The King of Fighters XIV (Review) Playstation 4

The King of Fighters XIV (Review) Playstation 4
Review Score:

Just when it seemed like Capcom’s Street Fighter V was reason enough to purchase a Playstation 4, SNK (formally SNK-Playmore) enters the ‘competitive’ fighter arena by releasing the fourteenth installment of its critically-acclaimed fighting game series, The King of Fighters XIV. In recent years, SNK has revamped its classic KOF IP not once, but twice on Playstation 3.

The King of Fighters XII was the first game in the series to bring the aging IP into the modern age with redrawn 2D sprites, gorgeous HD backgrounds, and a stable single-player experience. While KOFXII was praised for its graphical improvements, gamers everywhere were immediately disappointed by the game’s unstable netcode, which rendered most online matches unplayable due to high latency issues. The limited character roster — and the lack of an end boss in single-player mode — didn’t help matters any either. SNK addressed these issues (and more) when they released The King of Fighters XIII in 2011 (two years after KOFXII) for Playstation 3.

With the release of The King of Fighters XIV, SNK decided to drop the 2D sprites from the previous two games in favor of 3D models (think The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact for Playstation 2) and 2.5D backgrounds similar to Street Fighter V. The combat system has changed (it now accommodates new players) and the roster of fighters includes 16 new characters, which compliment returning fan favorites such as Terry Bogard and Kyo Kusanagi (to name just a few).

The King of Fighters XIV

KOF XIV is chalk full of features applicable to a solid fighting game. For example: the available ‘Tutorial’ mode is good at helping newcomers learn the basics (i.e. dodging, movement, etc.), while ‘Training’ mode is a great way for veterans to brush up on their skills. Mission mode includes three styles of play that have become a standard in today’s fighting games: Trial mode, Time Attack and Survival mode. There is an even an offline ‘Versus’ mode for gamers that want to play offline.

Single-player mode is KOF XIV’s ‘arcade mode’, replete with a ‘boss’ encounter at the end. There’s even a surprise at the end of the game, but it won’t be mentioned in this review; it’s up to gamers to find out for themselves. However, this much can be said — if you beat the game with a team (i.e. Team Fatal Fury, etc) and not one that has been ‘edited’, there are cinemas that will tie up some  of the lose ends in the KOF mythos. Some of them are quite surprising.

The biggest concern surrounding the release of KOFXIV was its gameplay, and how the combat system – and even the fighters themselves – would ‘feel’ using the new 2.5D engine. As someone who has been an avid player of the series since KOF ’94 (when it first appeared on the Neo-Geo MVS in arcades), it can be said that the game plays almost as good as KOF ’98. While the aforementioned statement could (and probably will) stir up some controversy, it must be said that SNK’s latest offering isn’t simply the ‘same old game’ with shiny, 3D graphics.

The King of Fighters XIV

KOF XIV isn’t without its Achilles heel, though. The new Auto-Combo system makes it easy for any gamer — regardless of their skill or time playing the series– into instant combo masters by repeatedly smashing the Weak Punch button. This feature also makes more advanced fighters like Geese Howard accessible, as long as those low punch attacks connect with the opponent. If the ‘Power Gauge’ meter is full, that single button combo chain will also connect a devastating finisher that can consume 50%  of the enemy player’s health.

The Hyper Drive System from KOF XIII has been replaced by a new version of ‘Max Mode’, which appeared in earlier versions of KOF. When in Max Mode, the player can execute unlimited EX special moves for a short period of time. SNK has also implemented three types of Supers for each fighter: Super Special Moves, Max Super Special Moves, and a new type of super called ‘Climax Super Special Moves’. Max Super Special Moves can only be executed during Max mode, while Climax Super Special Moves require three power gauges with two having Max mode on. The game also incorporates the ‘Just Defend’ mechanic from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, a feature that rewards the player a small amount of health for blocking an attack at the very last moment.

Gamers will be happy to know that the returning cast of fighters from previous KOF games still retain most of their signature moves. Fan favorite, Terry Bogard, has every move from his original roster except for his ‘Power Dunk’; a powerful attack that was great for cornering opponents and finishing combos. Other characters like Mature and Vice remain about the same, but their special moves have been tweaked to inflict less damage. Since the cast of fighters is so large (i.e. there are 16 teams comprised of three fighters each), it would be impossible to mention all the changes and tweaks made to every returning character.

The King of Fighters XIV

The new roster of fighters are oddly unique in the way they are designed. For example: Kukri from the ‘Invitation Team’ uses sand for his projectiles, and can teleport across the screen with ease. King of Dinosaurs from the Mexico Team — despite recent rumors — is not Tizoc from Garou: Mark of the Wolves, but a new fighter with the same fighting style that mirrors that of Tizoc. When in play, most of Tizoc’s grabs and pile drivers work, sans a few. (It’s undetermined if this character is actually  connected to Tizoc.)  Choi and Chang (the criminals that were once reformed by Kim Kaphwan) have returned, but this time they are led by a psychotic prisoner named Xandu. This character is probably the most original out of the new roster, as he spins his arms to counter attacks and ‘yell’ to inflict damage. His winning pose is also a bit creepy, as he tilts his head to the side with eyes bulging from their sockets.

While the experience was limited, online play was available during the time of this review. Netcode stability has been a concern ever since SNK announced KOF XIV, and skepticism abound the closer it came to testing the game online. Surprisingly, KOF XIV performed very well during the thirty-odd matches that were played. In fact, only five matches suffered from latency issues. Rank Matches were not available during this time; all matches were played via ‘Free Match’ mode, which includes Team VS, Single VS and Party VS game modes.

While not perfect, The King of Fighters XIV is a hard-hitting, in-your-face 2D fighter that includes all the amenities that are currently missing from Capcom’s Street Fighter V. Plus, the netcode is actually stable compared to previous releases. With that said, The King of Fighters XIV comes highly recommended; it’s one of the best 2D fighters of 2016.

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Playstation 4
Developer: SNK
Publisher: Atlus
ESRB: T (Teen)
Price: $59.99

The King Of Fighters XIV Official Website:

Review Score
Impressive 3D graphics and smooth animation.
Classic KOF sound effects and music abound.
Aside from the Auto-Combo system, KOF XIV's gameplay is near-perfect.
The King of Fighters XIV is one of the best 2D fighters of 2016, bar none.
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