The King of Fighters Still Reigns

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It’s been around four months since the reformed core gaming-focused SNK released The King of Fighters XIV for PlayStation 4 worldwide. Like any fighting game developer worth their salt, they didn’t leave it at that, and have been providing updates to add features and address issues that have manifested. The first priority was fixing the online play, which suffered from terrible lag and input delay issues shortly after launch. It’s a shame it had to release that way and turn people off, but providing an adequate solution so quickly was a testament to how badly they wanted to get nearly everything about this game, and potential future efforts, right.

They also provided balance patches to tone down some crazily good characters, like K’ and especially Nakoruru. It’s a remarkably quick reaction compared to Capcom, who took ten months to provide the same for Street Fighter V.

Now, SNK is amidst preparations for another big update. After its reveal and throughout the promotional period, SNK took serious heat for the game’s visuals. Despite some hyperbole (since it wouldn’t be the internet without it), it was hard for anyone to admit it looked good. The reveal version resembled a mid-to-late-generation PS2 title, but SNK noticeably improved its visuals in subsequent showings, since there was no way they didn’t hear all that criticism. The final version looked adequate for its budget, especially given that it was the company’s first game aimed towards the hardcore audience in over half a decade.

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Thankfully, they’re not stopping there. Throughout the last few months, SNK has been further improving KoFXIV’s visuals behind the scenes, for the Ver. 1.10 update coming for free in mid-January. There are a few screenshots showing off their work, one in the form of a comparison to convince even those who didn’t follow the game of the visual strides they’ve made in such a short time. The character models have been given enhanced lighting and details, especially on the faces. There’s also a good reason why they chose to demonstrate this with Sylvie Paula Paula’s face and model, who’s one of the game’s most detailed characters.

If that comparison isn’t convincing enough, SNK prepared a new demo showing off all the enhancements. It’s currently available in Japanese and Asian territories, but should be released for western markets before the patch releases on January 11th. Like the last one, it includes seven playable characters, but Mai, Sylvie, and Nelson have been swapped out in favor of Terry Bogard, Leona, and Yuri Sakazaki. With these updates, it’s clear SNK wants their base to keep playing the game for a while, in addition to it sticking around the tournament scene. Of course, it’s also a good way to attract those still on the fence, especially when good deals often pop up from online retailers and PlayStation Network; in fact, it’s currently on sale on both.

In addition to those, SNK recently released a bunch of other extras. Anyone who hasn’t been a fan of the series of schoolgirl outfits Athena’s received in the last batch of KoF titles can download her King of Fighters ’98 outfit. Best of all, it’s free for anyone to download until January 22nd. Additionally, two extra colors have been made available for all playable characters, bringing the total amount for each to six. A certain other fighting game developer could learn a few tips from this company, one that’s had no issue overcharging players for new outfits and stages. Even the smallest freebies can go a long way towards goodwill.

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The graphics enhancements also show how SNK’s is preparing their internal game engine for future titles, games likely already in development. Producer Yasuyuki Oda mentioned that they’re working on several titles in 4Gamer’s year-end interview feature for 2017 ambitions. There’s still good reason to believe the earlier rumor that said a new Samurai Shodown game is in development, somewhat hinted at through Nakoruru’s surprise presence in KoFXIV. But SNK is likely planning on bringing some of their other franchises back, like Metal Slug (in a non-mobile form) or perhaps Garou/Fatal Fury. There’s a good chance they’ve heard the fan demand for a new installment, especially after info regarding how it was once in early development surfaced in an interview earlier this year. We should see their next projects sometime after KoFXIV released in Japanese arcades sometime early next year.

I was a little worried about SNK after they made the decision to back out of the pachinko market to reinvest in core gaming, because it’s becoming an increasingly tough business. But it’s not impossible for small developers to carve a place for themselves and reestablish a connection with older fans, and SNK’s doing a bang-up job of that so far. It also helps that they’re doing a good job establishing themselves in emerging markets like China, South Korea, and South America, which can be seen through the nationalities represented in certain KoFXIV teams. I wish them the best of luck.

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