I still hate King of Fighters XIV’s 3D models, but it plays amazingly

I still want my sprites back

As a long time fighting game fan who has invested heavy numbers of hours into Street Fighter and Tekken, King of Fighters is one of those series that I’ve always enjoyed watching at a competitive level, but always felt a little daunted to jump into. The visual style was slick and the gameplay loop solid, so I watched it with reverence from a distance.

When King of Fighters XIV was first shown off with 3D models I was a little put off, but having finally sat down to play it the mechanics at play are strong enough for me to forgive my initial misgivings. I can see myself having a blast when this comes out.

In terms of pacing and tone, XIV felt to me like a mix between King of Fighters 98 and 2000, with a increase in speed and aggression. Desperation Moves, introduced to replace XIII‘s Neo Max moves, can be cancelled into from standard special moves. Being able to cancel from special into something far more considerable with minimal player notice encouraged aggressively attacking, with an escape route always on hand.

Max mode costs one bar of meter and seemingly allows you to use unlimited EX moves until it runs out. The balancing act of when to use this was incredibly interesting, in that it felt equally suited to use as a defensive maneuver when trapped in a bad spot or to putting pressure on the opponent.

Rush Combos are a type of auto mash combo that finishes with a super if you have enough meter. The inclusion of this felt like a really odd choice in that it seemingly aimed to bring new players in without teaching them anything about long term technique.

While most of the moment to moment gameplay in XIV feels heavily inspired by that of XIII, there were a few changes that effect pacing. Walking speed seems slightly slower, while run speeds are a little faster, and rolls are longer and much more reminiscent of KoF 97.

Due to reduced hit stun, movements and hits felt a little less weighty than I ideally would have liked. The moves were familiar, they just felt like they had a little less punch to them compared to what I would have liked to see.

While a lot of XIV feels familiar, the minor tweaks have shifted the gameplay balance a little more towards aggressive play. Let us know below if you’re happy about that news or not.

Laura Dale