The King of Fighters XIV

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The King of Fighters XIV
King of Fighters XIV cover art.jpg
Developer(s)SNK
Abstraction Games (Steam)
Publisher(s)
Director(s)Yasuyuki Oda
Artist(s)Eisuke Ogura
SeriesThe King of Fighters
Platform(s)PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Arcade
ReleasePlayStation 4
  • NA: August 23, 2016
  • JP: August 25, 2016
  • EU: August 26, 2016
Microsoft Windows[1]
  • WW: June 15, 2017
Arcade
  • JP: June 29, 2017
Genre(s)Fighting
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
CabinetTaito Type X3

The King of Fighters XIV (Japanese: ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ XIV) is a fighting game, part of The King of Fighters (KOF) video game series by SNK. It was developed for the PlayStation 4 and released in August 2016. Atlus USA and Deep Silver published the game in North America and Europe, respectively. It is notable as the first main series The King of Fighters game rendered entirely in 3D, in contrast to previous installments which used 2D raster imagery. Carrying over 50 characters, the gameplay retains the classic system of teams composed of three fighters. The game was ported to the Microsoft Windows and Japanese arcade cabinets during 2017.

The game's development began in April 2014 when SNK's CEO announced the company should start designing new, appealing video games. This entry in the series was directed by Yasuyuki Oda who has previously worked on Capcom's Street Fighter IV as well as titles by SNK. While working to make it as popular as The King of Fighters '98 and The King of Fighters 2002, the designers also decided to implement the "Rush" system to invite newcomers to the series. Besides downloadable characters, SNK added extra alternative outfits for certain fighters as well as patches to improve the visuals.

Critical reception to The King of Fighters XIV has been generally positive with video game publications praising the appeal of its fighting system to newcomers and experts of fighting games. However, it has also been criticized for its use of a graphic engine that supports real-time 3D rendering at an inferior quality to fighting games released during the 8th generation. The series inspired an ongoing manga while in December 2018, SNK announced they are working on a new sequel, The King of Fighters XV, which was confirmed at EVO 2019 to be released around 2020.

Gameplay[edit]

A fight between Terry Bogard (left) and Geese Howard (right).

The King of Fighters XIV features full 3D models like The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, but on a 2D plane like Street Fighter IV and its updates, while keeping the same formula used in the previous installments. The player can select a team composed of three characters who fight against other teams. In the game's story, the fighters often interact with others depending on their relationships, while after eight rounds, the player fights against the two bosses: Antonov and Verse.[2]

The Hyper Drive system from the last game is no longer present and has been replaced with a new version of "Max Mode" from earlier games in the series. In Max mode, the player can perform unlimited EX special moves for a short period of time, and the timer changes depending on what position their character is in.[3]

The characters have three types of Supers: the returning "Super Special Moves" and "Max Super Special Moves", the latter of which require a total of two power gauges to execute (one in Max mode on), and a new type called "Climax Super Special Moves". Climax Super Special Moves are the strongest types in the game and will require a total of three power gauges (two with Max mode on). The game also features the "Just Defend" mechanic from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The HD thrust system now makes the opponent hit the wall and crumple for follow up attacks.[4] The game is designed to play like The King of Fighters XIII during Max mode where the player can use EX moves and three levels of Supers that can be canceled in their order of hierarchy. For beginners, there is an automatic feature called "Rush Combo". When performing a Rush, the player can create combos of special attacks as well as Desperation Moves if the energy bar is has been filled. However, techniques created by the Rush system produce less damage than the one performed manually.[5] The online lobby has three modes: team VS, single VS, and party VS; up to 12 players can enter and also spectate.[6]

Plot[edit]

The story takes place a few years after The King of Fighters XIII, in which a mysterious Russian billionaire named Antonov buys the rights of the King of Fighters brand in order to host a new tournament, consisting of both veterans and newcomers. For the story mode, SNK wrote sixteen prologues focused on each team before entering into the competition.[7] Following the competition, the player faces Antonov. In the aftermath, the fighters must confront a strange threatening entity named Verse. This anomaly attracted characters from other dimensions and universes, such as Nakoruru, and implicates three characters named Shun'ei, Meitenkun, and Kukri.[8] Following Verse's defeat, multiple characters of the story go into missions to confront people revived through Verse.[9][10]

Characters[edit]

The King of Fighters XIV includes 16 teams of 3 fighters, a sub-boss, a final boss, and 8 downloadable characters, totaling 58 combatants:[11]

Development[edit]

The decision to create The King of Fighters XIV was made when SNK Playmore's CEO Eikichi Kawasaki decided the company should return to producing appealing fighting games rather than Pachinko-Slot Machines and Mobile Apps. While it took some time, the game began full production when more staff from Esaka joined the team in April 2014.[14][15] The staff wanted the game to be easy to play and as popular as The King of Fighters '98 and KOF 2002.[5] While The King of Fighters XIII was a success, it was noted by the staff to be challenging to newcomers.[16] Accordingly, they intended to combine the simplicity of KOF '98 with the Quick Max features of KOF 2002 and the way meters were managed in KOF XIII.[6] The game was first announced at the Sony Computer Entertainment Press Conference for the 2015 Tokyo Game Show[17] and was present at the PlayStation Experience 2015.[18] SNK Playmore chose the PlayStation 4 as its console due to high worldwide sales.[19] While SNK Playmore did not want to add a new system to the game, some changes were made in response to The King of Fighters XIII. Whether the game would be given updates (like Street Fighter IV) or be a single release followed by sequels had yet to be decided.[4] In August 2016, the staff decided to advance the new plot through a sequel.[20]

Engine[edit]

In October 2015, it was confirmed that The King of Fighters XIV would be directed by Yasuyuki Oda, the battle designer of Street Fighter IV, who previously worked for SNK R&D Division 1 which includes staff members from the Fatal Fury and the Art of Fighting series.[21] This was his first contribution to the franchise, leading a younger staff. During Oda's first employment at SNK, games like Virtua Fighter amazed and motivated him to make a 3D game after his departure. When Oda returned to SNK, there were never any debates about making the series transition from 2D to 3D, though the adaption of some characters proved more difficult than others.[22]

The game engine was internally developed by SNK. They were considering Unreal Engine earlier in development but decided not to go with it because the version at the time didn't match well with SNK's situation including their knowledge, budget, and potential risks. They didn't go with cell-shaded graphics because Oda and Kuroki's vision of the King of Fighters series is that of '94. Neo_G agrees that Neo Geo games back then had a look that tried to imitate reality through pixels. According to Oda, the series always had tall "realistic" characters up until XIII, which was more anime-style. The original game had more realistic visuals but clashed with character models – like Kula Diamond and Athena Asamiya – so they opted for the current look.[6] However, the team received negative feedback to trailers' visuals of the game. As a result, the company decided to improve them on it to please the fans.[23]

Additionally, the staff found it challenging to run the game at 60 frames per second in full HD. The demand for 60 frames per second over more detailed graphics was made to ensure the game performed well online.[20] Nevertheless, to save production time and budget, Oda allowed for three characters to obscure their faces so they would not require facial animations.[20] Sound director Hideki Asanaka also found problems incorporating all the sound effects for the 3D game in contrast to previous titles. The team used camerawork in every Max Super Desperation Move and Climax Super Special Move in order to make them look stylish.[8] The battle design was made by Hayato Watanabe whereas Eisuke Ogura is the main artist.[6]

Cast[edit]

Known for having a large character roster,[16] on December 5, 2015 at PlayStation Experience, SNK Playmore confirmed a 50-character roster for The King of Fighters XIV.[24] Producer Yasuyuki Oda noted that while doing research for the new characters from KOF XIV, Kyo Kusnagai's moves stayed away from other stereotypes like Japanese sumo wrestlers to produce more variety within the cast that contained characters from multiple nationalities. Oda added that they "Kyo-ify" the new members to produce originality in the game.[25] Having only a few designers on staff, art director Nobuyuki Kuroki found this "unfair".[20] However, one of the new characters, Shun'ei, was created by Keisuke Ogura in order to bring a different style to appeal to newcomers of the series, while also drawing Sylvie and redrawing Athena. While denying the fact that Shun'ei was the new story arc's protagonist, he is still made to be important to the new game. The staff wanted his characterization to contrast the previous protagonists.[26] Main characters Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami among others were given new designs to fit the game being part of a new story arc from The King of Fighters.[27][28]

SNK also expressed satisfaction with the way the game was being received by the Chinese market. However, China's release of the game had some cases of censorship.[29] One roster was composed almost entirely of returning characters, while another was mostly new characters, so the staff selected from all of them, putting the global market into consideration. They wanted to give the roster some regional colors, with teams by countries and teams by concepts (like the female fighter's team).[22] They also confirmed the game was 70% completed.[4] The staff used all of their sources to make these characters and have no plans to make additional characters.[6]

Despite speculations that King of Dinosaurs was just Tizoc from Garou: Mark of the Wolves with a different design, Ogura maintained that the two were different characters despite their similar fighting styles – until the game's release revealed King of Dinosaurs and Tizoc were one and the same. Back in the Neo Geo's era of the series, developers were unable to add Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown due to the engine limitations. When she was revealed in KOF XIV, the staff was surprised by her popularity. The staff also noted that despite the Orochi clan members dying in the series' first story arc, they might consider adding them depending on thoughts regarding the storyline.[6] Prior being added as DLC characters Blue Mary and Ryuji Yamazaki from the Fatal Fury series were also considered to be part of the base roster but the staff wanted the game to feel more like The King of Fighters. On the other hand, they noted that the game lacked characters from Art of Fighting and attempted to add Jack Turner and John Crawley but Oda declined due to their lack of popularity. Rock Howard from Garou: Mark of the Wolves was also considered to be included but due to Geese's appearance at, they found it complicated as Mark of the Wolves took place years after Geese's death in the Fatal Fury series.[20]

Demos and release[edit]

A comparison of the graphics before and after update.

To promote the game in Japan, SNK released arcades containing 36 playable characters for fans to try.[30] On July 13, 2016, SNK announced "The King of Fighters XIV World Premiere Tour" where the staff would visit different parts of the world to let fans play the release build with 48 characters from the game. The demo ran from July 15 to August 21 from the same year.[31] The demos balanced the cast of characters and avoided overpowered characters.[20] Whereas SNK is releasing it in Japan, Atlus USA and Deep Silver published it in North America and Europe respectively.[32][33] Demos of the game have been shown in various countries such as Japan, Korea, and the United States.[34][35][36]

In the Americas, some copies of the game were shipped earlier than their official date. As a result, SNK asked players to avoid spoiling the game.[37] Kyo Kusanagi's classic high school outfit appeared as a pre-order bonus and downloadable content (DLC), while Iori Yagami's classic outfit appeared as a pre-order bonus for Chinese version until being released as DLC worldwide.[38] Additionally, a new design of "Nightmare Geese" appeared as a DLC.[39] For Japan's release, SNK sells the game alongside an artbook.[40] Atlus USA announced that for their limited edition, the game would include a three-CD soundtrack as well as an artbook.[41] A patch to fix the game's online issues was also released by SNK shortly after the game's debut.[42] SNK announced another patch in November in order to boost the game's visuals.[43]

This free patch became available on January 11, 2017 alongside more alternate colors for the characters. Athena Asamiya's The King of Fighters '98 outfit was also available as downloadable content later that month, followed by other DLC outfits each later months/weeks.[44] Kula Diamond was given a sundress oputfit in April.[45] The patch was given its own demo in late December 2016.[46] It was announced that 4 announced DLC characters Whip, Ryuji Yamazaki, Vanessa and Rock Howard, along with 2 announced free DLC update patch stages Terry Bogard's Fatal Fury 2 stage and Monaco stage from The King of Fighters '97 was be released on April 5, 2017.[47] Rock's revelation as a DLC was leaked by fans; this angered Oda who wanted to surprise fans with the official trailer. Nevertheless, Oda hoped the fans would enjoy playing as him.[48] Other two DLC characters include the returning Heidern and Oswald.[49][50]

Besides regular DLC characters, in November 2017, SNK added a character based on a sketch by Saudi Arabian artist Mashael Al-Barrak, who won a contest organized by Manga Productions in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, and United Arab Emirates. The winning design was used in the game. The character, Najd, became available alongside a new stage designed by Zainab Al-Lawaty from Oman. SNK Chairman Zhihui Ge was pleased with the result and expressed a desire to incorporate more content from Middle Eastern fans and developers to further increase the series' appeal in the region.[51]

In May 2017, SNK confirmed the game would be ported to Microsoft Windows offering as few requirements as possible in order for the PC to run the game. Released on June 15 of the same year, the port was released in two forms, one identical to the original one from the PlayStation 4 and another one including all the DLC provided by the company.[52] A Japanese arcade port was released shortly afterwards which was tested in Taito Stations.[53][54]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic79/100 (PS4)[55]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid8/10
EGM8.5/10[56]
Eurogamer8/10[57]
Game Informer7.3[58]
Game Revolution8/10[61]
GameSpot80[59]
GamesRadar+90[60]
IGN8/10[62]
Gaming AgeA+[63]
Metro GameCentral8/10[64]
GameSpew9/10 (PC)[65]
IGN (Spanish)8.2/10[66]

The King of Fighters XIV received generally positive reviews by video game media with Metacritic having an average score of 79 out of 100.[55] Gaming Age's Chris Dunlap gave it a perfect score believing it is the best The King of Fighters game in the series, recommending it to fans of the fighting game genre due to its appealing traits such as the Rush that would make fights easier to newcomers to different characters or possibilities for rematches against the artificial intelligence with advantages.[63] Many reviewers commented on the fighting system with GameSpot praising it due to its appeal to newcomers but criticized the 3D characters models.[59] EGM also highly praised the game's core mechanics and the use of the Rush System for appealing to a bigger audience.[56] Despite the difficulties of mastering a character's moves without the Rush system, Game Informer praised the game's online mode despite some slowdowns during the game's launch.[58] Metro found the game appealing for skilled fighting game fans but displeased fans from the recently released Street Fighter V fighting game.[64] GameRevolution noted that while he found the normal gameplay too challenging based on its performance needed to execute the special moves, the gameplay remained true to the series' previous games, most notably The King of Fighters XIII.[61] The large amount of modes, characters and unlockable material was also the subject of positive response by IGN.[66]

The game 3D characters often received negative commentary based on their poor designs when compared with other games from the same generation.[59][58] Juan Garcia from IGN's Spanish site praised the redesigns of both Robert Garcia and Kyo Kusanagi as the reviewer found them as visually striking in contrast to the rest of the cast who suffered who were felt as weaker.[66] Lucas Sullivan from GamesRadar was more positive; finding the 3D models to be more likable and enjoying the game's mechanics, he did criticize the story mode for its similarities with the ones from the arcades as it does not explore the characters unlike recent fighting games.[60] Despite sharing negative comments on the game looking bad despite running at 60 frames per second, IGN enjoyed the large number of characters as well as the detailed backgrounds.[62] EGMNOW shared similar comments in regards to the graphics and surprisingly large number of characters, stating that regardless of issues with the visuals, there was a lot of content to entertain players.[56] Despite these issues, Gaming Age found the characters interesting, noting each of them were unique in terms of fighting style as well as theme songs that are played when facing rivals.[63] GameRevolution enjoyed the interactions between the characters when engaging in a rival fight like Kyo and Iori's interactions but was disappointed there was not too much of it.[61]

The steam version of the video game received far more favourable reviews. Critics appreciated that SNK updated the dated graphics from the PlayStation 4's version, making it more competent in regards to other fighting games franchise such as Street Fighter and Tekken. However, the high price was noted to be too expensive for a port released a year after the original one.[65] Despite giving it a positive review, PCMrace believed the port could have been benefitted from a crossplay with PlayStation 4 players and that the cast still needed to be more balanced in terms of movesets.[67]

Legacy[edit]

The game reached number 20 on the UK physical sales chart.[68] During its Japanese release, the game sold 20,655 units.[69] By November 2017 SNK announced that the period of Summer 2016 to Summer 2017 was very profitable for them attributing it to the release of The King of Fighters XIV and its DLC characters.[70] In 2016, The King of Fighters XIV was nominated for the "Best Fighting Game" Award at The Game Awards but lost to Street Fighter V.[71]

Despite initial issues with the online mode and other features from the game, Yasuyuki Oda stated the fan response to The King of Fighters XIV was positive especially after fixing these issues. As a result, he thinks The King of Fighters XV is possible but the company wants to focus on other franchises too.[72] SNK already had plans to make a sequel, The King of Fighters XV. However, they instead decided to developed a more light-hearted game solely focused on female fighters, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy.[73] Oda has also spoken about the possibility of porting the game to Nintendo's console Nintendo Switch but he believes this might require unspecified technical issues.[74] In December 2018, SNK revealed the company was working on The King of Fighters XV, aiming to release it during 2020.[75] Feeling the game's graphics were outdated for a 2016 game, SNK chairman Zhihui GE stated the XV will use the Unreal Engine 4 in order to give a better presentation.[76]

The game also inspired a manga adaptation titled The King of Fighters: A New Beginning by Kyōtarō Azuma. The series began being published in Kodansha's Magazine Pocket starting in January 2018.[77] In July 2019, Seven Seas Entertainment announced they licensed the manga for a North American release with the first volume aiming to be released in early 2020.[78] A manhua was also released in 2017.[79]

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