The King of Fighters XIV Ultimate Edition - first impressions

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When it comes to the fighting game genre, it usually brings to mind titles like Street Fighter, Tekken, or Mortal Kombat; ones that have been around for decades, cementing their place in video game history. However, there’s a fighter that’s been around for just as long, and has an equally illustrious history: The King of Fighters. After all, if something is still around after 14 entries, then they’re definitely doing something right. Though The King of Fighters franchise has been overwhelmingly more popular in eastern territories as opposed to the west, the series has found a loyal niche here, especially in recent years.

With a fifteenth installment on the way at some point, despite facing an unfortunate delay this month, SNK isn’t quite fully ready to let go of The King of Fighters XIV yet, which released all the way back in 2016. This leads us to the recently released swan-song for the game in the form of The King of Fighters XIV: Ultimate Edition. Supposedly, this is the most feature-packed entry yet, and considering that KOF XIV Ultimate boasts a roster that consists of 58 different characters, I’m inclined to believe it.
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2D fighting games have never been my specialty—though I do have a soft spot in my heart for some of Arc System Works’ licensed games. Outside of that, I’m fairly fresh to the world of fighters, and that was made blatantly apparently the moment I glanced at the character selection screen. There’s a veritable army of characters to choose from, each with their own moves, specials, mechanics, and intricacies. It’s absolutely staggering to consider all the different play styles, ranges, and pertinent information professional players would need to keep in mind. Fortunately, new players won’t have to be that hardcore—and the tutorial system is of immense help when it comes to learning the basics.

SNK has decades of experience creating these types of games, and it truly shows when you get into the combat. Whereas Street Fighter has you pick a single character and go toe-to-toe for a few rounds, in King of Fighters, you pick a team of three fighters. These characters can't tag in or out like how some team-based fighters work, like in Dragon Ball FighterZ, but instead act as an extended health bar, in a way. The two teams of three will duke it out until one side is out of fighters, an easy enough concept. Your health will remain constant when a new round begins, but if you managed to score a K.O., you'll gain a slight bit back. It keeps things tense without being too frenetic or hard to follow.
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For the hardcore enthusiasts out there, it's worth noting that XIV operates on a delay-based netcode, and not rollback, the latter of which being considered as far preferable for online matches. Playing the game online through wifi worked fine in my case, with no weird stutters or noticeable lag, though a more discerning veteran might find faults where I didn't.

After thirteen prior installments, KOF XIV made a very major change to the formula, by replacing the traditional 2D sprites with 3D models on a 2D plane. Visually, it feels like a downgrade, but that doesn't mean KOF XIV looks bad. It's...different, but at the same time, the characters look distinct and pop against the background, their hitboxes are precise, and the animations are all exaggerated and over the top--exactly what you'd want from a fighting game developed in Japan. Interestingly, the original release of XIV suffered from such lackluster graphics that SNK had to completely revamp them in a patch sometime after launch. The Ultimate Edition utilizes these updated visuals, and it seems that their efforts to improve the game paid off.

As previously mentioned, KOF XIV Ultimate has a roster of 58 characters--yes, that wasn't a typo--which includes the original release's cast, along with each of the DLC characters that were released later on, along with ten costumes that were also released as paid DLC. SNK also crosses over some of its cast from other fighting games it's developed in the past, including Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury--otherwise known as "that one guy from Smash Bros.". There's a lot of variety to each of the 58 characters, especially the DLC ones, which I honestly found to be surprising; it'd be easy to assume that a lot of them would feel "samey" to play as, however, the combos and differing attacks felt individually defining.

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While I have no prior concept as to who these characters really are, I found myself enjoying their designs and finding out their respective “gimmicks”. Kyo’s attacks have lots of high kicks and long-reaching sweeps that can catch opponents off-guard. Terry is super weighty and needs to be up close to do the most damage. One of Ramon’s moves has you hilariously parkouring onto the chest of your opponent and majestically somersaulting back to the ground. Most of the DLC cast, such as Rock or Vanessa are also really fun to play as, even if I didn’t know what I was doing half the time. The story mode will help get you acquainted with all these faces, where you go from battle to battle to become, well, the King of Fighters. It works well as a way to jump in, play a bit, learn more of the game’s systems, and take a break, as does the mission mode for when you’re a little more experienced.

And really, if you weren’t interested yet, there’s just a guy called The King of Dinosaurs, and he fights in a giant dinosaur costume. What else more do you need from a video game?

Where the game really takes things to the extreme is in its combos. Light attacks chain into heavy ones, and when your gauge is high enough, you can pull off all sorts of specials, supers, climax moves, or go into a Max Mode, where your attacks become even more damaging, flashy, and show-stopping. Once more, the tutorial is nothing short of amazing in terms of helping you know what buttons do what on screen, but KOF has so many things, it's difficult to comprehend. That's both its greatest weakness and strength.

I doubt I'll ever come close to mastering the gameplay of King of Fighters XIV, but as someone who has always wanted to experience SNK's super-influential fighter, I'm glad to have started with this game. A lot of the deeper mechanics are out of my grasp for now, but it's a blast to play casually. The Ultimate Edition is clearly an easy way of getting fans to reinvigorate the same old game that's been around for years now, but at the same time, it's a wonderful jumping-off point for newcomers, and if you're a lapsed fan, you'll have an endless amount of catching up to do when it comes to trying out all the new fighters you might have missed in the past. Less octane-fueled that Arc System Works' games, but more exotic than your run-of-the-mill everyday Street Fighter, King of Fighters XIV: Ultimate Edition is an easy recommendation to anyone interested in 2D fighting games.
 

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lordelan

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It's somehow a shame they went the 2.5 D route as well.
I think even XIII looks way better:
kingoffightersxiii_review.jpg


Same goes for Street Fighter tbh. Loved SF 4 and like SF V, but "Ultra Street Fighter II" for the Nintendo Switch is the most beautiful fighting game I've ever seen (speaking only of the graphics).
 

JuanBaNaNa

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Hm...
@Chary
I see you're not really into KOF.
But your review is top notch considering Fighting games are not your forte.

Hey... wasn't KOF 13 the one tgat introduced 3D characters on 2D plane? :unsure:

I'm honestly jealous of you right now, I love the series and I too am a bit of a scientist hardcore fighting gamer myself.
If you really want to give it another chance, try playing with:
  • King
  • Athena
  • May
  • Iori
  • King of Dino
  • Takuma
  • Leona
Their combos are easy to chain and easy to execute.
I think you missed one thing in your review...
I'm wondering if they're still using 4 button controls and if it still has the ability to roll to dodge and striker characters to chain combos.


Also: Play KOF 96 to really experience one of the best KOF games... or 2003 which is the easiest amongst them all. :hrth:
 
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I have to agree that King of Fighters looked much better as Pixel Art but, that said, I've never actually bought the Franchise so I don't exactly speak for the immediate demographic.

It would be nice, though, if this Franchise gave the option to play in 2D, 3D or a combination of both, just like the Super Mario Maker Franchise; I don't think it would be that hard to align the Hit Boxes nor get the proportions and timing synced between the two.

I would certainly pay for that.
 
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Chary

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It's somehow a shame they went the 2.5 D route as well.
I think even XIII looks way better:
kingoffightersxiii_review.jpg


Same goes for Street Fighter tbh. Loved SF 4 and like SF V, but "Ultra Street Fighter II" for the Nintendo Switch is the most beautiful fighting game I've ever seen (speaking only of the graphics).
I’ll never get over the lack of sprites in modern games :( they’re just so nice. So much better.

I see you're not really into KOF
Yeah, ahaha. I’m a complete noob. It’s why I didn’t want to fully “review” the game and score it in our review section...I felt it wouldn’t be fair to the game itself to judge it without fully understanding it as it’s meant to be by the subset of fighting fans.

Roll dodging is still in—and it’s really satisfying. Honestly, I rolled and pulled off some amazing attack by complete accident. Chaining combos and juggling and everything is really nice but also super specific on the timings imo.
 

Sonic Angel Knight

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Oh right, it came out today... digital only. No disc. No steam listing either. :blink:

Same goes for Street Fighter tbh. Loved SF 4 and like SF V, but "Ultra Street Fighter II" for the Nintendo Switch is the most beautiful fighting game I've ever seen (speaking only of the graphics).

Did you not see Street fighter 3? :blink:
Most special attacks have lots of animation frames. :ninja:

I doubt I'll ever come close to mastering the gameplay of King of Fighters XIV, but as someone who has always wanted to experience SNK's super-influential fighter, I'm glad to have started with this game.
Don't do it, mastering this game is a DEEEEEEEPPPPP RABBIT HOLE you don't want to go fall into. Your thumb will get blisters, and you will not want to know how to do Raging Storm or Deadly Rave... Or a Climax Cancel combo. Or look up tutorial videos on youtube. You'll hate yourself trust me. :ph34r:
 
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JuanBaNaNa

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Yeah, ahaha. I’m a complete noob. It’s why I didn’t want to fully “review” the game and score it in our review section...I felt it wouldn’t be fair to the game itself to judge it without fully understanding it as it’s meant to be by the subset of fighting fans.

Roll dodging is still in—and it’s really satisfying. Honestly, I rolled and pulled off some amazing attack by complete accident. Chaining combos and juggling and everything is really nice but also super specific on the timings imo.

Lol don't be so self judgemental.
The most important thing is that you enjoyed the game. Maybe try harder next time and it's mechanics will get easier for you.
I think your review is fair and it appeals to a certain kind of public. KOF (surprisingly to me) is not well known in other parts of the world aside Latin America and Mexico.

I literally grew playing the game on Arcades way back in the 90s, so this game represents a part of my childhood.
Still I would like to encourage you to try it more times.
It's funnier when you play with friends and rewarding when you're about to die and roll on the exact moment to combo your opponent. :rofl2:
 

Sonic Angel Knight

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I tried researching how to do the combos when writing this, both on YouTube and in the practice arena...holy...crap. Kudos to the people who can pull that stuff off. I could put 100 hours in and still not know wtf with those inputs.
Because is like over 30 consistent inputs with precise timing to get it just right. You ever seen combos in Guilty Gear, Blaz Blue, Persona 4 Arena, Under night in Birth? Is like that but MUCH HARDER. (Only because unlike those games, characters can't get hit in air by any attack, only specific attacks meant for air combos.) :blink:

One youtube search of KOF combo video or tournament or even TAS, you're gonna wish you hadn't seen it. :ninja:
 

Silent_Gunner

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KOF 14 is alright...but the 2.5D style is just...considering what came before...

...what doesn't help is that, just as KOF13 took the 2D crown, guess what showed up next year?


And that's how KOF13 (and technically KOF12, but the less said about that the better) got its crown stolen from them in a year.

Still, if I had to pick my favorite KOF games out of them all, it'd be all the different versions of KOF98 or KOF2002UM...the latter having about as many characters as a MUGEN roster, and of whom a lot of KOF-styled MUGEN characters use the assets from!

As for the combos, yeah, you're gonna have to get comfy with max mode and cancelling special moves into normals/command normals, specials into other specials, specials into supers, supers into max supers, dream cancels into Level 3s...

...now I'm starting to sound like a certain dood...
 
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Sonic Angel Knight

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I'm wondering if they're still using 4 button controls and if it still has the ability to roll to dodge and striker characters to chain combos.
Yes Still only 4 buttons, but can be remapped and macroed
Rolling still exist, no side step (dodge)
No strikers at all.
Also: Play KOF 96 to really experience one of the best KOF games... or 2003 which is the easiest amongst them all. :hrth:

What @Chary need is some of this! :yayswitch:

 

Silent_Gunner

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Hm...
@Chary
I see you're not really into KOF.
But your review is top notch considering Fighting games are not your forte.

Hey... wasn't KOF 13 the one tgat introduced 3D characters on 2D plane? :unsure:

Also: Play KOF 96 to really experience one of the best KOF games... or 2003 which is the easiest amongst them all. :hrth:

KOFXI is better than '03 IMO. Only KOF 2003 and XI feature MVC-esque tag-in and tag-out.
 
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