Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The King of Fighters XIV Revealed...

Judging a game before giving it a chance is undoubtedly a naive thing to do. Dishing out a dollop of negative criticism based on a short teaser trailer is probably even more foolish and yet we are all guilty of doing this, especially if said teaser trailer is for a sequel to one of our favourite franchises. For example: SNK recently showed off a very short teaser for their latest (and much anticipated within the fighting game community) King of Fighters installment, the fourteenth in the main numbered series. What was the reaction of this KOF fan? Pretty much this:

Now to put a little perspective on the table, you have to remember how ruddy impressive KOF XIII was with it's tidy presentation, expansive roster and - more importantly - beautiful 2D sprites (okay, 3D models disguised as sprites but still) that were a sight to behold not to mention the attractive and detailed backdrops. This was a game that made up for the half-baked KOF XII (which had the same visual style but hardly any content or characters) and also felt like a rebirth of sorts following a dodgy Playmore era that brought us the mixed bags that were KOF 2001, 2002, 2003 and XI. So it's fair to say that expectations for the next sequel were high. All SNK needed to do was build on KOF XIII, perhaps expand the roster, start up a new story arc etc. BUT...this is what we have so far:

Where has the lovely 2D style gone? Why is this a PS4 game that looks like a PS2 title? What's with Kyo and Iori's new look? Actually, the scary thing is that this looks like the Maximum Impact sub series from the PS2 days and THAT isn't a good comparison...kinda like telling your neighbour that their new car reminds you of a 90's Fiat. I'll admit that I have a soft spot for Maximum Impact 2 but in general, these were ugly games with forgettable exclusive characters, broken bosses and unimpressive gameplay. Let's not jump the gun and assume that KOF XIV will in any way mirror the MI series but the teaser trailer doesn't resemble anything else as closely.

So what are SNK playing at then? Well, we can only theorise that 3D character models are cheaper and faster to produce than KOF XIII's art style and with their new Chinese owners, they are probably eager to start putting out proper games again which is commendable. On the positive side, at least we are getting a new fighter in the KOF series as opposed to some sort of port or rhythm action spin-off.

The problem is that I'm a long-time KOF fan who cites '96, '98 Ultimate Match and XIII as my favourite editions. This teaser does nothing to make me think that XIV will be in the same league as those games and it certainly won't be pushing me to purchase a PS4. If the gameplay is 2D in feel then Street Fighter V will crap all over it and if it's 3D? Well, even last-gen fighters such as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Virtua Fighter 5 will probably show it up. Obviously I would be willing to give it a go however but for now, I'll close with four suggestions that would make me eat my words:

1. If they are going to go down the 3D route, sort those visuals out...really.
2. Ensure that the gameplay is at least on par with the previous game and 2D in feel.
3. Give us plenty of content on the disc and don't bombard us with DLC.
4. Mai Shiranui. In HD 3D. Now.

To conclude by revisiting the start of this post, it's naive to write off a game straight away based on a 30 second teaser but sometimes it's VERY hard to help yourself. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best...

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