**Huge thank you to the good folks over at Atlus for providing us with a review code for King of Fighters 14!!**
The King of Fighters series by SNK has long been a staple of the arcade fighter scene; the original, King of Fighters ’94, was released in arcades more than 20 years ago. For quite some time, there was a rivalry between SNK’s King of Fighters and Capcom’s Street Fighter – they went so far as parodying characters from each other’s series! In recent years though, King of Fighters has been absent. The last title, King of Fighters 13, was released in Japanese arcades in 2010 and on the PS3/360 in 2011, with a 2013 PC port on Steam. Since then, the series has been silent, but now King of Fighters makes its return to the fighting ring with an all new 3D look! Should the series have stayed in the shadows, or does King of Fighters 14 bring a legend back to fighting form?
Ey’ Come On, Come On!
King of Fighters 14 reminds me a lot of fighting games that I bought on the PlayStation 1 and 2. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t have any unnecessary fluff that detracts from the experience. King of Fighters 14 is a simple 2D fighting game with the normal offering of modes consisting of: Versus, Training, Time Attack, Survival, Missions (which help teach moves and cancels), Online, and Story. In Versus, you and a friend (or computer) can fight in either the series’ signature 3-on-3 format where each player selects 3 characters to fight with, or a 1-v-1 style more akin to other fighting games. I did find story mode to be strange though; it felt rather misnamed to me as it didn’t strike me as much more than a traditional 10-stage arcade mode with the occasional cinematic cut scenes here and there. The story that is presented revolves around the billionaire, Antonov, holding a King of Fighters tournament after buying all of the rights to regrow the popularity of the tournament. Not an overly complex story, but it is there. Who you choose for your 3-man party didn’t seem to affect the story or cinematics. We live in an age where fighting games have fleshed out story modes, so there is a certain expectation now in what you are going to get when you have a “Story mode”. King of Fighters 14’s offering seems to simply be arcade mode with a new label. When it comes to the amount of characters that King of Fighters 14 packs in, it’s certainly the most impressive roster among other recent fighting games, especially right out of the gate. The moment you turn on your system you have access to 48 characters (bummed my boy Rock didn’t make the cut), each with 4 different color schemes, and two additional characters to unlock upon completing the 10-stage Story mode.
Although the visuals have made the jump to the 3rd dimension, King of Fighters 14 still handles like the 2D fighter that fans are familiar with. The main mechanics that people have come to love about the KoF series are present, with some of the systems getting an upgrade and refinement. Battles are still largely 3-v-3 with the MAX system returning, but now players can perform EX versions of super moves that deal additional damage with slightly different properties. Players have the new ability to use what is called a Climax Super Special that they can combo from a Super Special to dish out a metric crap-ton of damage. If you are a veteran of the KoF series, I don’t see you having much of an issue picking up the new and updated mechanics.
One addition that I feel many old fans will have issues with is the introduction of the RUSH system. The RUSH system allows for combos to be pulled off by simply tapping the light punch button repeatedly. Now, other fighting games have done this in the recent years, and while I find that it is a good idea to bring in and introduce new players, my issue with King of Fighters’s implementation (and the one I think many veterans will have as well) is that you cannot turn off this RUSH feature. I am hoping that in a future patch, you will able to toggle this on and off.
Now in 3 Dimensions!
The first thing people noticed when watching the announcement trailer for King of Fighters 14 was that the series had gone 3D. Gone are the detailed 2D sprites; in their place came rather generic, last-generation looking 3D models. The new 3D presentation isn’t horrible, but it isn’t very impressive either, especially compared to other fighting games from this year. Some characters, such as Terry, have gotten slight makeovers (Terry has upgraded from a sleeveless vest to a full jacket!), but are still recognizable. An unfortunate casualty of the switch to 3D was the ability to color, make, and save your own character palettes. Stages suffer from the jump to 3D as well, with many feeling very flat and lacking in much personality or charm. But despite any gripes I may have with the visuals, the gameplay itself is silky smooth. KoF14 is incredibly fluid and a good-feeling fighter, which at the end of the day is what really matters most. I never encountered any sort of slowdown or frame rate drops while playing (note: this does not refer to online play which will be discussed later on!).
King of Fighters 14 is a fun fighting game. Coming from other fighting game series, I will admit that I had issues wrapping my head around many of the game’s more tech-heavy mechanics. I did enjoy my time with the game, and have become interested in learning more complex Climax Combos and really nailing down my go-to team, adding this to the list of games my friends and I will play when we get the itch to play a fighter.
With my time facing other members of the Dashing Nerds and my normal group of fighting game friends, I started to grasp the more intricate and complex mechanics of the game. We all agreed, though, that the jump to 3D was a poor choice. The fighting genre is already full of 3D fighters, and with King of Fighters 14’s somewhat bland presentation, I feel that retaining their beautiful, 2D sprite-based look would have really helped this game stand out among its peers. It has the gameplay to stand up against them for sure. Hopefully the choice to turn off RUSH mode will be added down the line so that veterans can toggle it off, but if you are a fan of the King of Fighters series, I think you will find a fun, back-to-basics fighting game.
- Smooth and fast gameplay
- A fun back to basics 2D fighter without unneeded fluff
- Bland 3D presentation makes me yearn for the 2D sprites
- Inability to turn off RUSH feature
- Unstable online play