If the demo is any indication, The King of Fighters XIV is destined for great things

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KOF is back, baby

I’m glad King of Fighters (and by proxy, SNK) is still in the fighting game discussion. It’s had a long, long hiatus since XIII was released back in 2010 (which was a massive improvement on XII), and because a new collective of owners has re-invigorated the once-celebrated developer, it has a new lease on life.

Although the reaction to the new, pixel-less visual style ofThe King of Fighters XIV has been overwhelmingly negative, it has improved over time, and wouldn’t you know it — it plays well too.

One thing is for sure, this is still a hardcore fighter. The tutorial is very basic and unforgiving, and will make it apparent that newcomers will need to really spend some time practicing before they can become formidable — seriously, there’s little to no direction at all, so you’ve been warned.

But for those players who are accustomed to the formula, they’ll be able to jump back in no sweat. There’s your basic guard crushes (accompanied by a blue guard gauge), evasion rolls (with guard evasions and guard blowbacks at the cost of meter), as well as EX moves, specials (supers that can be canceled or delayed), and climaxes (ultimates). It was like riding a bike all over again flipping around dodging projectiles.

While the final roster consists of 50 characters, the demo only has a few — Kyo Kusanagi, Iori Yagami, Sylvie Paula Paula, Mai Shiranui,King of Dinosaurs, Shun’ei, and Nelson. My hand was forced with no Terry or Joe but I can deal, as I’ve mained Iori from time to time. There’s also options for solo fights and 3v3 battles. To its credit, I still prefer the old sprite look by far but it does work. XIVmight not look like much but it’s functional, fast, and the animations look better than you’d think. Yep, this is still King of Fighters, massive cast and all, though the quality of online play remains to be seen (they always say it will be better and seldom is).

The PS4 demo just has versus available (for up to two players), but flipping through the other menu options you can see that there’s a story that will take place across 10 stages for each team, missions (trial, time attack, survival), and of course, online play. I could be wrong, but I think King of Fighters XIVwill have a good showing at EVO next year. You can download the demo here and grab a free PS4 theme while you’re at it.