The King of Fighters XIV

The King of Fighters XIV (Japanese: ザ・キング・オブ・ファイターズ XIV) is a 2016 Japanese fighting game that is part of The King of Fighters (KOF) video game series by SNK. The game 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 mainline The King of Fighters game to be rendered entirely in 3D, unlike previous installments, which used 2D raster imagery. The King of Fighters XIV has over 50 characters and the gameplay retains the classic system of teams composed of three fighters. In 2017, the game was ported to the Microsoft Windows and Japanese arcade cabinets.

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

Critical reception of The King of Fighters XIV has been generally positive; video game publications praised the appeal of its fighting system to newcomers and fighting-game experts. It has also been criticized for its use of a graphic engine that supports real-time 3D rendering at an inferior quality to other fighting games released during the eighth generation of video game consoles. The King of Fighters series inspired a manga titled The King of Fighters: A New Beginning, while in December 2018, SNK announced they were working on a new sequel, The King of Fighters XV, which was confirmed at EVO 2019 and will be released around 2020.

GameplayEdit

 
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 against a 2D background in a similar manner to Street Fighter IV and its updates while keeping the formula used in previous installments. The player can select a three-character team who fight against other teams. In the game's story, the fighters often interact depending on their relationships. After eight rounds, the player fights the bosses Antonov and Verse.[2]

The Hyper Drive system from the previous game is 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 time and the timer changes in response to the player-character's position.[3]

The game's characters have three types of Supers: the returning "Super Special Moves" and "Max Super Special Moves", the latter of which require two power gauges to execute or one if Max mode is activated and a new type called "Climax Super Special Moves". Climax Super Special Moves are the strongest types in the game and require three power gauges or two with Max mode activated. The game also features the "Just Defend" mechanic from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The HD thrust system makes the opponent hit the wall and crumple for follow-up attacks.[4] The game is designed to be played 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. Techniques created by the Rush system produce less damage than the one performed manually.[5] The online lobby has modes called team VS, single VS, and party VS; up to 12 players can enter and spectate.[6]

PlotEdit

The story of The King of Fighters XIV takes place a few years after the events of The King of Fighters XIII. A mysterious Russian billionaire named Antonov buys the rights to the King of Fighters brand to host a new tournament in which veterans and newcomers compete. For the story mode, SNK wrote 16 prologues focused on each team before they enter 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, some of the characters go into missions to confront people revived through Verse.[9][10]

CharactersEdit

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]

DevelopmentEdit

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-style slot machines and Mobile Apps. The game began full production in April 2014 with staff from Esaka.[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, the staff said it is challenging to new players.[16] Accordingly, they intended to combine the simplicity of KOF '98 with the Quick Max features of KOF 2002 and the way meters are managed in KOF XIII.[6]

The King of Fighters XIV 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 to develop for the PlayStation 4 due to the console's high worldwide sales.[19] SNK Playmore did not want to add a new system to the game but some changes were made in response to The King of Fighters XIII; the company had yet to decide whether the game would be given updates or be a single release followed by sequels.[4] In August 2016, the staff decided to advance the new plot through a sequel.[20]

EngineEdit

In October 2015, it was confirmed Yasuyuki Oda, the battle designer of Street Fighter IV, would direct The King of Fighters XIV.[21] This was his first contribution to the franchise, leading a younger staff. During Oda's first employment at SNK, games like Virtua Fighter motivated him to make a 3D game after his departure. When Oda returned to SNK, he decided to transition the King of Fighters series from 2D to 3D though the adaption of some characters was more difficult than others.[22]

SNK developed the game engine internally. They were considering using the Unreal Engine but decided not to use it because the version at the time it did not complement SNK's situation, knowledge, budget, and potential risks. They did not use cell-shaded graphics because Oda and Kuroki's vision for the King of Fighters series is that of '94. According to Neo_G, Neo Geo games of that vintage have a look that tried to imitate reality through pixels. According to Oda, the series always had tall, "realistic" characters until XIII, which uses an anime-like style. The original game has realistic visuals but clashes with character models like Kula Diamond and Athena Asamiya so they chose the current look.[6] The team, however, received negative feedback to the game's visuals so the company decided to improve them to please the fans.[23]

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

CastEdit

The King of Fighters XIV is known for having a large character roster.[16] On December 5, 2015 at PlayStation Experience, SNK Playmore confirmed a 50-character roster for the game.[24] Producer Yasuyuki Oda said while researching for the game's new characters, they avoided stereotypes like Japanese sumo wrestlers to produce more diversity in the cast, which includes characters with various nationalities. Oda said they "Kyo-ify" the new cast members to produce originality in the game.[25] Having only a few designers on staff, art director Nobuyuki Kuroki found this "unfair".[20]

One of the new characters, Shun'ei, was created by Keisuke Ogura to bring a different style and appeal to newcomers to the series; he also drew Sylvie and redrew Athena. While denying Shun'ei was the new story arc's protagonist, he is still important to the game. The staff wanted his characterization to contrast with the previous protagonists.[26] Main characters Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami and others were redesigned to fit the game series' new story arc.[27][28]

SNK was satisfied with the way the game was received by the Chinese market but the Chinese release of the game was censored.[29] One roster is composed entirely of returning characters, while another has mostly new characters, so the staff selected from all of them, wanting to give the roster some regional colors, grouping teams by countries and concepts, such as a female fighter's team.[22] They also confirmed the game was 70% completed.[4] The staff had no plans to make additional characters.[6]

Despite speculations King of Dinosaurs was Tizoc from Garou: Mark of the Wolves with a different design, Ogura said the two are different characters despite their similar fighting styles; upon release, however, King of Dinosaurs and Tizoc were found to be the same character. In the Neo Geo era of the series, developers were unable to add Nakoruru from Samurai Shodown due to the engine limitations. When the character was revealed in KOF XIV, the staff was surprised by her popularity and said despite the Orochi clan members' deaths in the series' first story arc, they might consider adding them depending on the storyline.[6] Before being added as DLC characters, Blue Mary and Ryuji Yamazaki from the Fatal Fury series were also considered for the base roster but the staff wanted the game to feel more like The King of Fighters. They noted 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 for inclusion but they found it complicated because Mark of the Wolves took place years after Geese's death in the Fatal Fury series.[20]

Demos and releaseEdit

 
A comparison of the graphics before and after update.

To promote The King of Fighters XIV in Japan, SNK released arcade games containing 36 playable characters for fans to try.[30] On July 13, 2016, SNK announced "The King of Fighters XIV World Premiere Tour", in which the staff would visit other countries to let fans play the release build with 48 characters from the game. The demo ran from July 15 to August 21, 2016.[31] The demos balanced the characters and avoided overpowered characters.[20] SNK released The King of Fighters XIV in Japan, and Atlus USA and Deep Silver published it in North America and Europe respectively.[32][33] Demos of the game were shown in Japan, Korea, the United States and other countries.[34][35][36]

In the Americas, some copies of the game were shipped earlier than the official release date and 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 the Chinese version and was later released as DLC worldwide.[38] A new design of "Nightmare Geese" also appeared as DLC.[39] In Japan, SNK sells the game with an artbook.[40] Atlus USA announced its limited edition of the game would include a three-CD soundtrack and an artbook.[41]

Shortly after its debut, SNK released patch to fix problems with the game's online mode.[42] That November, SNK announced another patch that would boost the game's visuals.[43]This free patch became available on January 11, 2017, alongside alternative colors for the characters. Athena Asamiya's The King of Fighters '98 outfit was also available as DLC later that month; this was followed by other DLC outfits each later months/weeks.[44]

Kula Diamond was given a sundress outfit in April.[45] The patch was demonstrated in late December 2016.[46] It was announced the DLC characters Whip, Ryuji Yamazaki, Vanessa and Rock Howard, along with two free DLC update patch stages—Terry Bogard's Fatal Fury 2 stage and the Monaco stage from The King of Fighters '97—would be released on April 5, 2017.[47] Rock's revelation as a DLC was leaked by fans; this angered Oda who wanted to surprise them with the official trailer.[48] Other DLC characters included 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 with a new stage designed by Zainab Al-Lawaty from Oman. SNK Chairman Zhihui Ge was pleased with the result and said he wanted 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 King of Fighters XIV would be ported to Microsoft Windows, offering as few requirements as possible for the PC platform to run the game. The Windows port was released on June 15 the same year in two versions; one identical to the original PlayStation 4 game and the other including all of the DLC provided by the company.[52] A Japanese arcade port was released shortly afterwards; this was tested on Taito Stations.[53][54]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic79/100 (PS4)[55]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid8/10
EGM8.5/10[56]
Eurogamer8/10[57]
Game Informer7.3[58]
GameRevolution8/10[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 in video game media; Metacritic gives it an average score of 79 out of 100.[55] Gaming Age's Chris Dunlap gave it a perfect score, saying it is the best The King of Fighters game in the series and recommending it to fans of the fighting game genre due to its appealing features such as the Rush that makes fights easier to newcomers and the possibilities for rematches against the artificial intelligence.[63] Many reviewers commented on the fighting system; GameSpot praised its appeal to newcomers but criticized the 3D characters models.[59] EGM praised the game's core mechanics and the use of the Rush System to appeal to a bigger audience.[56] Despite the difficulties of mastering characters' 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 and a good starting point for players unhappy with Street Fighter V.[64] GameRevolution found the normal gameplay too challenging based on its performance needed to execute the special moves but said the gameplay remains true to earlier KOF games, most notably The King of Fighters XIII.[61] IGN praised the large number of modes, characters and unlockable material.[66]

The game's 3D characters received negative comments for their poor designs when compared with other games of the same generation.[59][58] Juan Garcia from IGN's Spanish site praised the redesigns of Robert Garcia and Kyo Kusanagi, which the reviewer found visually striking in contrast with the other characters.[66] Lucas Sullivan from GamesRadar found the 3D models to be more likable and enjoyed the game's mechanics, though he criticized the story mode for being similar to the arcade game because unlike other games of the genre, it does not explore the characters.[60] Despite saying game looks poor despite running at 60 fps, IGN enjoyed the large number of characters and the detailed backgrounds.[62] EGMNOW shared similar comments about the graphics and surprisingly large number of characters, stating that despite problems with the visuals, there is a lot of content to entertain players.[56] Despite these issues, Gaming Age found the characters interesting, noting each has a unique fighting style and theme songs that are played when facing rivals.[63] GameRevolution enjoyed the interactions between the characters when engaging in a rival fight, such as Kyo and Iori's interactions but was disappointed there was not much of it.[61]

The Steam version of The King of Fighters XIV received far more favourable reviews. Critics appreciated that SNK updated the dated graphics of the PlayStation 4's version, making it more competent in comparison with other fighting-game franchises such as Street Fighter and Tekken. The high price, however, was noted to be too expensive for a port released a year after the original game.[65] Despite giving it a positive review, PCMrace said the port could have benefited from a crossplay with PlayStation 4 players and that the cast still needed to be more balanced in terms of movesets.[67]

LegacyEdit

The King of Fighters XIV reached number 20 on the UK physical sales chart.[68] In its Japanese release, the game sold 46,474 units in its first ten days.[69][70] By November 2017, SNK announced the period from mid-2016 to mid-2017 was very profitable, attributing it to the release of The King of Fighters XIV and its DLC characters.[71] 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.[72]

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.[73] In February 2018, Oda announced the development of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, a female character-driven fighting game.[74] In November 2018, Oda spoke about the possibility of porting the game to the Nintendo Switch but he believes this might require unspecified technical issues.[75] In December 2018, SNK revealed the company was working on The King of Fighters XV, aiming to release it during 2020.[76] 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.[77]

The King of Fighters XIV inspired a manga adaptation titled The King of Fighters: A New Beginning and written by Kyōtarō Azuma. The series was published in Kodansha's Magazine Pocket starting in January 2018.[78] In July 2019, Seven Seas Entertainment announced it had licensed the manga for a North-American edition, the first volume of which would be released in early 2020.[79] A manhua was released in 2017.[80]

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