Match 
Ranked mode allows you to find an opponent and face them to gain ranks, securing a place on the leaderboard.  They have two very different options when you are first trying to get into ranked.  The first is just starting from the very bottom level (Rank 1) and working you way up by defeating opponents.    The second is “Rank Skip” mode where you fight opponents that act as “qualifiers”, and you are placed at a rank dependent upon your performance; I recommend this one for veterans and above average fighters who want to get into competitive play rather quickly.  It should be noted that qualifying matches seemed to first debut in Killer Instinct for Xbox One as part of their “Ranked Leagues”, afterwards I saw something similar in Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-.

*Was not able to test this mode as I need more people online, will update this section on launch day (August 22nd, 2016).


 Online Profile 
Your online profile shows your Region, Ranking, Ranked Match Record (wins, losses, draws, winning percentage, max consecutive wins, and match completion rate).  You can also adjust your team registrations (up to 3 can be selected), change your character registrations, change your stage registration (up to three, as well as the stage caption text on “Neo Esaka”, “Guanajuato Dynamite Wring”, “Iguazu Falls”, and “Antonov Super Arena”), as well as your profile settings (Icons, Titles, and adjust what rank match fight record you want public and private). 

Icons are simply the character portraits used at the Member Select menu and will be what represents you in lobbies.  Titles are unlocked by playing matches and completing certain things, it will be displayed under “Play Information” on the top of your profile.  Can register up to three stages as well as change the fly by text on certain stages with background letters (Neo Esaka, Guanajuato Dynamite Ring, Iguazu Falls, Antonov Super Arena).  Stage caption text

The online profile is a nice addition as it makes things a lot quicker overall by having the ability to pre-select items, another feature that SNK implemented that more modern day fighters have been implementing.  However, this is less like Street Fighter V or Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- where you can skip Member Select entirely, it is more closely related to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 where you still go to character select but can pick a pre-selected team in a particular order with their assigned color.  Even with this, it is still a nice addition.


 Fighting List 
This is simply a list of the last online matches that you fought (from most recent).  It shows you the winner, loser, and team that both you and your opponent used during that particular match.  You can also check your opponent’s profile from here.

  IMPORTANT!  – Fighting List is also where you go to claim your fight bonus from matches in order to add to your gallery, so make sure you check it after you are finished with a session! 


 Leaderboard 
This allows you to see the current rankings around the world for The King of Fighters XIV.  You are able to see Ranking Points, Ranked Match Wins, Ranked Match Win Streak, Time Attack, and Survival.  You are able to check their profiles, instantly jump to 1st place, and change tabs for different categories.  You can also check out all of these statistics by region and just those on your friend’s list.

Live allows you to see what is currently going on from those putting content out over Playstation Network.  You can see video clips, what is currently trending, broadcasts that are currently in session (live), as well as screenshots.  You can even check to see if your friends are currently putting up content for KOF XIV.


 Online Replay 
Online replays shows you a selection of online replays that are currently

You can check to see available replays from random players all around the world, just your friend’s replay, and can also check out your replays that you chose to actually downloaded.  There is also an option to lock your replays so that you do not delete them by accident.

Honestly, this is very basic stuff but was necessary.  I like the fact that SNK seems to have taken notice what all the other modern fighting games are doing and replicated what works for a full experience.


 Online Training 
This allows two people to play online with settings that mimic offline training mode.  This is so that if you do not have someone locally that can play with you, you can test things with someone else without having to worry about either character dying or running out of meter.

***I have currently not tested this setting as no one else whom I know has the game as yet due to me having been given a copy by Atlus for the sole purpose of this review.  I will update this section as soon as I have tried the mode to give it an accurate account.



 Options 



Within options you have a variety of settings to tune the game to your liking.  They are System Options, Game Options, Sound Options, Display Options, and Button Config.  

Under “System Options” you can change the language, vibration options, replay saving, and the announcer’s voice (male or female). 

For “Game Options”, you have Computer level, Max rounds, and Round time.  These settings effect all of your offline modes as well as Versus mode.  However, be warned that this does not affect online lobbies (as you have to set those settings once you get there) or Ranked Matches (as they have default settings which cannot be changed). 

For “Sound Options” you have Master Volume, BGM Volume (Background Music Volume), SE Volume (Special Effects Volume), Character voice volume, System voice volume, controller speaker volume. 

Under “Display Options” you have Brightness, Display comments (for lobbies), and the ability to adjust the Hud’s position. 

Under “Button Config (Button Configuration)” you are given the ability to map your controls to whatever you desire.  This option is also available from various other menus, such as inside Training mode.

Overall, they are just the run-of-mill options you would expect from a menu of this type.  Nothing missing but nothing special either.



 Player Data 


Under Player Data you have a few options: Player Record, My Ranking, My Profile, Character Record, and Replay Data.

Under “Player Record” you have Score, Character data (offline) and Character data (online).  Score gives you your Play time, as well as your Story, Time Attack, and Survival scores.  You see all of these in addition to what percentage of trials you have completed, how much of the gallery is currently unlocked, and the percentage of titles unlocked.  Character data (offline) tells your characters ranked by times used, wins, and their rank (in stars).  Character data (online) tells you the same information as Character data (offline), but for all matches and modes played online.

“My Ranking” tells your team score for Story, time for Time attack, and number of characters defeated in Survival mode.

“My Profile” is the same one as the option online, just has the ability to do so without being online.
“Character Record” is your individual stats, per mode, with each character.  You can also see the number of times you have used a particular character.

“Replay Data” is as all of your replays, downloaded replays, and shared replays.  You also have the ability to lock these replays to make sure that you do not delete anything that you want to keep.  Shared replays are the replays which you have chosen to upload online for your friends to see, while your downloaded replays are those which you have gotten from online, be it a random person whom caught your attention or a friend.



 Versus 



Versus mode is your typical offline battle mode.  You are able to do Team VS or Single VS.  Unfortunately there is no party battle, so we will not be able to see “true” team battles like online with every character being controlled by a different person.  Then again, that would take linking up six Playstation 4’s…but it would be entirely worth it for competitive play.  Also, it has the ability to make an all CPU team incase you want to go up against them constantly.

This will be the mode used primarily by tournaments and in-person players.  Those of us who are online warriors or who do not have local friends who play fighters will probably never use this mode, as if we want to fight CPU there are tons of other modes for that.



 Story 


The basis of Story Mode is that Antonov, the billionaire whom has bought the rights to host The King of Fighters tournament this year, wants to bring his strength back into the spotlight by holding the belt as the “current” champion (even though he was one of the first KOF champions before).  Everything is fine as you progress, watching character interact and beating the 10 randomized teams you face up until Antonov.  Everything is fine up until the end where a dramatic turn happens due to the mysterious final boss showing up to cause chaos.  Your job is to bring him down.

The Story Mode for The King of Fighters XIV is not really a “Story Mode” to be perfectly honest.  In reality it is nothing more than a glorified arcade mode that has endings for each individual team (for instance, if you want to see the cinematic ending for Kyo Kusanagi, you will have to beat the entire story mode with Team Japan.  If you want to see it with Love Heart, you are going to have to use the entirety of Team Another World, etc.).  This really disappointed me, especially since it was such an exciting intro playing when you first select Story.

To be honest, I was hoping for more of a streamlined story that allowed for you to take control of character of their choice to watch it play out.  Something that would further the story of The King of Fighters without having to worry about random interactions or piercing together ending cinematics to get the gist of what was going on.  I would have been fine with something in line with the BlazBlue series or even the new story mode that was recently added to Street Fighter V.  I cannot help but think they threw “Story Mode” onto this arcade-esque mode simply to try and give them another selling point since so many people were upset that SFV had hardly any single-player content whatsoever at launch.

Overall, it is just an arcade mode with random mid-match dialogue between characters and a story you have to attempt to pierce together yourself.  Was not very impressed by this.



 Playstation Store 

***Currently this was down to it not being launch date, will update when it goes live.



 Miscellaneous 


There are a couple of things that I want to address that do not really fit within any particular category, so I will do them all here.  They are music/stage selection, colors, and graphics.

I think they really need to make it where you can select the background music and stage individually.  Many games make it where music and stages are locked together, but I find it works better when you are able to pick the aesthetics you want with the audio that feels right to you.  My favorite stage is easily “Destroyed Arena”, but my favorite song is “Venator Ballare”. It is impossible to mix and match these so I will have to either go for the audio I like or the stage I like, not both.  That is something that should not exist here.

Something else that needs to change is colors.  The King of Fighters series always did very good with their color selection.  You had so many alternate colors palette in The King of Fighters XIII that everyone would be able to find something that they wanted.  On the other hand we have The King of Fighters XIV where all characters have four different colors that they can choose from, very weak in comparison.  I understand that 50 characters means that they have a lot of people so focus probably had to go elsewhere during development, so they wanted to give some selection without focusing too much time on things.  They really need to give us some more colors, I hate ALL of Andy’s options and I am barely okay with the ones presented for Love Heart. 

Something else is the graphics.  Many people have said, “Aw man.  The King of Fighters XIV is the best game coming out for the Playstation 3!”, and I can understand what they mean.  The King of Fighters XIII had some of the most beautiful sprite art every presented within a 2D fighting game, and now we have something which does not hold a candle aesthetically to the more recent fighters.  It is mainly due to a lack of dynamic lighting on many of the stages, and that is because they did not use the Unreal 4 engine (I am pretty sure). This is perfectly acceptable to me because SNK’s history says that it has always been behind the pack when it comes to graphics, which is nothing new.  Also, the graphics do not look nearly as bad in person as they do when you are watching a YouTube video or streaming, so that is also a plus at least.



 The Verdict 


                  
 HALF  &  HALF 

  STRENGTHS  – Excellent game play, Massive roster of characters both old and new, Robust amount of single-player modes, Lots of unlockable content within the gallery.

  WEAKNESSES  – Netcode is spotty and not consistent enough, Graphics do not match today’s standard for a fighter, Only 4 colors per character, Story Mode was a disappointment, Tutorial and Mission modes were not as extensive as I would have hoped, Online lobby system could potentially turn off some people.

SNK has delivered on The King of Fighters XIV, just like they have did with The King of Fighters XIII.  However, they have made this game chance of actually surviving longer by making sure that the Netcode is good enough to play games with little to no lag.  Despite some of the drawbacks, such as graphics and non-extensive tutorial and mission modes, we have excellent game play from a massive cast of characters that fit every archetype.  It delivers on what is necessary with chances to improve on what it is lacking in the future, but overall it is a solid release from a company who has a shaky history with both 3D graphics and online netcode.

From a personal perspective, I have really wanted to get into a KOF game since playing The King of Fighters 99”, however during that time I was a button masher but now I am someone who is skilled enough to play a fighter properly.  All of their prior online titles had terrible lag, and with me working weekends there was no chance for me to participate within my local scene.  Thankfully I have a chance to make this game one of my main fighters, and I will due to the fact that it is extremely enjoyable and an absolutely blast to play.  Do yourself a favor and do not miss out on this game if you have been curious about experiencing The King of Fighters series for yourself.
Good job SNK, your endeavor payed off. 

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