Preview: King of Fighters XIV at E3 2016

Seeing the King of Fighters XIV from its first showing to finally playing it now at E3 is something of a miracle based on how much the perception of the game has had to overcome. From comparisons to PS2 titles based on the graphics, to people wondering why SNK switched over to 3D graphics after staying with sprites for so long and how it would affect the gameplay, King of Fighters XIV has dealt with a lot of criticism since it's unveiling.

A character from a Pachinko game?

Even though I was on a crowded show floor, and wasn't really rushed to choose, the character select screen in this game is intimidating. This series is in its fourteenth numbered entry and SNK has thrown in a number of new characters that pop up out of nowhere, but fit in with the roster well enough that I felt I should have already known who they are.

The various reveals have even said that some of these characters are from Pachinko machines that added to the series lore, so the newcomers run the whole gamut of the company’s recent output. A quick count led to there being 48 characters, and instead of trying to look at each one to decide if I should pick them, I just decided to stick with a familiar team: Mai, King, and Athena.

Familiar but new

I was glad that my guess was right and these characters played pretty close to how they did in previous games; I probably would have been insanely frustrated if I ended up with a new character in a familiar skin. This is opposite of Street Fighter V, where the feel of a lot of the returning cast was changed just enough to shake things up. Going back to the four button layout took a little getting used to, but soon I was back in a KOF state of mind.

The game moves at the same pace that the older titles did, but this time everything is in 3D. King of Fighters XIV builds on this familiarity and adds in new elements from other modern fighting games, like the wall bounce. Even the combos looked old but new in the updated graphic style and actually seemed like something I could pull off with enough effort.

While the gameplay is great, the graphics do stick out a bit because of the game's art style, but it's not as bad as SNK's last attempt with a Samurai Shodown 3D fighter, just something that makes the game stick out compared to other fighters. It honestly really all boils down to the skin on certain characters not being as detailed as their clothes. The regular gameplay camera is pulled far away enough that it’s not really even noticeable unless you’re really scrutinizing the graphics.

What’s to be thrown in beyond the kitchen sink?

Even with all of the characters and gameplay shown so far, other modes in the game have yet to be shown, although a Story mode has been mentioned. But honestly, with as many characters this game has, there is a lot to wrap my head around before I even try to figure out why everyone is fighting.

While it's hard to judge until the full game is out, King of Fighters XIV is a pretty solid base for SNK to build upon for future entries in the series. While graphics being a con at this point in the game is a little disappointing, KOF XIV exceeds with the amount of base content available before any variations on gameplay are even introduced.