King Of Fighters XIV Review: The Most Aptly Named Game Of 2016

If you call yourself King of Fighters, it’s probably a good idea to actually be a solid, top-shelf fighting game. Luckily for legendary developer SNK, they have that in the bag, and have now for 13 core games (and 19 total, including remakes, remasters, side games, and the like), stretching across multiple consoles and arcade cabinets. As the fighting game genre looks to incorporate more and more whistles and bells, SNK has doubled down on ensuring that their franchise remains focused on what is important — fighting, obviously — and in so doing have staked their claim as the best fighting game of 2016.

King of Fighters XIV continues to do what the franchise has always done best: 2D, team-based, three-on-three combat that relies on button presses and careful blocking and countering over epic kill animations and destructible, interactive backgrounds. That’s not to say games like Mortal Kombat X or the recently announced Injustice 2 don’t offer great fighting, but King of Fighters XIV takes the game genre and keeps it firmly grounded in its roots while adding better graphics and processing speeds, and focusing on the fighting above all else.

King of Fighters XIV Review

There are a staggering amount of fighters in King of Fighters XIV, both new and old. Almost 50, on-disc, and ready to be used from first boot up. Players select three to create a team and then take those three combatants into war with either another player local, on-line, or against the CPU in the Story mode. In fact, the Story Mode is rather simple to get through, and completing unlocks two additional characters. But King of Fighters XIV only truly begins there. There are other modes to play, including a Trials, a Time Attack, as in how long does it take to defeat 10 fighters, and Survival, which measures how many fighters you can take down before suffering a defeat. Both of these additional modes record your best scores and adds it to a leaderboard, giving players incentive to keep trying, to keep battling.

King of Fighters XIV Review

If the primary game modes aren’t enough, SNK also included a very robust on-line fighting component to King of Fighters XIV. There are options for free matches, where players can just battle for bragging rights in a room of 12. But the true challenge comes with ranked matches, where a player’s record is matched against others and battles carry consequences to an international leaderboard. This is where the best of the best hang out, and having tried a few times to fight a ranked match, I was subsequently shown my place in the world, as I was absolutely destroyed by my opponent each time.

King of Fighters XIV Review

To be fair, I’ve had my review copy for about a week before the game’s near-universal release, so I was probably getting killed by one of the game’s developers, but still. It was very sobering to be killing it in other game modes, and then have some person online treat me like a mosquito versus a nuclear bomb. Oddly enough, this didn’t discourage me, as the gameplay in King of Fighters XIV is so incredibly smooth and implemented that even I feel that with enough practice, I could one day make some noise in ranked online matches.

King of Fighters XIV Review

Obligatory image showing this particular fighter’s…um…skills.

And make no mistake, King of Fighters XIV isn’t a one-and-done type of game. This is arguably the best fighting game of 2016, and it is so good, it actually works to shine light on the many missteps that Capcom made with Street Fighter V earlier this year. KOF XIV keeps players coming back, because of the variety of fighters available, the innate desire to master new techniques like Max Mode and Climax Cancel, and near-perfect controls. I want to keep playing to get better. I want to be able to be taken seriously in ranked matches. I’ve not had a fighting game push me like this in years, and I welcome it.

King of Fighters XIV is a throwback fighting game to a better time when skill was matched by skill, and not by overpowered fighters and special moves, even though the game features plenty of both. The balance between the pros and cons with each individual fighter makes any match based on the skill of the person with the controller in their hand, and that is why King of Fighters earns its name.

King of Fighters XIV is available now for the PS4 in a retail version, a digital version, and a absolutely packed Burn to Fight Premium Edition. Also, for a limited time, players can get a free PS4 theme from the Playstation Store. This review is based off a digital copy of the game provided by Atlus USA.

King of Fighters XIV Review
out of 5

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