While Capcom is rightly credited as the company which kick-started interest in the one-on-one fighting genre, there's another firm which built up comparable reputation in the field and – some would passionately argue – actually managed to trump the creator of Street Fighter on more than one occasion. SNK would become a household name during the '90s thanks to its dogged pursuit of the genre crown, creating a seemingly endless line of fighters for its Neo Geo system. Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and Samurai Shodown all became worthy adversaries for Capcom's famous franchise, but The King of Fighters remains the company's masterpiece, pulling several of these series together to create a brand which for many is the pinnacle of the entire genre.
However, when Capcom managed to revive interest in the one-on-one brawler with Street Fighter IV in 2008, SNK Playmore's answer was commendable yet lacked the same commercial viability. King of Fighters XII and XIII – which arrived in 2009 and 2010 respectively – both used 2D sprites and backgrounds, which – despite their superb animation and sharp clarity – were perceived as being too "old school" when compared to Street Fighter IV's gorgeous 3D models. It would seem that SNK (fresh from its rebrand, removing the "Playmore" from its name) has taken this into account with King of Fighters XIV; the cast is now entirely rendered in three dimensions and fights take place in 3D environments, yet – like Capcom's game and unlike 2004's King of Fighters: Maximum Impact – the action remains firmly rooted in 2D.
Given that the visuals are the biggest change between this entry and XIII, it seems prudent to talk about those first and foremost. Early footage was met with derision from some quarters last year, but the final game has improved somewhat. Animation is fluid and special attacks are accompanied by some attractive fireworks, but even so, King of Fighters XIV looks like it's a full generation behind the visual spectacle seen in Street Fighter V – another PS4 exclusive – and arguably lacks the charm of Street Fighter IV, a game which will be a decade old in a couple of years. Some character models look disappointingly goofy or are saddled with very peculiar faces – series favourites Kyo Kusanagi and Terry Bogard being two notable examples. The backgrounds are also a very mixed bag, with some locations providing plenty of atmosphere while others feel underpopulated and low on detail. While it's certainly not an unattractive game and SNK gets some slack as it is still learning the ropes as far as 3D graphics go, Street Fighter V looks significantly better in practically every regard.
Thankfully, the same tight and technical gameplay which allowed King of Fighters to match Capcom's game in the '90s is present and correct, only this time around the developers are conscious of the fact that Street Fighter IV's success has created a new generation of mainstream players who perhaps aren't as savvy with the genre as their older counterparts. With this in mind we have the new "Rush" system, which essentially allows players to "dial a combo" by pressing Light Punch repeatedly. Each character has a different sequence mapped to these button presses and starting a combo is insultingly easy – you can even add more power by ensuring you have a few levels stocked up on your power gauge so that the final move will be a Super Special. Purists will no doubt be aghast at such simplification and removal of skill, but there's a catch – Rush combos do significantly less damage than "proper" ones, and therefore any player who relies on them too much will always come out second best to one who has taken the time and effort to learn more elaborate sequences. Because Rush combos will automatically use one of your level gauges if you have them in stock, you also need to be mindful of using up your supply on relatively weak combos when a well-timed Super Special would be more effective.
Elsewhere, things are as they've always been. Special moves are accessed via stick and button combinations, and by filling your power gauge you can unleash more potent Super Special attacks. The "Max" mode is a new feature which is based on principles laid down in many of SNK and Capcom's previous games; it consumes one level gauge and allows you to execute more powerful "EX" versions of your standard special attacks. An evasive roll can get you out of trouble, while a blow-back move permits you to knock your opponents off-balance – handy for when they've got you pinned in a corner. While the volume of different tactics and moves is intimidating, the game's excellent tutorial mode makes the learning process easy, and a training mode allows you to experiment without any pressure. A "Mission" mode completes the process, as it tasks you with stringing together specials and combos to progress.
Like previous instalments, the roster in King of Fighters XIV is staggering. The usual suspects return, including the Bogard siblings, Ryo Sakazaki, ludicrously-named baddie Geese Howard, and, of course, Mai Shiranui (whose breasts, long-time fans will be pleased to learn, wobble about with so much intensity it's as if they have their own gravity – a trademark of the series). These are joined by some new recruits, including the hyperactive Sylvie Paula Paula, bizarre King of Dinosaurs, and the slick-suited Hein. We also get the "Another World" team, which consists of characters from other SNK games: Nakoruru (Samurai Shodown) Mui Mui (Dragon Gal), and Love Heart (Sky Love). It's great fan service, even if most people will only be familiar with Nakoruru (the other two are from obscure, Japan-only Pachinko machines). There are some welcome new faces here, although others – such as Brazilian Balrog wannabe Nelson and the almost laughable sub-boss Antonov – come across as a little generic.
There are plenty of game modes to invest time in, all of which are available from the moment you load up the game – thankfully SNK has avoided the questionable drip-feed strategy Capcom used for Street Fighter V. King of Fighters' gimmick has always been the three-on-three battles which means you have to learn techniques for more than one character, but more traditional one-on-one modes do exist. Playing solo will see you rip through the majority of the game's content in a short space of time, leaving the online side to maintain your interest. The good news is that players are well catered for in this regard, with all manner of modes on offer. Lobbies are designed to accommodate plenty of players and it's possible to spectate and comment on matches – there's even an audience participation option where observers can boo or cheer the current match. The time we've spent with King of Fighters XIV's online portion has naturally been pre-release so we can't say for sure what things will be like when the game is available for the masses, but on the whole the netcode seems tight enough and we didn't experience any hiccups, even when playing against opponents in other geographical regions.
It's perhaps disingenuous to claim that King of Fighters XIV marks a glorious return to form akin to that of Street Fighter IV, because the more recent 2D instalments in SNK's franchise have been excellent examples of technical fighting brilliance. What the fourteenth entry in this esteemed franchise does is lay down the foundations for future sequels which will – thanks to the relentless march of technology – use 3D models instead of handdrawn sprites. While King of Fighters XIV looks positively shabby when placed alongside Street Fighter V, it arguably offers more depth and variety. The three-person mechanic encourages players to master more than one fighter, and the cast – while perhaps not as instantly-recognisable as the likes of Ryu, Chun-Li, and Blanka – has something for every type of player.
Ironically, the biggest sticking point with King of Fighters XIV is the one aspect designed to make it more appealing to outsiders; the new "Rush" mode allows even complete newbies to look like combo-crunching experts, but it's likely to divide opinion with serious players who prefer to rely on their own skill and knowledge when it comes to unlocking the game's most potent moves. Even so, this single concession to a mainstream audience is easy to forgive when taken as part of a package which rewards methodical, technical play in a way that no other fighting game does.
This has been getting great reviews, I think I may bite, I love fighting games!
Getting this entry was a no-brainer for me, SNK has yet to disappoint with a KoF (well, the 2000 series weren't my faves)
Push Square gave it it's lowest score thus far, but than again, they gave SF5 beta edition (at launch) a 9, so..........
I know I'll enjoy this one, the gameplay of KOF made the transition beautifully to 3D, and while it's not a looker, it has the depth, content, and charisma to keep me satisfied.
I don't think I'd say they're still learning the ropes with 3D since they made a 3D KoF 12 years ago for PS2. That game got a sequel too. 17 years ago they made Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition and Samurai Shodown: Warriors Rage for PS1, both 3D. Probably more than that, too.
It was kinda just bad wording, it's not SNK's first 3D game, or first 3D fighting game......it's their first large retail release in 6 years (KOF13 hit the arcades in 2010)......they really haven't done anything since, well, until their new overlords bought them out and shoved SNK back into the console gaming sphere.
The KOF14 staff had a decent amount of veteran SNK guys and some ex-Capcom members, but in articles those same people alluded to the fact that the guys responsible for the the graphics were more or less newbs.
I dont like this review, constantly playing on the street fighter comparisons time after time. I understand why you've done it, to explain the history of fighting games. Disappointingly you have failed to mention every other fighter that's out there including Tekken, Soul Calibur, MK, Smash Bros and DoA.
Yeah, I would also disagree that people think KOF is SNK's masterpiece......is it their most commercially viable IP? For sure......but I'm not sure if any single entry is held to the same standards as Samurai Shodown 2 and Garou (maybe KOF 98).
Geese, those 3D models...
@sub12 you've forgotten Ikari Warriors lol.
A proper new take on metal slug could work though.
Ikari sucks, lol, Heavy Barrel by Data East was the better game IMO.
@themcnoisy I think KoF is the best direct comparison to SF out of all the games you mentioned though. Tekken and SoulCalibur are fully 3D fighters w while Smash is kind of its own thing. MK... maybe but it's always been the Western equivalent. Same with Killer Instinct.
@ShogunRok maybe your right. The review for guilty gear xrd revelator a few months ago was more on point and a review which got me excited to try that game game and that's a 1 v 1 fighter. This review doesn't really want me to play anything other than street fighter 5.
The reviewer is that NintendoLife guy, not the guy who reviewed SF5 and Guilty Gear.
Unless Capcom decides to release a Super SF5 instead of the patchwork title that they have been building for the last 7~8 months or so, I'm skipping SF, I don't care how much Capcom fanboys try to stick up for it,..........it was the title that I was most looking forward to in 2016, and it has been nothing but a mess.
2016: KOF > SF, bandwagon Evo wannabe's be damned.
Nice to see so many 8s for this one.
This 7 is not a bad score either. Eager to get into this one next month when my copy arrives.
I'll take KoF XIV and its 7/10 all day over SFV bathing in its 9/10's
I wish every proper fighting game , street fighter to tekken , mortal combat to guilty gear and Doa, and older snk games and of course kof ... and any others.......threw in there top 5 and made a fighting game.
I think if you look at the majority of reviews though, not just this website, KoF XIV is (rightly) scoring higher on average.
Picking up this game soon, PSN tag is shonen86 if anyone wants to get in some friendly matches.
is there any story mode or any single player content for people who are not good enough for online?
I bought the pre-order for SF5, w the season pass. The launch was a mess?.......It's still a work in progress IMO,....
You know what games also had great mechanics?, Alpha 2/3 and 2nd Impact/Third Strike...........I'll stick with those. You know what series also has great mechanics, KOF, you should give it a try.
It has a story mode, but it's more or less a spruced up arcade mode, it's not like DOA5 or MKX, it's consecutive matches player after each other with a little bit extra sprinkled in.......which is cool by me.
It also has a VS CPU with multiple difficulties and buffs, pretty amazing I know (looking at you Crapcom).
I am, I may have bought it, doesn't mean I play it.
See! You aren't even familiar with KOF, but....just because it doesn't have the name recognition, SF always gets brought up.
I'll pick this up Friday. Would be my first KOF, but it looks like they really nailed the gameplay. In general it scored pretty high elsewhere & as much as I love PushSquare I can't ignore the SF bias
I do like a good fighting and with Street Fighter V gathering dust till it actually has enough content to become a full game, I may go for this when the price drops.
Such a strange and yet not unexpected review. Seemed to lose marks for graphics and not having Street Fighter characters in? Graphics I can see it's not as visually impressive as SF V or GG XRD but I don't remember GG losing points for not having a roster as instantly recognizable as Ryu or Chun Li. Also noticed moaning about how "generic" the mid boss looked which seems a little redundant in a genre built up with generic stereotypes and "Ninja" based characters.
Also I'd compare SF more to Fatal Fury than KoF or even at a stretch Art of Fighting but that's just me being a raving SNK fanboy
Not sure why the comparison to SFV/IV! This review feels like you just played KoF and SFV at the same time to get a feel for what you like and didn't like. Bias in a review does not make for a good read!
Interesting that some of you have picked up on a Street Fighter bias in this review. I'm actually a massive fan of both firms, right back to the SF2 / Fatal Fury days. I've followed both in the arcades and on consoles like the Saturn, Dreamcast and AES/MVS, so I'd like to think I'm pretty level headed when it comes to this kind of thing.
Simply put, KOF XIV doesn't feel as enjoyable as SFV (or look as pretty), but both are great. I'm sure now that SNK has committed itself to 3D, subsequent games in the series can build on this excellent template.
Considering you have the lowest review on metacritic, your opinion on the KOF14/SF5 comparison isn't exactly etched in stone. Nice write up though!
@sub12 Don't be silly now kiddo, Ikari Warriors is a legendary game that is far superior to any other game in that list.
Honestly as PS4 fighters go I'd rather get my hands on Tekken 7 than this.
lol, I've tried Ikari, but as far as top down run and guns from the era, I think Heavy Barrel is better.......... (probably because it's quite a bit easier ,although I do think the level design of barrel is much more interesting).
I just sold street fighter 5 because it's a crappy fighting game. The new characters suck and not many to choose from even with the ones they are adding. King of fighters has 50 characters, teams of 3, and yes an arcade mode. Also the graphics are pretty good. I think people defend street fighter 5 cause they spent 60 bucks on that piece of garbage and don't know what else to say. King of fighters is awesome. Street fighter 5 is pretty but graphics don't make a game , content does.
Rush mode? That might actually kill this for me. Is there a way to filter/restrict that function in online lobbies?
EDIT: Well, after doing some research, it sounds like it might not be that bad, though I might do it by accident sometimes...I know that ruined quite a few of my Persona Arena, though they were even easier to trigger there. Unless your button is sticking, you shouldn't be mashing your light punch like you're playing SF2 E.Honda...so...I guess I can overlook that. Even graphically, the game mostly looks fine. It's just that the first 15 or so characters they introduced had really bad facial animations - lot of uncanny valley **** goin' on with Terry, Iori, and especially Kyo and Athena. Don't even get me started on Mai and Angel, I still have the nightmares.
They slowly got better after a while, though, and it's mostly just them having to adapt these anime-style characters who have already gone through more art style revamps than I can count. The new characters they introduced look great, and I hope they redo some of the character models at some point, at least for the Super Move cutscenes. That's where the Uncanny Valley reared its ugly head the most...
Holy crap, your alive!
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