E3 2016: King of Fighters XIV Re-Opens The Tournament on PlayStation 4
The fighting game genre is in full renaissance mode, with Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X leading the charge into the newest generation of consoles. E3 2016 was a haven for the next chapters in the genre’s history with Tekken 7 and Injustice 2 featuring heavily throughout the Los Angeles Convention Center, but one particular title seemed to have been overlooked amongst the hustle and bustle of the show.
The King of Fighters XIV from SNK Playmore is taking some big strides for the franchise, ditching the hand-drawn sprites of the two previous games for full 3D environments and character models and bringing 50 characters to the tournament this time around. Luckily the action translates perfectly to the new look, as my time with the show floor demo proved to be a ton of fun.
The massive roster is once again organized into teams, with 12 team of three characters each filling the majority of the character select screen and two outliers sitting at the bottom. We don’t yet know the identity of those two extra fighters, but the other 48 were at my disposal and filled with familiar faces intermittent with some brand new challengers. I see Team Art of Fighting comprised of the Yamazaki siblings Ryo and Yuri along with their pal Robert.
Elsewhere on the screen is Team Yagami, featuring longtime series combatant Iori Yagami flanked by his two assassin assistants Vice and Mature. I struggled with whether or not I should keep the band together and choose one of the pre-organized trios or build a dream team of my own out of the thousands of potential combination. I finally settled on Team Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard, Ryo Sakazaki of Team Art of Fighting, and the rotund Team Villain member Chang Koehan as my threesome to lead into battle.
Matches are carried out in the classic King of Fighters format: each team chooses the order in which its fighters will enter the fray, then it’s one-on-one battles until each team is completely eliminated. I chose Ryo, Terry, and Chang as my order thinking I’d prefer the Mack truck that is Chang to clean up whatever messes Ryo and Terry couldn’t handle. My opponent was on the same wavelength, choosing his order to be the diminutive Choi Bounge, the sultry Vice, and big ol’ Chang to close things out.
Despite the fancy new graphics style KoF XIV plays just like other games of its ilk, a standard six-button control scheme with light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks. Each character has specific special moves, like Terry Bogard’s Power Wave and Ryo Sakazaki’s Sho Ko Ken, performed the same way they have been since the beginning: quarter circles, half-circles, charging down or back, and the occasional 360 degree rotation of the stick.
I played a three game set against another E3-goer during my time with the game, splitting the first two games before dropping the third to my adept opponent. The game performed admirably the entire time, with no noticeable drops in framerate or slowdown of any kind throughout all three matches. Moves were flashy and impressive, particularly the ultimate moves which zoom in on the offensive fighter before lighting the screen up with a massive fireball or unleashing a super fast combo. This new 3D upgrade doesn't seem to be hampering the KoF experience at all, and that's a great sign heading into the game’s launch at the end of the summer.
The fourteenth King of Fighters tournament will be kicking off before I know it, and while I had some concerns about how the series would handle the ascension to PlayStation 4 I'm no longer as worried after playing it. Admittedly my sample size was small, but the game ran without issue the entire time and the action is exactly what I’d expect a King of Fighters game to bring to the table. SNK Playmore has been biding its time and waiting for the right moment to re-emerge, and King of Fighters XIV might just be what the developer need to re-establish itself. If that ends up the case, once we’re all familiar with each other again Capcom and SNK ought to talk Capcom vs SNK 3. I'd be all ears.
King of Fighters XIV will be available Aug. 23 for PlayStation 4.