King of Fighters XIV is my first foray into the franchise. Previous to this I’ve spent a lot of time with Street Fighter and other game such as Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Brutal: Paws of Fury or Smash Brothers. Outside of that my knowledge of fighting games is pretty limited. I don’t consider a match here or there in games to really constitute experience with those franchises. Sometimes it’s good to get the opinion of someone new to a series because, while they can’t tell you the intricacies of everything that franchise offers they can tell you just how accessible a game is to new players, something all fighting games need to keep their communities growing.
I’ve been playing fighting games since the days of the original Street Fighter (or Fighting Street) in the arcade. I found my time with King of Fighters to be very enjoyable. I played the game entirely using a controller as I do not own a fighting stick for the PS4. You could definitely call me a casual fighting game fan, but from what I experienced I think anyone, casual or veteran alike, is going to enjoy the most recent entry into the series.
The roster itself is huge, sporting around 50 different fighters from the series. They’re all unlocked from the beginning. You fight in a series of three – on – three battles. Once you’ve chosen your three fighters you set their order and they fight until they’re knocked out, when the next person on your team takes their place. The first team to have all three fighters eliminated loses.
Visually the game moves on from the series’ traditional sprite based look for something a little more 3D and closer to Street Fighter in appearance than King of Fighters. It might initally be a turn off to fans of the series traditional look. However, the move to 3D has been a pretty good one. The characters, their moves and animations have all been updated very nicely and fit this visual style as much as they did before. I like the new, more realistic look for the series, but understand why people love the older sprites as much as they do. I found everything to flow beautifully, and combined with the highly detailed fighting areas found this to be a very enjoyable visual experience. The characters feel like they have more realistic weight to them while still retaining the speed of the previous entries in the series.
The fighting system overall is more simple than other games like Tekken or Street Fighters. It’s more user friendly with fewer buttons to manage and a fairly common set of commands to issue, no matter which character you’re using. There is a lot of stuff with Rush, cancelling and Max Mode for experienced fighters. I’ve watched some video online of veteran fighters and when they get going it can be a sight to behold. If you’re playing against someone who’s pretty equal with you in terms of skill sets the fighting is going to be fun, fast paced and balanced. I found over my time with the game I was really enjoying myself and was slowly learning new things to add to my repertoire of moves the more I played. I’ll never be on the level of national competitive tournament players (you won’t see me headlining EVO anytime soon), but I was able to start upping the difficulty against the CPU controlled opponents and present a challenge.
There are techniques and moves that I’m just not going to be able to pull off. More advanced players will have a much easier time with them and they add a nice layer of stategy to the move set for the characters. Things like being able to cancel out of moves into supers to string together incredibly damaging combos.
One combo that I did really enjoy is called Rush. This is essentially a one-button combo that you pull off by hammering the light punch button. Don’t think of this as a button mashers dream, because while it can be easy to pull off you have to be in the right situation to use it. You can’t just use it any time you want. You have to be right up against an opponent, well within range of grabs and throws, and this Rush combo is much less effective than standard combos using more traditional attacks. It’s easy to pull off and allows less experience fighters a chance to feel what it’s like to pull off a fancy looking combo, but it’s easy to defend against and counter if you’re a player with plenty of time under your belt.
For newer players there is also a very extensive tutorial to go through that will teach you each of the game’s different mechanics. These can all be access from the menu and if there is something you’re struggling with or you want to refresh yourself on you can easily go back and repeat tutorial sessions as many times as you want or need to. A trial mode allows you to practice those new skills in a setting that you can adjust to be as interactive as you need it to be. You can use that to really experiment with moves and learn which moves string together well and which ones should be left for just the right moment to pull off.
In terms of the Story Mode available that’s where things might not be as advanced as you’d like them to. Fighting games recently have been trying to get better and better with their story modes. There’s only a very brief narrative that holds everything together. It’s going to be mostly the same, no matter which fighters you choose. You select your team of three fighters and go through 10 rounds of fights against CPU opponents. Occasionally a couple of the fighters will interact in a very brief scripted scene that gives you an idea of the relationship between them and there are different endings for each of the teams. This is a pretty bare bones story mode that you’ve seen dozens of times over in the past.
I briefly tested out the online mode of the game and found that it worked very well. It was smooth. I never had any issues with lag, which is crucial in a fighting game. There is a lobby system that will allow up to 12 different people to join. It keeps you from having to constantly go through matchmaking and ensures that if you’re looking to fight there is probably someone in the room who will want to do the same. You can interact with all of those people via voice or text. It’s simple, it’s intuitive and it keeps the pace of the game moving so you’re not spending more time looking for opponents than you are actually fighting.
All in all I really enjoyed my time with King of Fighters XIV. It’s a game that I’ll probably end up coming back to often, even if I’m just playing by myself or against another person on my couch. Will I ever win a tournament for the game? Probably not. However, I found that I was able to get a good grasp of the fighting system and could see the depth of it, despite being limited in the number of buttons when compared to other popular fighting games. It’s friendly enough for newcomers, but deep enough for veterans and I don’t think they’ll have any big objections making the move to the newest game in the series.
Played through the story mode a handful of times.
Played through a few online fights
Total play time: 11-12 hours