Burn to Fight in Eight Days with King of Fighters XIV

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We’re only one week away from the release of King of Fighters XIV, meaning SNK is wrapping up their video series showing off the remaining roster. It feels like it’s been a long ride, but that’s mainly due to how large the game’s roster is and my constant posts about them. It’s quite a risk for the company to include such a high number of characters in a title that will mark their big return to developing titles towards the “hardcore” audience, but I hope this pays off for them. Fortunately, current indications suggest it will, thanks to combined advertising efforts from SNK and Atlus USA, and a little from Sony.

Since Tung Fu Re and Shun’ei were previously seen in trailers, and the latter was one of the seven playable characters in the demo, the Team China trailer was the first official opportunity to show new character Meitenkun in action. He’s a sleepy fighter who carries a pillow, and several of his techniques (aka “Pillow Tech”) come with the kind of slick animations fans (hopefully) love from SNK — especially his throw. The three are teamed together because Shun’ei and Meitenkun are trainees of Tung Fu Re.

The trailer for Team Psycho Soldier provided a good official look at returning character Sie Kensou, who’s been part of nearly every installment in the franchise. Similar to Athena, he’s no longer a living tribute to SNK’s old Psycho Soldier game, and now sports a wardrobe similar to the threads he donned in previous KoF titles. “Similar,” but not identical, since he’s been given a modified outfit and hair style. Appearance alterations aside, anyone who previously played Kensou should be able to pick him up here.

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Meanwhile, Team Ikari’s trailer didn’t include any characters we haven’t seen before, as Leona, Ralf, and Clark have been shown in previous trailers. The latter two there have noticeably been de-roided from their incredibly (and hilariously) muscular King of Fighters XII and XIII appearances. But their trailer did show off a new Air Force stage, which includes some subtle touches you’ll have to look close to see.

The most surprising roster additions for KoFXIV come from Team Another World, which includes characters from SNK’s less grounded franchises. Both Nakoruru and MuiMui from Samurai Shodown and pachinko game Dragon Gal, respectively, were previously shown, meaning the big focus here was Love Heart. She’s the protagonist of the Sky Love pachinko game series, where she serves as captain of the Peace Sky Pirates. The aspects of her move set that don’t focus on kicking rely on the use of an energized sword, whose attacks have great range. They could also be risky to use, though, since none of them appear safe on block. Hopefully she’s as fun to play as she appears here. Once again, it’s nice that they could use these characters somewhere else.

The Team Stories for each team have also been added to the official website. These serve as prologues to the game’s main story, showing how the characters in each team got to know each other, and other crazy occurrences. They’re essentially professional fanfiction stories, but that’s fine when they’re entertaining to read. Some also include characters that didn’t make it into this installment in a playable form, like Shingo Yabuki and Kyo’s father Saisyu Kusanagi, who are mentioned in the Japan Team’s story. SNK has been posting these stories before the releases of new installments since The King of Fighters 2003, and I’m glad they’re maintaining this — especially considering this installment will have a full-on Story Mode.

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In addition to watching new gameplay footage to see how this game’s presentation has progressed, there was also another constant among every previous trailer: listening to voice changes. SNK had historically been good with keeping all their old voice actions on board with few exceptions, but this has gone out the window with KoFXIV. Though some haven’t changed, like Geese’s (thankfully) and Athena’s, important characters like Kyo, the entire Fatal Fury, Yagami, and Art of Fighting teams, K’, and more have received new voice actors. In addition to ending SNK’s use of sprite work, KoFXIII also marked the end of an era regarding hearing familiar voice actors for decades. Changes like these often can’t be helped, but it’s unprecedented to see so many in one KoF title.

Fortunately, that shouldn’t have much of a bearing on the final product, which will hopefully be as polished as can be when it arrives next Tuesday. It appears some lucky purchasers in Peru and New York City have been able to purchase early copies, and while I’d like to hear their impressions of the game, I’m especially eager to hear how it fares online. Just make sure you watch out for spoilers, if you’re the type who’s concerned about those in fighting games.

P.S. Atlus USA PR Manager John Hardin posted an unboxing video for the standard launch Steelbook edition and Limited Edition today, which is worth a look if you want a good look at them. He always knows how to make these entertaining.

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