The King of Fighters XIV Review – The Technical Fighter’s Fighter

The King of Fighters XIV
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Players: Single and Online Multiplayer
MSRP: $59.99

This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.

The closest game you can compare The King of Fighters XIV to is easily Street Fighter – every character has a bunch of regular moves, multiple tiers of super moves and long combos, chainable together to make huge, healthbar slaughtering techniques, all done by circle motions on the d-pad and some button pressing.

Throws and cancelling still exist. New from that series is a MAX mode which helps you attack faster and do better special moves; a roll to escape some attacks, and different levels of jumping, known as hopping, for more diverse aerial combat.

The most obvious change is that there’s 3 fighters on each team, and when the first is out of health, the second jumps in for the next round. Super meter is carried over, so the order of your characters is important too; your character you can best get super moves out with is best at the back.

The upside to being such a long series is that the mechanics common to the series have been polished to a mirror sheen. This has an odd effect of making the game seem really stiff and even unpleasant to begin with – moving, hopping, super moves, even chains can feel like they don’t actually move.

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However, when a mechanical understanding of The King of Fighters starts to sink in, everything makes more sense, and the technical side of the game really fleshes itself out, and it becomes really enjoyable to just beat on the other team whether by the skin of your teeth or a total wipeout with one character. This isn’t a game designed to move or look flashy in the slightest – everything in the game is trying to be an actual fighting game.

The heavily diverse range of 50 characters helps greatly as well; every one of them has a different set of basic attacks and special moves, and I haven’t played one character that isn’t viable in a three person team.

This does have the adverse side effect of having tons of moves to remember; a way to display compressed movelists on screen would be awesome, instead of having to pause and remember all of them.

There’s definitely something to be said about the game’s tutorial, or rather, lack of tutorial. The most you get is a series of small one move explanations for one character. The game fails to explain some of the most crucial things I only learnt by Googling the series – input cancelling, the importance of hopping, or even how some characters moves are supposed to work simply don’t come up in the tutorial.

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I will also always bash a game that doesn’t have tutorials on individual characters; I guess you could argue that the trials will teach you neat combos for the characters, but not how to actually play the character at least partway effectively. You’re going to need a lot of time and a guide in hand to figure this one out.

Singleplayer content amounts to a basic set of story, survival, time attack and trial modes. The story mode serves as a traditional arcade mode, presented via relatively cheesy FMV cutscenes.

Every team of 3 characters gets a special ending if played altogether, and some neat character dialog scenes are available if two specific characters meet on the field.

Since this is game number fourteen in the series though, there’s a lot of stuff that’s happened the game decides to just…not go over. Thankfully the main story is standalone and basically not there to begin with; skipping the FMVs is easy after the first time through. Survival and time attack are exactly what they sound like, except these are only 1-on-1 modes.

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Something that utilizes the 3-on-3 gameplay a bit more would be great. AI difficulty sucks though – there are five levels, the third level (default) left me capable of playing the entire story mode without continuing once the first time I booted the game, then upping it to 5 resulted in me not being able to get through stage one.

Multiplayer has the usual ranked and unranked lobbies, training, replays, leaderboards and profile stuff to fiddle with. The netcode is surprisingly good – finding anyone to play with in my home country of Australia is nightmarish, but playing with people overseas goes notably well – there’s understandable slowness from the game trying to stay in sync.

Saying that it’s unplayable is an absolute lie, and that’s always a nice surprise. Notably every time I tried to get online I had my ass handed to me on increasingly polished silver platters, and nobody wanted to play more than one game with me, but this is me we’re talking about, I’d probably forget how to Dragon Punch if given the opportunity.

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There’s one problem with trying to play The King of Fighters, or rather, almost every other fighting game on PS4 as well; the PS4 directional pad sucks for fighters, being too hard to effectively quartercircle or hop, and the analog stick has so much travel as to be imprecise.

If you have a Vita I’d fully recommend playing via Remote Play; the d-pad works so much better. A second controller from HORI or another manufacturer would be miles ahead of the DualShock 4, too.

Presentation is, as was told by the move from the previous games’ 2D to a new 3D look, not the best thing in the world. It’s very simple, from the characters to the backgrounds, and it definitely feels cheaper than most other major fighting game franchises.

I’ll give it credit for one thing though – it has character. All the fighters are visually interesting to look at, and impressively varied for the character count. The Japanese dub is fine too; I didn’t feel myself wanting to turn off the audio.

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The King of Fighters XIV is an odd beast of a fighting game that has tons of depth and great character variety. It’s not much to look at and it does a terrible job at teaching you how to play, but once you get it down it’s one of the most satisfying fighting games out there to learn and destroy at. If you have the time to get over that brick wall, this will probably be one of your favorite fighting games.

The King of Fighters XIV was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a digital copy provided by Atlus. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 8

The Good:

  • Technically complex and very strategic
  • Feels great once you get the basics down
  • Diverse character roster with great designs
  • Absolutely massive skill ceiling
  • Surprisingly good netcode

The Bad:

  • Presentation is low budget, but has character
  • Impenetrable without outside help or tons of time
  • The base controller sucks for playing this one
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Eccentric PC and portable gamer. Would love to spend more time on his Vita if he could stop breaking the analog stick. Loves shooters, action games and the odd spot of racing.

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