Everyone has their favourite 2D fighting series whether it's Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, or Mortal Kombat. But, one thing's for sure: The King of Fighters is not one to ignore. So, let's see if this latest iteration has what it takes to emerge victorious.
The King of Fighters has always been a tough series to get into. It requires a certain level of skill that most gamers will frankly be too intimidated to aspire to. However, those who have trained hard enough to master the art of fighting will proudly tell you that it's well worth the effort. Thankfully, The King of Fighters XIV maintains what makes the series special which is impressive seeing as it's the fourteenth entry in the series. The epic fast-paced three versus three battles and a mostly realistic fighting dynamic complete with lightning-fast evasive maneuvers and boostable special attacks (with a newly revamped Max Mode power meter) makes for one heck of a fighting experience that fans will unquestionably love. That being said, will newcomers stand a chance in the ring?
Unfortunately, although The King of Fighters XIV advertises that it's more accessible than ever, it's far too complex for newcomers to understand. The only addition that makes it easier for newbies is that you can mash the light punch button in order to perform a Rush combo that can automatically unleash a special move if your meter is full enough. Mastering the fighting itself still requires just as much precision and complex button inputs as fans are used to. Also, even if you are new to the series, I can't imagine anyone would be satisfied just mashing one button over and over again. In the end, I wish they simplified the frequently unforgiving complexity when it comes to performing combos but then again; it just wouldn't be The King of Fighters anymore, would it?
One thing The King of Fighters XIV accomplishes fantastically well is include a wide selection of characters. Besides the two bosses (who are playable after unlocking, by the way), you're looking at sixteen teams of three characters each. That makes a whopping 48 main characters to choose from! When I first laid eyes on the character select screen, my jaw dropped. Not only do you get to play as series veterans such as the carefree Kyo Kusanagi, the unpredictable K', and Terry Bogard of Fatal Fury fame; there are also a few surprises and returning favourites like Geese, Ramon, and Samurai Shodown's Nakoruru. This is one impressive cast of fighters!
Along with the great cast, there's also a ton of content and ways to play. To brush up on your skills, you can jump into Training mode or follow simple lessons in the Tutorial (which I honestly found to be only marginally helpful, but I digress). When you have some friends over, you can play Versus mode with either teams or solo characters. To test your skills, there is a set of trials for each character and Time Attack and Survival modes. As you play, you'll also unlock gallery items and have detailed information stored that you can check in the Player Data records. There's so much to unlock in the Gallery that it'll take countless hours to obtain it all. Thankfully, there's a Story mode to work through with your favourite team although the story itself leaves a lot to be desired. Finally, you can play online in a wide selection of modes (including training). It's great to be able to play so many different modes online but after experiencing the awesomely seamless online implementation in Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator; the interface here is very bare-bones and strictly utilitarian.
At the risk of sounding shallow, my biggest complaint about The King of Fighters XIV is that it has extremely bland visuals. The characters are rendered in 3D this time around yet they look super generic as opposed to their vibrantly detailed 2D incarnations. I swear, many characters have the same facial structure and expressions. This makes the overall presentation come across as lifeless as a result of its lack of graphical personality. Speaking of which, the environments are equally uninspired with unmemorable locations and very little flair. Even scenes when characters carry on a dialogue are unemotional and dull with a static camera and unexpressive character models. Overall, The King of Fighters XIV is sure to disappoint when it comes to its visuals. That said, the music is pretty cool.
Even though The King of Fighters XIV has less than stellar graphics and an empty promise of being more accessible, it's still chock full of fantastic fighting that fans will love every second of. On the other hand, newbies need not apply.
- + Solid classic 2D fighting mechanics that'll surely satisfy existing fans
- + Massive cast of playable characters
- + Loads of content and ways to play
- - Newcomers may be left in the dust even though it promises accessible gameplay
- - Lacks an overall visual flair which results in a mostly dull presentation