Almost 22 years to the day, the first King of Fighters released in 1994 at arcades and that incredibly illusive console back in the day, the Neo-Geo.  While I wasn’t fortunate enough to play The King of Fighters on the luxury home console, alongside the likes of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II, I was fortunate enough to play it in its original form at the arcades.  Since then, it’s released at almost a yearly basis with the occasion stop gap and despite its being a fantastic and consistent series; it’s always played third-fiddle behind the giants that is Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.  However, it’s been five years since the last entry, which brings me on to the PlayStation 4 exclusive, The King of Fighters XIV.

In this age of the 2D fighter being the best form of the genre (Injustice, Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X as example), the latest entry in the series couldn’t be more of a natural fit in this console generation.  Whether you’re new or returning to the series, KOFXIV is a game that most fans of the genre should be able to pick up with relative ease.  But if you ever consider yourself to be a master against the CPU, after a few matches against some online players and you’ll soon realise this is a game that while isn’t essential, it’s something that has to be mastered if you partake to its online community.

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I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’ve always favoured other fighters in the genre and the KOF series is something that I’ve only really played now and again, but yet it always manages to hold a special place and kind of reminds me of that friend you’ve not seen for many years and when I started to play KOFXIV, it was like we were never apart.  This is largely down to its familiar pick up and play style.  Now I don’t consider myself to be a button basher, but I do tend to learn combos and special moves by testing out potential button combinations and when I figure a move out, it usually tends to stick.  In truth, I can’t be arsed with going in and out of the menu’s to look up every combination.

The King of Fighters XIV has a whopping 48 characters (and 18 stages) to choose from, each with their own play-styles and move-sets.  It’s very much a case of trial and error until you find a batch of characters that suits you, but when you find them, this is when the game really begins to become enjoyable.  Even if you’re not familiar with characters move-set to begin with, as long as you are familiar enough with this genre, you’ll find this to be as fluid and free-flowing then other games in its genre, arguably more so.

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While its campaign isn’t perhaps to the standards and depth as Mortal Kombat X, Injustice: Gods Among Us or Street Fighter V (since its update), it’s a worthy addition to its modes and is something that is expected with the modern day fighter, even though it is more of an Arcade mode if anything else.  During its campaign, or I should say Story mode, it will comprise of 10 stages and you must pick your team of 3 fighters and compete in a prestigious tournament.  When you become familiar with some characters, picking the right mix adds a layer of strategy, especially when it comes to choosing their order in which to fight.

From what I can tell, it doesn’t really have any kind of effect to the story as to which characters you fight with, other than some small rival character interactions before some matches.  I must also add that it appears that the Story mode won’t save your progress (other than after completion), so for now it seems it may have to be done in one sitting.  But given that it should only take about an hour to blast through the Story/Arcade mode, that should be too much of a hindrance.

Outside of the Story mode, you also have a mission based mode that comprises of Trials (a mode with set stipulations such as hitting particular combos), Time Attack and Survival.  If you like to keep things more traditional, during Exhibition mode you can choose 1v1 matches, as well as 3v3.  Back in the day, games of this genre satisfied its audience with a simple Arcade mode and perhaps the odd Survival mode.  But with everything that  KOFXIV has to offer for the couch players, there’s more than enough content here to warrant its price tag in comparison to more popular series’ of this genre.  In-fact, in terms of fighters and stages to choose from, it puts many of its rivals to shame.  However, if you fancy taking on its very competitive online community, you have the standard ranked and non-ranked matches if getting your ass handed to you is something that you like.

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The King of Fighters XIV is a game that has as refined gameplay as its rivals, and boasts a generous cast of characters and stages.  If anything, it probably just lacks that extra jazz with its visuals that games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are blessed with.  In truth, the visuals of KOFXIV don’t really look to the PS4 standard and if this was the first time you knew of this game and were told it was on PS3; I doubt you’d think any different.  However, graphics are not the be all and end all.

You maybe a little sceptical paying full price for this game, but if you took the plunge and took the time to find out which characters best suits you, then I have no doubts that you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this latest entry.  And if you’re a life-long loyal fan, then your mind is probably already made-up.  If you have grown a little tiresome of other big budget titles, then The King of Fighters XIV is a game that stayed stubbornly true to its roots, but yet remains as relevant as ever.  If you’re a fan of the genre, then you owe it to yourself to play this gem as soon as possible.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake