For months, King of fighters 14 has been going through its rounds at a lot of the major tournaments in Japan and in the U.S. The fighting community has had an opportunity to playtest the game’s mechanics as well as the brand new and returning fighters in the series. For a franchise that has been out just as long as Street fighter’s, SNK hopes that the 14th installment will be the game that attracts new fans. As a fan of the series, I salivated at watching video game streams on twitch as I was impressed so far with the game’s visual improvements since its teaser trailer reveal back in 2015 – which made the game look very outdated.
SNK has released a demo to the anticipated fighting game on PlayStation Store that lets players test drive the 7 characters on 4 stages from its 48 man roster. Players have the choice to between series regulars Kyo, Iori, and Mai. Along with returning favorites, players also have the chance to play the four new characters to the series. Shun’ei from team China and the game’s protagonist , Nelson, the South American Boxer who has a robotic arm, King of Dinosaurs- a Luchador wrestler who has seen Jurassic Park too many times, and Sylvie – one of the tournament’s host that is sporting latest dress from the Lady Gaga collection. The demo also features “Tutorial mode” to learn the game’s basic mechanics ,“VS Mode” to play against the CPU or a live player, and “Training Mode” to freely experiment the characters move sets as well as different situations of your choosing. I spent my time focus on the available characters to see the changes in the old characters and how the newer characters played.
I was easily able to pick up the veterans characters and the newcomer’s Sylvie and Shun’ei as they were more of your traditional quarter circle and “Z” pattern characters found in every 2D fighting game. At first, I was rusty as I struggle to make the basic patterns on the controller. I opt out for a while to focus more on the basic punch/kick combinations, defense, and zoning against Mikedot’s character Shun’ei – a character that he picked up pretty quickly and starting really kick my ass. But as time went on in the matches, I became comfortable with controls. I was able to deliver more special moves combinations like Kyo’s Aragami and Dokugamine with ease. You combine this with the max mode ( power meter that works on the same line a the V trigger in Street fighter 5), and I was able to run tables quickly on Mikedot in many of our matches laying out heavy damage.
Shun’ei is was great entry character to people who are looking to get into the series. His move sets and his design choice feels like a combination of Nero from DevilMayCry 4 and Persona character where he shooting out demonic hands while dealing fast punches and kicks. One of his climax super specials, Demolish Dimension, is where he uppercuts his opponent in the air, release both demon arms and goes Fist of the North Star on his opponent, unleashing a fury of punches.
Out all of the characters that were available in this demo, there were two that stood out the most. Never would I ever thought I would be attracted to playing characters like Nelson and King of Dinosaurs in any 2D fighting game. Just from watching the tournaments, these type of characters usually have a disadvantage against their annoying fireball throwing counterparts – making it difficult to get close their opponents to be effective. But the developers really took their time creating moves that give non-fireball characters to be a suitable choice in tournament play. His boxing moves start from the Command A , that can be combined with various moves that go into his B to D follow-ups. It was fun to play around with different combinations to see the different results.
Along with everybody having the standard dodge mechanic, Nelson’s “A step into victory” which is a quick rush that get’s low enough to get under some fireball characters while staying aggressive and King of Dino’s “Zetsumetsu Hurricane” where he leaps over projectiles to a grab is just one of the examples these closeup characters have at their disposal.
Overall, KOF 14 is not really focusing on attracting casual players but getting the attention of the fighting community to give them a good hard look at their franchise . And so far, it is a look that should be given. With the small sample size available, these characters have a lot of depth that I can see hardcore tournament players diving into and creating really impressive combos to eliminate their opponents.