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Back in the 90s, the fighting game rivalry between Capcom and SNK was fierce. Since those days things have changed a great deal. Things have changed a great deal since then. With the rise of 3D fighters, the death of arcades and newly formed online communities, the fighting game landscape is drastically different. And yet, here we are once more.
On the heels of an admittedly lukewarm Street Fighter V release and with SNK is recommitting their efforts to console releases, this rivalry may be reignited yet. While it’s true that fighting games don’t have the foothold they did back in the era of arcades, their popularity is slowly reforming. With The King Of Fighters XIV demo released on PSN earlier this week, many of us got our first hands on look at the new title.
The biggest change to the well established King of Fighters formula is the switch to 3D character models. SNK has always been known for their phenomenal pixel art, so this is quite a departure for them. The look of the game isn’t as bad as I expected, but it is decisively far deeper in the uncanny valley than its Street Fighter and Guilty Gear counterparts.
The switch to 3D was certainly not an easy one for SNK. For a company known for great pixel art, this takes them squarely out of their comfort zone. The good news is that this is still the right move for them. By switching to 3D, they are taking steps to reduce production costs and refocus on console gaming. Although this KoF entry looks only adequate, further improvements on the look of this franchise should be forthcoming.
In terms of gameplay, this series still has some major bite. With Garou battle designer Yasuyuki Oda at the helm, the combat is superb. While not as polished or streamlined as Street Fighter V, the moment to moment options here are more numerous. Short jumps, long jumps, evasive rolls, block evades, critical moves, EX moves and more give every character a multitude of ways to engage and defend.
This entry in the series also introduces a Rush Mode attack. Rush Mode is a quick auto combo that can be performed by tapping light punch repeatedly next to an opponent. It automatically rolls out a nice chain combo and even ends it with a super if you have enough meter stored. While this is probably a welcome addition for newcomers to the franchise, it felt a little cheap to me.
King of Fighters XIV has a starting roster of 50 characters, with more likely on the way. Classic characters from Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting can be found here as per usual. Several new faces are making an appearance as well. This is the biggest roster of characters in this most recent fighting game generation, though whether they each stand on their own remains to be seen.
The demo is available free on PSN right now. It does not include any arcade or online play though, so bring a friend to play locally. You can also mess around in training mode and challenge the AI, though I found it to be pretty unremarkable. For those looking to jump right in, here is a handy moves list for the currently available characters.